GMAT Tip of the Week

Back to Basics

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

If you’re reading this space in preparation of a career in marketing, you’ll likely be familiar with the notion about trends that “what’s old becomes new again.” Throwback jerseys, vintage clothing, Mad Men — people are fascinated by the recent past, and, more importantly, willing to spend on it. So it comes as no surprise that KDAY, a “classic hip-hop” radio station that has returned to the greater Los Angeles airwaves, has become the talk of the town, at least with the fashionable 18-35 demographic. Playing classic tracks from Naughty By Nature, Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony, Warren G, and others, KDAY brings listeners back to a simpler time — in 1990, you’d never have thought that a Public Enemy cut could be a calming influence, but nowadays a return to the basics can certainly provide some much-needed tranquility.

What does this mean for you as you study for the GMAT? Above all else, an emphasis on the fundamentals on the GMAT will help you remain calm in a world of chaos. For a specific example, however, let’s go back to the KDAY basics with a message from NWA’s Dr. Dre:

“Blame it on Ice Cube, ’cause he said it gets
Funky when you have a subject and a predicate.”

What Dre was telling future GMAT examinees (a full ten years before the exam even went to the current CAT format) was that Sentence Correction questions are often best attacked by looking first at the subject and the predicate of the sentence — the basic building blocks of the sentence. The GMAT loves to write extended prose as much as even the wordiest of lyricists, doing so in an effort to distract you with multiple clauses, modifiers, and technical terms. But your advantage is the fact that each sentence must have a subject and a verb, and be built around that. Accordingly, your first step in any verbose Sentence Correction problem should be to identify the dominant verb in the sentence, along with its corresponding subject. Consider this sentence:

From straight out of Compton’s roughest neighborhoods have emerged a group of rappers that may spawn a new musical genre called gangster rap.

This is a classic GMAT-style example, in which identification of the subject and verb is the key to answering correctly, and the GMAT makes that decision difficult by including multiple nouns. In situations like these, two methods are helpful to make the right choice once you’ve identified that “have emerged” is the verb:

1) Eliminate modifiers to better isolate the subject

“of rappers” is a modifier of “a group,” and therefore cannot be the subject. Similarly, “from straight out of Compton’s roughest neighborhoods” provides the catalyst for the emergence, but isn’t the subject of the emergence.

2) Check nouns to see if they can logically perform the action of the verb

In this case, it’s unlikely that “Compton’s roughest neighborhoods” have emerged, particularly when one considers the remainder of the sentence, which doesn’t provide any description of the neighborhood. but rather the musical style.

After checking those methods, we’re left with “a group” as the subject of the sentence, and accordingly the verb “have” is incorrect, and would need to be “has.” The writers of the GMAT like this strategy — “a group” seems an odd subject because it comes after the verb (“has emerged a group of rappers…”), but when one looks at the modifiers and the logical actors in the sentence, it becomes clear that “a group” is the subject.

When it comes to Sentence Correction, focusing on basics like the subject and the predicate is a strategy that will give you a competitive advantage over others. Or, as Dr. Dre says when he finishes his lyrics in the aforementioned song Express Yourself, “I have knowledge, while other suckers lack it.”