In the previous two posts we discussed how to read a GMAT RC passage and how to tackle GMAT RC questions. Unlike CR and SC though, the process outlined for RCs cannot be immediately applied to perfection and results seen, something for which there is a strong reason.Mastering how to solve a question type — RC, CR, SC, PS & DS — on the GMAT or on any other test is always a multiplication of two variables — Knowledge & Skill.
Each of these question types hence carries a different weightage for Knowledge and Skill. It goes without saying that Knowledge will carry a higher weightage on the Quantitative question types, PS and DS, than on other question types since there is no way you can solve a problem unless you know the basics of the topic, while the same is not true for a CR question or an RC question.
Even between PS and DS, we know that DS will have a higher emphasis on skill since it is question of assessment rather than solving to the end.
Of all the question types, RC is the one that is almost fully a skill — there is barely any knowledge required. It is entirely dependent on mastering a process just like it is the case with mastering any other skill, say driving a car — anyone who has taken a driving course would attest to the fact that between your course getting over and your becoming an accomplished driver there lie miles and miles of real-time driving.
Similarly the two posts on RC outline the process of solving and you need to consistently try to implement it before you see a marked improvement in your accuracy.
To facilitate this practice let’s do some guided RC posts that will demonstrate the execution of the process.
GMAT RC Passage taken from the GMAT Verbal Review
Two modes of argumentation have been used on behalf of women’s emancipation in Western societies. Arguments in what could be called the “relational” feminist tradition maintain the doctrine of “equality in difference,” or equity as distinct from equality. They posit that biological distinctions between the sexes result in a necessary sexual division of labor in the family and throughout society and that women’s procreative labor is currently undervalued by society, to the disadvantage of women. By contrast the individualist feminist tradition emphasizes individual human rights and celebrates women’s quest for personal autonomy, while downplaying the importance of gender roles and minimizing discussion of childbearing and its attendant responsibilities.
This is a passage where the topic of the passage is very easy to discern since it is directly announced at the outset — the two schools of feminist thought, relational and individualist.
Topic of the passage: Two schools of feminist thought
Argument of the passage: Yet to determine since it can take any form, either citing one as better than the other or weighting the pros and cons of both or suggesting a compromise.
Before going into the next paragraph we know that it will concern the development of these two schools of thought or how they viewed each other or the pros and cons of one of the two.
Before the late nineteenth century, these views coexisted within the feminist movement, often within the writings of the same individual. Between 1890 and 1920, however, relational feminism, which had been the dominant strain in feminist thought, and which still predominates among European and non-Western feminists, lost ground in England and the United States. Because the concept of individual rights was already well-established in the Anglo-Saxon legal and political tradition, individualist feminism came to predominate in English-speaking countries. At the same time, the goals of the two approaches began to seem increasingly irreconcilable. Individualist feminists began to advocate a totally gender-blind system with equal rights for all. Relational feminists while agreeing that equal educational and economic opportunities outside the home should be available for all women, continued to emphasize women’s special contributions to society as homemakers and mothers; they demanded special treatment for women, including protective legislation for women workers, state-sponsored maternity benefits, and paid compensation for housework.
Main Argument: Initially both schools,RF and IF, co-existed, within the feminist movement, with RF being the dominant one but slowly IF became more popular in English-speaking countries and their goals also became different.
Primary Purpose: To outline the historical development of both schools of thought in Europe and English-speaking parts of the world.
Relational arguments have a major pitfall: because they underline women’s physiological and psychological distinctiveness, they are often appropriated by political adversaries and used to endorse male privilege. But the individualist approach, by attacking gender roles, denying the significanceof physiological difference, and condemning existing familial institutions as hopelessly patriarchal,has often simply treated as irrelevant the family roles important to many women. If the individualist framework, with its claim for women’s autonomy, could be harmonized with the family-oriented concerns of relational feminists, a more fruitful model for contemporary feminist politics could emerge.
Main Argument: Both schools have drawbacks but if IF can incorporate RF concerns then more beneficial model can emerge.
Primary Purpose: To highlight the flaws of both schools of thought and suggest a way forward.
Opinion of the author: Only the last paragraph has the opinion of the author; the preceding paragraphs is a summary provided by the author, a background to make his/her point.
One way of identifying the author’s opinion is that it will always express approval or disapproval and/or suggest plans of action. If you notice it is only in the last paragraph that the author starts expressing approval or disapproval.
You will find many such passages — those involving two theories, two book reviews, two schools of thought — in the GMAT OG and most of them will follow the same pattern — the initial paragraphs will offer the background and the final one will present the author’s opinion.
QUESTION # 1 The author of the passage alludes to the well- established nature of the concept of individual rights in the Anglo-Saxon legal and political tradition in order to
This is a logical structure question — the author cites X in order to — that has to be answered by going to the specific part and checking the context.
So it does not make sense to read the options and then go to the text, first check the text, identify the answer and then go to the options.
(A) illustrate the influence of individualist feminist thought on more general intellectual trends in English history (B) argue that feminism was already a part of the larger Anglo-Saxon intellectual tradition,even though this has often gone unnoticed by critics of women’s emancipation (C) explain the decline in individualist thinking among feminists in non-English-speaking countries (D) help account for an increasing shift toward individualist feminism among feminists in English-speaking countries (E) account for the philosophical differences between individualist and relational feminists in English-speaking countries
As per the passage —
Because the concept of individual rights was already well established in the Anglo-Saxon legal and political tradition, individualist feminism came to predominate in English-speaking countries.
