Watch Movies with a Critical Eye as You Study for the GMAT This Summer

Ron Point_GMAT TipsWith the summer blockbuster season around the corner, it’s easy for your studying motivation to wane. After all, the GMAT doesn’t have the same allure as the big budget Hollywood movies people line up to see every summer. However, while seeing a movie can be a welcome distraction, there is a lot we can learn from movies when studying for the GMAT.

As an example, when Tony Stark verbally jousts with Ultron in the latest Avengers movie, he is demonstrating critical reasoning and trying very hard to weaken his opponents’ argument. In Jurassic World, a hybrid dinosaur is created using data from various sources, as a conclusion would be created from various sources on a Reading Comprehension question. And in Terminator Genisys, a fractured timeline is created that resembles many tense errors in Sentence Correction (to say nothing of misspelling the title).

Arguably, every movie you see this summer will incorporate some elements of what’s covered on the GMAT (I’m still working on Magic Mike XXL).  The exam is designed to test your knowledge of logic using elements you have already covered previously in an academic environment. Moreover, the topics on the GMAT often arouse your own interests and pertain to things you care about. Indeed, sometimes the questions asked will even make you think of the movie you saw the week before to take your mind off the GMAT!

Let’s look at such an example, combining movies and GMAT in one sleek Sentence Correction question:

At major Hollywood studios, a much greater proportion of the population is employed than is employed by independent movie production companies.

A) At major Hollywood studios, a much greater proportion of the population is employed than is employed by independent movie production companies.

B) At major Hollywood studios they employ a much greater proportion of the population than independent movie production companies do.

C) A much greater proportion of the major Hollywood studios’ population is employed than independent movie production companies employ.

D) Major Hollywood studios employ a much greater proportion of the population than the employment of independent movie production companies.

E) Major Hollywood studios employ a much greater proportion of the population than independent movie production companies do.

This question begins with an absolute phrase “At major Hollywood studios…” that modifies the rest of the sentence. The second half of the sentence is a comparison between big budget studios and independent companies, highlighted by the trigger word “than”. With comparisons, we must always ensure that we are comparing similar elements and that these elements are in a parallel form.

Looking specifically at answer choice A, the absolute phrase “At major Hollywood studios” would need to apply to the rest of the sentence. (This is similar to the classic trailer opening “In a world…”). This structure would only be correct if the rest of the sentence were limited in scope to the major Hollywood studios. Anything outside of this scope would create an illogical discord between the modifying phrase and the rest of the sentence. Since the sentence deals with the entire population, it does not make sense to limit it only to the Hollywood studios, and this answer choice can be eliminated for this error in logical meaning.

Answer choice B, “At major Hollywood studios they employ a much greater proportion of the population than independent movie production companies do”, there is a pronoun error in the first five words. The antecedent for “they” is nebulous, because it conceivably refers to the studios, or the executives at the studios, or perhaps the HR department at the studios, or something else. The rest of the sentence isn’t great either, but one glaring pronoun error is enough to definitively eliminate this choice from contention.

Answer choice C, “A much greater proportion of the major Hollywood studios’ population is employed than independent movie production companies employ” changes the meaning into something that is not exactly English. The population has now been restricted to only the Hollywood studios’ population, and the comparison being made is illogical as well, as it is now comparing a population proportion to a movie production. Answer choice C is perhaps the worst phrase of the bunch and hopefully can be eliminated rather quickly.

Answer choice D, “Major Hollywood studios employ a much greater proportion of the population than the employment of independent movie production companies” starts off well, but makes the same comparison error that we saw in answer C. If the sentence begins by comparing major studios to something else, then that something else has to be a studio (or something analogous, my cousin’s garage for example). By comparing studios to employment, the answer choice makes an illogical apples-to-oranges comparison that precludes it from consideration.

Answer choice E, “Major Hollywood studios employ a much greater proportion of the population than independent movie production companies do” correctly compares studios to production companies, and makes no other type of error along the way. By process of elimination, this had to be the correct choice, but it’s always nice when the last remaining choice doesn’t contain any obvious errors or omissions. This answer choice is correct, and we can confidently select E as our answer before moving on to the sequel (or next question, as the case may be.)

When it comes to summer blockbusters, there’s always something to learn. Sometimes we learn something helpful in grammar, and sometimes we learn that physics don’t always apply (thank you Furious 7!). This summer, if you’re studying for the GMAT, don’t forget to take the occasional break to go and enjoy a good movie to give your mind a break from the rigors of Sentence Correction problems. Just don’t get butter on your GMAT books.

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Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.