GMAT Tip of the Week: LLC Reasoning

gmat-tip-of-the-week1In a time-honored tradition here at Veritas Prep, March is Hip Hop Month in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, and no cutting-edge hip hop blog in 2015 would be complete without mentioning the hottest thing from this year’s Grammys:

LL Cool J

Really? It’s been more than 20 years since LL had to start an album with the phrase “don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years.” And yet as America’s favorite award show host and the star of either NCIS or CSI (all we know is that the man loves initials and acronyms), LL Cool J remains a household name in a young man’s game. Which should draw attention to his rather unique moniker:

LL Cool J

Which, of course, stands for Ladies Love Cool James, and also stands as an important Critical Reasoning lesson. When you think about it, LL Cool J’s name is kind of absurd. It’s three initials and a full word, and it forms a complete sentence (L = subject; L = verb; Cool = adjective; J = object). And he somewhat arbitrarily chose to spell out what, in the sentence, is the least important part. Ladies love James is the operative part of the sentence. “Cool” doesn’t add a ton of real value. So why did LL Cool J (James Smith, for those keeping score at home) choose to spell out what seems like the least critical word in the sentence?

Because LL Cool J is a marketing and Critical Reasoning genius.

Think about it: Ladies LCJ would be a terrible name. So would L Love CJ. And LLC James has a nice businessman ring to it, but lacks the kind of street cred it took to rise through the early NYC rap ranks in the 1980s. It had to be LL Cool J.

And what’s more: LL Cool J is telling you how you can master Critical Reasoning by calling attention to the modifier or adjective that adds specificity. Consider these two arguments.

1) The Something Like a Phenomenon award each year goes to the highest selling album of the year. This year, the highest selling album of the year was LL Cool J’s Mr. Smith, so Mr. Smith will be awarded the Something Like a Phenomenon award.

2) The Something Like a Phenomenon award each year goes to the highest selling rap album of the year. This year, the highest selling album of the year was LL Cool J’s Mr. Smith, so Mr. Smith will be awarded the Something Like a Phenomenon award.

What’s the difference? Like the name LL Cool J itself, it really comes down to an adjective. In #2, the first premise has an adjective qualifier – to win the award, it has to be a rap album. And since the second premise doesn’t tell us that Mr. Smith was a rap album, that argument is now vulnerable to criticism…that one adjective that made things a little bit more specific left a hole in the argument for us to attack.

And noticing that hole is everything on Strengthen and Weaken CR questions. If it’s a Strengthen question and we’ve noticed that gap, you should be looking for something that demonstrates that Mr. Smith was a rap album. And if it were a Weaken question, you’re looking for a reason to believe that it wasn’t. But either way, by finding that hole in the argument you now know what you’re looking for.

So the lesson? Train yourself – like the man who could have just been called LLJ did – to spot those extra adjectives or modifiers that make the conclusion or major premise of an argument that much more specific. Look for things like:

“Def Jam Records must find a way to reduce its costs.” vs. “Def Jam records must find a way to reduce its distribution costs.”

“Mr. Smith was host of the Grammys.” vs. “Mr. Smith was host of the 2015 Grammys.”

“LL Cool J proclaimed himself the greatest.” vs. “LL Cool J proclaimed himself the greatest of all time.”

and

“I need a girl.” vs. “I need an around-the-way girl.”

So step one is to notice those (cool) qualifiers that lend themselves to gaps in arguments, in which a more-generic premise just can’t connect to that more-specific statement. Once you’ve identified that potential for a gap in logic, check the other statements to see if they match the specificity. If they don’t – as they generally won’t in GMAT Critical Reasoning – well, then get critical. As mama says…knock it out.

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By Brian Galvin