GMAT Verbal : Method of Reasoning

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Method Of Reasoning

Hiker: With the storm approaching quickly we need to make a decision on how to proceed. We can try to descend the mountain to seek shelter, but then we will undo our progress and lose our chance to reach the summit – and we may not make it all the way down, anyway. We can continue on our current course and hope that the storm misses us or passes quickly, but doing so risks a true disaster. So we should bivouac here, using the time before the storm to set up a safe, secure camp to weather the elements.

The hiker’s argument does which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Recommends a choice based on the elimination of alternative options.

Chooses a course of action based on experience in similar situations.

Outlines the risks and benefits of all available courses of action.

Claims that her decision is the only logical course of action.

Makes a unilateral decision by dismissing the recommendations of others.

Correct answer:

Recommends a choice based on the elimination of alternative options.

Explanation:

In Method of Reasoning questions, the correct answer must be a completely-accurate description of the argument - your goal then should be to attack each answer choice to find a word or phrase that doesn't fit. Method of Reasoning makes for good process of elimination.

Choice "Claims that her decision is the only logical course of action." is incorrect in that the hiker does not single her decision out as the ONLY logical decision: she considers the merits of two other decisions and arrives at one she feels is best. Choice "Claims that her decision is the only logical course of action." is too strong.

Choice "Chooses a course of action based on experience in similar situations." is incorrect because the concept of experience never comes up in the argument. Similarly, choice "Makes a unilateral decision by dismissing the recommendations of others." mentions the recommendations of others but in the argument as given the only options discussed come straight from the hiker herself.

Choice "Recommends a choice based on the elimination of alternative options." is correct: she eliminates two options and arrives at the third, so it is true that she recommends a course of action based on the elimination of others.

And choice "Outlines the risks and benefits of all available courses of action." is incorrect in large part because of the word "all" - you do not know that the three options she discusses are the only available options, so "all" could include others. And she does not talk about the risks associated with the third plan, so she does not discuss the risks even of "all" plans that are included. 

Example Question #2 : Method Of Reasoning

Genetically-altered trees have been developed that can remove toxins from the air more quickly than naturally-occurring trees can. However, we will not know whether the modified trees adversely affect the environment without actually planting them and carefully monitoring the environment for at least several years. Since this might cause irrevocable harm to the surrounding area, we should resist the temptation to use these trees until long-term research in a closed environment has been completed.

Which of the following best describes the method of argument used in the argument above?

Possible Answers:

A possible future scenario is described as being unrealistic, while a different scenario is given more credence.

After detailing concerns with two approaches to a problem, both are discarded in favor of an approach that does not raise the same concerns.

The benefits and disadvantages of two remedial courses of action are weighed.

A course of action is advised against unless a similar, but limited, course of action produces positive results.

An experiment is recommended to determine the benefits of a new approach to a longstanding problem for which no other comparable solution is known.

 

 

 


Correct answer:

A course of action is advised against unless a similar, but limited, course of action produces positive results.

Explanation:

The course of action that is advised against is planting genetically-altered trees to remove toxins. The similar, but limited, course of action is long-term research involving the planting of such trees in a closed environment. Positive results from the limited action – no serious damage to the environment – need to be seen; otherwise, we should “resist the temptation” to plant the trees in the open.

"After detailing concerns with two approaches to a problem, both are discarded in favor of an approach that does not raise the same concerns." This choice mentions two approaches, and then “another approach,” making for three approaches in total. However, only two approaches are ever mentioned: planting them in the general environment, or planting them in a closed environment.

"A possible future scenario is described as being unrealistic, while a different scenario is given more credence." No particular scenario is ever described as unrealistic.

"An experiment is recommended to determine the benefits of a new approach to a longstanding problem for which no other comparable solution is known." This choice starts out fine, but we cannot say that “no other comparable solution is known.” If anything, we are told that naturally occurring trees can be used to remove toxins, though slowly.

"The benefits and disadvantages of two remedial courses of action are weighed." It is not clear that the argument presents two distinct remedies. Even if we consider planting the trees in an open environment to be one remedy and planting the trees in a closed environment to be another remedy, no disadvantages to planting the trees in a closed environment are mentioned. If we consider planting naturally-occurring trees to be a second approach, then this answer choice does not even mention long-term research.

The correct answer is "A course of action is advised against unless a similar, but limited, course of action produces positive results."

Example Question #3 : Method Of Reasoning

University X has announced that its library will not be open during the summer. Students attending classes during the summer have protested, saying that the library has research materials that cannot be borrowed from any public library in the area. The university administration has responded with an announcement that all university library materials will be accessible online through computers that are provided to all students for free by the university.

Which of the following best describes a method of argument used by the university administration?

 

Possible Answers:

The administration counters a concern with an alternative.

The administration defends its actions by criticizing the logic of its opponents.

The administration makes an unwarranted assumption about the motives of some of the students.

