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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Possessives on GMAT Sentence Correction

In the latter years of the Great Depression, colleagues of Franklin Roosevelt’s argued that his proposed Social Security Act has a good chance of succeeding due to its strong bipartisan support, sound fiscal plan, and widespread electoral approval.

A. Roosevelt’s argued that his proposed Social Security Act has
B. Roosevelt’s argued that his proposed Social Security Act had
C. Roosevelt’s have argued that his proposed Social Security Act had
D. Roosevelt argued that his proposed Social Security Act had
E. Roosevelt had argued that his proposed Social Security Act has

In the first phrase, we get a great clue about what time period these colleagues lived: the “latter years of the Great Depression.” This is obviously in the PAST, so we need the action that the colleagues did to be a past tense verb. Answer choice (C) is present perfect tense (used to describe something that started in the past and CONTINUE to the present. But these colleagues are dead now, so how can they still be arguing?)

In (E) we have Past Perfect, which is a kind of past tense, BUT we only use this tense to describe an event that occurred before a Simple Past Tense event. In (E), “has” is not past tense, and even if it were, the meaning wouldn’t make sense. The colleagues didn’t argue BEFORE the Social Security Act had a chance of success.

So, now we know it has to be (A), (B), or (D). Since (A) also uses the word “has” and we discussed this in (E), we can eliminate this, too.

Let’s focus on the differences of the Final Two:

(B) In the latter years of the Great Depression, colleagues of Roosevelt’s argued that his proposed Social Security Act had a good chance of succeeding due to its strong bipartisan support, sound fiscal plan, and widespread electoral approval.

(D) In the latter years of the Great Depression, colleagues of Roosevelt argued that his proposed Social Security Act had a good chance of succeeding due to its strong bipartisan support, sound fiscal plan, and widespread electoral approval.

Wow! Only one difference. :) So what do we know about the use of possessives? When a noun turns into a possessive, it becomes a modifier.

EX: Jill won the soccer game.
Meaning: Jill is the one who won.

EX: Jill’s team won the soccer game.
Meaning: The TEAM won, and “Jill’s” just describes the team.

So in (B), if “Roosevelt’s” is now a modifier, the question becomes, what is it modifying? The only logical option is “colleagues.” So the meaning of (B) is “colleagues of Roosevelt’s colleagues.” Um…what? That’s redundant.

The correct answer is (D).

The Best Strategy for GMAT Evaluate the Argument Questions

With an Evaluate the Argument question, we have to keep in mind that it’s aaaaalll about that Conclusion! This isn’t like a Weaken or a Strengthen in which some tiny piece of evidence will twist around and be part of the correct answer, unexpectedly.

Evaluate questions are easy if you keep in mind that you are here to evaluate the Conclusion sentence and that’s it! So let’s break one down:

The US government has recently taken an initiative to collect and publish information on the salaries of graduating students from colleges. The salaries of the students in their first year after graduation will be published for all colleges and subject fields the colleges offer. The idea is to help the students make more informed choices about the college and the field that they choose. While the intentions are good, the results might just be the opposite. Students who pick their field based primarily on post-graduation salaries, as opposed to passion for a field, will, in all likelihood, struggle in both school and career.

Which of the following options would help most to evaluate the given argument?

A) What is the number of colleges that will be covered by the government initiative?
B) Currently, what proportion of students who struggle in college also struggle in their careers?
C) Do some students currently pick their subject fields based on their passion?
D) Are there currently any good websites providing average salaries data for the students?
E) How will the government ensure that the data published on the salaries of the students is not biased against certain colleges?

Evidence: US govt gets $$$ info (to help students choose).

Conclusion: Students who choose for $$$ / not :inlove: will :cry: :cry: :cry:

Ridiculous emojis aside, we can see the scope of this conclusion is about what the RESULT will be when students base their CHOICE on $$$$$. Definitely the correct answer needs to match that scope!

Let’s look at the scope of each answer choice:

A) What is the number of colleges that will be covered by the government initiative? (the number affected is not part of the conclusion’s scope)
B) Currently, what proportion of students who struggle in college also struggle in their careers? (better than A, but still not great, but let’s keep it for now)
C) Do some students currently pick their subject fields based on their passion? (decent, related to students, let’s keep it)
D) Are there currently any good websites providing average salaries data for the students? (what the heck?! this has absolutely nothing to do with the students and their choices)
E) How will the government ensure that the data published on the salaries of the students is not biased against certain colleges? (who cares about the data; we’re interested in the students’ choices)

The Final Two here are (B) and (C). Let’s answer these hypotheticals:

B) Currently, what proportion of students who struggle in college also struggle in their careers?

