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GMAT Tips: Misdirection

Today’s GMAT tip comes to us from Veritas Prep.  In today’s blog post, they explain how to recognize misdirection on the verbal section of the GMAT.  Read on to see what they have to say!

A critical component of your GMAT studies is to notice misdirection wherever it’s employed. Consider, for example, this question:

Babies develop audial recognition abilities months before being born, lending credence to the notion that prenatal exposure to classical music can aid in intellectual development and apparently assisting newborns, who cannot yet visually recognize shapes and colors, in distinguishing their own mothers from those of others.

(A) apparently assisting newborns, who cannot yet visually recognize shapes and colors, in distinguishing their own mothers from those of others
(B) apparently assisting newborns that cannot yet visually recognize shapes and colors in distinguishing their own mothers
(C) assisting apparent newborns, who cannot yet visually recognize shapes and colors, in distinguishing their own mothers from those of others
(D) apparently assisting newborns, who could not yet visually recognize shapes and colors, in distinguishing their own mothers
(E) apparently assisting newborns, who cannot yet visually recognize shapes and colors, in distinguishing their own mothers from others.

If you’ve studied the GMAT, you see the construct “distinguish X from Y” and recognize that it should be in parallel form. Knowing that the initial construct is “their own mothers”, you likely want to see “those of…” on the back end so that you have a possessive paralleled with a possessive. But does that really make sense? The babies are not distinguishing “mothers from other mothers”, they are distinguishing their own mother from any other people. The possessive is unnecessary and creates an illogical, unintended meaning. But the GMAT nonetheless gives you the “those of” option.

Why? It’s classic misdirection — there is a mold for parallel structure questions, and you can do quite well to a certain point of difficulty by simply employing the mold. Possessive on the first –> “that of” or “those of” on the second. But that’s more recognition/memory than “thinking”, and so the GMAT authors will find pieces of subject matter in which the mold is broken – in which the logical meaning goes counter to the quick recognize-and-employ tactics that you can often do through rote recitation.

Look for this misdirection on the GMAT — the harder the question, the more likely the test is to try to sell you the wrong answer by making it look like what you normally expect to see. Always consider the logic behind your answer— what looks like a correct answer may not logically work. The GMAT misdirection tactic is to make the illogical choice look like exactly what you want, baiting you to answer quickly and incorrectly.

(for the record, the correct answer is E)

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