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Strengthening Your “Strengthen” Muscles In GMAT Critical Reasoning
By: andrea alexander posted January 25, 2010
One common GMAT reasoning question is the kind that asks you to “strengthen” the argument. The most common mistake that people make on these kinds of questions is failing to stay close enough to the text of the argument as written. Let’s look at an example:
Company X has instituted an Employee Wellness Program that will provide employees with free access to smoking cessation programs, nutritional counseling, and personal training services at a local gym. Similar programs at other companies have been shown to improve workplace attendance and performance, and reduce the employer’s costs for employee health insurance. Thus, the Employee Wellness Program will be good for both the employees and the company.
If true, which of the following would best support the conclusion of the argument above?
a) Many employees take advantage of free nutritional counseling when it is offered by employers.
b) Smoking cessation programs are only effective for 20% of those smokers who use them.
c) Personal training services at a local gym will make it easier for employees to improve their cardiovascular health and reduce the incidence of serious illness.
d) Exercising without personal training services can often lead to injury due to incorrect use of weight-training equipment.
e) Company X will give employees taking part in the smoking cessation program one paid hour off each Friday afternoon to participate in a support group.
Your first step here is to read the question itself, and notice that it’s asking you to find the answer choice that supports, or strengthens, the conclusion. Then, as you read the argument, notice the word thus, which is a great clue to guide you to the argument’s conclusion, which is that “the Employee Wellness Program will be good for both the employees and the company.” The argument’s evidence provides several examples of how to program is good for the company—it will “improve workplace attendance and performance, and reduce the employer’s costs for employee health insurance.” But the conclusion talks about benefits for employees as well as the company, and the argument doesn’t state explicitly how the program will benefit them. Now, let’s look at the answer choices one at a time.a) Many employees take advantage of free nutritional counseling when it is offered by employers.
The counseling’s popularity might indicate that it is beneficial to the employees, but it might not. This choice doesn’t clearly demonstrate that the Employee Wellness Program benefits the employees, and is a good example of a wrong answer that makes the test-taker work too hard in order to justify choosing it. Here, one would have to assume that employees take advantage of the program because it is beneficial to them. A strengthener shouldn’t require a major assumption, and therefore this choice is not the best answer. Wrong answers like this are common, so watch out for them.b) Smoking cessation programs are only effective for 20% of those smokers who use them.
This choice makes it LESS likely that the programs will benefit either the employees or the company. This answer choice may catch your eye if you didn’t read the question closely enough, and are mistakenly looking for a weakener instead of a strengthener.c) Personal training services at a local gym will make it easier for employees to improve their cardiovascular health and reduce the incidence of serious illness.
This is the correct answer. The argument seems to imply that the increased attendance and performance and reduced health insurance costs are due to improved employee health, which would naturally benefit the employees. This choice makes that unstated implication clear, and fills the gap in the argument.
If words like unstated and gap remind you of assumption questions, that’s a good thing! Often, the weakness in an argument is due to the gap left by an unstated assumption, and the best way to strengthen the argument is by explicitly stating the assumption.d) Exercising without personal training services can often lead to injury due to incorrect use of weight-training equipment.
This answer might be tempting, but again, it requires too many assumptions to tie it into the argument as a strengthener. In order for this to strengthen the argument, one must assume that employees would still exercise without the personal training services, and that they would incorrectly use the weight-training equipment. That’s too much work for the question, and so this answer choice must be rejected.e) Company X will give employees taking part in the smoking cessation program one paid hour off each Friday afternoon to participate in a support group.
This might benefit the employees, but it would be a burden to Company X.
Therefore, it’s not the best choice. Lesson of the day: one key to success with strengthen questions on the GMAT is to remember that the correct answer shouldn’t take too much work to justify.Notes/Credits - andrea alexander, grockit.com http://grockit.com/blog/gmat/2010/01/25/strengthening-your-%E2%80%9Cstrengthen%E2%80%9D-muscles-in-gmat-reading-comprehension/