GMAT Tip of the Week: Cause and Effect

GMAT prepWelcome back to Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week corner. One of the most underrated themes that one can find in 90s rap lyrics is the often-laughable unintentional use of cause-and-effect that rappers draw in their songs, using “(be)cause” as a connector of ideas with hilarious results. Take a line from the refrain of one of Biggie’s biggest hits, Big Poppa:

…You got a gun up in your waist. Please don’t shoot up the place. (Why?) ‘Cause I’ve seen some ladies tonight that should be having my baby…baby…

Really, Big? The primary reason that someone shouldn’t indiscriminately fire a gun around the nightclub is because you have an interest in some of the female patrons? Ethics…legality…these aren’t primary concerns?


Ice Cube has another classic logical misstep in the title single from his cult classic movie Friday, in which he describes some horrific consequences of a disease, followed with the line:

And that ain’t cool, fool, ’cause it’s Friday.

Again, the logic is ridiculous. Any other day of the week would be fine for the kind of (explicitly-described) pain and suffering that he predicts? Just not heading in to the weekend?

As a favor to yourself, listen to your favorite hip hop lyrics from the 90s and seek out the comical cause-and-effect relationships that the rappers draw. It can be incredibly entertaining, and may also help you with your approach to Reading Comprehension questions on the GMAT. How?

When Reading Comprehension questions ask for specific details, they often ask you for either the cause or the effect of a cause/effect relationship. Questions can take the form of:

According to the passage, plants in desert regions can survive for weeks without rainwater because…

or

According to the passage, which of the following results from desert plants’ retention of groundwater?

In either case, you’re likely to return to the passage to analyze the portion that deals with desert plants and how they retain water. However, each question is asking for something completely different. The first asks for the cause of the plants’ survival, while the second asks for the effect of the plants’ water retention. Either question could have the same set of answer choices, and the passage will likely be written in a way that the intended answer to the question – cause or effect – will be a step farther from the key words (maybe “desert plants”) for which you will be looking. The authors of these questions know that, when pressed for time and reading a passage that doesn’t fall within your typical range of expertise, you’re apt to simply find the answer choice that comes closest to the keywords from the passage and feel comfortable selecting that. In many cases, that answer choice will be the trap answer, giving you the cause if they ask for the effect, or vice versa.

To maximize your score on Reading Comprehension questions, look for and internalize the cause-and-effect relationships that are the subjects of the questions, and make sure that you know exactly which end the question seeks. Much like it will enhance your enjoyment of rap lyrics, isolating and focusing on cause-and-effect relationships will improve your score on the GMAT. And that’s cool, you know, because it’s Friday.

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