GMAT Verbal : Identifying Assumptions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #11 : Identifying Assumptions

Unions still have a vital role to play in society despite their declining membership. Issues like the minimum wage, health care, pension insolvency and outsourcing still affect millions of workers. While “union bosses” make easy targets for some politicians, it doesn’t change the fact that unions are the only institution run by and for workers. For this reason, if for no other, they will survive.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

There are still many problems in the workplace that unions need to address.

Corruption by union bosses has tarnished the image of labor beyond repair.

Labor unrest has largely subsided.

The close connection between unions and their members makes them irreplaceable advocates for workers.

Declining membership has weakened unions to the point of irrelevance.

Correct answer:

The close connection between unions and their members makes them irreplaceable advocates for workers.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that there are no credible alternatives to unions that can better represent the interests of workers. Although the author states that workplace problems still affect millions, the paragraph emphasizes the composition and organization of unions. Thus, the focus is on the close union-member relationship rather than need. The issues of corruption, along with declining membership and labor unrest are similarly unrelated to this focus.

Example Question #11 : Identifying Assumptions

Creativity in Hollywood seems to be in short supply these days. Every movie or television show is either a sequel or remake of something we’ve seen before. Even worse is the practice of making movies based on toys. I remember when successful movies spawned toys; now the reverse is true. It seems like Hollywood has become averse to original thinking.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

A movie or program derived from existing source material can never be creative.

Movies based on toys are inherently bad.

Hollywood is a vast, uncreative wasteland.

Financial concerns outweigh artistic and creative concerns in the entertainment industry.

The entertainment industry is not as creative as it used to be.

Correct answer:

A movie or program derived from existing source material can never be creative.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that the production of sequels and remakes, which are derived from existing sources of material, conclusively proves the absence of creativity. Thus, the author may not like moves based on toys, but this is because they are derived from an existing source of material - the toy itself. Similarly, the author may agree with the answers criticizing Hollywood, but they do not address the argument’s key assumption. Specifically, they do not link the use of existing source material to a lack of creativity.

Example Question #12 : Identifying Assumptions

Cities should stop subsidizing the construction of sports stadiums. These subsidies, in the form of tax breaks or municipal funding, take money directly from city residents. Sports teams are owned by wealthy people who don’t need help. On the other hand, every dollar spent subsidizing a stadium is one less dollar available for schools or city services.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Wealthy individuals know how to manipulate the system for their own benefit.

It is immoral to give taxpayer money to people who are already wealthy.

Schools and city services are too important to cut.

The cost of lost revenue to cities cannot be offset by the benefits of hosting a professional sports team in a new stadium.

Stadiums and sports teams create jobs, which benefits the local economy.

Correct answer:

The cost of lost revenue to cities cannot be offset by the benefits of hosting a professional sports team in a new stadium.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that it is impossible for sports teams and taxpayers to equally benefit from the municipal funding of stadiums. In the author’s view, one side will win and the other will lose. In light of this, the correct answer clearly reflects this assumption. Issues of morality and manipulation of the system are separate from the cost-benefit analysis implied by the author’s basic assumption. The answer stating the importance of schools and city services does imply such an analysis, but does not relate to the specific issue of stadium funding. Finally, the answer mentioning the economic benefits of subsidizing stadium construction directly contradicts the author’s contention that this is a bad idea.

Example Question #14 : Identifying Assumptions

Labor unions are outdated relics of a bygone era. There was a need for them in centuries past, when children worked in factories, safety was ignored, and workers toiled endlessly under backbreaking conditions. Laws were enacted to address these problems, however. Since then, unions have become an institution in search of a mission.

The argument depends on which of the following assumptions?

Possible Answers:

Union bosses have lost sight of their original mission.

There is still much work for unions to do in the workplace.

No new problems have arisen for unions to address.

Labor strikes have become less common as problems have been solved.

Labor unions negatively affect worker productivity.

