How to Distinguish Between Supported and Unsupported Claims for the GED RLA

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

Assessing the validity of evidence is a critical skill on the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts test. Newspapers, speeches, and other media constantly bombard people with information and opinions. To formulate a thoughtful opinion on any issue, you must be able to distinguish between supported and unsupported claims. Evidence needs to be more than just a list of statements — it must be clear, detailed, and proven.

You’re likely to encounter questions on the RLA test that challenge your ability to distinguish the difference between supported and unsupported claims. To do so, write down a list of claims made in the passage. Below or next to each claim, write down the evidence given to support it; write “No evidence” if none is provided.

The following passage contains a mixture of supported and unsupported claims:

The union movement has outlived its usefulness. It is based on a model of confrontation suitable for the 19th century but no longer needed in the 21st. The movement assumes that all employers are determined and able to increase their profits at the expense of workers. Whether they are keeping wages low or stripping workers of benefits, the employers are out to get the workers.

However, today labor laws provide protection against corporate excesses. Minimum wage standards, pensions, health insurance managed by the government, and laws governing safety in the workplace are all in place to protect workers. Laws against discrimination and legal procedures for firing workers restrict an employer’s ability to terminate employment unjustly. Laws are even in place to protect workers who file complaints with government agencies against employers.

With all these protections, unionization does little for workers other than add to the workers’ expenses as they support a bloated union bureaucracy.

Which of the following claims has the most support in this passage?

  • (A) The union movement is based on an outdated model.

  • (B) Current labor laws protect workers.

  • (C) Unions do little for workers other than take their money.

  • (D) Laws protect workers who file complaints against their employers.

To answer this question, write down the list of claims presented in this passage. Your job is half done here, because the answer choices present the claims you need to evaluate:

Claim Support
The union movement is based on an outdated model.
Current labor laws protect workers.
Unions do little for workers other than take their money.
Laws protect workers who file complaints against their
employers.

After reviewing the support for each claim, you should be able to easily narrow down your options to Choices (A) and (B). Choice (C) is an unsupported claim. Choice (D) is evidence to support the claim that current labor laws protect workers. Comparing Choices (A) and (B), you should see that more evidence is presented to support the claim that current labor laws protect workers. Choice (B) is the best answer.

While you’re at it, give yourself some additional practice in analyzing the progression of this argument. The passage opens with the author’s thesis: Unions are no longer needed. The author explains that the union movement is based on a premise that was true in the past but is no longer true.

Note that the wording “out to get the workers” is clearly loaded. It aims to elicit an emotional response rather than convey a reasoned argument, and it reveals the author’s bias against this attitude in those that support modern-day unions.

The second paragraph is accurate. This information is presented in a newspaper style, without bias. Readers can argue whether these government requirements are sufficient, but they do exist. Union members would perhaps add that unions provide protection above what the government agencies provide. The statement that there are minimum wage laws doesn’t address the issue of whether those wages are suitable or adequate, or that unions work to improve wages above the minimum standards set by government.

The final paragraph restates the thesis. However, the last sentence in that paragraph again uses loaded words to denigrate unions — “bloated union bureaucracy” — and phrasing to suggest that workers receive nothing in exchange for the union dues they pay. This biased language may win points with less careful readers, but for sophisticated readers like you, they actually weaken the argument.