GMAT Tip of the Week: The Whole Sentence Mathers

Welcome back to Hip Hop Month in the Tip of the Week space, where today we’ll cover Sentence Correction’s most devious wordplay with the rap god of wordplay himself, Eminem. Fans of Slim Shady and connoisseurs of Sentence Correction alike will note the similarity between the two: sometimes, when you least expect it, a word all the way at the end will tie back so beautifully to one all the way at the beginning that it’s just mindblowing. In Eminem’s case, you have to rewind the track to listen to it again – did he really carry that rhyme all the way back like that?! – but on the GMAT you can’t rewind, so it’s important to heed Marshall’s advice well before you put on those noise-reduction headphones (Beats by Dre?) at the test center and zone into the verbal section:

The Whole Sentence Matters

One of Eminem’s most famous lyrics goes like this:

“I don’t give an **** if it’s dark or not
I’m harder than me trying to park a Dodge
When I’m drunk as f**k
Right next to a humungous truck
In a two car garage.”

As you’ll see this “inside out” rhyme scheme has evolved over time, but what he does here after “Dodge” is get onto another rhyme scheme (luck, truck, buck…) and then “surprise” the listener by coming back to Dodge/Garage when your mind has already gotten onto another scheme. 12 years later, this technique has become even more pronounced in his newer track “Headlights” (a surprising tribute to his mom):

Cause, one thing I never asked was where the fuck my deadbeat dad was
F*** it, I guess he had trouble keeping up with every address
But I’d have flipped every mattress, every rock and desert cactus
Own a collection of maps and followed my kids to the edge of the atlas
If someone ever moved ‘em from me, that you could’ve bet your asses
If I had to come down the chimney dressed as Santa, kidnap ‘em
And although one has only met their grandma, once you pulled up
In our drive one night, as we were leaving to get some hamburgers
Me, her and Nate, we introduced you, hugged you
And as you left I had this overwhelming sadness
Come over me as we pulled off to go our separate paths, and
I saw your headlights as I looked back and
I’m mad I didn’t get the chance to thank you for being my mom and my dad
So mom, please accept this as a tribute I wrote this on the jet, I guess
I had to get this off my chest, I hope I get the chance to lay it ‘fore I’m dead
The stewardess said to fasten my seatbelt, I guess we’re crashing

By the time the listener gets to the end of this segment, you’ve almost completely forgotten about the bolded words above, but when Eminem hits that last word “crashing” that same rhyme scheme comes back for one last hurrah. Why is this important for the GMAT? Because this same art of “I bet you’ve forgotten the relationship between these words by now so I’m going to drop it in here and totally surprise you” is one of the techniques that testmakers use frequently to create difficult Sentence Correction:

Consider this question as an example:

Discovered by Dr. Dre as a teenage rap battle phenom, Eminem released ten Billboard number one singles and collected thirteen Grammys – plus an Academy Award for his single “Lose Yourself” from his autobiograhical film 8 Mile, in which he starred as rapper B. Rabbit – and countless other awards since he signed with Dre’s Aftermath Records.

(A) Discovered by Dr. Dre as a teenage rap battle phenom, Eminem released ten Billboard number one singles and collected thirteen Grammys
(B) Having been discovered by Dr. Dre as a teenage rap battle phenom, Eminem released ten Billboard number one singles and collected thirteen Grammys
(C) Discovered by Dr. Dre as a teenage rap battle phenom, Eminem has released ten Billboard number one singles and collected thirteen Grammys

Have you noticed the key word hidden toward the end of the sentence, well away from the underline? Where examinees may be swayed into a Modifier distinction and then make a casual decision between the verb tenses in A and C, the astute test takers will recognize that “The Whole Sentence Matters” and see that word “since” waiting toward the end of the sentence. “Since” connotes an ongoing nature to the timeline of the sentence and therefore begs the word “has” in front of verbs to stay consistent with that timeline. So C has to be the correct answer. Where this sentence – and others with even more nuance and misdirection – has the power to distract you is in the fact that your mind wants to stay close to the underline and start to “check out” the further away you get from it. Savvy testmakers know this, and will hide small words well away from the underline, baffling novice test-takers and rewarding the astute ones who know to look for:

-Pronouns (it, they, their…)
-Words that signal time (since, after, until…)
-Connectors (but, or, and…)

When you’re struggling to make a decision, steal a page from Marshall Mathers and look toward the end of the sentence (the Aftermath?) to see if an important word or phrase makes a comeback to change the game. The GMAT loves to distract you by putting plenty of text in between the decision (the underlined portion) and the word that controls that decision. On harder questions, you’ll have to be patient and know to look for that word even all the way at the end of the sentence. Don’t lose yourself in the answer choices; let that tiny hidden word far from the underline be a major factor in your recovery.

By Brian Galvin

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