GMAT Verbal : Identifying Premises

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Method Of Reasoning

Shopping in person is an activity that many people loathe. This accounts for the popularity of online shopping, which has few of the hassles of in-person shopping. Online shoppers are able to avoid lines, traffic, and having to hunt around the store for the items they need. With a few keystrokes and a credit card, they can accomplish a task in a few minutes that might have taken hours in "real life."

The claim that shopping in person is an activity that many people loathe plays which of the following roles in the argument?

Possible Answers:

It is a premise given as a reason for the conclusion that online shopping is popular.

It is a premise supported by the claim that online shoppers can accomplish their task quickly with a few keystrokes and a credit card.

It is a conclusion supported by the premise that online shopping is becoming increasingly popular.

It is a conclusion supported by evidence of the hassles of in-person shopping in comparison to online shopping.

It is a generalization which is based on the premise that in-person shopping takes considerably more time to accomplish than online shopping.

Correct answer:

It is a premise given as a reason for the conclusion that online shopping is popular.

Explanation:

This claim sets up the argument, which concludes that online shopping is popular precisely because many people loathe shopping in person. It is, therefore, a premise and not a conclusion, and is the reason for the conclusion. While it might feasibly be characterized as a generalization, that is not the role the claim plays in the argument.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Premises

Though wildfires were once considered a destructive threat to native forests and were thus fought with all available resources when encountered, today it is common for forest management professionals to allow naturally kindled wildfires to burn themselves out so long as they do not directly threaten major population centers.

Which of the following, if true, best helps to explain forest management professionals’ change in response to wildfires?

Possible Answers:

Recent ecological research has convincingly proven that naturally kindled wildfires reduce the number of insect pests that threaten native forests.

The most destructive wildfires are those that burn for many days prior to being detected by forest management professionals.

The techniques for fighting wildfires have increased in sophistication and effectiveness over the past decade.

Ad campaigns have so successfully informed the public of the dangers of man-made forest fires that they are rarely encountered.

Naturally kindled wildfires seldom threaten major population centers.

Correct answer:

Recent ecological research has convincingly proven that naturally kindled wildfires reduce the number of insect pests that threaten native forests.

Explanation:

The key here is to inventory the facts for both sides of the apparent dilemma. In this prompt there aren’t many facts. Originally, forest fires were 1) destructive and 2) fought frequently, but now forest fires are 1) allowed to burn, provided they are 2) not threatening to towns and 3) naturally kindled. To make the change from originally not now explainable, an explanation that is understandable in terms of what we already know is required.

The key is that this information is about naturally-kindled wildfires, the ones being allowed to burn—we learn that they possess an advantage that wildfires in general don’t. That’s a good enough reason to explain the exceptional behavior.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Premises

Though it has held true for more than half a century, the predictive maxim known as Moore’s Law, which famously supposes that the processing power of computer chips will double approximately every two years, will almost certainly fail to hold in the next ten years. Plainly, the only way to ensure that processing power continues to increase at the predicted rate would be either to continue to reduce the size of the transistors that are the source of all chips’ processing power or to fit additional transistors onto each chip. The former is impossible, as the fundamental barrier to further transistor miniaturization, the size of the atoms of silicon of which the transistors are composed, will be reached in but five years’ time, perhaps less. Since reducing the size between chips is similarly constrained by this atomic barrier; thus, the only realistic hope of substantially increasing transistor density that remains is the “sandwiching” of chip components, the further layering of transistor atop transistor. While transistor layering is integral to modern chip design, it, too, is unlikely to develop swiftly enough for the hoped for doubling of processing power to materialize. Sadly, Mr. Moore’s much vaunted prediction will not last the decade.

In the argument given above, the two underlined portions play which of the following roles? 

Possible Answers:

The first is a claim that would provide support for the main conclusion of the argument so long as a prediction made elsewhere in the argument proves true; the second is that main conclusion.

The first is a prediction that, if accurate, would provide support for the main conclusion of the argument; the second is a conclusion drawn in order to support that main conclusion.

The first is a prediction that, if accurate, would provide support for the main conclusion of the argument; the second is that main conclusion.

The first is a claim that has been advanced in support of a position that the argument opposes; the second is the conclusion against that opposed argument. 

The first is an objection that the argument rejects; the second presents a conclusion that could be drawn if that objection were allowed to stand.

Correct answer:

The first is a prediction that, if accurate, would provide support for the main conclusion of the argument; the second is that main conclusion.

Explanation:

The presence of underlined portions always indicate that the test maker is interested in the relationship between two different parts of the argument. This argument is somewhat complicated, but essentially follows this form: A & B are the only ways to do C. A is impossible. B could itself be accomplished in two ways, D & E. D is impossible and E is unlikely. Therefore, it’s likely that C will not occur. The second bolded statement is thus the argument’s conclusion, the first bolded statement is part of the evidence that the all the possibilities are either impossible or unlikely.

The prediction made elsewhere is that transistor layering is unlikely to develop swiftly enough. This, with the claim in the first bolded statement would support the conclusion.

