GMAT Verbal : Understanding Boldface Reasoning

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Understanding Boldface Reasoning

Luddite: Though everyone today is wild about their knickknacks and gadgets, the underlying worthlessness of modern technology is demonstrated easily enough. While timeless staples of world commerce like coffee, wheat, and chocolate continue to rise in price, computers, digital cameras, televisions, and the like cost less every year, despite their frequent improvements.

Which of the following best describes the roles played in the argument above by the two statements in boldface?

Possible Answers:

The first is a premise supporting a later contention; the second is also a premise supporting that same contention.

The first is a conclusion that follows from a given premise; the second is a contrary premise to that conclusion.

The first is an initial conclusion; the second is the final conclusion.

The first is a conclusion that does not necessarily follow from a given premise; the second is a consideration meant to strengthen a premise given in support of that conclusion.

The first is a premise that is not necessarily true; the second is an admission of a potential flaw in the earlier premise.

 

 

 


Correct answer:

The first is a conclusion that does not necessarily follow from a given premise; the second is a consideration meant to strengthen a premise given in support of that conclusion.

Explanation:

Roles questions often feature answer choices that diverge into two clearly defined groups, and this question is no exception. Begin by determining the nature of the first statement, which nicely passes the "Why Test" for conclusions. Why is the worthlessness of technology demonstrated easily enough? Because of the statistic that comes next (prices for "old world" goods are rising, while prices for high tech items are falling).

Because this portion is a conclusion, you can eliminate answers "The first is a premise supporting a later contention; the second is also a premise supporting that same contention." and "The first is a premise that is not necessarily true; the second is an admission of a potential flaw in the earlier premise." immediately without even considering the second half of each answer choice.

Then assess the role of the second bolded portion. Note that it modifies the main clause of the final sentence, which could stand alone without the modifier. By saying "despite their frequent improvements" the modifier bolsters that provided information, suggesting that one would think that prices for technological items would rise, and yet they have fallen. So the second portion exists to strengthen the main premise of the argument. Choice "The first is a conclusion that does not necessarily follow from a given premise; the second is a consideration meant to strengthen a premise given in support of that conclusion." provides exactly this description, so choice "The first is a conclusion that does not necessarily follow from a given premise; the second is a consideration meant to strengthen a premise given in support of that conclusion." is correct.

Example Question #1 : Understanding Boldface Reasoning

Some analysts predict that next year will see total worldwide sea shipping tonnage increase by 2% over the current year. However, captains of freight ships generally expect that worldwide shipping tonnage will decrease next year. At issue is the amount of freight that will be shifted from sea ships to freight airplanes as compared to growth in the overall demand for freight transport. The analysts believe growth in demand will outstrip the shift to freight airplanes; the ship captains believe the opposite.

The two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

Possible Answers:

The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion represents the opposing position.

The first portion is evidence that supports a position; the second portion is evidence that supports an opposed position.

The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion is evidence in support of that position.

The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion describes the underlying reason for the difference in position.

The first portion is evidence that supports a position; the second portion is a position that is not necessarily true based on the evidence.

 

 

 


Correct answer:

The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion describes the underlying reason for the difference in position.

Explanation:

The question stem, “The two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?”, clearly indicates this is a “Roles in Boldface” question, a subtype of the Method category. In order to successfully answer this question, we must analyze the “big picture” of the argument, focusing on structure, not topic. The correct answer will describe the function of the two bolded statements within the argument. Stepping back to look at the entire argument independent of its contextual context provides an insight into what role each piece plays. In essence, the argument states: “Some people believe X. Other people believe Y. The reason they disagree is Z. Some people believe X; the other people believe Y.” Because “Roles in Boldface” questions often contain overlapping answers, these questions are susceptible to process-of-elimination techniques. By correctly categorizing one of the two bolded statements, we can often eliminate more than one answer choice. The second bolded statement (“The reason they disagree is Z”) is likely the easier one to evaluate because it is distinctly different from the rest.

Looking down at the answer choices, “The first portion is evidence that supports a position; the second portion is a position that is not necessarily true based on the evidence.” and “The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion represents the opposing position.” both call the second bolded statement “a position” of one of the two groups. “The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion is evidence in support of that position.” and “The first portion is evidence that supports a position; the second portion is evidence that supports an opposed position.” call it “evidence in support” of a position. Only “The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion describes the underlying reason for the difference in position.” correctly identifies the second portion as the underlying reason for why the two groups disagree. We can actually eliminate four of the five answers without needing to evaluate the first bolded statement. The answer must be “The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion describes the underlying reason for the difference in position.”.