Correct answer:

No new problems have arisen for unions to address.

Explanation:

The argument assumes that unions have outlived their usefulness. For this to be true, there must be nothing left for them to do. Thus, the issues of union leader motivation, decreased productivity and fewer labor strikes are all irrelevant to the issue of usefulness. Finally, the answer stating that unions still have much to do in the workplace directly contradicts the author’s main assumption.

Example Question #11 : Identifying Assumptions

The per capita violent crime rate in Jackson City is over  higher than it was just six years ago. And yet only ten miles away, the city of Trentdale, the rate has risen only . Though the two towns are similar in a great many ways, clearly residents of Jackson City are far more likely to become victims of violent crime than their close neighbors in Trentdale.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most weaken the conclusion above?

Possible Answers:

Trentdale’s population increased much more quickly over the past six years than did Jackson City’s.

The population density of Trentdale has not increased as much over the past six years as it did in Jackson City.

Over the last six years, Trentdale invested substantially in crime prevention, but so, too, did Jackson City.

The per capita crime rate in Trentdale was substantially higher than it was in Jackson City six years ago. 

The ratio of violent to non-violent crimes did not rise equally in each city.

Correct answer:

The per capita crime rate in Trentdale was substantially higher than it was in Jackson City six years ago. 

Explanation:

We don’t know exactly how high the crime rates in the two cities were before the increase, but if Trentdale already had a huge crime rate, increasing that rate by 10% could mean it’s still higher than Jackson City’s, if Jackson City’s were lower to start. (An example: If Trentdale’s crime rate six years ago was 90% (90 out of 100 residents affected by crime) and it went up 10%, it’d be 99%--nearly everybody affected. If Jackson City’s crime rate six years ago was 8%, and it went up 75%, it’d now be only 10%.)

Example Question #12 : Identifying Assumptions

Even though she is allergic to chocolate, Sandra found a box of chocolates in her mailbox, apparently a gift from an anonymous party. If the gift had been sent by someone who knew her well, they would have known that Sandra is allergic to chocolate and would not be happy to receive it. Someone who only knew Sandra in passing would surely have included some note indicating who the gift was from, but there was no such note. So it must be that the unknown person intended to give Sandra some other candy, or an identifying note was lost in the mail, or the chocolates were accidentally put in her mailbox.

The reasoning above is questionable because it fails to exclude the possibility that ___________.

Possible Answers:

some people who know Sandra well would still have included a note

someone might send a gift without desiring to please the recipient

Sandra’s mailman is exceptionally competent

chocolates are the candy most often given as a gift

someone who does not know Sandra would not send her a gift

Correct answer:

someone might send a gift without desiring to please the recipient

Explanation:

This argument makes an assumption so slight that you might have missed it, that only people with nice intentions would ever give a gift to someone. Sure, Sandra's acquaintances might know she hates chocolate. And they might be angry at Sandra and want to annoy her by putting chocolates she doesn't want in her mailbox. Or maybe they're just really bad at giving gifts. The correct answer points out that there could be other reasons someone might give a gift.

Example Question #12 : Identifying Assumptions

Despite its appearance as an exhibition sport at the 2012 Games, the so-called “sport” of parkour should not be added to the permanent roster of Olympic events. Though parkour’s varied physical challenges—or, to use its practitioners favored term, its ‘moves’— certainly require a great deal of physical skill and even, at times, grace, thus far even its most ardent supporters have been unable to suggest a plausible system of scoring under which participants might be ranked.

Which of the following is an assumption that supports drawing the conclusion above from the reasons given for that conclusion?

Possible Answers:

All sports that have a plausible system of scoring are entitled to be added to the permanent roster of Olympic events.

Many of the most expert practitioners agree upon a basic classification system of parkour’s ‘moves’.

A sport should only be added to the roster of permanent Olympic events if a plausible system of scoring can be suggested for it.