The administration provides an explanation that it assumes will clarify its decision.

The administration incorrectly makes an assumption about students' preferences.

Correct answer:

The administration counters a concern with an alternative.

Explanation:

The students have specifically expressed their concern that they can't borrow the materials from a public library, which is why they want the library open. The university administration counters with an alternative solution to the problem -- access the materials online. Accordingly, choice "The administration counters a concern with an alternative." is the correct answer. Answer choice "The administration incorrectly makes an assumption about students' preferences." is incorrect because it is not clear that the administration is assuming anything about the students' preferences; nor is it certain that, even if the administration assumes that the students will prefer online materials to hard copies, that assumption will be incorrect. Answer choice "The administration provides an explanation that it assumes will clarify its decision." is also incorrect; the administration does not explain its decision to close the library, but rather offers an alterative solution. Answer choice "The administration defends its actions by criticizing the logic of its opponents." is incorrect, as the administration does not criticize the students at all, but rather addresses their concerns. Similarly, answer choice "The administration makes an unwarranted assumption about the motives of some of the students." is also incorrect, as the administration does not address the motives of the students at all.

Example Question #2 : Method Of Reasoning

Incumbent candidate for governor: As the people of our great state know, my administration has created unprecedented economic prosperity and job growth. Just look at the unemployment rate, which has reached its lowest point in nearly twenty years!

Opposing candidate for governor: That’s preposterous. You overlook the fact that the unemployment rate is just as much a function of the number of people in the labor market as it is of the number of people employed. Your greatest contribution to the economy has been a series of retirement parties and moves to other states!

The opposing candidate’s reply to the incumbent proceeds by:

Possible Answers:

Supplying a statistic that undermines the incumbent’s conclusion.

Claiming that the incumbent used a statistic irrelevant to his conclusion.

Pointing out that the incumbent cited a statistic that does not necessarily support his conclusion.

Offering a statistic that sheds additional light on the statistic supplied by the incumbent.

Suggesting that the incumbent’s statistic is factually inaccurate.

Correct answer:

Pointing out that the incumbent cited a statistic that does not necessarily support his conclusion.

Explanation:

In this Method of Reasoning question, you're asked to describe the opposing candidate's reply, so pay particular attention to that. Note that the opponent does not supply any statistics, so choices "Supplying a statistic that undermines the incumbent’s conclusion.", "Suggesting that the incumbent’s statistic is factually inaccurate.", and "Offering a statistic that sheds additional light on the statistic supplied by the incumbent." are not accurate descriptions of the response. And he does not say that the statistic is irrelevant, just that there is more to the statistic than the incumbent had implied. The opponent points out that the unemployment rate may be more a function of the denominator (the number in the labor market) than the numerator (the number of those people without jobs), so he is saying that the statistic might not actually support the claim of the incumbent. Thus, choice "Pointing out that the incumbent cited a statistic that does not necessarily support his conclusion." is an apt description.

Example Question #4 : Method Of Reasoning

Diet Company Executive: Our “12-Weeks-to-Skinny” diet plan is the best in the country. Each year we send out a comprehensive survey to everyone who enrolled in this plan. The survey contains questions about everything from the quality of food in the program to the percentage of weight lost during the 12 weeks. Amazingly, last year over 80% of the survey respondents lost more than 10% of their body weight during the 12-week period, a figure unprecedented among diet companies.

The executive’s claim about the quality of the diet plan is most vulnerable to criticism on which of the following grounds?

Possible Answers:

It does not consider whether the total number of people enrolled in its plan has decreased.

It does not consider whether dissatisfied customers are less likely to respond to the survey.

It does not consider the data collected since the last survey was conducted.

It does not consider the total amount weight gained or lost by its participants.

It does not consider whether other diet companies have had superior results over the past year.

 

 


Correct answer:

It does not consider whether dissatisfied customers are less likely to respond to the survey.

Explanation:

Fairly well hidden within the executive’s claim is a data flaw relating to the survey. What if the only people who responded to the survey were those people who had successfully lost weight. The executive says “last year, over 80% of the survey respondents lost more than 10%...” Remember: “Survey respondents” is not the same as “Those who enrolled in the plan”! There could have been 1 million people who enrolled in the plan but only 50,000 lost 10% of their weight or more. If most of those 50,000 responded to the survey, and few other people did, then it would seem that a high percentage of the survey participants lost weight, when it was really only 5% of the population. Answer choice "It does not consider whether dissatisfied customers are less likely to respond to the survey." exposes this flaw and is thus correct.

Example Question #2 : Method Of Reasoning

Town Representative: The new advertisements protesting plans by the town to build a new pier for large cruise ships have been appearing daily. The advertisements claim that the new pier will bring in more cruise ships and ruin the quaint charm of the town. However, these claims can be dismissed. Most of these advertisements were paid for by a major developer who currently profits greatly from allowing cruise ships to offload passengers at his property when they anchor in the nearby bay.