Let’s say 100% who struggle in college struggle in careers. Or let’s say 0% who struggle in college also struggle in their careers. This has no bearing on whether students who pick $$$ over passion will succeed.

C) Do some students currently pick their subject fields based on their passion?

Let’s say yes, some students DO pick their major based on :inlove: ; it doesn’t have a huge impact. BUT, what if NO students choose for passion? Well if none choose for passion, and they ALL choose for $$$$, then the author’s argument is greatly weakened!!! In that case, there wouldn’t even be a dichotomy — no choice at all! They ONLY choose for $$$. So how could choosing for $$$ over :inlove: even be possible?

Because one way to answer (C) has a major impact on the Conclusion, this is the correct answer. Playing “Devil’s advocate” for each “side” of the Evaluate answer choice can help you see which one is most relevant to the Conclusion.

 

“Team” – Is it Singular or Plural?

Collective nouns, in language, refer to a collection of things taken as a whole. Since they are taken as a whole, or one unit, they are almost always singular.

Even though the Mt. Everest team began the expedition with more provisions than they had in any previous year, its food lasted through only the first twelve days of the climb.

A. they had in any previous year

B. their previous years had had

C. they had for any previous year

D. in their previous years

E. it had in any previous year

“Team” is singular on the GMAT, a collective noun, so we can eliminate (A), (B), (C), and (D) right away. This should be an easy-question for anyone who has a good grasp on Pronouns. They even give you the clue “it” in the non-underlined portion at the end. Don’t ever take the non-underlined for granted! :)

“Justify the Argument” = Make the Author Seem Less Crazy

This question is unusual in that the Conclusion comes first, followed by the Evidence. That’s probably because it’s an LSAT question, but occasionally we see this on the GMAT as well. Set a timer for 2.5 min and give it a shot:

Archaeologist: The mosaics that were removed from Zeugma, the ancient city now flooded by the runoff from Turkey’s Birecik Dam, should have been left there. We had all the information about them that we needed to draw archaeological conclusions, and future archaeologists studying the site, who may not have access to our records, might be misled by their absence.

Which one of the following, if assumed, most helps to justify the reasoning in the archaeologist’s argument?

(A) The only considerations that bear upon the question of whether the mosaics should have been removed are archaeological.
(B) Archaeologists studying a site can tell whether or not that site had been flooded at some time.
(C) The materials used in the construction of a mosaic are readily apparent when the mosaic is examined in its original location.
(D) Archaeological sites from which artifacts have been removed rarely mislead archaeologists who later study the site.
(E) The removal of artifacts from archaeological sites rarely has any environmental impact.

Evidence: 
-we have all info on M for archaeology
-future A’s might not have access to our records & be confused is M are gone

Conclusion: 
-M should have been left in situ

Concept Shift: 
-Even though the Conclusion comes first, I still find the evidence doesn’t do a good job justifying WHY they should have been left, given that there’s run-off. It seems like run-off would be a BAD thing for these mosaics!

The author is saying we need to leave the mosaics for the future archaeologists to study in case they don’t have our records, so the author is clearly assuming the mosaics would still be there for the future archaeologists if we put them back/left them there.

I like the word “justify” in the question-stem here. It always makes me think, “which of the following makes the author seem less crazy?” :lol:

If the idea of “now flooded by the runoff from Turkey’s Birecik Dam” is NOT going to be part of the scope of the correct answer, then why is this detail even included? It would seem so odd.

Prediction: Something that explains WHY they should have been left there, even with the run-off/flooding.

On to the answer choices:

(A) The only considerations that bear upon the question of whether the mosaics should have been removed are archaeological. (it’s sort of on topic, so we can keep…for now)
(B) Archaeologists studying a site can tell whether or not that site had been flooded at some time. (we don’t know how this relates to why they should have been left there)
(C) The materials used in the construction of a mosaic are readily apparent when the mosaic is examined in its original location. (how they were constructed is not part of the argument)
(D) Archaeological sites from which artifacts have been removed rarely mislead archaeologists who later study the site. (on track, let’s keep)
(E) The removal of artifacts from archaeological sites rarely has any environmental impact. (environmental impact is totally outside the scope)

Let’s focus on the only two that seem to be on track:

(A) The only considerations that bear upon the question of whether the mosaics should have been removed are archaeological.
(D) Archaeological sites from which artifacts have been removed rarely mislead archaeologists who later study the site.

Let’s negate each one:

(A) Archaeological considerations are NOT the ONLY point of consideration.
(D) Removing mosaics WOULD mislead archaeologists.

The negation of (D) seems to SUPPORT the conclusion, saying yeah, we shouldn’t have removed them! It basically reiterates the evidence.

