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Introduction of Arguments

An argument, as used on the GMAT, is a presentation of facts and opinions in order to support a position. In common jargon, an argument means a heated debate between two people. While the GMAT will offer a few of these arguments, most will be formal presentations of positions. The arguments come from disparate sources—including sociology, philosophy, science, and even popular culture. The richest source, however, is the Op/Ed page of newspapers.

Many arguments will be fallacious. And many correct answers will be false! This often causes students much consternation; they feel that the correct answer should be true. But the arguments are intended to test your ability to think logically. Now logic is the study of the relationships between statements, not of the truth of those statements. Being overly concerned with finding the truth can be ruinous to your GMAT logic score.

Many books recommend reading the question before reading the argument. This method, however, does not work for me; I find it distracting and exhausting. Reading the questions twice can use up precious time and tax your concentration. I get the feeling that many books recommend this method because it gives the readers a feeling that they are getting the “scoop” on how to beat the test. Nevertheless, you may want to experiment—it may work for you.

We will analyze the arguments from four different perspectives. First, we will study how the answer-choices are constructed to obscure the correct answer. The GMAT writers rely heavily on obfuscation for argument questions. Next, we will study the structure of an argument—the premises, conclusions, counter-premises, etc. Although the questions are designed so that they can be answered without reference to formal logic, some knowledge of the foundations of logic will give you a definite advantage. Then, we will study how to diagram certain arguments. Finally, we will classify the major types of reasoning used in arguments and their associated fallacies.

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