Which of the following most accurately describes a flaw in the town representative’s argument?

Possible Answers:

It mischaracterizes the views put forth in the advertisements and then directly attacks these mischaracterized views.

It fails to consider the possibility that some of these advertisements were paid for by town advocates with legitimate concerns on the effects of cruise ships.

It rejects a claim by addressing the motivations for the people making it rather than by addressing its actual merits.

It focuses on the motivations for the people making a particular claim without considering the motivations of other people making the same claim.

It directly attacks the merits of the claims made in the advertisements but does not provide evidence to support the opposing view.

Correct answer:

It rejects a claim by addressing the motivations for the people making it rather than by addressing its actual merits.

Explanation:

For this type of “describe the flaw” method of reasoning question, you should first attack the argument to find flaws on your own and then decide which answer choice properly describes one of them. In analyzing the Town Representatives argument, you should notice that he does not actually address the specific claims made in the advertisements. Rather he just questions the motivations behind the claims. What if indeed the new cruise ship pier WILL bring in more cruise ships and ruin the charm of the town, but the ads are being paid for by a developer with questionable motivations. Then can the claims really be dismissed? This flaw is described perfectly by answer choice "It rejects a claim by addressing the motivations for the people making it rather than by addressing its actual merits." as the representative only addresses the motivations but not the claims themselves. For "It focuses on the motivations for the people making a particular claim without considering the motivations of other people making the same claim.", the argument does focus on the motivations but the issue is NOT that it isn’t considering the motivations of other people – the issue is that it does not address the claims. For "It directly attacks the merits of the claims made in the advertisements but does not provide evidence to support the opposing view." the argument specifically does not attack the merits of the claim so this is clearly incorrect and for "It mischaracterizes the views put forth in the advertisements and then directly attacks these mischaracterized views." it is not mischaracterizing the views. For "It fails to consider the possibility that some of these advertisements were paid for by town advocates with legitimate concerns on the effects of cruise ships.", the argument does not fail to consider this possibility as it only says “most of advertisements” were paid for by a developer. The argument acknowledges there are other ads paid by different people but is just emphasizing that most come from this person. Correct answer is "It rejects a claim by addressing the motivations for the people making it rather than by addressing its actual merits."

Example Question #1 : Method Of Reasoning

Recent research shows that training programs that include emphases on flexibility, highlighting activities such as yoga and pilates, are significantly more effective at preventing injury in athletes than are training programs that solely focus on strength and speed.  The Bournemouth Football Club suffered fewer injuries than the Haleford Football Club this past season, so it can be concluded that Bournemouth's training program featured more flexibility activities than did the program at Haleford.

The argument is most vulnerable to criticism because it:

Possible Answers:

fails to consult alternative research studies.

does not distinguish between incidence of injury and degree of injury.

uses its own conclusion as one of its major premises.

generalizes from too few data points.

assumes that the consequence of one set of circumstances would not be produced by another.

Correct answer:

assumes that the consequence of one set of circumstances would not be produced by another.

Explanation:

When you look at how this argument is built, recognize a few major points:

1) The only comparison drawn between methods of injury prevention pits "flexibility training" against "strength and speed training." You don't at all know that flexibility training is the best of all possible injury prevention techniques (rest? nutrition? hydration?). What if Bournemouth just did a better job of prioritizing the other, unnamed injury prevention techniques, but didn't do as much flexibility training as Haleford?

2) The amount of flexibility training is not part of the comparison - the comparison just pits "programs that include flexibility training" (whether it's a small amount of flexibility training or a large amount) against "programs that solely focus on strength and speed." The given premise does not allow for a "more vs. less" flexibility training conclusion, as it is just "has" vs. "does not have" data.

3) You don't know whether Haleford has more players, or played more games - you don't know whether the real number data (more vs. fewer injuries) is balanced enough to draw a conclusoin.

As you go to the answer choices, you'll see that choice "assumes that the consequence of one set of circumstances would not be produced by another." summarizes the flaw outlined in 1) above - the conclusion doesn't allow for other factors to be the drivers behind the injury difference. And no choices summarize 2) or 3), so "assumes that the consequence of one set of circumstances would not be produced by another." must be correct. Among the incorrect choices:

"generalizes from too few data points." points out the wrong data flaw - there is a flaw in using real numbers of injuries without a per-capita or percentage direct comparison, but the problem isn't necessarily "too few data points."

"uses its own conclusion as one of its major premises." is not the case, as the conclusion is not one of the premises - it stands alone as its own new piece of information.

"fails to consult alternative research studies." is not necessarily a flaw, as there is no reason to suspect that the studies consulted are insufficient to establish the notion that flexibility can help prevent injuries.

And "does not distinguish between incidence of injury and degree of injury." is not a flaw here as the premises and conclusion are all consistent in using the number/incidence of injuries (did an injury occur). The argument as constructed has no need to focus on severity of injury.

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