May 05 2013

Just Like a Rock Star?

The Fresh Beat BandThose of you preparing for the GMAT are too old to be fans of The Fresh Beat Band, a rock band of four high school students as depicted on a popular Nickelodeon TV show. Let’s be thankful for that, as you won’t risk learning bad grammar. In one of its popular songs / videos, Just Like a Rock Star, the band exhorts listeners to “Shout it out, just like a rock star.” This brings up a common Sentence Correction idiomatic issue: “as” versus “like” in answer choices.

The word “like” is specifically used to compare two nouns. For example, we could say that a giraffe’s neck is like that of a brachiosaurus. The word “as” is specifically used to compare two actions, and it’s usage in this manner often requires a form of the verb “to do” in the second part of the comparison. For example, we may claim that a giraffe plods slowly along as a brachiosaurus did in its time. We should not, however, write that a giraffe plods slowly along like a brachiosaurus. In this incorrect version, we are comparing the giraffe’s action (of plodding along) to the actual dinosaur, not to the dinosaur’s style of moving.

Furthermore, the word “just” in a comparison usage takes on the meaning “exactly.” Thus “just like” implies “exactly like,” a meaning that is unlikely to be accurate. As a result, the GMAT highly prefers comparisons that use “as” or “like” without a preceding “just.”

So if The Fresh Beat Band were to be grammatically correct, the song’s lyrics would be “Shout it out, as a rock star does.” Admittedly this doesn’t sound nearly as jazzy in a song. But it would earn the band members a higher score on the GMAT. In real life, we frequently find prose that breaks the strict grammatical requirements of the GMAT. But for those of you wanting to achieve a “rock star” performance on the GMAT, keep in mind the GMAT’s strict rules of usage.