GMAT Verbal : Useful to Evaluate Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Useful To Evaluate Questions

Over the past twenty years in the U.S., the average number of hours per week that people spend at work has increased from approximately 41 hours to nearly 52 hours. It is thought that this change has played an important role in the corresponding increase in average body mass index for working Americans over the same period. The increased time at work does not allow people as much time to exercise and engage in healthy activities that help reduce weight.

Which of the following questions would be most useful to answer in determining whether the increased workweek is an important cause of the increase in average body mass index over the past twenty years?

Possible Answers:

Did employees exercise and engage in healthy activities with the additional time when they were not at work twenty years ago?

What factors other than exercise and engaging in healthy activities are important for weight loss?

What percentage of employees use their free time to exercise and engage in healthy activities today compared to twenty years ago?

Do more employers offer healthy eating options in their onsite cafeterias today compared to twenty years ago?

Do more employers subsidize gym and health club memberships for their employees today compared to twenty years ago?

Correct answer:

Did employees exercise and engage in healthy activities with the additional time when they were not at work twenty years ago?

Explanation:

In this question, your goal is to assess the quality of the argument supporting the increase in the average workweek as an important cause for the increase in BMI over a period of 20 years. What is the evidence given for this conclusion? That the increased time at work does not allow people as much time to exercise and engage in healthy activities that help reduce weight. As in any useful to evaluate question, you should attack this line of reasoning and consider what assumptions or flaws are inherent in the argument. At its heart, this argument makes an important assumption: that 20 years ago people used the additional time when they were not at work to exercise and engage in healthy activities. Imagine that 20 years ago almost no one used that additional 11 hours to exercise – they used it to go out to dinner, watch TV, sleep, etc. Then this argument falls apart as the additional time spent at work does not change the time available for exercise and healthy activities compared to 20 years ago. Any question that relates to this assumption will be the correct answer. For "Do more employers offer healthy eating options in their onsite cafeterias today compared to twenty years ago?" and "Do more employers subsidize gym and health club memberships for their employees today compared to twenty years ago?" these questions are unimportant as they do not relate to the issue of having more time. "What percentage of employees use their free time to exercise and engage in healthy activities today compared to twenty years ago?" is quite tricky and might seem important at first glance but the percentage is not important. Imagine that a higher percentage of people today are engaging in exercise and healthy activities but they only have a very small amount of time to do it or vice versa. The issue is whether they now lack the time to exercise and engage in healthy activities and this question does not address this fact. "Did employees exercise and engage in healthy activities with the additional time when they were not at work twenty years ago?" hits exactly the assumption discussed earlier and is thus the correct answer. For "What factors other than exercise and engaging in healthy activities are important for weight loss?", this argument is only about whether a lack of time to exercise and engage in healthy activities resulting from more work is the cause of an increase in average body mass index – other factors are not important. Correct answer is "Did employees exercise and engage in healthy activities with the additional time when they were not at work twenty years ago?".

Example Question #2 : Useful To Evaluate Questions

Restaurateur: If San Francisco wants to retain its thriving restaurant industry, then we must defeat the newly proposed increase in the city dining tax. In cities across the country that have enacted a similarly high tax, within three years nearly 35% of all restaurants have gone out of business.

To better evaluate the argument above, it would be most useful to answer which of the following questions?

Possible Answers:

What percentage of restaurants typically go out of business over a three-year period in cities without a similarly high dining tax?

Does the new city tax apply to restaurants that have been in business for more than 25 years?

How would San Francisco’s new dining tax compare to other cities across the country?

Is price the most important factor for potential customers in determining where they will choose to dine?

How many restaurants are in San Francisco compared to other cities across the country?

Correct answer:

What percentage of restaurants typically go out of business over a three-year period in cities without a similarly high dining tax?

Explanation:

In any useful to evaluate question, you should attack the argument and consider what flaws or assumptions exist. Here the primary assumption is that 35% of restaurants going out of business is a higher than normal figure. What if it is generally true that about a third of restaurants go out of business in a three-year period? Then this argument would be quite weak. The argument suggests that a high dining tax has caused a higher than average closing rate in other cities, but no evidence is given that 35% is actually a high figure. Given that, answer choice "What percentage of restaurants typically go out of business over a three-year period in cities without a similarly high dining tax?" indicates the question you would want to know the answer to in order to better evaluate the quality of the argument.