None of the sports on the roster of permanent Olympic events had trouble initially devising a scoring system.

Many parkour practitioners are more concerned than others with creating a plausible system of scoring for the sport.

Correct answer:

A sport should only be added to the roster of permanent Olympic events if a plausible system of scoring can be suggested for it.

Explanation:

Though the stem contains one of the wordier ways of asking an assumption question, the argument is straightforward: the author evaluates the sport of parkour against a standard that is not explicitly connected to the situation. The assumption is that the standard is in fact determinative.

The correct answer names the author’s assumption, that the standard he indicates that the sport fails to live up to (having a plausible scoring system) is indeed required for all sports that would be included in the Olympics. 

Example Question #13 : Identifying Assumptions

It is strange that in Portland there are so many corner shops selling food items. After all there are many supermarkets in the city which sell food at cheaper prices, and many of these supermarkets are open .

Which of the following, if true, would be of the least help in explaining the paradoxical observation?

Possible Answers:

The corner shops are mainly family-owned businesses that have been there for much longer than the supermarkets and are thus perceived as an important feature of the community. 

The main business of the local shops is newspaper distribution and food items are only a small part of their turnover.

The corner shops offer home deliveries.

The supermarkets are mostly located on the outskirts of the city and residents require cars or public transport to reach them. 

The corner shops are selling specialist food items not available in the supermarkets. 

Correct answer:

The corner shops offer home deliveries.

Explanation:

The first thing to do is check the answers for statements that help explain why there continues to be a large number of corner shops. One suggests that they stock different things; another that they are more conveniently located; one answer states their main business does not compete with supermarkets’; and one suggests that they are favored by the community and rely on patrons. The least relevant to the argument, and thus the answer we need, is the fact that they make home deliveries. This is irrelevant because it is not clear whether the supermarkets do the same.

Example Question #15 : Identifying Assumptions

Although company's products have continued to enjoy profitable sales worldwide, electronics retailers have recently reported that the number of smart TVs sold have steadily decreased in the past two years. However, in the past two years, the number of Universe phones sold have nearly doubled. Thus, more people are choosing to buy Universe phones than smart TVs when selecting from the company's products.

The reasoning in the argument is questionable primarily because the argument __________.

Possible Answers:

suggests cell phone retailers and Universe phone retailers are one and the same

lacks specific numbers to bolster the conclusion

limits the scope of its argument to only two of the company's products

assumes an inherent preference in people for one product over another

doesn’t admit alternative explanations for the situation

Correct answer:

doesn’t admit alternative explanations for the situation

Explanation:

This question asks about a flaw in logic: take the time to reflect upon the logic used to make the argument and expose any flaws before reading the answer choices. In this case, the reasoning is that if one product’s popularity increases, while another’s decreases, it must mean that consumers are choosing the one over the other. The assumption is that there is no other reason to explain these statistics. Any number of things could have caused these changes in patterns of consumption, thus it is irresponsible to assume that one was directly linked to the other.

Example Question #13 : Identifying Assumptions

Scientists are close to developing a satellite detection system that will accurately predict the path of hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events.  It will soon be possible for meteorologists to provide warnings to communities that will be affected by such disasters as early as one week in advance.  The costs of developing and maintaining such a system are immense, but the potential cost-savings in terms of both human life and property make this a very viable project.

The author assumes what about current detection systems for catastrophic weather events?

Possible Answers:

They leave too much room for human error in interpreting their data

They rely on more primitive forms of satellite technology than the one being proposed

They are fragmented among both states and local communities

They often do not provide enough accurate information in time to prevent loss of life and property damage

They are more cost-effective than the system being proposed

Correct answer:

They often do not provide enough accurate information in time to prevent loss of life and property damage

Explanation:

The writer mentions that the proposed system can provide "accurate" information as much as "one week in advance," thus implying that the new system is more accurate and can provide information much earlier than the current system.

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