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GMAT Comparisons: Using Like and As Correctly

One of the points of English grammar commonly tested on GMAT Sentence Correction questions is comparisons. Specifically, the GMAT test-makers want to make sure that you’re able to recognize comparisons that are illogically made and correct them as necessary. Two of the most common words of comparison in the English language are like and as, and it’s important that you know how to use them correctly.

In the famous 1994 Academy-Award Winning film Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks (as Forrest) famously said:

“Life is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Despite Forrest’s simple-mindedness, notice that he didn’t say “Life is as a box of chocolates….” Why not?

There’s a very simple rule for using Like vs. As when making comparisons on the GMAT, but before I give you that rule, try your hand at these sample sentences and see if you can determine which word should be used.

Sentence #1: The kids on the other team wanted me to tell you that you throw like/as a girl.

Sentence #2: My coach told me that I’m so slow, I run like/as if  I had a broken leg.

Choosing Between Like vs As on the GMAT

There’s a very simply rule to help you choose correctly between like and as when making comparisons on the GMAT:

Rule: Like should be used as a word of comparison when no verb follows. That’s the case in Sentence #1 above, so like is the correct answer.

Rule: As should be used as a word of comparison when there is a verb after the comparison. That’s the case in Sentence #2 above, so as if is the correct answer.

With these rules in mind, try your hand at this sample GMAT sentence correction question:

Q: The Strongman at the Circus terrified and entertained the crowd by picking up audience members and swinging them by their heels around the room like they were made out of cardboard.

(A) swinging them by their heels around the room like they were made out of cardboard
(B) swinging them by their heels around the room like they were cardboard cutouts
(C) swinging them by their heels around the room as if they were made out of cardboard
(D) swinging them by their heels around the room if they were made out of cardboard
(E) swinging them by their heels around the room they were cardboard cutouts

What do you think?

In the original sentence, the word like is followed by the verb were, and so that’s incorrect. It may be how we’d say a sentence like that in casual conversation, but on the GMAT, you need to recognize that it’s grammatically incorrect and needs to be changed.

The only answer choice that properly changes like to as if is answer choice C, the correct answer. Well done if you got that!

Learn this rule so that you can correctly choose between like vs as on test day, and go out and Dominate the GMAT!