Example Question #3 : Identifying Premises

Though stars are separated from one another by distances nearly unfathomable to our perceptions, the space between is not, as is often thought, entirely devoid of matter. It is, in fact, filled with very low density matter, essentially a “cosmic dust,” minuscule in volume and diffused across almost infinite distances, yet there is still enough present to act as a curtain that obscures the stars that lie behind it. Indeed, if it were not for this “dust” we would see no darkness when we looked to the night sky. It would, instead, be entirely filled by the light of stars.

The two underlined sections play what roles in the passage's argument above?

Possible Answers:

The first is treated as a fact that is necessary to explain a certain phenomenon; the second is a result that would occur were the fact not true.

The first is a suggestion that the author disputes; the second is a hypothesis for which an explanation is given elsewhere in the argument.

The first is a hypothesis about a phenomenon that the author supports; the second is a consequence that would be expected were the hypothesis proven false.

The first is a piece of data which the author wishes to explain; the second is a consequence of accepting the explanation as valid. 

The first is the author’s main point; the second is a hypothetical result of accepting that point.

Correct answer:

The first is the author’s main point; the second is a hypothetical result of accepting that point.

Explanation:

The argument in the underlined portions follows a familiar pattern, "so-and-so is wrong." Some people are wrong to believe the conclusion that speaker rejects in the first bolded statement, and this is the speaker’s conclusion. On that alone, the incorrect answer choices could be eliminated.

Main point is a synonym for conclusion, and the final statement is certainly a hypothetical, since the night sky isn’t entirely lit by starlight.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Premises

Mike: We have too many people using each of the fax machines in our office. The high frequency of breakdowns is due to too many people handling the same hardware.

Lisa: We have just as many people working in our office, yet we hardly need any repairs to our machines. Our machines must be more robust than yours.

Lisa's argument would be most strengthened by providing data on the __________.

Possible Answers:

actual number of people in the two offices 

type of fax machines that are in both offices 

number of fax machine's in Mike's office

number of visits by fax machine engineers to service the computers in Mike's office 

ratio of fax machines to users in her office

Correct answer:

ratio of fax machines to users in her office

Explanation:

Though Lisa tells Mike that there are as many people in her office as in his, she fails to mention how many fax machines there are. If there is one fax machine to each person in her office, her argument is invalid. To strengthen her argument, she should show a similar ratio of fax machines to users. Conversely, the actual number of people, fax machines or breakdowns is not really important as it is the usage that is in dispute. Furthermore, while the type of fax machines is indeed important in robustness, the point that Lisa is answering is whether there are too many people handling the same fax machines.

Example Question #5 : Identifying Premises

Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between increased gas prices and use of public transportation in large American cities. A council of American mayors plans to discuss a national campaign to promote the use of public transportation.

The author assumes which of the following about public transportation in American cities?

Possible Answers:

The cost of operating public transportation systems is directly tied to gas prices

Public transportation systems are an economic drain on large American cities

All users of public transportation are poor and are thus more heavily impacted by higher gas prices

Most large American cities do not have effective public transportation systems

Many potential users of public transportation are unaware of its benefits

Correct answer:

Many potential users of public transportation are unaware of its benefits

Explanation:

The decision of the mayors to promote the use of public transportation is an indication that they do not believe that citizens are aware of its benefits.

None of the other answer choices can be supported by the information in the passage.

Example Question #6 : Identifying Premises

The current crisis involving student-loan debt has forced many recent college graduates to work multiple jobs, fall behind in paying other debts, or continue living with their parents for many years.  This reality, combined with rising tuition and other costs associated with college, are making higher-education a less attractive option for many high school graduates. America is facing the possibility of having its first generation that is less educated than the previous one.

Of the following, what can be most properly inferred from the passage above?

Possible Answers:

Many college graduates are unable to find jobs that enable them to afford to pay their student-loan debts immediately after they graduate

Current American high school students are largely unaware of the potential drawbacks of student loans

American high school students of today are less prepared for college than their parents were

Interest rates for student loans have risen dramatically in recent years

Student loan debt only applies to those students who have graduated

Correct answer:

Many college graduates are unable to find jobs that enable them to afford to pay their student-loan debts immediately after they graduate

Explanation:

Since many college students are resorting to rather extreme measures to pay their loans, it can be reasonably inferred that they lack the income to make the payments. 

None of the other answer choices can be supported by the information in the passage.

Example Question #7 : Identifying Premises

The music industry, once thought to have completely given itself over to digital recording, has apparently made room for its analog ancestors.  Vinyl records and their accompanying turntables are making a comeback.  Audiophiles have long argued that digital recordings lack both depth and clarity and that music recorded on tape has a much richer sound.  While vinyl may not return to its previous place of prominence in the music world, it seems clear that there is room for both digital and analog recordings in modern music.

Which of the following is an assumption made by the author of the argument above?

Possible Answers:

Audiophiles are a small group of music fans who refuse to accept progress

Digital recordings are less expensive to produce than analog ones

Some collectors of music kept their turntables and vinyl records even after the transition to digital music took place

Music can be recorded in either digital or analog format, but not in both

The choice of either digital or analog formats largely depends on how expensive one's playback system is

Correct answer:

Some collectors of music kept their turntables and vinyl records even after the transition to digital music took place

Explanation:

Since audiophiles argue (present tense) about the merits of analog recordings and vinyl records, it is safe to assume that they have both records from earlier times and the accompanying playback equipment.

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