For "How would San Francisco’s new dining tax compare to other cities across the country?", this comparison is unimportant as you are already given the necessary comparison in the stimulus – you know that other cities have a similarly high tax rate and the issue is only whether 35% is really significant. For "Is price the most important factor for potential customers in determining where they will choose to dine?", price does not need to be the MOST important factor within this argument. The argument suggests that higher prices caused by a higher tax would cause restaurants to go out of business, but this does not require that price be the most important factor for customers. For "How many restaurants are in San Francisco compared to other cities across the country?", with percentage data used in the stimulus, the number of restaurants in other cities compared to San Francisco is irrelevant. For "Does the new city tax apply to restaurants that have been in business for more than 25 years?", whether there may or may not be certain restaurants that are exempt from the tax has no meaningful impact on the quality of the argument. The correct answer is "What percentage of restaurants typically go out of business over a three-year period in cities without a similarly high dining tax?".

Example Question #3 : Useful To Evaluate Questions

Because of extreme congestion in the city of Nobi, it typically takes close to one hour to commute at rush hour to the downtown business area by car from the neighboring suburbs that are only ten to fifteen miles away. Recently, the city installed separate bus lanes that connect these suburbs to the downtown area and that allow buses to move unimpeded during rush hour. With these new lanes, commuters from the suburbs will now be able to use the bus to reach the downtown area during rush hour in considerably less time than they could previously by driving their cars.

Which of the following would be most important to know in evaluating the argument above?

Possible Answers:

Whether a large percentage of commuters drive to the downtown area at times other than rush hour.

Whether the buses have frequent departure times during rush hour.

Whether the buses used in the new separate lanes are similar to other buses used.

Whether the buses make frequent stops when traveling between the suburbs and the downtown area during rush hour.

Whether a large percentage of commuters use means other than driving to commute to the downtown area during rush hour.

Correct answer:

Whether the buses make frequent stops when traveling between the suburbs and the downtown area during rush hour.

Explanation:

In this argument, the conclusion states that people will be able to get downtown in less time by bus than by driving. What is the reason given for this conclusion? That new bus lanes have been made which allow buses to move unimpeded through congested areas. As in any useful to evaluate question, you should attack this line of reasoning and consider what assumptions or flaws are inherent in the argument. At its heart, this argument assumes that because buses can move unimpeded in the new lanes, they will travel the distance faster than cars that do not have special lanes. But what if the buses are incredibly slow for other reasons? What if they have to stop every quarter mile for time consuming drop-offs and pick-ups? In analyzing the answer choices, you are looking for some piece of information relating to this assumption. For "Whether a large percentage of commuters drive to the downtown area at times other than rush hour.", what percentage of commuters drive outside of rush hour is unimportant as this argument is only concerned with the time it takes at rush hour. Similarly for "Whether a large percentage of commuters use means other than driving to commute to the downtown area during rush hour.", the argument only makes a comparison between buses and driving so other means of travel are not important. "Whether the buses have frequent departure times during rush hour." is tricky as it seems like it might matter but this argument is only concerned with the time it takes to get from point A to point B at rush hour. Whether the bus leaves every 5 minutes or every 30 minutes has no impact on the conclusion as it does not change how long it would take. "Whether the buses make frequent stops when traveling between the suburbs and the downtown area during rush hour." addresses exactly the assumption discussed earlier and is thus correct. If the bus makes frequent stops then it might actually take longer than driving a car, greatly weakening the conclusion. For "Whether the buses used in the new separate lanes are similar to other buses used." the similarity of the buses does nothing to address the issue of time compared to driving so is not relevant. Correct answer is "Whether the buses make frequent stops when traveling between the suburbs and the downtown area during rush hour.".

Example Question #1 : Useful To Evaluate Questions

In Acadia National Park, there is a large network of gravel carriage roads that are closed to vehicular traffic but open to a variety of other uses. In an attempt to substantially limit the damage that occurs to the carriage roads from overuse during the course of a year, park officials are imposing strict rules during the spring season. From March 15th to May 1st, when the roads are especially soft and more easily damaged, horses and bikes will be prohibited from all carriage roads, and walkers and runners will only be allowed on certain sections.

In assessing whether the park officials' plan to limit the damage to the carriage roads will be successful, it would be most useful to know which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Whether some sections of the carriage roads are more susceptible to damage from overuse than others.

Whether bikes and horses cause more damage to the carriage roads than walkers and runners do.

Whether a considerable percentage of carriage road usage occurs from March 15th to May 1st.

Whether a substantial percentage of visitors to the park ride their bikes on the carriage roads during their visit.

Whether snowmobilers are allowed to use the carriage roads during the winter months.

Correct answer:

Whether a considerable percentage of carriage road usage occurs from March 15th to May 1st.

