GMAT Critical Reasoning: Sample Strengthen Question

Written by Kelly Granson. Posted in GMAT Sample Questions

question-markIn the entry on general principles of working with Strengthen questions, you learned that, much like weaking an argument or finding the assumption, strengthening is all about correctly identifying the conclusion. Once you have found it, your job is to make the conclusion more likely to be true, even to a slight extent, with an answer choice that offers a new piece of information. Here's how strengthening works in practice.

Look at the following question.

AlwaysFit, a new wellness center, has conducted a market survey that has revealed that most customers are particularly attracted to personal trainer programs because such programs are designed to help them achieve specific goals. AlwaysFit is now planning to hire more women as personal trainers, hoping that this step will attract more female clients.

Which of the following, if true, best supports the prediction that AlwaysFit will succeed in attracting more female customers by hiring more female personal trainers?

A. Many centers other than AlwaysFit have a lot of female personal trainers on staff.

B. AlwaysFit is planning to hire only women who possess extensive work experience as personal trainers and have achieved outstanding results.

C. The survey also indicates that most women are reluctant to start a personal training program with a male trainer because they fear they might not receive ongoing motivation and support.

D. AlwaysFit is planning to make its personal training program more attractive by offering substantial discounts to female customers.

E. According to the survey, a significant proportion of male customers prefer personal trainers who are female.

Start by isolating the argument's conclusion from the hard facts. The first sentence provides a premise: personal training programs are popular. The second sentence describes a plan AlwaysFit wants to implement in an effort to attract women: hire more female personal trainers.This argument itself contains no conclusion. Instead, it is given in the question stem: AlwaysFit's plan will be successful.

Consider this plan for a moment. Does it seem well-founded? Does the argument provide any specific data to support the plan? The argument states that personal training programs enjoy popularity. The premises, however, present no facts about the preferences of female customers. As soon as you think about it, the weakness in the argument becomes apparent. What if women were equally willing to work with male and female personal trainers? What if they actually preferred working with men? Or maybe females are not attracted to personal training programs at all, regardless of the trainer's gender? As you see, there are many factors that that could cause AlwaysFit's plan to fail. You cannot eliminate all of them with the correct answer, but a choice that closes at least one of these gaps will do just fine.

Now examine the answer choices, keeping in mind that the right one should provide some basis for thinking that women will indeed be attracted by the opportunity to work with female trainers.

Choice A is irrelevant. Many other wellness centers might have women on staff, but how does the presence of female trainers affect their clients? Perhaps hiring female trainers has not attracted more women after all. So the information in this choice does nothing to strengthen the conclusion.

Choice B is tempting because it does address the potential effectiveness of AlwaysFit's plan: hiring experienced trainers is certainly a good thing. However, it is still based on an unvalidated assumption that more female trainers means more female customers. If that is not true, AlwaysFit will not attract more women, no matter how qualified the new trainers are.

Choice C is correct because it addresses women's preferences. Knowing that women are reluctant to work with male trainers gives us a reason to believe that they will be more willing to work with female staff instead. Although this statement does NOT make the argument's conclusion bulletproof (there still can be other reasons why AlwaysFit might fail to attract more women customers), unlike any other choice, it does successfully close one of the holes in the argument.

Similar to B, Choice D is trying to explain why the plan will be attractive, but this information is also irrelevant. Not knowing anything about the preferences of female clients regarding the gender of their trainers, we cannot say whether the plan will help AlwaysFit attract more women.

Choice E tries to distract you by talking about clients' preferences, but since it states what male clients prefer, it does nothing to support the conclusion about winning female clients.

• The key to successfully strengthening an argument is finding a weakness or an unsupported assumption and either covering the weakness or supporting the assumption.

• It is important to avoid choices that are irrelevant to the conclusion or that may actually tend to weaken it.

Keeping these two principles in mind makes Strengthen questions among easiest ones to solve.

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