GMAT Critical Reasoning: Hard Weaken Question

Written by Kelly Granson. Posted in GMAT Sample Questions

best-practiceRather than asking to simply weaken the argument's conclusion, some Weaken questions want you to make a proposal or a plan seem less viable. This can be a challenge because, instead of following the author's reasoning, you might feel tempted to criticize the plan from a real-life perspective. Matters can become even more complicated if the argument features several points of view. This entry offers an example of just such a Weaken problem.

Take a moment to consider the following problem:

Proposal: The two most formidable threats faced by freshwater dolphins are depletion of their prey by the enormous by-catch of fish in "mosquito" nets and the increase in pollution that reduces freshwater resources. To slow the dolphins' extinction, local fishermen should stop using "mosquito" nets and turn to other fishing methods.

Objection: Any other fishing method requires the use of more motor boats that will inevitably lead to further the increase in pollution and further threaten the dolphins.

Which of the following, if true, most adequately counters the objection to the proposal?

A. It is impossible for the local fishermen to completely stop using the "mosquito" nets because this would result in financial losses.

B. Replacing "mosquito" nets with other fishing methods would more than double the amount of fish available for dolphins to consume.

C. With the help of active environmental campaigns, local authorities could be persuaded to build more water purification facilities, thus making pollution less of a problem for dolphins.

D. Dolphins suffer significantly more when their food is scarce than when the level of pollution increases.

E. Regardless of whether the food is scarce or abundant, it is unlikely that dolphins will be able to survive if the present rate of pollution increases.

Before analyzing the argument, let us look carefully at the question stem and make sure you understand exactly what you have to weaken. You are asked to counter the objection made to the proposal. However, this does not mean that you may argue with the facts in the objection or that you need to strengthen the proposal in any way. Your goal is to show how, even in light of the objection, the proposal remains a reasonable one. Keeping that in mind, let us simplify the information offered in the argument:


Two threats to dolphins are the use of "mosquito" nets (less food remaining) and pollution (less water available).

To make dolphins safe, we should stop using "mosquito" nets.


But giving up "mosquito" nets would result in more pollution and further threaten the dolphins.

It is important to remember that you cannot argue with the fact that using methods other than "mosquito" nets for fishing will increase the level of pollution. Rather, you must demonstrate how this piece of information does not necessarily make the proposal unreasonable. Let us look for an answer that can accomplish this.

Instead of countering the objection that the argument already contains, Choice A offers a further obstacle to the proposal. If giving up "mosquito" nets could result in financial losses in addition to increasing pollution, there would be even more reason not to implement the plan. Since weakening the proposal itself is not what you want to achieve, Choice A is not a suitable choice.

Choice B tries to highlight the benefits of getting rid of "mosquito" nets, but does nothing in terms of showing how this could help dolphins survive if the pollution increases. This choice might in fact be a tempting one—after all, it does go in the right direction—but it is wrong since it fails to counter the given objection.

Choice C makes a feeble attempt to counter the objection by claiming that if pollution increases, it can be addressed by creating more purification facilities. But because it says that governments could be persuaded to do so, the choice does a poor job of convincing the reader that the increase in pollution will not be a problem.

Choice D is correct. It does the best job of proving that it is worthwhile to stop using "mosquito" nets even if the outcome is a higher level of pollution. If food scarcity presents a greater threat to dolphins than does water pollution, it makes sense to choose the lesser of the two evils: if "mosquito" nets were no longer in use, the corresponding increase in food availability would help more dolphins to survive, even if the pollution also increased.

Choice E does the opposite of what Choice D does: it strengthens the objection to the proposal by showing that the pollution level is the more important factor in dolphin survival.

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