GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions: Sample Weaken Practice Question

In the MBA Crystal Ball series on GMAT Critical Reasoning questions on Assumptions, we’ve covered enough ground to give you the confidence to deal with such questions. In this article, the GoGMAT team provides one final GMAT Critical Reasoning Sample Question on Assumptions.
Here’s the full mini-series:
Part 1: GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions: Identifying and Checking Assumptions
Part 2: GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions: Common Assumption Types
Part 3: GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions: Assumptions Sample


GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions: Sample Weaken Practice Question

Learning GMAT theory and strategy is one thing; learning to apply it to solving real problems is another. It is application that will help you succeed on the GMAT, and the key to that is practice. This post will walk you through a sample Weaken question. Of course, one question won’t do it, but it will give you an idea of what you can expect to encounter onyour GMAT.

Take one and a half or two minutes at most to find the correct answer choice in the selections below, and then review the analysis that follows.

There are few 19th century houses left, but those that remain provide a solid foundation for the belief that 19th century houses were more resistant to all sorts of cataclysms than modern housing is. In-depth architectural studies and tests support the conclusion that 19th century houses that have already survived over a century of use are more likely to endure natural disasters than most houses constructed within the last decade.

Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the argument above?

A) Most areas where 19th century houses still exist have not been subject to serious natural disasters since the end of the 18th century.

B) Modern technology makes it possible to use lightweight materials and prefabricated panels to construct small and medium-sized houses without compromising their durability.

C) Some houses constructed over the last decade are more resistant to cataclysms than 19th century houses.

D) With the exception of those built of the most durable materials, houses fall into disuse and decay within 60 years of their construction.

E)Other research has shown that houses located in high precipitation areas are ruined faster than houses located in medium and low precipitation areas.

The thing about weaken arguments is that they all have at least one flaw.To answer such questions correctly, you must find that flaw. First,locate the argument’s conclusion and the evidence offered in support. Next, find the gap between the two.

This particular argument is unusually confusing for a couple of reasons. (1) It uses the word conclusion instating the evidence:architectural studies and tests support the conclusion that 19th century houses that have already survived over a century of use are more likely to endure natural disasters than most houses constructed within the last decade. (2)The conclusion—19th century houses were more resistant to all sorts of cataclysms than modern housing is—is placed at the beginning of the argument, followed by the evidence. The flaw or logical gap in this argument is its use of limited evidence — about the durability of19th century houses that have already survived over a century of use(and we know from the first sentence that there are few of them) relative to those constructed in the last decade—to support a general conclusion—about cataclysm resistance of (all) 19th century houses relative to (all) modern housing.

Having found the gap,you can now proceed to the second step—inferring any unstated assumptions on which this argument relies. The principal such assumption is that cataclysm resistance of houses studied is generally representative of all houses in each epoch.

You can now continue with the third step,analyzing the answer choices to find the one that negates or undermines this assumption, weakening the connection between evidence and conclusion and thus weakening the argument.

Choice A. Most areas where 19th century houses still exist have not been subject to serious natural disasters since the end of the 18th century.This does not weaken the argument. Regardless of whether 19th century houses that still exist have been subject to natural disasters, research shows that those 19th century houses more likely than most modern houses to survive any natural disaster that may occur.

Choice B. Modern technology makes it possible to use lightweight materials and prefabricated panels to construct small and medium-sized houses without compromising their durability. This choice also fails to capitalize on the gap in the argument’s logic. What it says about contemporary construction methods does not cast doubt on the research evidence cited.

Choice C.Some houses constructed over the last decade are more resistant to cataclysms than 19th century houses. The correct answer to a weaken/strengthen question must present new information. Saying the same thing over again does not add wisdom to what you say. The argument said that 19th century houses that have already survived over a century of use are still more likely to endure natural disasters than MOST houses constructed within the last decade. The word most allows for some modern houses to be more cataclysm resistant, so there is no new information here.

Choice D.With the exception of those built of most durable materials, houses fall into disuse and decay within 60 years of their construction.This is the correct answer. Although this answer does not directly negate the assumption, it tends to undermine it by showing that 19th century houses still standing were built of the most durable materials and may well not be representative of all 19th century houses.

Choice E.Other research has shown that houses located in high precipitation areas get ruined faster than houses located in medium and low precipitation areas. This is simply irrelevant to the argument at hand; since moisture was not part of the subject or logic of the argument, hope you didn’t bet on this one.

The correct answer is D.

In the previous articles on Critical Reasoning, you learned how to identify and double-check assumptions, information that commonly assumed by GMAT arguments, and strategies for solving Weaken and Strengthen questions. Why is this so important? Assumption, Weaken, and Strengthen questions will constitute more than half of all Critical Reasoning questions on the GMAT. Furthermore, the skills you need to deal with these questions will help you answer the other Critical Reasoning questions as well.

Once you are sure you understand the sample question presented here, see if you can figure out how you would strengthen the same argument. When you have mastered this problem, give yourself the advantage of as much additional practice as you can by testing yourself against the problems at ­­gogmat.com (we have Test Generator tool where you can generate customized tests) to increase your odds of success on the test.

 


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here’s more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

2 Comments

  1. indo says:

    I am confused at your answer D : In-depth architectural studies and tests support the conclusion that 19th century houses that have already survived over a century of use are more likely to endure natural disasters than most houses constructed within the last decade. They are only taking about houses that have survived and the fact that they are made of durable materials , those present now will survive all sorts of cataclysms . Isn’t it ?

  2. Sid says:

    Don’t think this is correct. The conclusion specifically states that they are talking about the 19th century houses that have survived and these are more likely to survive longer than most new houses.

    The conclusion is not comparing all 19tj century houses to new houses – only the ones that have survived. So the explanation that these do not represent all 19th century houses, while true, does nothing to weaken the argument.

    In fact, I do not think there is any answer choice which weakens the conclusion in any manner.

    For students reading this and confused by the question should ignore this question for good.

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