GMAT Verbal : Identifying Assumptions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #4 : Necessary Assumption

The business model of internet cafes is no longer capable of success in the United States. This is because the availability of internet has skyrocketed over the past several years. Free wifi is offered in most major coffee shops and stores. Additionally, Americans have mobile devices with plans that provide them with internet access. For those without devices, public libraries also provide computers offering internet access, free of charge.  

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Internet cafes do not offer any other services, aside from online access, that would enable them to be profitable. 

Internet cafes were profitable five years ago. 

Public libraries are the only accessible locations where anyone can use the internet. 

Major coffee shops are in direct competition with internet cafes. 

Internet cafes can still be profitable in other countries, just not the United States. 

Correct answer:

Internet cafes do not offer any other services, aside from online access, that would enable them to be profitable. 

Explanation:

The correct answer is:

Internet cafes do not offer any other services, aside from online access, that would enable them to be profitable. 

The crux of the argument is that internet cafes are not successful because the service that they offer -- online access -- is now made available for free by other outlets. However, this argument depends on the assumption that internet cafes do NOT offer any other services that would make them profitable -- such as a community base that would attract clients, or food and beverages that consumers would be interested in buying. 

Example Question #1 : Identifying Assumptions

Landline telephone sales are declining and will no longer exist in a few decades. This is because almost everyone has cellular service or is able to rely on computer systems for their personal needs. Even in workplaces, landlines are becoming obsolete. 

The argument depends on which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Landlines will no longer be necessary for any reason aside from personal or business communication. 

Personal landlines no longer exist. 

Workplaces are the only realm in which landlines are used. 

Landline sales have been declining for several years now. 

Pre-installed landlines will be eliminated. 

Correct answer:

Landlines will no longer be necessary for any reason aside from personal or business communication. 

Explanation:

The argument is based on the premise that landlines are either used for personal or business uses, and that no third use exists for them. Therefore, in order for the argument to hold water, there is an assumption that:Landlines will no longer be necessary for any reason aside from personal or business communication. 

Example Question #2 : Identifying Assumptions

Political partisanship is now so out of control that it has irreparably harmed the normal functioning of government. This situation has been created by zealots on both ends of the political spectrum. Our nation’s founders would surely be horrified by this disastrous, new state of affairs.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Uncontrolled political partisanship must eventually give way to compromise.

Government is inherently incapable of getting things done.

The nation’s founders were dedicated patriots.

Excessive partisanship is the fault of one political party.

The current level of political partisanship is unlike anything we have ever experienced.

Correct answer:

The current level of political partisanship is unlike anything we have ever experienced.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that functioning government existed in the past and that the current situation is unprecedented. Attributing blame to one particular party directly contradicts the author. Similarly, the idea that government can never get anything done is at odds with the premise that normal, functioning government actually is possible. Furthermore, the patriotism of the nation’s founders is not relevant to the argument. In addition, the author neither states nor implies anything about what will happen in the future. Only the correct answer reflects the author’s view that the current situation is an aberration.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Assumptions

Traditional print journalism is dying. The proliferation of online and cable news sources makes it easy for readers to bypass newspapers and magazines. Since most publications generate advertising revenue based on their circulation, this decline in readership will be fatal to the print journalism industry.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

The First Amendment protects freedom of the press, which will ensure the continued survival of print journalism.

Newspapers and magazines have no other sources of revenue available to them.

Traditional publications are better than cable and online news sources.

Advertising revenue can be supplemented by other sources of revenue.

Cable and online news sources are better than traditional publications.

Correct answer:

Newspapers and magazines have no other sources of revenue available to them.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that declining readership, which leads to declining advertising revenue, makes it financially impossible for newspapers and magazines to survive. This can only be true if there are no other sources of revenue to offset these losses. Arguments about which news source is better are irrelevant since the author does not address the issue of quality. Similarly, the First Amendment argument is irrelevant since freedom of the press deals with political expression rather than business viability, which is the author’s main concern.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Assumptions

Comic books are no longer just for children. They deal with adult themes like government surveillance, terrorism, sexuality, religion, conformity and repression. Although costumed heroes, villains and super powers populate the medium, stories are told in more realistic settings and characters deal with more realistic problems. For this reason, the notion that comic books are merely juvenile, escapist fare is no longer true, if it ever actually was.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

The introduction of mature themes has improved comic books.

The introduction of mature themes has ruined comic books.

Mature themes can coexist with the more fantastical elements of comic books and broaden their appeal to adults.

Stories with costumed heroes and villains are inherently appealing to children.

The introduction of mature themes has helped comic book characters cross over to more mainstream forms of entertainment, like movies and television.

Correct answer:

Mature themes can coexist with the more fantastical elements of comic books and broaden their appeal to adults.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that the reason for the appeal of comic books beyond their traditional base of young readers has been the introduction of mature themes. The author expresses no opinion about whether or not this is a good thing. And while it may be true that costumed heroes and villains are inherently appealing to children, this does not relate to the broader appeal of comic books to older readers. Finally, the widespread introduction of comic book characters into movies and television relates to the form of media rather than the age of the audience, which is the author’s main point.

