# Describe The Argument

The “ Describe the Argument ” question type on the GMAT CR, much like the Boldface questions, belong to the structure-based Critical Reasoning Family. An iconic trademark of this question type is to offer “abstract” answer choices based on the structure of the argument (most likely with regard to the four basic building blocks of Argument Structure).

The majority of these Argument questions will offer two competing points of view in dialogue format. Then you will likely be asked how the second person responds to the first person’s argument. A typical example of a question stem would be “John responds to Sadie’s argument by…”.

A minority of these questions will offer just one point of view and ask you how the author of the argument develops his or her point of view. For e.g. “The author develops the argument by doing which of the following?” – is a typical question stem from this minority.

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Your task is to determine how a particular part of the text was constructed. When the text is a dialogue between two people, you must read and deconstruct the first person’s complete argument just as you would for any other GMAT CR argument. Once you have broken down the argument into its building blocks, you will clearly be able to understand which piece of the argument the second person’s response is attacking.

Let’s try and solve a few examples:

Keith: Compliance with new government regulations requiring the installation of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems in all theatres and arenas will cost the entertainment industry \$25 billion annually. Consequently, jobs will be lost and profits diminished. Therefore, these regulations will harm the country’s economy.

Laura: The \$25 billion spent by some businesses will be revenue for others. Jobs and profits will be gained as well as lost.

Laura responds to Keith by

(A) demonstrating that Keith’s conclusion is based on evidence that is not relevant to the issue at hand

(B) challenging the plausibility of the evidence that serves as the basis for Keith’s argument

(C) suggesting that Keith’s argument overlooks a mitigating consequence

(D) reinforcing Keith’s conclusion by supplying a complementary interpretation of the evidence Keith cites

(E) agreeing with the main conclusion of Keith’s argument but construing that conclusion as grounds for optimism rather than for pessimism

Let’s start by breaking down Keith’s argument:

Conclusion: “Therefore, these regulations will harm the country’s economy.”

Premise: “Compliance with new government regulations requiring the installation of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems in all theatres and arenas will cost the entertainment industry \$25 billion annually. Consequently, jobs will be lost and profits diminished.”

Now what does Laura say to attack the argument’s composition? Simply put, she says that some will gain and some will lose, and hence the economy is not likely to take that bad a hit.

Because she is refuting Keith’s conclusion, options D and E can be eliminated.

Options A and B are incorrect because Laura does not once question Keith’s evidence. In fact, she uses the same evidence to support her own argument.

Clearly, she is agreeing with the evidence Keith has presented, but is disagreeing with his final conclusion, because she realizes that Keith has overlooked the positive aspects of the circumstances.

Notice how the deconstructing of Keith’s argument to the premise and the conclusion helped you realise that the premise for both Keith and Laura’s arguments are one and the same. It was the conclusion that differed.

Let’s try another one:

Networks of blood vessels in bats’ wings serve only to disperse heat generated in flight. This heat is generated only because bats flap their wings. Thus, paleontologists’ recent discovery that the winged dinosaur Sandactylus had similar networks of blood vessels in the skin of its wings provides evidence for the hypothesis that Sandactylus flew by flapping its wings, not just by gliding.

In the passage, the author develops the argument by

(A) forming the hypothesis that best explains several apparently conflicting pieces of evidence

(B) reinterpreting evidence that had been used to support an earlier theory

(C) using an analogy with a known phenomenon to draw a conclusion about an unknown phenomenon

(D) speculating about how structures observed in present-day creatures might have developed from similar structures in creatures now extinct

(E) pointing out differences in the physiological demands that flight makes on large, as opposed to small, creatures

Breaking it down:

Conclusion: “Thus, paleontologists’ recent discovery that the winged dinosaur Sandactylus had similar networks of blood vessels in the skin of its wings provides evidence for the hypothesis that Sandactylus flew by flapping its wings, not just by gliding.”

Premise: “Networks of blood vessels in bats’ wings serve only to disperse heat generated in flight. This heat is generated only because bats flap their wings.”

In this argument, new information about the Sandactylus’ locomotion has been inferred based on similar characteristics found in bats.

Option A talks about the development of the argument by the resolution of multiple discrepancies, which is clearly not the case.

Option D can be eliminated because the author hints at absolutely no relationship between the bats and the dinosaurs.

It is imperative to note that the pivotal point of comparison in the premise is “similar networks of blood vessels in the skin of its wings”, and because this is a point of physiological similarity, option E is out as well.

Options B and C both seem justifiable, but option B uses the words “earlier theory”. From what is understood of the argument, there is just the one theory discussed in the argument, pertaining to the Sandactylus’ flying mechanism by flapping its wings as well as by gliding.

Hence, the answer is option C.

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