GMAT Verbal : Analyzing Meaning, Purpose, and Effect of Specified Text in Mixed Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #51 : Language In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor. The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures that are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labor has been very often taken notice of: the trade of a pin-maker. A workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labor has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

In every other art and manufacture, the effects of the division of labour are similar to what they are in this very trifling one; though, in many of them, the labour can neither be so much subdivided, nor reduced to so great a simplicity of operation. The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour. The separation of different trades and employments from one another, seems to have taken place, in consequence of this advantage.

By “peculiar trades” in the underlined sentence, the author means __________.

Possible Answers:

Strange exchanges

Singular deals

Weird jobs

Necessary professions

Unique tasks

Correct answer:

Unique tasks

Explanation:

The author uses the phrase “peculiar trades” in the third paragraph, stating, “But in the way in which this business [of pin-making] is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades.” This may not appear to narrow down your answer choices much at all, as “peculiar” can mean strange, weird, singular, or unique. It cannot mean “necessary,” so we can ignore that answer choice. At this point, you need to consider the context around the sentence in which the phrase is used. Before the sentence quoted earlier, the author writes, “One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head . . .” In doing so, he is listing out the specific, unique tasks involved in making pins on a large scale. Based on this context, we can tell that “peculiar trades” must mean “unique tasks” in the context of the passage.

Example Question #2 : Understanding The Content Of Mixed Passages

The days of the amateur in intercollegiate athletics are numbered.  College athletes are amateurs only in name and in the ill-defined mandates of outdated policies.  They generate annual revenues which are estimated to be over $15 billion in the United States alone.  Their efforts and images generate income from ticket sales, television and radio contracts, and merchandising.  Yet, the bulk of this money goes directly to individual universities who then enforce codes that keep athletes from having the same opportunities to earn money as their peers. Clearly, it is time for American colleges to reevaluate this injustice.

Recent lawsuits involving the use images of current and former athletes in video games has shed light on just how draconian the treatment of college athletes can be.  While millions of dollars are generated from video game sales, the same students whose images adorn the games cannot hold part-time jobs nor can they be given airfare to return home in time of family crisis unless it involves a death. Little or no health insurance or benefits are provided for athletes to deal with the after-effects of injuries that often last long after the student has left college. Unlike most colleges students athletes, in many ways, are treated more like indentured servants than like the highly visible and high valuable representatives of their institutions that they are.

As used in the passage, the underlined word "draconian" most nearly means _________________.

Possible Answers:

excessively harsh and severe

incomprehensible

dangerous

problematic

catastrophic

Correct answer:

excessively harsh and severe

Explanation:

The author follows the use of the term "draconian" by describing policies that deny athletes the right to earn money or do not allow them to receive assistance in case of emergencies. These policies can been seen as "excessively harsh or severe."

Example Question #3 : Understanding The Content Of Mixed Passages

Adapted from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor. The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures that are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labor has been very often taken notice of: the trade of a pin-maker. A workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labor has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

In every other art and manufacture, the effects of the division of labour are similar to what they are in this very trifling one; though, in many of them, the labour can neither be so much subdivided, nor reduced to so great a simplicity of operation. The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour. The separation of different trades and employments from one another, seems to have taken place, in consequence of this advantage.

Which of the following terms could replace the word “scarce” in the underlined sentence without changing its meaning?

Possible Answers:

Hardly

Infrequently

Never

Always

Correct answer:

Hardly

Explanation:

The word “scarce” is used in the following sentence:

“A workman not educated to this business [of pin making] . . . nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it . . .  could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty.”

It is helpful to pause a moment and consider what kind of word “scarce” is in the sentence. “Scarce,” along with “perhaps” and “with his utmost industry,” describes the verb “make.” So, “scarce” is functioning as an adverb. “Always” and “never” don’t make sense in the sentence; each word is contradicted by the “perhaps” that follows “scarce.” This leaves us with “infrequently” and “hardly.” The combination of “infrequently, perhaps . . . make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty” doesn’t make as much sense as does “hardly,” which works better with the comparison being made. Furthermore, “scarce” cannot mean infrequently, so “hardly” is the best answer choice. This is how the author is using the term in the passage: to state that one person could hardly make a pin in a day, much less twenty.

Example Question #4 : Understanding The Content Of Mixed Passages

Adapted from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor. The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures that are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labor has been very often taken notice of: the trade of a pin-maker. A workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labor has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

In every other art and manufacture, the effects of the division of labour are similar to what they are in this very trifling one; though, in many of them, the labour can neither be so much subdivided, nor reduced to so great a simplicity of operation. The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour. The separation of different trades and employments from one another, seems to have taken place, in consequence of this advantage.

In which of the following sentences does the author directly state why he discusses pin-making as an example of the division of labor in the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

“It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures . . . those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.”

“In those great manufactures, on the contrary . . .  every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse.”

“The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures.” 

“The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor.”

Correct answer:

“The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures.” 

Explanation:

This question is asking you to pick out a quotation in which the author is justifying part of his method: the presentation of a specific example in paragraph three. While many of the answer choices may be read as setting up the pin-making example, only in one of the answer choices does the author state why he will be bringing up an example: “The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures.” Loosely paraphrased, the author is here saying that it is easier to understand the division of labor when considering how it works in some specific example industries. He then goes on to present pin-making as just such an example industry in paragraph three.

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