GMAT Verbal : Analyzing Argumentative Claims, Bias, and Support in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Thesis Or Argument

Adapted from “Introductory Remarks” in The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (trans. 1913)

In attempting to discuss the interpretation of dreams, I do not believe that I have overstepped the bounds of neuropathological interest. For, when investigated psychologically, the dream proves to be the first link in a chain of abnormal psychic structures whose other links—the hysterical phobia, the obsession, and the delusion—must interest the physician for practical reasons. The dream can lay no claim to a corresponding practical significance; however, its theoretical value is very great, and one who cannot explain the origin of the content of dreams will strive in vain to understand phobias, obsessive and delusional ideas, and likewise their therapeutic importance.

While this relationship makes our subject important, it is responsible also for the deficiencies in this work. The surfaces of fracture, which will be frequently discussed, correspond to many points of contact where the problem of dream formation informs more comprehensive problems of psychopathology which cannot be discussed here. These larger issues will be elaborated upon in the future.

Peculiarities in the material I have used to elucidate the interpretation of dreams have rendered this publication difficult. The work itself will demonstrate why all dreams related in scientific literature or collected by others had to remain useless for my purpose. In choosing my examples, I had to limit myself to considering my own dreams and those of my patients who were under psychoanalytic treatment. I was restrained from utilizing material derived from my patients' dreams by the fact that during their treatment, the dream processes were subjected to an undesirable complication—the intermixture of neurotic characters. On the other hand, in discussing my own dreams, I was obliged to expose more of the intimacies of my psychic life than I should like, more so than generally falls to the task of an author who is not a poet but an investigator of nature. This was painful, but unavoidable; I had to put up with the inevitable in order to demonstrate the truth of my psychological results at all. To be sure, I disguised some of my indiscretions through omissions and substitutions, though I feel that these detract from the value of the examples in which they appear. I can only express the hope that the reader of this work, putting himself in my difficult position, will show patience, and also that anyone inclined to take offense at any of the reported dreams will concede freedom of thought at least to the dream life.

The author argues that understanding the content of dreams is necessary for __________.

Possible Answers:

understanding delusional ideas

accurately diagnosing a number of psychological conditions in patients

understanding the rest of the work from which this passage is drawn

understanding why he had difficulty choosing dreams to discuss in the work that follows

comprehending the therapeutic importance of dreams

Correct answer:

understanding delusional ideas

Explanation:

At the end of the first paragraph, the author states, “one who cannot explain the origin of the content of dreams will strive in vain to understand phobias, obsessive and delusional ideas, and likewise their therapeutic importance.” Thus, the correct answer is that understanding the content of dreams is necessary for understanding delusional ideas.

Example Question #2 : Understanding Organization And Argument In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

I proceed to inquire whether the federal government or the state governments will have the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States. I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving the proofs for another place. The federal and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject, and to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.

Which difference between federal and state governments is the author purposely not addressing in his argument?

Possible Answers:

Their different powers and purposes

The different sizes of their spheres of jurisdiction

The fact that both derive their authority from constituents

Their different constituents

The different ways in which officials are elected

Correct answer:

The different ways in which officials are elected

Explanation:

In the paragraph's second sentence, the author states, "Notwithstanding the different modes in which [the federal and state governments] are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States." The introductory phrase that begins this sentence with "Notwithstanding" tells us that the author is ignoring the fact that the two different forms of government are appointed in different ways, so "The different ways in which officials are elected" is the correct answer.

Example Question #42 : Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

I proceed to inquire whether the federal government or the state governments will have the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States. I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving the proofs for another place. The federal and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject, and to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents. 

Which of the following is true regarding the author’s perspective on the differences between federal and state governments?

Possible Answers:

The author thinks that only state governments have their power checked by the citizens of the United States.

The author thinks that the state and federal governments have been granted different powers in order to accomplish different goals.

The author thinks that the state and federal governments were designed to do the same things.

The author views the state and federal government as being rivals and enemies. 

The author thinks that only the federal government wants to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction.

Correct answer:

The author thinks that the state and federal governments have been granted different powers in order to accomplish different goals.

