GMAT Verbal : Analyzing Style, Tone, Audience, and Point of View in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Style, Tone, Audience, And Point Of View In Social Science Passages

Although today high-heeled and platform shoes are often seen as footwear designed simply to make a woman seem more fashionable and appealing, they served a more utilitarian purpose during the Middle Ages. During this time, both men and women would wear detachable wooden platforms in order to protect their shoes from the weather and the grit of the streets. However, in contemporary times, heeled shoes are almost exclusively reserved for women’s footwear, primarily for aesthetic effect. Not only is the foot made to seem more petite and dainty, but the entire appearance of a woman’s body is altered.

In order to maintain her balance, a woman must tense her legs and buttocks, making them to appear more fit and firm. The back is forced in a sinuous arch, and the elongation of the legs makes a woman’s hips sway back and forth in a wider ellipsis. Whereas heels were once used for practical purposes, today they are employed purely for a pleasant aesthetic effect.

Taking this into consideration, we should evaluate why it is that women wear high heels. Is it to increase confidence in one’s sexual appeal? To attract attention from others? Or is it simply to conform to the dress expectations of society at large? The various possible motivations that might cause a woman to wear a high-heeled shoe create a great level of ambiguity as to why the shoe continues to persevere in fashion.

The author’s attitude towards high-heeled shoes today is best characterized as __________.

Possible Answers:

percipient

inquisitive

condemning

cavalier

dismissive

Correct answer:

inquisitive

Explanation:

In the third paragraph, the author wonders "why [high-heeled shoes] continue to persevere in fashion" and wonders about three possible answers in the form of questions. Because of this, describing the author's attitude toward high-heeled shoes as "inquisitive" is the best option. 

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Style, Tone, Audience, And Point Of View In Social Science Passages

When we eat food, our perceptions of the flavors are highly subjective, and are influenced by far more than simply our senses of taste and smell. Our visual, tactile, and even auditory senses all play a role in signaling to our brains how we enjoy food. The more brightly colored that produce is, the more that we associate it with the quality of being fresh. As a result, some chefs prepare food in order to maximize the color of the produce, manipulating other ingredients in order to obtain the desired flavors of the dish. With respect to how our auditory senses affect our experience of food, studies have shown that diners experiencing their food to the backdrop of soothing music enjoyed their food more than diners who did not.

Unlike everyday diners, food critics are trained to consider their experiences of food by evaluating them through the lens of each of their various senses, and consider how their various perceptions give rise to the aggregate dining experience. They are aware of the visual, tactile and even auditory elements, yet able to experience the smell and taste of food independently of those senses. While some people may make the mistake of underestimating the acumen involved in assessing the quality of food, it is truly an art form that few are capable of performing. However, with the rapid expansion of online news sources, it is becoming increasingly easy for any person to create a blog or column and offer his or her two cents on rising restaurants or new cuisine. While some might see this development as more egalitarian, others see it as tainting what was before a highly selective field of food critics and writers.

The author’s tone in the passage is best described as __________.

Possible Answers:

thoughtful 

dogmatic

skeptical 

unhappy

critical

Correct answer:

thoughtful 

Explanation:

The author does not take a strong stance on his opinion of food critics, but rather seems to be struggling to understand how it is that we perceive food. Therefore, "thoughtful" best reflects the author's tone.

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Style, Tone, Audience, And Point Of View In Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (1513)

Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word. You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second. Therefore it is necessary for a prince to understand how to avail himself of the beast and the man. This has been figuratively taught to princes by ancient writers, who describe how Achilles and many other princes of old were given to the Centaur Chiron to nurse, who brought them up in his discipline; which means solely that, as they had for a teacher one who was half beast and half man, so it is necessary for a prince to know how to make use of both natures, and that one without the other is not durable. A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about. Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to, keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reasons that caused him to pledge it exist no longer. If men were entirely good this precept would not hold, but because they are bad, and will not keep faith with you, you too are not bound to observe it with them. Nor will there ever be wanting to a prince legitimate reasons to excuse this non-observance. Of this endless modern examples could be given, showing how many treaties and engagements have been made void and of no effect through the faithlessness of princes; and he who has known best how to employ the fox has succeeded best. But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.

