Argument Analysis on the GRE — Strategies and Practice Questions - dummies

Argument Analysis on the GRE — Strategies and Practice Questions

By Consumer Dummies

When you tackle an Argument Analysis question on the GRE, your job is to identify whether the author has done a sufficient job of presenting and supporting his position.

Graduate schools expect you not only to read with understanding but also to scrutinize the information and argument presented and sort logic that is reasonable from logic that is not.

Each Argument Analysis question consists of a short argument followed by one question and five answer choices. You may strengthen the argument, weaken the argument, or discern the roles of highlighted sentences within the argument.

When you answer an Argument Analysis question, be prepared to

  • Identify the premise and conclusion of the argument.

  • Find the hidden assumption.

  • Spot weaknesses in supporting details.

  • Explore logical fallacies.

  • Use the process of elimination.

These passages use a lot of flawed logic, so watch out for arguments that do the following:

  • Rely on circular reasoning, in which a premise supports itself

  • Assume erroneous cause-and-effect arguments, where two independent events are described as one having caused the other

  • Use sweeping generalizations, in which something that has an effect in one context will have the same effect in another

The following sample passage and question will test your analytical skills.

Sample passage

Read the following passage and then answer the question.

The organic food movement was designed to provide healthier food options without the use of pesticides or unnatural substances, such as growth hormones. The high prices of organic foods deter many people from being able to experience these positive attributes of food. Manufacturers say the cost of certifying their produce as organic is high. Part of this financial burden must fall to the consumers. If the government provided financial assistance to these producers, more people could lead healthier lives.

Sample question

  1. Select the sentence that best supports the assumption of the argument.

    A. If the government provided financial assistance to these producers, more people could lead healthier lives.

    B. The organic food movement was designed to provide healthier food options without the use of pesticides or unnatural substances, such as growth hormones.

    C. Part of this financial burden must fall to the consumers.

    D. The high prices of organic foods deter many people from being able to experience these positive attributes of food.

    E. Manufacturers say the cost of certifying their produce as organic is high.

Answer and explanation

  1. D. The high prices of organic foods deter many people from being able to experience these positive attributes of food.

    If more people were able to lead healthier lives by eating organically, and if that ability were supported by the government to lower the price of organic foods, then the only thing keeping people from eating organic foods is the price. Which sentence provides the best restatement of this idea? Choice (A) is the assumption (if the government provided financial assistance to these producers, more people could lead healthier lives), so it does not support itself. Choices (B), (C), and (E) all provide facts about the issue related to organic food consumption — the organic food movement was designed to provide healthier food options without the use of pesticides or unnatural substances, such as growth hormones; part of this financial burden must fall to the consumers; and manufacturers say the cost of certifying their produce as organic is high — but only Choice (D) gives the reason why these foods are not being consumed. Thus, Choice (D) provides the appropriate evidence to support the assumption.