Just to check ourselves, we can evaluate the first statement to see if it fits (“Some people believe X.”) The first statement is clearly a statement of one of two positions, so it matches perfectly with “The first portion represents one of two opposed positions; the second portion describes the underlying reason for the difference in position.”.

Example Question #2 : Understanding Boldface Reasoning

Many physicians cater to their patients’ insistence that they be given antibiotics for a common cold. However, these illnesses are viral in nature, and such medications have no effect on viruses. This course of treatment is troublesome, as antibiotics have dangerous side effects and unnecessary use of these drugs can lead to resistant bacteria. So clearly doctors need to stop prescribing antibiotics to treat the common cold.

Which of the following best describes the role of the two boldfaced portions above?

Possible Answers:

The first is evidence used by the author to support his conclusion; the second is that conclusion.

The first is a circumstance that the author tries to explain; the second is that explanation.

The first is a phenomenon that the argument addresses; the second is evidence used by the author to support his position.

The first is a circumstance that the author tries to explain; the second is the author’s primary conclusion.

The first is a phenomenon that the argument addresses; the second is the author’s primary conclusion.

 

 

 


Correct answer:

The first is a phenomenon that the argument addresses; the second is evidence used by the author to support his position.

Explanation:

In any boldface critical reasoning problem, you need to carefully map out all elements of the argument. Remember that everything in a CR stimulus is a conclusion, a premise, or context. First find the conclusion, which is quite clearly the last sentence: “So clearly doctors need to stop prescribing antibiotics to treat the common cold.” To be sure, ask “why” and then map out the premises supporting this opinion. Why? Because 1. these illnesses are viral in nature, and such medications have no effect on viruses and 2. This course of treatment is troublesome, as antibiotics have dangerous side effects and unnecessary use of these drugs can lead to resistant bacteria. So it should be quite clear that the second boldfaced portion is a premise supporting the author’s conclusion. Since it is easier, start with that portion in the answer choices. "The first is a phenomenon that the argument addresses; the second is the author’s primary conclusion.", "The first is evidence used by the author to support his conclusion; the second is that conclusion.", and "The first is a circumstance that the author tries to explain; the second is the author’s primary conclusion." all refer to this premise as a conclusion so they can be confidently eliminated. For the first boldfaced portion, this part is indeed “a phenomenon that the argument addresses” so "The first is a phenomenon that the argument addresses; the second is evidence used by the author to support his position." is correct. For "The first is a circumstance that the author tries to explain; the second is that explanation.", while this portion might be “a circumstance” it is not at all what the author is trying to explain. The author is rather trying to show that this is a bad idea and must be stopped – he is not explaining why doctors do this! Therefore, both portions of "The first is a circumstance that the author tries to explain; the second is that explanation." are improperly described and this can be eliminated. Correct answer is "The first is a phenomenon that the argument addresses; the second is evidence used by the author to support his position.".

Example Question #2 : Understanding Boldface Reasoning

The latest adaptation in swimming pools is the saltwater pool. The water in such pools is 1/10 as salty as the ocean, approximating the salinity of the human body. Owners of such pools claim that the pools cause no chlorine irritation and that the salt water actually soothes and softens the skin. They also claim that such pools are less expensive to maintain than traditional freshwater pools. However, manufacturers of pool chemicals, such as chlorine, claim that the salt water system is more expensive to install and can leave behind a salt residue on some surfaces.

Which of the following best describes the roles of the boldface portions in the argument above?

Possible Answers:

The first portion is evidence for a claim; the second portion is a competing claim.

The first portion lists two possible advantages of implementing a new system; the second portion directly refutes those advantages.

The first portion is the main conclusion of the argument; the second portion is an unintended consequence of the main conclusion.

The first portion is an unproven claim regarding a new system; the second portion is evidence supporting this claim.

The first portion lists two potential advantages of implementing a new system; the second portion lists an unrelated pair of possible disadvantages of implementing the system.

 

 


Correct answer:

The first portion lists two potential advantages of implementing a new system; the second portion lists an unrelated pair of possible disadvantages of implementing the system.

Explanation:

The correct answer will describe the roles of both portions in bold. The first portion describes two possible advantages of the new salt water system. The second portion replies with two disadvantages that are not directly related to the two advantages listed in the first statement. Choice "The first portion lists two potential advantages of implementing a new system; the second portion lists an unrelated pair of possible disadvantages of implementing the system." correctly describes the roles of each of these statements. Choice "The first portion lists two possible advantages of implementing a new system; the second portion directly refutes those advantages." is very close to this, but incorrectly describes the second portion as directly refuting the advantages stated in the first. Choice "The first portion is an unproven claim regarding a new system; the second portion is evidence supporting this claim.", "The first portion is the main conclusion of the argument; the second portion is an unintended consequence of the main conclusion.", and "The first portion is evidence for a claim; the second portion is a competing claim." each describe both portions incorrectly.