The author views the faith of princes as an issue that is __________.

Possible Answers:

complex

dichotomous

trivial

overanalyzed

contradictory

Correct answer:

complex

Explanation:

Using process of elimination, a test-taker can see that "complex" is the best answer. The author does not see the issue as "contradictory" or "trivial." Even if the reader believes that there is overanalysis in this passage, there is no evidence that the author shares this view. Finally, there are not two opposing sides that the author presents on the issue of faith, so "dichotomous" (involving two opposing things or sides) cannot be the correct. Therefore, "complex" is the correct answer. 

Example Question #362 : Passage Based Questions

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 can be most accurately described as __________.

Possible Answers:

whimsical and descriptive

defensive and meticulous

unreliable and suspicious

imploring and desperate

furious and insulted

Correct answer:

defensive and meticulous

Explanation:

The author can certainly be called “defensive,” as from the first sentence of the passage, he is attempting to justify his study as worthwhile and legitimate. We can also call him meticulous due to the careful way in which he addresses potential criticisms of his work and details how he selected with care the dreams he discusses in his work. Thus, “defensive and meticulous” is the best answer. While he is attempting to urge the reader to accept his work, "imploring and desperate" is far too strong a description to be accurate. Nothing in the passage suggests that the author is “furious and insulted,” “whimsical and descriptive,” or “unreliable and suspicious.”

Example Question #112 : 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.

The author’s tone throughout this passage is primarily one of __________.

Possible Answers:

admonishment

condescension

frankness

reverence

disrespect

Correct answer:

reverence

Explanation:

It is clear from the whole of this passage that the author has a great and deep respect for William II. The author seems to be defending William for what he views as his unfair treatment by the media of the rest of Europe and America and goes to great lengths to show how William is a virtuous man and a great leader for Germany. His tone is therefore best described as one of “reverence,” which means deep respect. To provide further help, “frankness” is excessive honesty, often to the point of being rude; “condescension” is talking down to someone; and “admonishment” is scolding or punishment.

Example Question #113 : 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.

The author would likely view the criticism directed by “the press of the world” at William II as __________.

Possible Answers:

deeply foolish

disrespectful

misguided but understandable

malicious

whimsical, yet unfair

Correct answer:

misguided but understandable

Explanation:

We know from the context of the whole of this passage that the author is a supporter of William II and would likely view any sustained criticism directed at William as inaccurate. However, the author also makes the following admission in the first paragraph: “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." He suggests that William II does have weak points, but that these are overshadowed by his admirable virtues. The author would therefore probably not go so far as to say “the press of the world” was being “deeply foolish” (very stupid), “malicious” (hateful), or “disrespectful.” He also shows no indication that he finds the criticism of the press “whimsical” (silly and quirky). Most likely, then, he would view the criticism as “misguided but understandable.”

Example Question #16 : Extrapolating From 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.

It can be inferred from the passage that the author views Australian aboriginal marriage practices as __________.

Possible Answers:

morally questionable

a model of behavior in marriages

in need of some changes

culturally underdeveloped

worthy of respect and inquiry

Correct answer:

worthy of respect and inquiry

Explanation:

The overall tone of the passage is extremely balanced and fair, as the author is essentially providing a detailed account of what is found in aboriginal Australian marriages. This means that the author never takes an extremely strong stand on aboriginal Australian society; however, the fact that the author does write in such detail about Australian aboriginal marriage practices indicates he is certainly interested in them and finds them worthy of study.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Style, Tone, Audience, And Point Of View In Social Science 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.

The author's tone can best be described as _________________.

Possible Answers:

uncomprehending

nostalgic

objective

critical

resigned

Correct answer:

critical

Explanation:

The author uses words such as "ill-defined," "outdated," "injustice," and "indentured" to criticize American colleges for their treatment of athletes.

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