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

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #17 : Purpose And Effect Of Phrases Or Sentences In Social Science / History Passages

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.

In the last sentence of the passage, the author attempts to __________.

Possible Answers:

emphasize why his work is valuable, despite its flaws

explain why he made certain redactions to the dreams he later discusses

encourage the reader to read the work of a variety of psychologists

inspire the reader to conduct his or her own scientific experiments

get the reader to empathize with him

Correct answer:

get the reader to empathize with him

Explanation:

The last sentence of the passage states, “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.” Here, the author relates how he hopes the reader will receive his work, suggesting that the reader is mentioned in the correct answer. We can ignore “explain why he made certain redactions to the dreams he later discusses,” as the sentence doesn’t mention this it all—it’s a point made earlier in the last paragraph. The author is not attempting to get the reader to read the work of a variety of psychologists or to conduct his or her own scientific experiments, as neither of these points are mentioned or suggested at all. In choosing between the remaining two answer choices, “emphasize why his work is valuable, despite its flaws” and “get the reader to emphasize with him,” the latter is the best answer. The author is not so much arguing for his work’s value in spite of flaws as he is attempting to get the reader to consider his situation, “putting [him- or herself] in [the author’s] difficult position.”

Example Question #63 : Language In Social Science / History Passages

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.

When he uses the underlined phrase “the inevitable,” the author is referring to __________.

Possible Answers:

the gradual loss of detail in what one can remember about a dream

the discomfort that everyone feels when discussing dreams with other people

the scorn of many important psychologists upon his publication of his work on dreams

the idea that all dreams contain significant meaning

the fact that he had to publish some of his own dreams, which made him uncomfortable

Correct answer:

the fact that he had to publish some of his own dreams, which made him uncomfortable

Explanation:

The author uses the phrase “the inevitable” in the third paragraph when he states, “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.” But what is he actually discussing at this point? To figure this out, we need to consider the preceding sentence: “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.” From this, we can correctly say that in this context, “the inevitable” refers to “the fact that [the author] had to relate some of his own dreams in his work, which made him uncomfortable.”

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Meaning, Purpose, And Effect Of Specified Text In Social Science Passages

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.

Based on the way in which the underlined word “informs” is used in the passage, the author is using it to mean __________.

Possible Answers:

requires

influences

tells

ignores

solves

Correct answer:

influences

Explanation:

The author uses the word “informs” in the following sentence, found in the second paragraph: “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.” Paraphrasing, the author is stating that the problem of dream formation does something to bigger problems that the author can’t talk about here. What might one problem do to bigger problems? “Requires,” “ignores,” and “tells” don’t make sense and so cannot be correct, despite the fact that “informs” can mean “tells” in other contexts. The author is not suggesting that the problem of dream formation “solves” the bigger problems he refers. This leaves us with “influences,” the correct answer.

Example Question #2 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In 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.

To which group of people does the underlined phrase "these gentlemen" refer?

Possible Answers:

"trustees of the people"

"mutual rivals and enemies"

"The adversaries of the Constitution"

"the people"

"common constituents"

Correct answer:

"The adversaries of the Constitution"

Explanation:

It's not possible to tell what is meant by "These gentlemen" based solely on a consideration of the sentence in which the phrase appears. Considering the context surrounding the phrase is necessary: "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." When we consider the sentence that precedes the one with the specified phrase in it, we can see that "These gentlemen" refers to "The adversaries of the Constitution." It's important to consider the meaning of the whole sentence, and not just pick out the last noun that could potentially be the antecedent.

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In 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.

What is the meaning of the underlined word “predilection” in its context?

Possible Answers:

Opposition

Election

Assistance

Ignorance

Preference

Correct answer:

Preference

Explanation:

"Propensity" is used in the first sentence of the passage, in which the author states, "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." Now, we can tell from the structure of the sentence that "predilection" must mean something like "support"; knowing this, we can eliminate a few answer choices: "opposition," which wouldn't make sense because it's the opposite of "support," while the word we're looking for must be somewhat similar in meaning; "ignorance," which is not close in meaning to "support" and wouldn't make sense in the sentence's context; and "election," which while it sounds similar to "predilection," again doesn't make sense in context. This leaves us with "preference" and "assistance." While "assistance" is very close in meaning to "support," it wouldn't make sense for the writer to use the two exact synonyms alongside each other like in the sentence; it would be redundant, like saying "The homework assignment was simple and easy." So, by narrowing down our answer choices carefully, we can conclude that "predilection" is most similar in meaning to "preference." This is absolutely true; "predilection" means bias toward or propensity for. If I have a predilection for breakfast foods and you offer me breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I'll choose breakfast.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Meaning, Purpose, And Effect Of Specified Text 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.

In this context, the underlined word “conspicuous” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

concealed

demonstrative

revealed

obvious

unusual

Correct answer:

unusual

Explanation:

The word “conspicuous” usually means obvious, easily noticed, or not well-hidden. However, in this context it is used slightly differently. The author says, "at the same time, he has qualities which are to be admired and which make him conspicuous among the rulers of Europe.” From the author’s later comments that William II’s virtues “may seem commonplace, [but] are not so when embodied in an emperor," we can reasonably determine that, in context, the author is talking how William II’s admirable qualities make him “unusual” among European rulers. To provide further help, “concealed” means hidden, and “demonstrative” means demonstrating something or showy and emotional.

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Meaning, Purpose, And Effect Of Specified Text 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.

The underlined and bolded phrase "transgressed the limits" as used in the passage most nearly refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

creating new kinds of marriage arrangements

moving between different kinds of authority

overstepping normal boundaries

working on various methods of asserting authority

creating new kinds of legal protections

Correct answer:

overstepping normal boundaries

Explanation:

The author discusses a husband who has "transgressed the limits of his legal authority" in the context of a husband who has killed his wife, one thing no husband can legally do in aboriginal society. This means that the author uses the phrase to indicate the husband has done something that goes past what is an acceptable boundary.

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