GRE Verbal : Analyzing Components of an Argument in Single-Answer Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Argument In Single Answer Questions

"Developments in Understanding Ancient Greek Art" by Will Floyd

Most people imagine stark white temples and plain marble statues as the ideal of ancient Greek art. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the ancient Greeks lavished their statues, sculptures, and buildings with bright colors. The common misconception of plainly adorned Hellenic art can be blamed on the ancient Greeks’ biggest proponents in history. Enlightenment-era classicists eagerly visited ancient ruins in the eighteenth century and saw artifacts that had been weathered to plain white stone through decades of neglect. By the time nineteenth-century archaeologists found proof that the Parthenon and images of the Gods were meant to be in vivid hues, eminent scholars in Europe refused to countenance that pure white marble was not antiquity’s aesthetic paradigm. Widespread acknowledgement of the ancient Greeks’ adoration of bright colors only came in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as scientific tests proved ancient statuary and buildings had once been covered in polychrome paint.

The author references "Enlightenment-era classicists" in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

celebrate Enlightenment thought

ridicule Enlightenment thought

address the aesthetic paradigms of antiquity

show how the misconceptions about Greek art developed

show the value of scientific tests

Correct answer:

show how the misconceptions about Greek art developed

Explanation:

The author references "Enlightenment-era classicists" first as "ancient Greeks' biggest proponents in history." Then the author discusses how they first saw the ancient ruins, and developed misconceptions about art.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from "Ramblings in Cheapside" by Samuel Butler (1890)

Walking the other day in Cheapside I saw some turtles in Mr. Sweeting’s window, and was tempted to stay and look at them. As I did so I was struck not more by the defenses with which they were hedged about, than by the fatuousness of trying to hedge that in at all which, if hedged thoroughly, must die of its own defensefulness. The holes for the head and feet through which the turtle leaks out, as it were, on to the exterior world, and through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself—"catching on” through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time—these holes stultify the armor, and show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea, and hence one-sidedness, than of that quick sense of relative importance and their changes, which is the main factor of good living.

The turtle obviously had no sense of proportion; it differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it; and as this word occurred to me, it occurred also that until my body comprehended its body in a physical material sense, neither would my mind be able to comprehend its mind with any thoroughness. For unity of mind can only be consummated by unity of body; everything, therefore, must be in some respects both knave and fool to all that which has not eaten it, or by which it has not been eaten. As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another.

The author's use of a turtle is __________.

Possible Answers:

metaphorical and not dependent on the actual features of turtles

to mock and criticize turtles

as a scientific inquiry about the anatomy of turtles

necessary to his overall point, since no other animal could serve the same purpose in the passage

to demonstrate the difference between humans and other creatures

Correct answer:

to demonstrate the difference between humans and other creatures

Explanation:

The author passes by the shop window holding the turtle on a casual walk. His examination of the turtle then focuses on how different the turtle is from his own sense of self. While the specific turtle is important, the larger point the author is making has to do with how humans interact with any other type of creature.

Example Question #2 : Argument In Single Answer Questions

"A Short History of Recent Zoos" by Will Floyd

Throughout the twentieth century, zoos underwent large-scale transformations. Before World War I, zoos were small parts of larger municipal parks, and featured sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants. This model held sway until mid-century, with many zoos struggling to remain open during the Great Depression and World War II. The successful zoos survived through making themselves cheap family entertainment. In the 1960s, zoos began to change in drastic ways. With the growing strength of environmental and animal rights movements, the public clamored for more naturalistic and spacious environments in which the animals could live.

The most emblematic of these transformations was the development of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1966, the cramped and antiquated zoo used grants from the city government to move to a brand-new facility. Although the zoo moved just two miles away, the new location was exponentially bigger, and it featured fresh landscapes that resembled the animals’ natural habitats, instead of dilapidated cages. As the Los Angeles Zoo developed, it was able to work on preservation and conservation efforts for endangered species. New educational programs also became key elements of the Zoo’s mission. Now the old Zoo’s cages stand as ruins and reminders of what past generations saw when they visited years ago.

The author specifically mentions the Los Angeles Zoo in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

give a concrete example of how zoos have changed

contrast it with other zoos in the country

condemn the way it transformed itself in the twentieth century

dismiss its educational programs as unnecessary

show it as an outlier amongst zoos

Correct answer:

give a concrete example of how zoos have changed

Explanation:

The story of the Los Angeles Zoo takes up about half of the passage, indicating its importance to the author's point. Additionally, the Los Angeles Zoo provides specific examples of the kinds of changes zoos underwent.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from The Frontier in American History, by Frederick Jackson Turner

But the larger part of what has been distinctive and valuable in America's contribution to the history of the human spirit has been due to this nation's peculiar experience in extending its type of frontier into new regions—and in creating peaceful societies with new ideals in the successive vast and differing geographic provinces which together make up the United States. Directly or indirectly these experiences shaped the life of both the Eastern and Western States, and even reacted upon the Old World, influencing the direction of its thought and progress. This experience has been fundamental in the economic, political, and social characteristics of the American people and in their conceptions of their destiny.