Explanation:

In the fourth sentence, the author states, "The federal and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes." This supports the answer choice "The author thinks that the state and federal governments have been granted different powers in order to accomplish different goals." 

The preceding quotation contradicts the answer choice "The author thinks that the state and federal governments were designed to do the same things." "The author thinks that only state governments have their power checked by the American people" is incorrect because the passage later states, "the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other"; both state and federal governments thus have their power checked by the people. The answer "The author views the state and federal government as being rivals and enemies" is incorrect because the author is opposing those who "have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies"; these are the people he is referring to in the line, "These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error." Finally, "The author thinks that only the federal government wants to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction" is incorrect because while he discusses the possibility of both state and federal governments trying "to enlarge [their] sphere[s] of jurisdiction at the expense of the other"

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Argumentative Claims, Bias, And Support In Social Science Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 1157 Vol. XLV (March 5th, 1898)

Since William II of Germany ascended the throne as German Emperor and King of Prussia on June 15, 1888, the eyes of Europe have been fixed on him. The press of the world delights in showing up his weak points, and the "war lord" undoubtedly has them, but, at the same time, he has qualities which are to be admired and which make him conspicuous among the rulers of Europe.

He is popular in Germany, and it is not surprising, for, in spite of being autocratic to the last degree, he is honest, courageous, ambitious, hard working, and a thorough German, being intensely patriotic. Indeed, if the people of Germany had the right to vote, they would undoubtedly choose their present ruler, for, while the virtues we have named may seem commonplace, they are not so when embodied in an emperor. One thing which places William at a disadvantage is his excessive frankness. His mistakes have largely resulted from his impulsive nature coupled with chauvinism, which is, perhaps, excusable, in a ruler.

Since the time when William was a child, he evidenced a strong desire to become acquainted with the details of the office to which his lofty birth entitled him. In the army he has worked his way up like any other officer and has a firm grasp on all the multifarious details of the military establishment of the great country. He believes in militarism, or in force, to use a more common expression, but in this he is right, for it has taken two hundred and fifty years to bring Prussia to the position it now holds, and what it has gained at the point of the sword must be retained in the same way. The immense sacrifices which the people make to support the army and navy are deemed necessary for self-preservation, and with France on one side and Russia on the other, there really seems to be ample excuse for it.

Which of these is not an argument the author employs to defend William II’s militarism?

Possible Answers:

A strong army is the only way to defend Prussian gains

Germany is surrounded by potential enemies.

The territorial gains of Germany were won in battle

All of these arguments are employed.

Germany is beset with religious heresy

Correct answer:

Germany is beset with religious heresy

Explanation:

The author discusses William II’s militarism at length when he says, “He believes in militarism . . . in this he is right, for it has taken two hundred and fifty years to bring Prussia to the position it now holds, and what it has gained at the point of the sword must be retained in the same way . . . and with France on one side and Russia on the other, there really seems to be ample excuse for it.“ The only answer choice that is missing from this excerpt is a mention of the threat of religious heresy; indeed, throughout the whole passage, the author makes no mention of religion, so we can comfortably suggest this is not an argument employed by the author.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing The Text In History Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 1157 Vol. XLV (March 5th, 1898)

Since William II of Germany ascended the throne as German Emperor and King of Prussia on June 15, 1888, the eyes of Europe have been fixed on him. The press of the world delights in showing up his weak points, and the "war lord" undoubtedly has them, but, at the same time, he has qualities which are to be admired and which make him conspicuous among the rulers of Europe.

He is popular in Germany, and it is not surprising, for, in spite of being autocratic to the last degree, he is honest, courageous, ambitious, hard working, and a thorough German, being intensely patriotic. Indeed, if the people of Germany had the right to vote, they would undoubtedly choose their present ruler, for, while the virtues we have named may seem commonplace, they are not so when embodied in an emperor. One thing which places William at a disadvantage is his excessive frankness. His mistakes have largely resulted from his impulsive nature coupled with chauvinism, which is, perhaps, excusable, in a ruler.