Example Question #1 : Understanding Boldface Reasoning

It is generally believed that an Indian tribe known as “The Red Paint People” first occupied the coast of Maine in approximately 3000 B.C. This name was given to the Indians because their graves contained quantities of a red pigment (iron ochre) that they presumably used to decorate their faces and bodies. However, recently discovered Indian grave sites on the coast of Maine that contain these same red pigments have been conclusively dated to 4000 B.C. Therefore, the “Red Paint People” must have occupied the coast of Maine much earlier than archaeologists previously believed.

In the argument above, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

 

Possible Answers:

The first is a conclusion that is generally accepted as true; the second is a conclusion that refutes it.

The first is evidence used to support a conclusion that the argument opposes; the second is the main conclusion of the argument.

The first is a generalization that the argument accepts as true; the second is the main conclusion of the argument.

The first is an intermediate conclusion that is generally accepted as true; the second is the main conclusion of the argument.

The first is a commonly held belief that the argument seeks to refute; the second is evidence used in that refutation.

Correct answer:

The first is a conclusion that is generally accepted as true; the second is a conclusion that refutes it.

Explanation:

In this argument, the two boldfaced sections are each conclusions. The first is a conclusion that most people accept as true, and the second is the main conclusion of the argument, which refutes the first conclusion using the evidence in the third sentence. Answer choice "The first is a conclusion that is generally accepted as true; the second is a conclusion that refutes it." is thus correct. In "The first is a commonly held belief that the argument seeks to refute; the second is evidence used in that refutation.", the first portion is described perfectly but the second part is incorrect: the last boldface portion is not evidence. In "The first is a generalization that the argument accepts as true; the second is the main conclusion of the argument.", the second portion is correct (it is the main conclusion) but the first part is incorrect. The term “generalization” is not accurate but more importantly the argument does NOT accept it as true, it refutes it. "The first is evidence used to support a conclusion that the argument opposes; the second is the main conclusion of the argument." is probably the most difficult incorrect answer. The second portion is correct but the first is not: the first portion is not evidence but rather a widely accepted conclusion whose evidence is not given in this argument. In "The first is an intermediate conclusion that is generally accepted as true; the second is the main conclusion of the argument.", the first is definitely not an intermediate conclusion, so it is incorrect. Answer is "The first is a conclusion that is generally accepted as true; the second is a conclusion that refutes it.".

Example Question #6 : Understanding Boldface Reasoning

A recent survey has found that in areas where marijuana is legal, almost 20% of the people admit to using it occasionally, whereas in areas where it is illegal, less that 5% people do so. But these facts do not warrant the conclusion drawn by some commentators that in areas where marijuana is legal, more people use it. Clearly, in areas where marijuana is illegal, people do not readily admit to using it even if they are doing so.

The statements in boldface play which of the following roles?

Possible Answers:

The first is evidence to support a conclusion for which the argument provides further evidence; the second is the main conclusion of the argument.

The first is a claim, the argument disputes; the second is a conclusion based on that claim.

The first is a finding whose implications are at issue in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that finding.

The first is a claim used to support a conclusion that the argument accepts; the second is that conclusion.

The first is a finding whose accuracy is evaluated in the argument; the second is evidence presented to establish that the finding is accurate.

Correct answer:

The first is a finding whose implications are at issue in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that finding.

Explanation:

The first statement gives us a correlation between percentage of people of an area who admit to using marijuana and the legal status of marijuana in that area. The argument then states that this correlation has led some to infer that people use marijuana more in areas where it is legal. The second boldface portion explains why this inference is not necessarily warranted by offering an alternative explanation.

"The first is a claim, the argument disputes; the second is a conclusion based on that claim.": Incorrect. The claim made in the first statement is not disputed in the argument. At issue is the inference drawn from that claim.

"The first is a claim used to support a conclusion that the argument accepts; the second is that conclusion.": Incorrect. The second boldfaced portion is not the argument’s conclusion.

"The first is evidence to support a conclusion for which the argument provides further evidence; the second is the main conclusion of the argument.": Incorrect. The first statement is used to support a conclusion that the argument rejects. The second bold portion is not the argument’s conclusion.

"The first is a finding whose implications are at issue in the argument; the second is a claim presented in order to argue against deriving certain implications from that finding.": Correct. The first statement is a finding whose implications are under dispute. The second statement is a claim presented to argue against deriving certain implications. Hence the role of the two statements is correctly identified.

"The first is a finding whose accuracy is evaluated in the argument; the second is evidence presented to establish that the finding is accurate.": Incorrect. The accuracy of the first statement is never questioned, nor is the second used as evidence to establish the finding.

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