Explanation:

This argument assumes that many people are actually using the carriage roads from March 15th to May 1st. What if virtually no one visited the park that time of year? Then this plan would do very little to prevent damage from overuse. Therefore the answer is "Whether a considerable percentage of carriage road usage occurs from March 15th to May 1st." – if a large percentage of use occurs during this time period then it’s a good plan, and if a small percentage of use occurs during this time period then it’s a bad plan. The relative damage caused by bikes and horses versus runners and runners and walkers is not important (both are being limited and you don’t know the real difference in the limitation). Whether snowmobiles are allowed in winter does not relate to the efficacy of this specific plan – maybe only a few snowmobiles use the roads. "Whether some sections of the carriage roads are more susceptible to damage from overuse than others." is pretty much given already in the stimulus and "Whether a substantial percentage of visitors to the park ride their bikes on the carriage roads during their visit." is also not relevant as you don’t need to know how popular biking is in relation to the total population. Answer is "Whether a considerable percentage of carriage road usage occurs from March 15th to May 1st.".

Example Question #2 : Useful To Evaluate Questions

62% of baseball fans believe their favorite team will win the World Series within the next five years. But, of course, only one team can win the World Series each year, so, in a league with 30 teams, at most 5, or 16.7%, will actually win. Clearly, many of these fans’ championship expectations for their favorite teams will go unmet.

In evaluating the argument, it would be most useful to determine which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Whether a single team is likely win the World Series multiple times during the next five years.

How many teams are good enough to be considered championship contenders in an average year.

Whether each team has roughly the same number of fans.

How many current fans will continue to follow their teams if their championship expectations are not met.

Whether baseball will drastically change the number of teams that qualify for the playoffs during the next five years.

Correct answer:

Whether each team has roughly the same number of fans.

Explanation:

Given that the argument seems almost self-evidently true (62.5% is much more than 16.7%), the real question in this "useful to evaluate" problem is: "How could the conclusion about fans having unmet expectations possibly be false?"

There's a very subtle disconnect in the statistics given by this question; the numbers don't actually offer the right sort of information. Specifically, there's a different between discussing the number or percentage of teams that will win, on the one hand, and discussing the number or percentage of fans whose teams will win, on the other hand. If, for instance, nearly all fans share the same favorite baseball team, then it would be quite possible for nearly all of the fans to root for a winner even as only one of 30 teams actually wins.

A simple example with numbers: Imagine 8 fans, of whom five root for the Yankees, one roots for the Dodgers, one roots for the Braves, and one roots for the Tigers. The other 26 teams have no fans. If the Yankees win the World Series, only 1/30, or about 3%, of the baseball teams in the league won the championship. But fully 5/8, or 62.5%, of the fans got to see their favorite team win and their championship expectations met.

In the face of this disconnect, we need to know whether such an uneven distribution of fandom actually exists. If it does, then the fans' expectations could be met. If, instead, the distribution of fandom is relatively even, then indeed the argument's conclusion will hold as most of the fans will see their expectations go unmet. Thus "Whether each team has roughly the same number of fans." is correct.

"Whether baseball will drastically change the number of teams that qualify for the playoffs during the next five years." is not relevant, since regardless of now many teams may qualify for the playoffs we are told that only one team can win the championship each year.

"How many teams are good enough to be considered championship contenders in an average year." sounds nice, but the conclusion is about "championship[s]," and being a contender just isn't good enough.

"Whether a single team is likely win the World Series multiple times during the next five years." doubles down on the numerical flaw. If a single team wins multiple championships, then the number of distinct championship teams over the five year span would actually comprise less than 16.7% of all of the teams, potentially leaving even more fan expectations unmet.

"How many current fans will continue to follow their teams if their championship expectations are not met." simply does not address the conclusion. At no point do we care how fans might react to having their expectations frustrated.

Example Question #3 : Useful To Evaluate Questions

Mice treated with certain statins intended to decrease blood pressure also experienced drug-induced toxic myopathy, also known as muscular degeneration. Scientists hypothesize that this may have occurred because the statins cause an over-activation of creatine kinases, which are known to cause muscular degeneration.

Which of the following experiments would yield the most useful results for analyzing the scientists’ hypothesis?

Possible Answers:

Injecting mice with creatine kinase inhibitors and then monitoring muscle tissue response.

Measuring mice’s level of muscular myopathy, administering a creatine kinase inhibitor, and then measuring myopathy once more.

Administering statins to mice with increased creatine kinase activity and observing creatine kinase activity.

Injecting mice with a creatine kinase inhibitor before administering the statins and then monitoring muscle tissue response.

Injecting mice with muscle repair medication and then monitoring levels of muscular response.

Correct answer:

Injecting mice with a creatine kinase inhibitor before administering the statins and then monitoring muscle tissue response.

