Parallel Structure on the GMAT, SAT, and ACT


UPDATE: starting in 2024, there will no longer be parallel structure on the GMAT exam.

What is parallel structure? Watch this video to learn the basics!

Now that you have watched the video, hopefully you understand a little bit more about what parallel structure is. Below breaks down the key components of parallel structure, which may also be called parallelism.


When there is a multi-part sentence, make sure all parts are parallel (meaning they have the same structure). For example, if you have the sentence “Margot loves dancing, singing, and drawing” notice that all parts of the sentence end in an “-ing”. This is a sentence that is parallel. However, a sentence that is not parallel would look like the following: “Margot loves dancing, singing, and to draw“. Notice how not all parts of the sentence have the same structure since the last part of the sentence doesn’t match the “ing” structure of the other parts.


There will be multiple parts to the sentence and often include FANBOYS. FANBOYS is an acronym that stands for “for”, “and”, “nor”, “but”, “or”, “yet”, “so”.

Some example structures to look out for are the following. The “X” and “Y” are the parts of the sentence that need to be the same structure.

not only X but also Y

either X or Y

neither X nor Y

X and Y

X, Y, and Z


You must find the “stem” of the sentence that gets distributed to every portion of the sentence. For example, in the sentence “Margot loves dancing, singing, and drawing” the stem is “Margot loves”. Notice how this stem can get independently distributed to every part of the sentence: “Margot loves dancing”, “Margot loves signing” and “Margot loves drawing”.

You may get a more complicated sentence like the following:
(Correct Version 1): I not only love dancing but also love swimming.
(Correct Version 2): I love not only dancing but also swimming.
Notice in Version 1 the “stem” is just “I” and it can get distributed to both portions of the sentence to make “I love dancing” and “I love swimming”. However, in Version 2, the stem is “I love” which can also get distributed to make the sentence “I love dancing” and “I love swimming”. Both sentences are correct.

(Incorrect Version 3): I love not only dancing but also love swimming.
Notice Version 3 is NOT parallel. This is because when you distribute the stem “I love” to the sending part of the sentence, it becomes “I love love swimming” which duplicates the word “love”.

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