GMAT Tip of the Week: Vanilla Ice Teaches Sentence Correction

Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, where we’re shocked that in the years of doing this every March we’ve never yet mentioned Vanilla Ice, perhaps the greatest Sentence Correction rapper of all time (with apologies to Method Man and Dr. Dre). Before we explain why, let’s give Vanilla a chance (yo Vanilla – kick it one time, boyyyyyy):

Now, while Mr. Van Winkle was trying to (masterfully) explain his blatant ripoff of Queen/Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” he was also giving you a blueprint for attacking difficult Sentence Correction questions. The same logic applies:

When the mortal man cannot tell a difference between two things, look for the itty bitty ting.

In other words, as the Veritas Prep Advanced Verbal Strategy lesson teaches, The Whole Sentence Matters. Consider this example, and keep your eyes open for Vanilla’s itty bitty ting.

In geology, the term “transform fault potential” denotes the extent to which one tectonic plate could be moved along a major transform fault line, such as California’s San Andreas, by an instantaneous strain release, commonly known as an earthquake.

(A) the extent to which one tectonic plate could be moved
(B) the extent to which one tectonic plate could move
(C) the extent that one tectonic plate could be moving
(D) the extent of one tectonic plate moving
(E) the extent of the movement of one tectonic plate

Now, many will struggle trying to decide between A and B, the most common answers to this question as these stats show:

And that’s where Vanilla Ice comes in – these two look just about identical, at least in their correctness or justification for why you’d pick one versus the other. Like the bass lines to “Ice Ice Baby” and “Under Pressure” – what’s the difference?

It’s that itty bitty ting, which in this question takes the form of a connector.

In geology, the term “transform fault potential” denotes the extent to which one tectonic plate could be moved along a major transform fault line, such as California’s San Andreas, by an instantaneous strain release, commonly known as an earthquake.

If you ignore the modifier “such as California’s San Andreas” and focus on the connecting preposition “by,” you’ll see that the sentence requires the plate “to be moved by a strain release.” That itty-bitty connector, by, controls that final decision between A and B, making A the correct answer, and the GMAT knows that it can be hidden by throwing in a couple modifiers (“along a major…” and “such as…”) to move that itty bitty but all-important connector farther away from the underlined portion and therefore outside the scope of where you’re probably looking.

The GMAT does this frequently – when you’re struggling to find a basis for your decision on a difficult Sentence Correction problem, look farther away from the underline for that “itty bitty ting,” which usually takes the form of:

- A connector (like “by” in this case)
- A pronoun
- A phrase that signifies time (“since”, “from ____ to _____”, “after”)

These seemingly innocent devices often hide far away from the underline, rewarding those who recognize that the Whole Sentence Matters, or in other words that look for that itty bitty ting. Follow Vanilla Ice’s wisdom when you can’t find a decision point between two seemingly equal answer choices, and you’ll be well on your way to hearing a renowned professor at your top-choice MBA program open class: “Alright stop, collaborate and listen…”

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