With (A), it’s like saying, “there’s other things we should consider.” Well, if there are other points to consider other than archaeological ones, then it definitely hurts the conclusion since the entire conclusion’s evidence is based on archaeology. Perhaps those other considerations would have something to do with the flooding??

I’ll be honest, I don’t LOVE (A) as an answer to an Assumption question but the keyword “justify” sort of makes this one a bit like a Strengthen question.

Hopefully, we can see here that (A) is just miles ahead of the other answer choices.

Takeaway: We don’t need a “perfect” answer; we just need one that “beats” the other four! :)

Dealing with Completely Underlined GMAT Sentence Correction

Completely underlined SC questions often look intimidating on our screens. Something like this Magoosh problem can leave many students a little nervous:

The Talmud briefly recounts the core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil lasting eight days, although placing this story in context are events described by the two books of the Maccabees, appearing only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament instead of in the Jewish and Protestant bibles.

(A) The Talmud briefly recounts the core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil lasting eight days, although placing this story in context are events described by the two books of the Maccabees, appearing only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament instead of in the Jewish and Protestant bibles

(B) The Talmud, briefly recounting the core story of Hanukkah, with the single day’s supply of oil lasting eight days, and only Roman Catholic Old Testament contains the two books of the Maccabees, which places this core story in context, unlike the Jewish and Protestant bibles

(C) The core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil that lasts eight days, appears briefly in the Talmud, although the events that place this story in context are described in the two books of the Maccabees, which appear in neither the Jewish nor Protestant bibles, but only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament

(D) The core story of Hanukkah involves the single day’s supply of oil which last eight days, appearing briefly in the Talmud, while the events to place this story in context, described in the two books of the Maccabees, which does not appear in the Jewish and Protestant bibles, but instead in the Roman Catholic Old Testament

(E) Appearing neither in the Jewish bible nor the Protestant bible, but in the Roman Catholic Old Testament, the two books of the Maccabees provide the context for the core story of Hanukkah, and involves the single day’s supply of oil which last eight days, while it appears briefly in the Talmud.

Since this is a wordy question that is completely underlined, some students might find it easier to spot the errors and if they “trim the fat” at first, and focus on one of the most obvious keywords the GMAT tests: the “,WHICH”

(A) The Talmud briefly recounts the core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil lasting eight days, although placing this story in context are events described by the two books of the Maccabees, appearing only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament instead of in the Jewish and Protestant bibles

(B) The Talmud, briefly recounting the core story of Hanukkah, with the single day’s supply of oil lasting eight days, and only Roman Catholic Old Testament contains the two books of the Maccabees, which places this core story in context, unlike the Jewish and Protestant bibles

Can the “two books of the Maccabees” “places”? No! We would say “books place” not “books places.” This has a Noun-Verb issue, and we can cross off (B).

(C) The core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil that lasts eight days, appears briefly in the Talmud, although the events that place this story in context are described in the two books of the Maccabees, which appear in neither the Jewish nor Protestant bibles, but only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament

Can the “two books of the Maccabees” “appear”? Yes! This meaning is logical and the noun-verb agree.

(D) The core story of Hanukkah involves the single day’s supply of oil which last eight days, appearing briefly in the Talmud, while the events to place this story in context, described in the two books of the Maccabees, which does not appear in the Jewish and Protestant bibles, but instead in the Roman Catholic Old Testament

Can the “two books of the Maccabees” “does not appear”? No! We would say “books do appear” not “books does appear.” Like (B), this has a Noun-Verb disagreement, and we can cross (D) off.

(E) Appearing neither in the Jewish bible nor the Protestant bible, but in the Roman Catholic Old Testament, the two books of the Maccabees provide the context for the core story of Hanukkah, and involves the single day’s supply of oil which last eight days, while it appears briefly in the Talmud.

Let’s look at our remaining three choices and see if we can spot another “easy” keyword:

(A) The Talmud briefly recounts the core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil lasting eight days, although placing this story in context are events described by the two books of the Maccabees, appearing only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament instead of in the Jewish and Protestant bibles

(C) The core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil that lasts eight days, appears briefly in the Talmud, although the events that place this story in context are described in the two books of the Maccabees, which appear in neither the Jewish nor Protestant bibles, but only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament

(E) Appearing neither in the Jewish bible nor the Protestant bible, but in the Roman Catholic Old Testament, the two books of the Maccabees provide the context for the core story of Hanukkah, and involves the single day’s supply of oil which last eight days, while it appears briefly in the Talmud.

