GMAT Verbal : Recognizing and Analyzing Supporting Ideas and Details in Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Recognizing And Analyzing Supporting Ideas And Details In Humanities 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 implies that Achilles was __________.

 

Possible Answers:

instilled with the ability to act with the mentalities of both man and beast 

a good student

a prince disciplined in combat

not able to defend himself

compelled to adopt only beastlike behavior 

Correct answer:

instilled with the ability to act with the mentalities of both man and beast 

Explanation:

This question can be answered by quickly scanning the text for the word "Achilles," and then finding in the text that it was necessary for princes (such as Achilles) to learn to use "both natures," referring to the nature of a man and the nature of a beast. The correct answer choice reflects this while incorrect answer choices make assertions that are unsupported by the text. 

Example Question #2 : Recognizing And Analyzing Supporting Ideas And Details In Humanities Passages

Adapted from “The Influence of the Conception of Evolution on Modern Philosophy” by H. Höffding (1909) in Evolution in Modern Thought (1917 ed.)

When The Origin of Species appeared fifty years ago, Romantic speculation, Schelling's and Hegel's philosophy, still reigned on the continent, while in England, Positivism, the philosophy of Comte and Stuart Mill, represented the most important trend of thought. German speculation had much to say on evolution; it even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution. But then the word "evolution" was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense. To speculative thought, the forms and types of nature formed a system of ideas, within which any form could lead us by continuous transitions to any other. It was a classificatory system which was regarded as a divine world of thought or images, within which metamorphoses could go on—a condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes.

Goethe's ideas of evolution, as expressed in his Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der Thiere, belong to this category; it is, therefore, incorrect to call him a forerunner of Darwin. Schelling and Hegel held the same idea; Hegel expressly rejected the conception of a real evolution in time as coarse and materialistic. "Nature," he says, "is to be considered as a system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other; on the contrary [their connection lies] in the inner idea which is the ground of nature. The metamorphosis can be ascribed only to the notion as such, because it alone is evolution.... It has been a clumsy idea in the older as well as in the newer philosophy of nature, to regard the transformation and the transition from one natural form and sphere to a higher as an outward and actual production."

Which of the following best describes the author’s presentation of Hegel’s thought about evolution?

Possible Answers:

It is not comprised of progressive stages, each being the natural cause of the next.

It is a natural process, at least of sorts.

It is purely a matter for our casual reflection.

It is a murky matter without much real reasoning at all.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

It is not comprised of progressive stages, each being the natural cause of the next.

Explanation:

Among philosophers, Hegel is perhaps one of the hardest to read. Stay very close to this text and use context clues from within the passage. Clearly, Hegel is not being presented as an exponent of scientific evolution in the fashion of Darwin. The key portion of the passage is, "A system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other." Each stage is the "nearest truth" for the one following it. However, it is not the natural cause of it. Yes, Hegel is strange—and far more cryptic than this small selection. However, we have enough details to get our answer!

Example Question #3 : Recognizing And Analyzing Supporting Ideas And Details In Humanities Passages

Mounted primarily by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Easter Rising of 1916, also known as the Easter Rebellion, aimed both to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic at a time when the military assets of the United Kingdom were heavily engaged in World War I and thus largely unavailable for activity on the home front. Led by schoolteacher and barrister Patrick Pearse, members of the Irish Volunteers joined forces with the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly and 200 members of the all-female Cumman na mBan, together seizing key locations in Dublin and ultimately proclaiming the Irish Republic independent with the issue of the Easter Proclamation. After six days of fighting, the Rising was suppressed, its leaders court-martialed and executed. Militarily, the Rising was a failure; even with its attention divided, the British military out-classed and outnumbered the insurgent force. Yet support for republicanism continued to rise in Ireland in the wake of the Easter Rebellion. Though many members of the Dublin public were originally simply bewildered by the outbreak of the Rising, the harshness of the British response and the summary execution of the movement’s leaders garnered sympathy. In elections only two years later, Sinn Féin, an Irish republican party, won 73 seats out of 105, dominating the Irish delegation to the British parliament, and under their leadership the Irish would again declare their independence in 1919, establishing the Republic of Ireland which persists to this day.

According to the passage, which of the following is an accurate statement concerning the Irish Republic?

Possible Answers:

Its independence was initially short-lived and the Irish remained under British rule.

The sympathy that it garnered among members of the public in Ireland led to the success of Sinn Féin in the 1918 elections.

It was unpopular with the civilian population of Dublin, the majority of whom desired the continuation of British rule.

Its military successes were dwarfed by its political successes.

It was established in 1919 by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, in conjunction with Sinn Féin.

Correct answer:

Its independence was initially short-lived and the Irish remained under British rule.

Explanation:

This detail question announces itself by asking what is an accurate statement—the present tense verb signaling that the information needed to find the right answer was explicitly stated by the author, though, as always, not necessarily in the exact words used in the answer. The correct answer might feel wrong if your eyes skipped over the word initially. Even though the passage later describes the ultimate triumph of the Republic, it didn’t triumph in 1916.

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