The Importance of Grammar Study for the GRE and the LSAT

Education in the U.S. heavily relies on standardized testing. In professional studies, whether a graduate program or a law degree, among skills tested by admission exams like the GRE and the LSAT is the mastery of English-language vocabulary and grammar. The mastery of these skills is as challenging as it is important. The GRE and the LSAT intentionally use complex language in order to rank the test takers according to their skill level. But preparation for higher education and professional growth starts at the foundational level.

Each sentence conveys a thought. Rules of grammar and syntax organize sentences that convey more than one thought. Key here is a thorough understanding of the relationship between independent and dependent clauses or sentences. What do I mean by that? First, let’s look at the difference between independent and dependent clauses. An independent clause is a sentence that includes at least a subject and a verb. It conveys meaning that can stand by itself such as “I was on my way to work.” A dependent clause can have a subject and a verb but does not convey meaning independently from the other sentence that comes with it, namely, the independent clause. Let’s look at the following example for a dependent clause: “Because I wanted to leave... (So what happened?)”.

Another important skill is recognizing the logical link between subordinate clauses, relative clauses, and shortened subordinate clauses. What extra information do these links provide the reader with? Some examples are: “The authorwho is an important architect, has decided to build one more skyscraper”. The underlined part of the sentence is a relative clause. It provides more information about the subject. Relative clauses can also provide more information about the object in a sentence, for example: “I am reading a book which is extremely interesting”. These types of sentence structures can be challenging for English learners. Many of my clients need help with understanding the logical connection between different sentences like the ones listed above. The following example is even more complex and closer to what prospective law students will encounter in their tests: “Jane enjoyed playing scrabble that displayed her extensive vocabulary but only with competitive opponents who challenged her.” So the question here is: Was she challenged by the game? No, competitive opponents are the true challenge she seeks out. They are what makes the game a fun opportunity to show off her proficiency.

Another topic relevant to improving test results is transition words such as however, moreover, consequently and so on. During many of my English coaching sessions, I hear questions about the clear definition and semantic role these words play in a sentence. I always tell my students that without knowing how these transition words function within the English syntax, and what exact meaning they have, they will not be able to comprehend complex texts. Thus, as an English coach, I always emphasize clarifying both sentence structure and syntax – the meaning of transition words. Both skills, when mastered, demystify a large part of the English language for many learners. This is true for everyone, not only students who want to succeed in taking an important test like the LSAT but also for anyone who wants to attain a higher level of English proficiency. In other words, reading complex sentences and comprehending the nuances of their meaning under time pressure is not only a test-taking skill but also the basis for career success. These skills can be mastered through training and practice and help you achieve your desired goals. (And I am here to help you with English training and classes tailored to your specific needs.)

Marike Korn