GMAT Tips: What vs something – It actually doesn’t matter.

Student: Could you please help me understand how C is correct as opposed to (A) in the following question?

The success of the program to eradicate smallpox has stimulated experts to pursue what they had not previously considered possible – better control, if not eradication, of the other infections such as measles and yaws.

(A) what they had not previously considered possible – better control, if not eradication, of the other infections such as

(B) what they had not previously considered a possibility – better control, if not eradication, of such infections like

(C) something they had not previously considered possible – better control, if not eradication, of such infections as

(D) something not considered a previous possibility – better control and perhaps eradication, of other infections such as

(E) the possibility of what they had not previously considered – better control and possibly eradication of infections like

The word “the other” in (A) is unnecessary since the sentence actually lists out what those other infections are: measles and yaws. In this case, you’re better off just leaving out “the other.”

If these specific infections were NOT mentioned, then we would need the word “other” to make it clear that we are not talking about smallpox. In any case, the word “the” doesn’t belong there.

I don’t think there’s a big difference between the first parts of (A) and (C) – something vs what…but if you focus on the second half of the answer choices, you would be able to eliminate (A) and arrive at (C).

Note this as an example where initially you might look at the question and start freaking out about grammar rules that actually don’t matter. You might be wondering: “what they had not previously considered” vs “something they had not previously considered”

Even if there were one right way and one wrong way, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But that’s exactly the point. GMAT doesn’t test you on this even though you might think that’s what you’re being tested on. What really matters is the second half of the sentence. If you focus on cutting out extraneous words liek “the other” in (A) and you on GMAT Pill frameworks including “such as” vs “like” – you’ll be able to eliminate most of the answer choices.

The one you’ll be left with is (C). So focus on common frameworks that are known to be tested on the GMAT rather than esoteric ones like “what vs something” – that actually don’t matter for your GMAT score.

Thank you for your reply. I did some analysis on what types of questions trouble me the most. For now it seems rhetorical construction, for example:

OG SC 131
Over 75 percent of the energy produced in France derives from nuclear power, while in Germany it it just over 33 percent.
(C)whereas nuclear power accounts for just over 33 percent of the energy produced in Germany
(D)whereas just over 33 percent of the energy comes from nuclear power in Germany
The answer is C. But I chose D because I thought the first part of the sentence is saying some kind of energy derives from nuclear power, so the second part should look like the same to remain parallel.

This is a tricky one. You need to pay extra attention to MEANING.

We are talking about what PERCENT of energy comes from source X for France, and then the same thing for Germany.

So the beginning of the sentence correctly says “over 75% of energy in France comes from nuclear”.

Now look at (D): “33% of the energy comes from [nuclear power in Germany]”

Is this really what we’re trying to say?

What we really want to say is “33% of the energy in Germany comes from nuclear power”

Note, this is different from what (D) says. It’s close, but the shuffling of the words changes the meaning. They purposely do that to trick you. So structurally it looks like it runs parallel, but MEANING-wise it’s not correct. (C) doesn’t look parallel, but it matches exactly what we are trying to say.

In addition, I’m often puzzled by long sentences, especially the ones with multiple modifiers, for example:

OG SC 107
Originally developed for detecting air pollutants, a technique called proton-induced X-ray emission, which can quickly analyze the chemical elements in almost any substance without destroying it, is finding uses in medicine, archeology, and criminology.
With so many modifiers, I don’t know how to arrange them to express the meaning correctly, clearly, and concisely. Could you help me to understand the rules on how to arrange modifiers and other principles of rhetorical construction?

You’re using some fancy words in your question.

To keep it simple, here’s how we look at it:

Originally developed for [X], [a particular technique]…is finding uses in x, y, and z.

This is a lot easier to comprehend and work with. Thinking like this will cut down the potential for stupid, overlooked mistakes.

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