Writing at the close of 1796, the French minister to the United States, M. Adet, reported to his government that Jefferson could not be relied on to be devoted to French interests, and he added that "Jefferson, I say, is American, and by that name, he cannot be sincerely our friend. An American is the born enemy of all European peoples." Obviously erroneous as are these words, there was an element of truth in them. If we would understand this element of truth, we must study the transforming influence of the American wilderness, remote from Europe, and by its resources and its free opportunities affording the conditions under which a new people, with new social and political types and ideals, could arise to play its own part in the world, and to influence Europe.

The author quotes the French minister to the United States because __________.

Possible Answers:

it helps demonstrate the similarities between France and the United States

the author is mocking the French minister

the author inherently trusts French ministers

the French minister supports the author's ideas about the Frontier

it helps draw the distinction between Europe and America.

Correct answer:

it helps draw the distinction between Europe and America.

Explanation:

The sentence following the quote notes the French minister's words had "an element of truth in them." In particular, the author notes how America is different from Europe, the main point of the French minister's letter.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

The Chemistry of Cooking by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The author discusses the specific dish of fried chicken and mashed potatoes in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

show that molecular gastronomy is really nothing new.

show most people do not enjoy eating food made with molecular gastronomy techniques.

show how molecular gastronomy techniques can be specifically applied.

demonstrate people do not enjoy eating anything like fried chicken and mashed potatoes at a restaurant.

demonstrate that chefs using molecular gastronomy are ruining classic dishes.

Correct answer:

show how molecular gastronomy techniques can be specifically applied.

Explanation:

The author devotes roughly the last third of the passage to discussing a molecular gastronomy approach to fried chicken and mashed potatoes. This focus allows the author to discuss the specifics of molecular gastronomy in light of a particular dish, instead of just discussing it theoretically.

Example Question #6 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Baseball, Then and Now, by Will Floyd

The twenty-first-century baseball fan would hardly recognize the nineteenth-century version of the national pastime. The massive stadiums, pristine uniforms, and even most articles of equipment integral to the modern game were all unfamiliar to players in the late-nineteenth-century.

The current number of balls and strikes that each batter is allowed was not settled until the 1890s. Fielding gloves were not utilized until the 1880s. Players could even call for a high or low pitch as recently as 1900. The biggest misconception about nineteenth-century baseball from a modern point-of-view is assuming all pitching was done the way it is now. In fact, until 1893 pitchers operated out of a box a mere 45 feet away. The short distance was no problem, as the original rules for pitching required an underhand motion. As athletes have done for centuries, pitchers of the nineteenth century figured out ways to throw harder and circumvent the rules. Eventually, pitchers were taking a running start from 45 feet away and throwing overhand. Baseball players and administrators quickly realized that such pitching was a safety hazard at 45 feet, and it creates a tedious game in which no one could score. Baseball pushed the pitcher back to sixty feet and six inches, introduced the pitcher’s mound, and the slab the pitcher must be rooted to, pushing baseball closer to its modern form. These changes in baseball’s early years made the game the treasured sport it is today.

The author's discussion of the pitching distances used in the nineteenth century is intended to __________.

Possible Answers:

criticize nineteenth-century pitchers' circumventing of the rules

demonstrate the difference between nineteenth-century baseball and the modern game

denigrate nineteenth-century baseball as a complete sport

criticize modern fans for not understanding the difference in the nineteenth-century version of baseball

mock nineteenth-century baseball fans for liking an inferior game

Correct answer:

demonstrate the difference between nineteenth-century baseball and the modern game

Explanation:

The author spends the second half of the passage largely discussing the changes in the distance pitchers threw from in the nineteenth century. This is done, however, in the much larger context of describing how different the nineteenth century version of baseball is from the modern version.

Example Question #7 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Technology of the Future by Will Floyd

Technological revolutions rarely come in expected forms. Predictions of the future are usually found to be humorous in retrospect, as the theories put forward usually involve too much of the present. Typically, an author who imagines the future sees some small developments in the technology already in use, without countenancing a possible sudden change in how gadgets are made. Science fiction from before the personal computer’s rise tended to show computers as large machines only run by specialists. Before the development of tablets, small reading devices belonging to each person were hardly imagined. None of these now strange conjectures on the future should be ridiculed. Even those researchers and scientists who are trying to create new breakthroughs in technology often have no idea of what their work will produce. The personal computer was initially divided into office models and home models, which were supposed to have different graphics, power, and performance specifics. In reality, people desired the office model in their home. Such adoptions happen all the time in the world of technology, with such disparate examples as the personal computer and the Model-T automobile both changing future technology by becoming the most popular forms in the marketplace.

The author mentions the success in the marketplace of the personal computer and the Model-T automobile because __________.

Possible Answers:

they looked nothing like previous forms of technology

they were hugely popular forms of their respective technologies

it demonstrates a guide to making better speculations about future technology

the success was undeserved considering their technological limitations

they were exactly predicted as they existed in science fiction

Correct answer:

it demonstrates a guide to making better speculations about future technology

Explanation:

The success of the personal computer and the Model-T is mentioned only in the final sentence. The author does this as a suggestion as to how people should speculate about future technology, specifically focusing on their success in the marketplace.

