GMAT Verbal : Method of Reasoning

Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Method Of Reasoning

A large company has recently increased its dividend payments to shareholders. Shareholders had previously been worried about the company's stock price, but are now relieved since increasing dividends generally boosts a company's stock price. However, the shareholders' optimism may be ill-founded since spending money on the payment of dividends often indicates that the company has exhausted more lucrative investments for its cash reserves and that the stock price will likely fall in the longer run.

In the argument above, the two bold-faced portions play which of the following roles?

The first is a premise that is accepted as true; the second is a conclusion that is contrary to the premise.

The first describes evidence that supports a conclusion; the second gives a reason for questioning that support.

The first is a premise that is accepted as true; the second seeks to clarify the original premise.

The first is evidence that supports a conclusion; the second is that conclusion.

The first describes the circumstance that the argument seeks to explain; the second provides evidence in support of the explanation that the argument seeks to establish.

The first describes evidence that supports a conclusion; the second gives a reason for questioning that support.

Explanation:

This Boldface problem rewards those who can adeptly deconstruct arguments and find conclusions. Here the main conclusion of the argument is "the shareholders' optimism may be ill-founded" - you know that this is a conclusion because it is adjacent to the word "since" (which gives a reason for the conclusion - remember, conclusions must pass the "why test" in which some other portion of the argument tries to explain why it is true). And you know that it's the main conclusion because it follows "however," a signal that the author has introduced an idea and then transitioned to her main point.

With this knowledge you're ready to attack the answer choices and pick apart the subtle difference between popular choices. The first bolded portion is evidence that is used to support a conclusion (just not the main conclusion) - it's a reason that some shareholders believe that they do not have be be worried about the company's stock price.

The second bolded portion is evidence for the main conclusion - it's the reason that the shareholders' optimism may be unfounded.When you attack the answer choices, note that "The first is evidence that supports a conclusion; the second is that conclusion." and "The first is a premise that is accepted as true; the second is a conclusion that is contrary to the premise." each clearly mischaracterize the second bolded portion as a conclusion when in fact it is a premise.

Among the other choices, recognize that the goal of the argument - as evidenced by the conclusion - is to show that the shareholders' optimism is misplaced, NOT to clarify the initial fact. Again, this goes back to isolating and fixating on the conclusion. This is why choice "The first describes evidence that supports a conclusion; the second gives a reason for questioning that support." is correct: it properly notes the role of the second bolded portion, to support the conclusion that the optimism is unfounded (which, conceptually, is the same thing as questioning the shareholders' logic). Choices "The first describes the circumstance that the argument seeks to explain; the second provides evidence in support of the explanation that the argument seeks to establish." and "The first is a premise that is accepted as true; the second seeks to clarify the original premise." are each tempting, but each suggests that the purpose of the argument is to clarify the fact in the first sentence, when in fact the conclusion is clear in its intention to question the logic of the shareholders.

Example Question #1 : Method Of Reasoning

Recently, some economists have concluded that the major impediment to job growth in the U.S. is the enormous national debt. While many politicians would like to stimulate job growth by increasing government spending, these economists believe it will have the opposite effect and thus want to cut spending immediately. Historically, when total debt levels exceed 90% of domestic GDP, economic growth falls significantly causing job losses and overall economic malaise. The current U.S. debt is over 96% of GDP, so it is hard to argue the importance of decreasing this percentage and the economists are correct on this point. However, what these economists fail to understand is that cutting spending at this critical juncture would put too much pressure on a fragile economy. In the short term, spending should be left at current levels and revenue should be increased by increasing taxes on wealthy individuals and some corporations. As the economy strengthens, then spending can be decreased with the goal of reducing the debt percentage of GDP to a figure below 90%.

The portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author of this argument believes is incorrect; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion.

The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author believes is correct; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion.

The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author of this argument believes is incorrect; the second boldfaced portion is support for the author’s conclusion.

The first boldfaced portion is an opinion upon which the author’s conclusion is based; the second boldfaced portion is evidence that contradicts that conclusion.

The first boldfaced portion is the author’s conclusion; the second boldfaced portion is support for that conclusion.

The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author believes is correct; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion.