Since the time when William was a child, he evidenced a strong desire to become acquainted with the details of the office to which his lofty birth entitled him. In the army he has worked his way up like any other officer and has a firm grasp on all the multifarious details of the military establishment of the great country. He believes in militarism, or in force, to use a more common expression, but in this he is right, for it has taken two hundred and fifty years to bring Prussia to the position it now holds, and what it has gained at the point of the sword must be retained in the same way. The immense sacrifices which the people make to support the army and navy are deemed necessary for self-preservation, and with France on one side and Russia on the other, there really seems to be ample excuse for it.

Which of these reasons best explains why, according to the author, William II is widely loved and respected in Germany?

Possible Answers:

He is consistently frank and honest with the German people.

He is an industrious man.

He is a proud warrior and a great general in battle.

He is a learned man with a great respect for hard-work and intelligence.

He possesses virtues which are rare and desirable in a ruler.

Correct answer:

He possesses virtues which are rare and desirable in a ruler.

Explanation:

The author talks at length about how William II is honest, frank, hard-working, industrious, learned, and with great respect for intelligence. But, none of these answer choices really explains wholly why William II is widely loved and respected in Germany. The author does note, “Indeed, if the people of Germany had the right to vote, they would undoubtedly choose their present ruler, for, while the virtues we have named may seem commonplace, they are not so when embodied in an emperor.” So, the combination of all the traits listed above are what constitute William II’s main appeal to the people of Germany.

Example Question #2 : Organization And Structure In Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Family Among the Australian Aborigines: a Sociological Study by Bronislaw Malinowski (1913)

It seems beyond doubt that in the aboriginal society the husband exercised almost complete authority over his wife; she was entirely in his hands and he might ill-treat her, provided he did not kill her. Out of our thirty statements, in six cases (Kurnai, Bangerang, Lower Murray tribes, according to Bonney, Geawe-Gal, Port Jackson tribes, North-west Central Queenslanders) the absolute authority of the husband is explicitly affirmed. We read in them either the bare statement that the husband had an absolute power over his family; or, in the better of them, we are more exactly informed that he had only to abstain from inflicting death on his wife. It was the latter's kinsman who would avenge her (Kurnai, Bangerang, North-west Central Queenslanders). It is difficult to ascertain in what form society would interfere with the husband if he transgressed the limits of his legal authority, i. e. killed his wife. Curr informs us that the woman's relatives would avenge her death. Howitt says that there would ensue a blood feud, which comes nearly to the same. It is very probable that the woman's kin retained some rights of protection. The remaining statements implicitly declare that the husband's authority was very extensive. (Encounter Bay tribes according to Meyer; New South Wales tribes according to Hodgson; Port Stephens tribes according to R. Dawson; Arunta; Herbert River tribes; Queenslanders according to Palmer; Moreton Bay tribes according to J. D. Lang; South-Western tribes according to Salvado; West Australians according to Grey.) It is clear that wherever we read of excessive harshness and bad treatment, wounds, blows inflicted on women, the husband must possess the authority to do it; in other words, he does not find any social barrier preventing him from ill-treatment. Especially as, in these statements, such ill-treatment is mentioned to be the rule and not an exception. In two statements we can gather no information on this point. According to the statement of J. Dawson on the West Victoria tribes, the husband's authority appears strictly limited by the potential intervention of the chief, who could even divorce the woman if she complained. But Curr warns us against Dawson's information concerning the chief and his power. Curr's arguments appear to be very conclusive. Too much weight cannot be attached, therefore, to Dawson's exceptional statement. Discarding it, we see that we have on this point fairly clear information. We may assume that society interfered but seldom with the husband, in fact, only in the extreme case of his killing his wife. Six statements are directly, and the remainder indirectly, in favor of this view, and the only one contradictory is not very trustworthy.

Why does the author cite so many other authorities in his passage?

Possible Answers:

To show the many agreements between various academics

To cover for not having any of his own research

To support the claims he makes and confirm the facts of his argument

To show the number of people who dismiss Australian aboriginal marriages as suspect

To belittle his fellow academics

Correct answer:

To support the claims he makes and confirm the facts of his argument

Explanation:

The author calmly lays out all of the details of the nature of authority in Australian aboriginal marriages, while referencing many other authorities who have studied the same issue. The even tone of the author's writing means that he references other academics in order to support claims and confirm facts.

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