Example Question #8 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

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."

Why is it fair to say, based on Höffding's words, that the German speculation on evolution was not really scientific?

Possible Answers:

It was more of an artistic idea than one based on facts.

It got caught up in transitions between species and never had any concrete ideas.

None of the other answers

It was derived from theological speculation on divine ideas.

It made no appeal to Darwin's work, at least explicitly.

Correct answer:

It was more of an artistic idea than one based on facts.

Explanation:

The way that the romantic philosophers argued was more like a poetic image than that of a scientific discourse. At the close of the first paragraph, this is indicated by the description: "A condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes." The overall image that Höffding provides of Romantic speculation is one of literary presentation and idealized images.

Example Question #9 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

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."

What is the overall purpose of this selection?

Possible Answers:

To catalogue the prominent figures of German Romanticism.

To show that while there was much German discussion of evolution, it has little to do with The Origin of Species.

None of the other answers

To provide an outline of the development of one particular approach to the scientific question of evolution.

To compare and contrast positivism and German Romanticism.

Correct answer:

To show that while there was much German discussion of evolution, it has little to do with The Origin of Species.

Explanation:

This passage opens by framing the discussion in terms of Darwin's Origin of Species. Throughout the passage, it wishes to show how the German Romantics used the word and notion of "evolution" in a way that was radically different from that used by Darwin. In this selection, at least, we are not presented with a rigorous comparison/contrast with positivism, though it is mentioned at the beginning. This whole passage focuses on how certain figures used the term in a way quite different from that of Darwin. (Note, also, that the passage does not provide a complete catalogue of positions.)

Example Question #5 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman (1852)

I have been insisting, in my two preceding Discourses, first, on the cultivation of the intellect, as an end which may reasonably be pursued for its own sake; and next, on the nature of that cultivation, or what that cultivation consists in. Truth of whatever kind is the proper object of the intellect; its cultivation then lies in fitting it to apprehend and contemplate truth. Now the intellect in its present state, with exceptions which need not here be specified, does not discern truth intuitively, or as a whole. We know, not by a direct and simple vision, not at a glance, but, as it were, by piecemeal and accumulation, by a mental process, by going round an object, by the comparison, the combination, the mutual correction, the continual adaptation, of many partial notions, by the employment, concentration, and joint action of many faculties and exercises of mind.

Such a union and concert of the intellectual powers, such an enlargement and development, such a comprehensiveness, is necessarily a matter of training. And again, such a training is a matter of rule. It is not mere application, however exemplary, which introduces the mind to truth, nor the reading many books, nor the getting up many subjects, nor the witnessing many experiments, nor the attending many lectures. All this is short of enough. A man may have done it all, yet be lingering in the vestibule of knowledge. He may not realize what his mouth utters; he may not see with his mental eye what confronts him; he may have no grasp of things as they are, or at least he may have no power at all of advancing one step forward of himself, in consequence of what he has already acquired, no power of discriminating between truth and falsehood, of sifting out the grains of truth from the mass, of arranging things according to their real value, and, if I may use the phrase, of building up ideas. Such a power is the result of a scientific formation of mind; it is an acquired faculty of judgment, of clear-sightedness, of sagacity, of wisdom, of philosophical reach of mind, and of intellectual self-possession and repose—qualities which do not come of mere acquirement. The bodily eye, the organ for apprehending material objects, is provided by nature; the eye of the mind, of which the object is truth, is the work of discipline and habit.

This process of training, by which the intellect, instead of being formed or sacrificed to some particular or accidental purpose, some specific trade or profession, or study or science, is disciplined for its own sake, for the perception of its own proper object, and for its own highest culture, is called Liberal Education; and though there is no one in whom it is carried as far as is conceivable, or whose intellect would be a pattern of what intellects should be made, yet there is scarcely any one but may gain an idea of what real training is, and at least look towards it, and make its true scope and result, not something else, his standard of excellence; and numbers there are who may submit themselves to it, and secure it to themselves in good measure. And to set forth the right standard, and to train according to it, and to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities, this I conceive to be the business of a University.

What requirements arise from the necessities falling to the intellectual life of man?

Possible Answers:

At the end of the day, we must admit that we really do not know anything.

People must always overcome custom and the weight of tradition in order to reach any true conclusions.

Much physical toil is required to learn anything.

We must follow the promptings of nature to receive our training in knowledge.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

None of the other answers

Explanation:

This whole passage is a development of Newman's remark about the limited nature of human knowledge and the work that is required for gaining intellectual awareness. He is arguing that we must develop certain "mental habits" and skills in order to grasp the truth in its entirety. None of the explicit answers provide this response. Do not be tempted to think that he is necessarily speaking of physical toil. That is beyond this passage at least (though the brain certainly does require much physical exertion to make thinking possible). Also, though he speaks of our limited knowledge, he does not say that we know nothing.

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