Explanation:

When you are asked to determine which experiment would yield useful results for analyzing a particular problem, recognize that this means that you are dealing with a (slightly less obvious) Useful to Evaluate problem. With any Useful to Evaluate problem, remember that you first want to look at the stimulus itself to figure out what the scientists or analysts are trying to determine. Then look for the gap - what piece of information is missing that could potentially either prove their hypothesis or disprove it?

The stimulus states that mice treated with statins experienced drug-induced muscular degeneration and that the scientists think this might have been cause by the statins over-activating something called creatine kinase (which is known to cause muscular degeneration). Notice that the hypothesis has to do with cause and effect: statins cause an over-activation of creatine kinase, which causes muscular degeneration. But what if the statins directly caused the degeneration instead of causing that intermediate step? Choice "Injecting mice with a creatine kinase inhibitor before administering the statins and then monitoring muscle tissue response." is the only option that accounts for this possibility. By first administering a creatine kinase blocker, scientists can ensure that the effect is caused because the statins activate the creatine kinase rather than because the statins directly damage muscles. Choice "Injecting mice with a creatine kinase inhibitor before administering the statins and then monitoring muscle tissue response." is therefore correct.

Among the other answers, choices "Administering statins to mice with increased creatine kinase activity and observing creatine kinase activity." and "Injecting mice with muscle repair medication and then monitoring levels of muscular response." can be eliminated because they don't mention creatine kinase at all. Choice "Injecting mice with creatine kinase inhibitors and then monitoring muscle tissue response." can be eliminated because it doesn't mention the administering the statin. Since you're looking for the mechanism by which the statin causes muscular degeneration. Choice "Measuring mice’s level of muscular myopathy, administering a creatine kinase inhibitor, and then measuring myopathy once more." can be eliminated because it's already known that creatine kinase can cause muscular myopathy - you don't need to establish that again, so "Measuring mice’s level of muscular myopathy, administering a creatine kinase inhibitor, and then measuring myopathy once more." can be eliminated.

Example Question #7 : Useful To Evaluate Questions

The infection of manufacturing lines with bacteria is a serious safety risk that many food manufacturers spend millions of dollars per year to prevent. Because sterilizing stainless steel containers with chemical sterilizers is expensive to do every day, some analysts have recommended installing UV lamps that can effectively sterilize the stainless steel containers without affecting food production. The lamp costs the same as one month’s supply of chemical sterilizers to sterilize the same number of stainless steel containers.

In deciding whether the change would be effective in decreasing the cost of food sterilization, it would be most useful to determine which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Whether UV radiation is harmful to workers who come in contact with it.

Whether the UV lamps tend to be effective for longer than a single month.

Whether appropriate cooking practices can effectively destroy bacteria once food has been shipped to consumers.

Whether food distributors should also sterilize their trucks in order to keep food safe.

Whether stainless steel containers are more prone to contamination than are other types of containers.

Correct answer:

Whether the UV lamps tend to be effective for longer than a single month.

Explanation:

For any Useful to Evaluate question, you should look for the piece of information that, depending on the answer to the additional information, would exploit a gap between the premise and the suggested course of action. To do that, you first need to understand the stimulus itself.

The stimulus states that bacterial infection is a dangerous problem for manufacturers. Chemical sterilizers are also very expensive, so analysts have suggested using UV lamps to do the same job since a single UV lamp costs the same as a month's worth of chemical sterilizers that could be used to sterilize the same number of vats. You are then asked what would be useful in figuring out whether the suggestion would help determine whether the change would decrease the cost of food sterilization. (The key here is that it saves money - not that it's safer or more effective.)

The only place that the stimulus discusses cost is where it states that a lamp costs the same as a month of chemical sterilizers in order to sterilize the same number of vats. If the lamps last longer than a month, then they will fulfill the requirement since the lamps will therefore be cheaper than chemical sterilizers. However, if the lamps only last a month (or less) then the lamps will be either the same cost or more expensive than the chemical sterilizers. Therefore the correct answer must be "Whether the UV lamps tend to be effective for longer than a single month.".

Among the other answers, you can eliminate "Whether food distributors should also sterilize their trucks in order to keep food safe." and "Whether appropriate cooking practices can effectively destroy bacteria once food has been shipped to consumers." since food safety and other points on the production chain aren't under discussion. Similarly, "Whether UV radiation is harmful to workers who come in contact with it." can be eliminated because worker safety is not a consideration within the argument - only cost is considered. Choice "Whether stainless steel containers are more prone to contamination than are other types of containers." can also be eliminated since the analyst is considering replacing the chemical sterilizers and does not discuss the possibility of using a different type of container.

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