Explanation:

For any boldfaced question, it is essential that you first understand the complete argument. In this stimulus, it is stated that some economists believe that the enormous debt is the major impediment to job growth. As a result, these economists believe that spending should be cut immediately to reduce the debt. The evidence they give for their argument is that current debt levels are 96% of GDP and when total debt levels exceed 90% of domestic GDP, economic growth falls significantly causing job losses and overall economic malaise. The author of this argument agrees that reducing debt is essential but believes that an immediate reduction of spending would be problematic because the economy is too fragile. His recommendation and conclusion is that spending levels should be left constant in the short term and revenues increased with more taxes. Then, after the economy has recovered, spending should indeed be reduced. In summary, the author agrees with the economists that the major impediment to job growth is the high debt level but disagrees with their short term plan because the economists have not considered the fragile state of the economy. With that understanding of the argument, you must then attack each answer choice to see how the boldfaced sections are described:

"The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author of this argument believes is incorrect; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion." The author does not believe that first boldfaced portion is incorrect but rather believes it is correct. He disagrees with their assertion that “spending should be cut immediately” but agrees with this boldfaced portion. While the second boldface portion is described correctly, "The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author of this argument believes is incorrect; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion." is incorrect because of the description of the first boldfaced portion.

"The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author of this argument believes is incorrect; the second boldfaced portion is support for the author’s conclusion." This answer choice also incorrectly describes the first boldfaced portion. While the second does support the author’s conclusion, "The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author of this argument believes is incorrect; the second boldfaced portion is support for the author’s conclusion." contains the same error as "The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author of this argument believes is incorrect; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion." with the first boldfaced portion.

"The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author believes is correct; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion." The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author indeed believes is correct. The second boldfaced portion is the essential premise for that opinion so "The first boldfaced portion is an opinion that the author believes is correct; the second boldfaced portion is support for that opinion." is correct.

"The first boldfaced portion is an opinion upon which the author’s conclusion is based; the second boldfaced portion is evidence that contradicts that conclusion." In this choice, it is correct to say for the first boldfaced portion that the author’s conclusion is based on the opinion that the major impediment to job growth in the U.S. is the enormous national debt. However, the second boldfaced portion does not contradict the author’s conclusion but rather supports it so "The first boldfaced portion is an opinion upon which the author’s conclusion is based; the second boldfaced portion is evidence that contradicts that conclusion." is incorrect

"The first boldfaced portion is the author’s conclusion; the second boldfaced portion is support for that conclusion." The first boldfaced portion is not the author’s conclusion but rather the opinion of several other economists. The author’s conclusion is given in the last two sentences that are not boldfaced.

Example Question #3 : Advanced Boldface Reasoning

Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled. With that trend, there has been debate as to whether we can conclude that these purchases will actually lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists. The answer is no, since motorists with more fuel-efficient vehicles are likely to drive more total miles than they did before switching to a more fuel-efficient car, negating the gains from higher fuel-efficiency.

Which of the following best describes the roles of the portions in bold?

The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.

The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence.

The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence.

The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.

The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

Explanation:

As you deconstruct the argument in this Boldface question, recognize first that the first bolded sentence is a premise, stated as a fact. Further, the beginning of the next sentence states "with that trend...," establishing that the argument will build from that fact. From here you can eliminate choices "The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence." and "The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false." (each of which says that the first portion is a conclusion). You can also be very skeptical of choice "The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.": even though it correctly says that the first portion is a premise, note that it goes on to say that the argument proves that premise false. As you will see from the rest of the paragraph, the argument is concerned with attacking a conclusion drawn from that premise, but never tries to disprove the fact itself. For this reason, "The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false." is also incorrect.

As you look at the second bolded portion, note that the phrase "there has been debate as to whether we can conclude" is also direct cause for eliminating "The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.": the second bolded portion is not the conclusion itself, but rather the introduction of the conclusion. You should see that this language matches choice "The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole." perfectly, so choice "The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole." is correct.

Similarly "The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence." is incorrect, as the second bolded portion introduces a conclusion that could be drawn based on the first premise: it does not, as "The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence." says "undermine that evidence." To the contrary, it builds upon it.

Note that the conclusion of this argument is the phrase "the answer is no," which comes right next to the explanation for that conclusion, "since motorists with more fuel-efficient vehicles..." This allows you to eliminate choice "The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.", as the evidence for the argument's conclusion is everything beginning with "since," not the second bolded portion. Choice "The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole." is correct.

Example Question #4 : Advanced Boldface Reasoning

Business School Dean: We are all in agreement that we must cut unnecessary costs in order to afford our popular international study programs, a hallmark of our unique offering that prospective students know us for. But cutting the marketing budget would be a terrible idea; after all, our unique international programs cannot attract prospective students if we do not properly market them.

The portions highlighted in boldface play which of the following roles?

The first is a conclusion that the dean supports; the second is evidence for that conclusion.

The first is a consideration that the dean agrees with; the second is support for the dean’s conclusion.

The first is a consideration that supports the dean’s conclusion; the second is that conclusion.

The first is a conclusion that the dean opposes; the second is a conclusion that the dean supports.

The first is a consideration that the dean agrees with; the second is the dean’s conclusion.

The first is a consideration that the dean agrees with; the second is support for the dean’s conclusion.

Explanation:

As you assess the argument and scan the answer choices, it should become clear that you will need to determine the dean's conclusion. A few things are important in finding that: 1) note the word "but" to begin the second sentence. Transition language like that often signifies that the author is transitioning between contextual information and her main point, so you should pay even closer attention past "but" to find the conclusion there. 2) Remember the "why test" - in order to be a conclusion, a statement must be backed up with a reason "why" it's true somewhere else in the argument.

Note that the non-bolded initial clause of that sentence "cutting the marketing budget would be a terrible idea" does have a reason why: because if you did that, students wouldn't know about these great programs. The bolded portion does not have a reason why: "our unique programs cannot attract students if we do not properly market them" is given as a fact without the rest of the argument explaining why.

From that, you should see that the second bolded portion exists to support the author's conclusion. This will narrow you down to choices "The first is a consideration that the dean agrees with; the second is support for the dean’s conclusion." and "The first is a conclusion that the dean supports; the second is evidence for that conclusion.".

From there, play the answers against each other. "The first is a consideration that the dean agrees with; the second is support for the dean’s conclusion." says that the second portion is used to support the dean's conclusion, while "The first is a conclusion that the dean supports; the second is evidence for that conclusion." says that it's evidence for "that conclusion," meaning the first bolded portion. "our unique programs cannot attract students if we do not properly market them" does support the conclusion that cutting marketing would be a bad idea (choice "The first is a consideration that the dean agrees with; the second is support for the dean’s conclusion.") but it doesn't support the idea that "we should cut unnecessary costs" (choice "The first is a conclusion that the dean supports; the second is evidence for that conclusion."). So the correct answer is "The first is a consideration that the dean agrees with; the second is support for the dean’s conclusion.".

Example Question #2 : Method Of Reasoning

In countries where healthcare is universal and provided free of charge by the government, visits per capita to the doctor are twice as frequent as they are in countries where healthcare is paid at least partly out-of-pocket by the consumer. Presently, governments do not have a reliable way of determining whether the symptoms for which these patients were treated for would have otherwise subsided without medical attention. However, this information does not warrant the conclusion by some universal healthcare critics that in the countries with a higher frequency of doctor visits, about half of them are unnecessary. Alternatively, in those countries where healthcare is not free, consumers often forego visits to the doctor except in cases of severe symptoms.

In the argument above, the two boldfaced portions play which of the following roles?

The first is a premise, of which the implications are in dispute in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that premise.

The first is a premise that has been used to support a conclusion that the argument accepts; the second is that conclusion.

The first is a premise that the argument disputes; the second is a conclusion that has been based on that premise.

The first is a conclusion that rests upon further evidence within the argument; the second supports that conclusion.

The first is a finding, the accuracy of which is evaluated in the argument; the second is evidence presented to establish the accuracy of the finding.

The first is a premise, of which the implications are in dispute in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that premise.

Explanation:

Remember that for all Method of Reasoning questions you must first deconstruct the argument before you go through process of elimination to find which answer choice best describes it. The first bolded information gives that the frequency of visits to the doctor is twice as high in those countries with free healthcare as it is in those without free healthcare. This piece of information is presented without an explanation as to why and is therefore a premise that describes the frequency of visits to the doctors between countries that do and do not have universal healthcare.

After the first bolded portion, the next portion gives a second premise, that there is no way of determining the severity of the patients’ symptoms and no way of determining whether these trips to the doctor were unnecessary. The second sentence of not-bolded information continues this by stating that the conclusion that half of the visits in countries with universal health care are unnecessary is not necessarily valid.

The second set of bolded text then gives an alternative explanation: that consumers in countries without universal health care instead avoid going to the doctor when they need to. Notice that this isn’t a conclusion, but is instead an argument against a certain conclusion.

With the argument deconstructed, you can then take a look at the answer choices. Be wary of wordplay and be very picky!

Choice "The first is a premise that the argument disputes; the second is a conclusion that has been based on that premise." may seem close to your initial analysis of the bolded portions. The first bolded portion is a premise, but it is not the premise that the argument disputes, but the conclusions that can be drawn from that premise. Additionally, the second portion is reasoning that the conclusion in the previous sentence isn’t justified rather than a conclusion in and of itself. Choice "The first is a premise that the argument disputes; the second is a conclusion that has been based on that premise." can therefore be eliminated.

Choice "The first is a premise, of which the implications are in dispute in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that premise." matches the deconstruction of the argument. The first bolded portion is a premise whose implications (whether or not the extra doctor’s visits are warranted) are indeed under attack. The second bolded portion is a claim, arguing against the conclusion in the previous sentence. Choice "The first is a premise, of which the implications are in dispute in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that premise." is correct.

Choice "The first is a finding, the accuracy of which is evaluated in the argument; the second is evidence presented to establish the accuracy of the finding." can be eliminated since the first bolded portion is not a finding, but a premise. Its accuracy is also not in question, so you can confidently eliminate choice "The first is a finding, the accuracy of which is evaluated in the argument; the second is evidence presented to establish the accuracy of the finding.".

Choice "The first is a premise that has been used to support a conclusion that the argument accepts; the second is that conclusion." is correct in that the first portion is a premise. However, the first conclusion reached is not accepted by the argument – it is disputed. Choice "The first is a premise that has been used to support a conclusion that the argument accepts; the second is that conclusion." can be eliminated.

Choice "The first is a conclusion that rests upon further evidence within the argument; the second supports that conclusion." can be eliminated since the first bolded portion is a premise, not a conclusion, since it does not pass the “why” test.

The correct answer is "The first is a premise, of which the implications are in dispute in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that premise.".

Example Question #1 : Method Of Reasoning

Hiker: With the storm approaching quickly we need to make a decision on how to proceed. We can try to descend the mountain to seek shelter, but then we will undo our progress and lose our chance to reach the summit – and we may not make it all the way down, anyway. We can continue on our current course and hope that the storm misses us or passes quickly, but doing so risks a true disaster. So we should bivouac here, using the time before the storm to set up a safe, secure camp to weather the elements.

The hiker’s argument does which of the following?

Makes a unilateral decision by dismissing the recommendations of others.

Claims that her decision is the only logical course of action.

Recommends a choice based on the elimination of alternative options.

Outlines the risks and benefits of all available courses of action.

Chooses a course of action based on experience in similar situations.

Recommends a choice based on the elimination of alternative options.

Explanation:

In Method of Reasoning questions, the correct answer must be a completely-accurate description of the argument - your goal then should be to attack each answer choice to find a word or phrase that doesn't fit. Method of Reasoning makes for good process of elimination.

Choice "Claims that her decision is the only logical course of action." is incorrect in that the hiker does not single her decision out as the ONLY logical decision: she considers the merits of two other decisions and arrives at one she feels is best. Choice "Claims that her decision is the only logical course of action." is too strong.

Choice "Chooses a course of action based on experience in similar situations." is incorrect because the concept of experience never comes up in the argument. Similarly, choice "Makes a unilateral decision by dismissing the recommendations of others." mentions the recommendations of others but in the argument as given the only options discussed come straight from the hiker herself.

Choice "Recommends a choice based on the elimination of alternative options." is correct: she eliminates two options and arrives at the third, so it is true that she recommends a course of action based on the elimination of others.

And choice "Outlines the risks and benefits of all available courses of action." is incorrect in large part because of the word "all" - you do not know that the three options she discusses are the only available options, so "all" could include others. And she does not talk about the risks associated with the third plan, so she does not discuss the risks even of "all" plans that are included.

Example Question #3 : Method Of Reasoning

Genetically-altered trees have been developed that can remove toxins from the air more quickly than naturally-occurring trees can. However, we will not know whether the modified trees adversely affect the environment without actually planting them and carefully monitoring the environment for at least several years. Since this might cause irrevocable harm to the surrounding area, we should resist the temptation to use these trees until long-term research in a closed environment has been completed.

Which of the following best describes the method of argument used in the argument above?

An experiment is recommended to determine the benefits of a new approach to a longstanding problem for which no other comparable solution is known.

After detailing concerns with two approaches to a problem, both are discarded in favor of an approach that does not raise the same concerns.

A possible future scenario is described as being unrealistic, while a different scenario is given more credence.

The benefits and disadvantages of two remedial courses of action are weighed.

A course of action is advised against unless a similar, but limited, course of action produces positive results.

A course of action is advised against unless a similar, but limited, course of action produces positive results.

Explanation:

The course of action that is advised against is planting genetically-altered trees to remove toxins. The similar, but limited, course of action is long-term research involving the planting of such trees in a closed environment. Positive results from the limited action – no serious damage to the environment – need to be seen; otherwise, we should “resist the temptation” to plant the trees in the open.

"After detailing concerns with two approaches to a problem, both are discarded in favor of an approach that does not raise the same concerns." This choice mentions two approaches, and then “another approach,” making for three approaches in total. However, only two approaches are ever mentioned: planting them in the general environment, or planting them in a closed environment.

"A possible future scenario is described as being unrealistic, while a different scenario is given more credence." No particular scenario is ever described as unrealistic.

"An experiment is recommended to determine the benefits of a new approach to a longstanding problem for which no other comparable solution is known." This choice starts out fine, but we cannot say that “no other comparable solution is known.” If anything, we are told that naturally occurring trees can be used to remove toxins, though slowly.

"The benefits and disadvantages of two remedial courses of action are weighed." It is not clear that the argument presents two distinct remedies. Even if we consider planting the trees in an open environment to be one remedy and planting the trees in a closed environment to be another remedy, no disadvantages to planting the trees in a closed environment are mentioned. If we consider planting naturally-occurring trees to be a second approach, then this answer choice does not even mention long-term research.

The correct answer is "A course of action is advised against unless a similar, but limited, course of action produces positive results."

Example Question #3 : Method Of Reasoning

University X has announced that its library will not be open during the summer. Students attending classes during the summer have protested, saying that the library has research materials that cannot be borrowed from any public library in the area. The university administration has responded with an announcement that all university library materials will be accessible online through computers that are provided to all students for free by the university.

Which of the following best describes a method of argument used by the university administration?

The administration defends its actions by criticizing the logic of its opponents.

The administration makes an unwarranted assumption about the motives of some of the students.

The administration provides an explanation that it assumes will clarify its decision.

The administration counters a concern with an alternative.

The administration counters a concern with an alternative.

Explanation:

Example Question #4 : Method Of Reasoning

Incumbent candidate for governor: As the people of our great state know, my administration has created unprecedented economic prosperity and job growth. Just look at the unemployment rate, which has reached its lowest point in nearly twenty years!

Opposing candidate for governor: That’s preposterous. You overlook the fact that the unemployment rate is just as much a function of the number of people in the labor market as it is of the number of people employed. Your greatest contribution to the economy has been a series of retirement parties and moves to other states!

The opposing candidate’s reply to the incumbent proceeds by:

Pointing out that the incumbent cited a statistic that does not necessarily support his conclusion.

Supplying a statistic that undermines the incumbent’s conclusion.

Claiming that the incumbent used a statistic irrelevant to his conclusion.

Suggesting that the incumbent’s statistic is factually inaccurate.

Offering a statistic that sheds additional light on the statistic supplied by the incumbent.

Pointing out that the incumbent cited a statistic that does not necessarily support his conclusion.

Explanation:

In this Method of Reasoning question, you're asked to describe the opposing candidate's reply, so pay particular attention to that. Note that the opponent does not supply any statistics, so choices "Supplying a statistic that undermines the incumbent’s conclusion.", "Suggesting that the incumbent’s statistic is factually inaccurate.", and "Offering a statistic that sheds additional light on the statistic supplied by the incumbent." are not accurate descriptions of the response. And he does not say that the statistic is irrelevant, just that there is more to the statistic than the incumbent had implied. The opponent points out that the unemployment rate may be more a function of the denominator (the number in the labor market) than the numerator (the number of those people without jobs), so he is saying that the statistic might not actually support the claim of the incumbent. Thus, choice "Pointing out that the incumbent cited a statistic that does not necessarily support his conclusion." is an apt description.

Example Question #5 : Method Of Reasoning

Diet Company Executive: Our “12-Weeks-to-Skinny” diet plan is the best in the country. Each year we send out a comprehensive survey to everyone who enrolled in this plan. The survey contains questions about everything from the quality of food in the program to the percentage of weight lost during the 12 weeks. Amazingly, last year over 80% of the survey respondents lost more than 10% of their body weight during the 12-week period, a figure unprecedented among diet companies.

The executive’s claim about the quality of the diet plan is most vulnerable to criticism on which of the following grounds?

It does not consider whether dissatisfied customers are less likely to respond to the survey.

It does not consider the data collected since the last survey was conducted.

It does not consider whether the total number of people enrolled in its plan has decreased.

It does not consider whether other diet companies have had superior results over the past year.

It does not consider the total amount weight gained or lost by its participants.