Example Question #5 : Identifying Assumptions

Our collective obsession with celebrities and entertainment news is ruining this country. As a nation, we face daunting political, economic, social and environmental problems that threaten our existence. Instead of dealing with these problems, we instead focus on the minute details of even the most minor celebrities. How can we prepare for the challenges of the future when we’re so obsessed with trivia of the present?

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Current fears about political, economic, social and environmental problems are unfounded.

Political, economic, social and environmental problems are just as important as celebrity news.

The economic impact of the entertainment industry is minimal.

All news about celebrities and entertainment is trivial.

It is impossible for our society to simultaneously address serious problems and fixate on celebrity gossip.

Correct answer:

It is impossible for our society to simultaneously address serious problems and fixate on celebrity gossip.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that spending too much time following celebrity/entertainment news is not just pointless, but dangerous. Claiming that serious, national problems and celebrity news are equally important is therefore incorrect since the author considers these problems to be more important. Similarly, the author clearly believes that these problems have some basis in fact, so the fears are not groundless. And while the author may agree that all news about celebrities and entertainment is trivial, this does not go far enough in addressing the danger about which the author warns. Finally, the economic impact of the entertainment industry is irrelevant to the issue of whether it distracts people from dealing with serious problems. Only the correct answer makes the connection between the prevalence of celebrity obsession and the danger it poses in the form of distraction.

Example Question #6 : Identifying Assumptions

Humanity’s long-term survival depends on developing the capacity for space travel. Even if we learn to make better use of our natural resources, control population growth and live in harmony with our environment, our sun will eventually die. If our species is to survive, then we must develop the means to find and settle a new planet that we can call home.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

The development of space travel will turn science fiction into science fact.

Uncontrolled population growth will inevitably result in the depletion of our natural resources.

It is vital for our survival that we learn to live in harmony with nature.

Artificial habitats like space stations will be insufficient to ensure the survival of our species after the sun dies.

We have barely scratched the surface in our understanding of the universe.

Correct answer:

Artificial habitats like space stations will be insufficient to ensure the survival of our species after the sun dies.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that the only way to ensure humanity’s long-term survival is to find another planet that can sustain us after the sun dies. For that to be true, it must be assumed that alternatives to planetary living, such as space stations, won’t be up to the task. While the other answers may be arguably true, none of them make the case that space travel is vital for our survival.

Example Question #7 : Identifying Assumptions

The way we treat the most vulnerable members of our society reflects on our own level of moral development. The poor, the homeless, orphans, the mentally ill, prisoners and those afflicted with disease usually lack the political power to advocate on their own behalf. When we address their concerns and make them our own, that is when we show true nobility of spirit.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Some people are more deserving of help than others.

Society will always be divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

People in difficult situations must learn to endure.

Helping others equates to morality.

Money and political power are inextricably linked.

Correct answer:

Helping others equates to morality.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that there is a correlation between morality and helping the vulnerable since this is what the author is recommending to promote moral development. Although political and economic power are related, this observation lacks the essential component of morality. Likewise, the assertion that people undergoing hardship must learn to endure is true, but it also omits any reference to morality. Similarly, the answer noting the existence of “haves” and “have-nots” addresses the reason there are vulnerable members of society, but says nothing about the moral imperative of helping them. Finally, the author neither advocates nor implies that any criteria be applied to determine which members of society are most worthy of help.

Example Question #8 : Identifying Assumptions

Capital punishment needs to be enacted more widely. Today’s criminals know that the appeals process can drag on indefinitely and that executions are becoming increasingly rare. Is it any wonder that our prisons are so overcrowded? Criminals know that their odds of facing the death penalty are the lowest in history.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Criminals can never be rehabilitated.

The costs of lengthy incarceration are excessive, imposing financial hardship on taxpayers.

The appeals process is clogging our criminal justice system.

Criminals rationally calculate the costs and benefits of their actions.

The death penalty has never been an effective deterrent to crime.

Correct answer:

Criminals rationally calculate the costs and benefits of their actions.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that knowledge of the death penalty’s certain application will deter criminals from breaking the law. In order for this to be true, it is necessary for criminals to rationally calculate the costs and benefits of their actions. This directly contradicts the assertion that the death penalty has never worked. Observations about the appeals process, the financial costs of incarceration and the failure of rehabilitation all support the main point, but are subordinate to the author’s primary focus on deterrence.

Example Question #9 : Identifying Assumptions

Government regulation and red tape are hampering business and stifling our economy. As we compete in the global marketplace, our businesses are falling behind foreign competitors who are free from such constraints. In terms of time and money, the costs of regulatory compliance are simply too high. We would all benefit from deregulation.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Our competitors are beating us for a myriad of reasons.

Any benefits of government regulation are outweighed by the benefits of deregulation.

The global economy has made us all more vulnerable.

Global competition embodies the principle of “survival of the fittest.”

Nations that have eased restrictions on business pay other serious costs, such as pollution.

Correct answer:

Any benefits of government regulation are outweighed by the benefits of deregulation.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that government regulation and “red tape” are unequivocally harmful. Therefore, the best answer is the one that compares regulation to its opposite - deregulation. While the author might agree that the global economy has made us all more vulnerable and that “survival of the fittest” is the organizing principle, these answers do not address the issue of deregulation. Similarly, the observation that deregulation imposes other serious costs directly challenges the author’s main assumption. This is also the case with the answer that attributes foreign success to reasons other than deregulation, which is the author's primary focus.

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