GMAT Verbal : Recognizing and Analyzing Supporting Ideas and Details in Social Science 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 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 would likely agree with all of the following claims except which one?

Possible Answers:

High-heeled shoes are contributing the objectification of women in modern society. 

High-heeled shoes not only change the aesthetic of a woman’s body, but also how she carries herself. 

The aesthetic function that high heels serve today is about as useful as the function that platform shoes served during the Middle Ages. 

Today, it is rare to find platform shoes or high heels designed for men. 

During the middle ages, platform shoes served a functional purpose and were not primarily designed for aesthetic purposes.

Correct answer:

The aesthetic function that high heels serve today is about as useful as the function that platform shoes served during the Middle Ages. 

Explanation:

The author implies that during the Middle Ages, high heels served a practical purpose, whereas today, they serve an aestethic purpose. This answer choice states the opposite; therefore, it is unlikely that the author would agree with it.

Example Question #122 : Reading Comprehension

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.

Which of the following is given as an example of the faithlessness of princes in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Treaties and engagements that have been made void 

The tendency for princes to act like animals 

Over-reliance on scholarly writings 

Wars started without cause by princes 

False worship of idols 

Correct answer:

Treaties and engagements that have been made void 

Explanation:

The only example given of the faithlessness of princes is "treaties and engagements that have been made void." The other examples either do not appear in the text, or are used for a different purpose. 

Example Question #123 : Reading Comprehension

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.

All of the following can be inferred from the text except that __________.

Possible Answers:

the qualities of a fox are advantageous over those of a lion 

in general, faith is seen as a positive attribute 

princes tend to share similar values 

a person who is deceived has likely allowed himself to be deceived 

princes must be able to engage both manlike and beastlike behaviors 

Correct answer:

the qualities of a fox are advantageous over those of a lion 

Explanation:

The correct answer consists of the only untrue answer that is listed. All the other possibilities are supported by the text.

Example Question #2 : Recognizing And Analyzing Supporting Ideas And Details 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.

In the third paragraph, what does the author tell us about the omissions and substitutions he made when discussing his own dreams in the work that follow the passage?

Possible Answers:

He is not responsible for these; his editors are.

He doesn’t think that they affect the work whatsoever, and help him save face.

He is glad that he had the opportunity to reconsider his initial presentation of his dreams.

He was forced to make these, or journals would not accept his work.

He feels that the adjusted examples would be more useful had they remained unadjusted.

Correct answer:

He feels that the adjusted examples would be more useful had they remained unadjusted.

Explanation:

Of the omissions and substitutions the author made when discussing his own dreams in the work he is describing, the author writes in the third paragraph, “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.” Thus, while many answer choices sound reasonable, the correct answer is “He feels that the adjusted examples would be more useful had they remained unadjusted.” 

Example Question #125 : Reading Comprehension

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.

Which of these is a possible weakness that the author notes in William II’s character?

Possible Answers:

His laziness and inability to work a full day

His inability to understand the German people

His alcoholism and debauched behavior

His tireless dedication and perfectionism

His excessive honesty in conversation

Correct answer:

His excessive honesty in conversation

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read in detail and understand the definition of a particularly difficult word. The author says “One thing which places William at a disadvantage is his excessive frankness.” “Frankness” is honesty, particularly honesty in conversation. So William II’s weakness, as a ruler, is his excessive honesty in conversation.

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