I can see both (C) and (E) use the two-part Idiom “NEITHER X NOR Y” — this gives us something obvious to check! Parallelism! :)

In (C) we have “the Jewish” and “Protestant”. If I had my way, we’d add “the” before the word “Protestant,” but the GMAT isn’t anal about articles like “a” and “the” when it comes to Parallelism, so let’s keep it.

In (E), however, we have “in the Jewish bible” in Parallel with “the Protestant bible.” Uh-oh! On the GMAT, prepositions such as “in,” “to,” and “of” matter a LOT in Parallelism! This is dead wrong to include the preposition in one part of the idiom but not in the other part. (note: we could have said “IN neither the Jewish nor the Protestant” and that would’ve been fine.)

So (E) is out.

Getting closer! It’s amazing with such a long question that just TWO rules: knowledge of “which” and knowledge of “neither/nor” parallelism have gotten us down to two! Remember to always look for the “low-hanging fruit”! :)

On to the Final Two! I think these two are both problematic and highly unlikely to be correct options on the actual GMAT, for reasons I get into below. There’s something so weird to me about “the single day’s supply of oil” and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it’s the article “the.” Anyway, I like neither of these choices. Let’s see why:

(A) The Talmud briefly recounts the core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil lasting eight days, although placing this story in context are events described by the two books of the Maccabees, appearing only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament instead of in the Jewish and Protestant bibles

No obvious “deal-breaker” as in (B), (D), and (E), so let’s get nit-picky with meaning and style! Meaning is decent, but I don’t like the insinuation that “events” could be doing the action of “placing this story in context.” It feels like something only people can do. I also don’t like the meaning that it is the “events” that possibly “appear” only in the Old Testament. It seems like it should be more clearly the “two books” that appear. Again, it’s fine, but I don’t like it. Style-wise, I hate the passive structure of “placing this story…are events.” Again, passive voice can sometimes be correct on the GMAT, but this is problematic. I also thing the double-participle of “involving” and “lasting” so close to one another is unusual for the GMAT, and the “instead of” is weird, though will never be the deal-breaker on the actual exam.

(C) The core story of Hanukkah, involving the single day’s supply of oil that lasts eight days, appears briefly in the Talmud, although the events that place this story in context are described in the two books of the Maccabees, which appear in neither the Jewish nor Protestant bibles, but only in the Roman Catholic Old Testament.

I hate “that lasts” and would much prefer the participle “lasting,” though no one asked me. ;) There’s 4 commas here as opposed to 3 commas in the (A). Clarity is not gained by these extra sub-divisions. “Events that place” is more active than (A), but then the rest of the sentence gets kind of weird, since the idiom should just be “NEITHER X NOR Y” but we’re throwing in this “BUT ONLY” at the end of it, as if it is some weird three-part Idiom.

Based on the active voice alone, (C) wins over (A), but honestly, I don’t think this (A) versus (C) here is a fair representation of the kind of choice you’d make on the actual exam.

Tl;dr — I think (B), (D), and (E) have great teachable take-aways, but I don’t think examining (A) versus (C) here is worthwhile for most students. It’s going to make them overly obsessed with “instead of” and passive voice versus active voice, and honestly, there’s bigger fish to fry on GMAT SC.

Parallel Idioms on the GMAT: WHETHER X…OR Y

Set a timer for 2-min and try this problem. See if you can identify the correct parallel structure.

Historians and economists have disagreed about whether the 1929 collapse of stock prices caused the international catastrophe known as the Great Depression or did it simply reflect the underlying weakness of the United States economy.

A. did it simply reflect the underlying weakness of
B. simply reflected the underlying weakness of
C. was simply reflecting the weakness underlying
D. if it was simply reflecting the weakness underlying
E. whether it simply reflected the weakness which underlay

Usually with “whether” we get a parallel structure: WHETHER X…OR Y, and we are looking for two Parallel verbs. We don’t need to repeat the word “whether” in the second-part of the idiom.

EX: Whether I will go to the store or visit the mall.

But also the modifiers could be parallel:

EX: Whether he studies today or tomorrow, he will still do well on the exam. (Here it’s understood the “studies” applies to the second part of the idiom, so we don’t have to repeat it.)

Anyway, let’s look at choice (A):

Historians and economists have disagreed about whether the 1929 collapse of stock prices caused the international catastrophe known as the Great Depression or did it simply reflect the underlying weakness of the United States economy.

Let’s strip out some non-essentials:

Historians and economists have disagreed about whether the collapse caused… or did it reflect….

As written we have “collapse caused” parallel with “did it reflect.” This is not perfectly parallel, and we should look for a better option.

(B) gives is to us by placing “reflected” in parallel with “caused” without screwing up the nice idiomatic structure of “WHETHER X…OR Y….” :cool: