How to Strengthen an Argument in GMAT CR

There’s several ways to strengthen an argument. We can add new evidence, support the existing evidence, or perhaps even give a tidbit that might show an assumption is likely. Strengthen questions can be trickier than Assumption or Evaluate, because you can’t just hone in on the Conclusion and ignore or devalue everything else. With Strengthen (and Weaken) you have to take into account the ENTIRE picture. There might be 2-3 ways to strengthen, and the correct answer is not the first one that comes to your mind!

Let’s look at an argument:

The government is being urged to prevent organizations devoted to certain views on human nutrition from advocating a diet that includes large portions of uncooked meat, because eating uncooked meat can be very dangerous. However, this purported fact does not justify the government’s silencing the groups, for surely the government would not be justified in silencing a purely political group merely on the grounds that the policies the group advocates could be harmful to some members of society. The same should be true for silencing groups with certain views on human nutrition.

Which one of the following principles most helps to justify the reasoning in the argument?

(A) The government should not silence any group for advocating a position that a significant proportion of society believes to be beneficial.
(B) The government ought to do whatever is in the best interest of society.
(C) One ought to advocate a position only if one believes that it is true or would be beneficial.
(D) The government ought not to silence an opinion merely on the grounds that it could be harmful to disseminate the opinion.
(E) One ought to urge the government to do only those things the government is justified in doing.

Let’s break this down:

Evidence: Gov’t urged to stop anti-meat groups

Conclusion: Gov’t not JUSTIFIED in SILENCING them

Additional Evidence: Gov’t shouldn’t silence just because harmful to “some” — similarly, shouldn’t silence nutrition groups

The author is assuming that these “certain views” on nutrition might also be harmful to “some” members of society, so the gov’t might want to silence them. To strengthen, perhaps we could get additional evidence on the potential dangers of these pro-nutrition groups? Or perhaps brand-new info that shows why the gov’t is not justified in silencing the anti-meat groups?

PREDICTION: Certain nutrition groups also harmful and gov’t doesn’t silence them. Anything that shows the gov’t lacks “justification” to silence anti-meat. Perhaps a good thing about anti-meat? (I admit, I’m reaching a bit.)

We can have our Prediction but ALSO be a little more open to what the answer choices will bring with this one. :)

(A) The government should not silence any group for advocating a position that a significant proportion of society believes to be beneficial. (it’s not really about the proportion of society)
(B) The government ought to do whatever is in the best interest of society. (“best interest” doesn’t really relate to meat or nutrition groups or the idea of justification)
(C) One ought to advocate a position only if one believes that it is true or would be beneficial. (this kind of general “one” talk pops up a lot on LSAT questions, but not really on the GMAT. It’s wrong.)
(D) The government ought not to silence an opinion merely on the grounds that it could be harmful to disseminate the opinion.(more on topic, let’s keep for now)
(E) One ought to urge the government to do only those things the government is justified in doing. (don’t love the “one” talk, but it’s more on topic, so let’s keep for now)

Now that we have identified the Final Two, let’s take a closer look at which one is more focused on the specifics of the argument:

(D) The government ought not to silence an opinion merely on the grounds that it could be harmful to disseminate the opinion.
(E) One ought to urge the government to do only those things the government is justified in doing.

Let’s look at the conclusion again:

This purported fact (uncooked meat = dangerous) does not justify the government’s silencing the groups.

It’s really about the government’s actions, not really what the PEOPLE should be. Like (C), choice (E) has that weird “one ought” language. With CR, we aren’t really here to make moral judgments. We want to strengthen the idea that the GOV’T is not JUSTIFIED.

If we rephrase (D) it says: “gov’t shouldn’t silence opinions that could be alarming.” This re-states and re-energizes the idea that “gov’t shouldn’t silence just because harmful to ‘some'”.

The correct answer is (D).

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