Evaluate the Argument questions are somewhat uncommon on GMAT CR- you’ll most likely see just one or two on the exam.
Because of the “Evaluate the Argument” question type, like the “Find the Assumption”, “Strengthen” and “Weaken” questions, also belong to the Assumption family, the basic Assumption lessons apply here as well. As you will see, this question type hinges upon identifying an assumption in order to go ahead and solve the question.
- Assumptions are something an author must believe to be true in order to draw his or her conclusion. These assumptions are never really stated explicitly in the argument.
- All assumption arguments will contain a “core”; i.e. a conclusion and one or more premises that lead to it.
- All assumption arguments will include at least one (and probably more than one) unstated assumption.
As mentioned already, to arrive at the correct answer, your first step for this question type will involve finding an assumption without which the argument would fall apart. As a next step, much like with the “Strengthen” and “Weaken” varieties, you must seek to find a new piece of information that would help determine whether the assumption (and thus the argument) is valid or invalid.
Most “Evaluate the Argument” question stems will contain one or more of the following:
- The word “evaluate” or a synonym
- The word “determine” or a synonym
- Language asking what would be “useful to know (or establish)” or “important to know”
When you ask yourself “what information would help to evaluate the given argument?”, remember that that information should either strengthen or weaken the argument. Hence, the given answer choices actually test the assumption: if it goes one way, the argument is strengthened, and if it goes the other way, the argument is weakened. The correct answer will be written in a way that these two possible “paths” exist, one strengthening and one weakening the argument. The incorrect answers will be presented in a similar format, but won’t actually test the strength of the argument.
“Evaluate the Argument” answer choices will often be in the form of a question or in the form of “whether” a certain thing is one way or the other.
Let’s have a look at an example for a better understanding:
The growing popularity of computer-based activities was widely expected to result in a decline in television viewing, since it had been assumed that people lack sufficient free time to maintain current television viewing levels while spending increasing amounts of free time on the computer. That assumption, however, is evidently false: In a recent mail survey concerning media use, a very large majority of respondents who report increasing time spent per week using computers report no change in time spent watching television.
Which of the following would it be most useful to determine in order to evaluate the argument?
(A) Whether a large majority of the survey respondents reported watching television regularly
(B) Whether the amount of time spent watching television is declining among people who report that they rarely or never use computers
(C) Whether the type of television programs a person watches tends to change as the amount of time spent per week using computers increases
(D) Whether a large majority of the computer owners in the survey reported spending increasing amounts of time per week using computers
(E) Whether the survey respondents’ reports of time spent using computers included time spent using computers at work
Let’s break down the argument, as usual:
Conclusion: The assumption that the growing popularity of computer-based activities widely resulted in a decline in television viewing is evidently false.
Premise: “In a recent mail survey concerning media use, a very large majority of respondents who report increasing time spent per week using computers report no change in time spent watching television.”
Note: “The respondents that answered the survey were said to spend a lot of time using the computer, but it wasn’t made clear if all that time spent was free time (and not time spent at work)”
We can understand the following from the above argument:
Now let’s have a look at the answer choices to see how they contribute to the effective evaluation of the argument:
Option A: If a large majority of the survey respondents did watch TV regularly, then that would mean that the use of the computer has not impacted their TV watching habits; an information that would strengthen the argument.
If a large majority of the survey respondents did not watch TV regularly, it could still mean that they watch it occasionally. Also, the argument is about the computer time sabotaging the TV time, and the respondents’ TV time could be a very short period of time (not incessant, regular TV watchers). So, just the information that the respondents did not watch TV regularly would not help weaken the argument.
Because the path weakening the argument is moot here, option A cannot be the answer.
Option B: If rare users of the computer spent lesser time watching television (if there is, in fact, a decline), this argument would not have too much of a point to make, because the argument has to do with the effect that increased computer usage might have on TV watching habits.
If there is no decline in the time spent watching TV among rare computer users, once again, the argument will not be impacted in any way.
Hence, option B is also incorrect,
Option C: The type of television programs a person watches, once again, has nothing to do with the argument at hand. Incorrect.
Option D: Once again, the argument here is concerned with people who report spending increasing amounts of time on the computer. Just being a computer owner does not guarantee increased use of the computer. Also, this answer choice doesn’t say much about the computer owners’ TV viewing habits. Incorrect.
Option E: Now here’s an answer choice that directly addresses the assumption.
If the respondents’ reports of time spent using computers included time spent using computers at work (and there was evidence to prove/support it), then the argument is weakened, and in fact almost entirely invalidated because the argument is about the se of free time.
If the respondents’ reports of time spent using computers included only free time (and there was evidence to support it), then the argument is valid and strengthened by the evidence.
Hence, option E is the correct answer.