The author cites the example to show why IF became dominant in English-speaking countries — option D.
QUESTION # 2 The passage suggests that the author of the passage believes which of the following?
Whenever such a question is posed — the author of the passage is most likely to agree that — it need not be related only to the author’s main argument; it can be related to any of the minor arguments that the author makes.
The author of passages expresses his/her opinion in the third paragraph so do a quick check before you go to the options.
(A) The predominance of individualist feminism in English-speaking countries is a historical phenomenon, the causes of which have not yet been investigated. (B) The individualist and relational feminist views are irreconcilable, given their theoretical differences concerning the foundations of society. (C) A consensus concerning the direction of future feminist politics will probably soon emerge, given the awareness among feminists of the need for cooperation among women. (D) Political adversaries of feminism often misuse arguments predicated on differences between the sexes to argue that the existing social system should be maintained. (E) Relational feminism provides the best theoretical framework for contemporary feminist politics, but individualist feminism could contribute much toward refining and strengthening modern feminist thought.
The author offers three arguments in the last paragraph
- RF arguments have a major pitfall: they are often appropriated by political adversaries and used to endorse male privilege
- But the IF approach, by attacking gender roles, often simply treated as irrelevant the family roles important to many women.
- If the IF framework could be harmonized with the relational feminists, a more fruitful model for contemporary feminist politics could emerge.
So the correct option can paraphrase any of the three points or club one or more of them into one option.
Only option D mentions one of the three points, the first one — RF arguments have a major pitfall: they are often appropriated by political adversaries and used to endorse male privilege.
One thing to note is that the correct option will only use very few words exactly as they used in the passage. In this case, the phrase political adversaries is repeated but the rest is rewritten in different words.
- The phrase relational feminism is missing but political adversaries need not be adversaries of relational feminists in specific they can be adversaries of feminists in general.
- Instead of the phrase endorse male privilege — the option uses existing social system should be maintained.
GMAT RC options always test your comprehension by reversing the direction and see if you can recognise that it is still the same argument — they will change an X greater than Y to Y less than X or as in this case they will change endorse male privilege, which is the current situation that feminists are fighting against, to existing social system should be maintained.
None of the other options are mentioned in the last paragraph.
QUESTION # 3 It can be inferred from the passage that the individualist feminist tradition denies the validity of which of the following causal statements?
On all such questions you need to spend just a little time to assimilate what the question is asking, in this case
- IF denies the validity or in other words is against or does not believe in which of the following.
Again, this question is testing your comprehension by asking you the something from the reverse direction. The passage mentions IF’s beliefs, the question asks you to identify that belief by negating the opposite.
So if you know their core belief look for a negation of the same in the answer options, else go to the relevant portion of the passage before you read the options.
(A) A division of labor in a social group can result in increased efficiency with regard to the performance of group tasks. (B) A division of labor in a social group causes inequities in the distribution of opportunities and benefits among group members. (C) A division of labor on the basis of gender in a social group is necessitated by the existence of sex-linked biological differences between male and female members of the group. (D) Culturally determined distinctions based on gender in a social group foster the existence of differing attitudes and opinions among group members. (E) Educational programs aimed at reducing inequalities based on gender among members of a social group can result in a sense of greater well-being for all members of the group.
IF does not believe at all in gender-based distinctions and hence roles assigned purely based on gender such as child-rearing and house-keeping; only option C negates this.
QUESTION # 4 According to the passage, relational feminists and individualist feminists agree that
The answer has to be found in the second paragraph since the first para offers only definitions and the last one offers the author’s opinion. So you need to check before you go to the options.
(A) individual human rights take precedence over most other social claims (B) the gender-based division of labor in society should be eliminated (C) laws guaranteeing equal treatment for all citizens regardless of gender should be passed (D) a greater degree of social awareness concerning the importance of motherhood would be beneficial to society (E) the same educational and economic opportunities should be available to both sexes
The middle part of the second paragraph has the answer, option E.
Relational feminists, while agreeing that equal educational and economic opportunities outside the home should be available for all women.
QUESTION # 5 According to the author, which of the following was true of feminist thought in Western societies before 1890?
By now you will know that the answer lies in the beginning of the second paragraph it is better to check since GMAT RC options have subtle traps.
(A) Individualist feminist arguments were not found in the thought or writing of non-English-speaking feminists. (B) Individualist feminism was a strain in feminist thought, but another strain, relational feminism, predominated. (C) Relational and individualist approaches were equally prevalent in feminist thought and writing. (D) The predominant view among feminists held that the welfare of women was ultimately less important than the welfare of children. (E) The predominant view among feminists held that the sexes should receive equal treatment under the law.
The passage says —
Before the late nineteenth century, these views coexisted within the feminist movement, often within the writings of the same individual. Between 1890 and 1920, however, relational feminism, which had been the dominant strain in feminist thought…..lost ground
Option B is the right answer and C lays a good trap by saying that both were equally present.
QUESTION # 6 The author implies that which of the following was true of most feminist thinkers in England and the United States after 1920 (A) They were less concerned with politics than with intellectual issues. (B) They began to reach a broader audience and their programs began to be adopted by mainstream political parties. (C) They called repeatedly for international cooperation among women’s groups to achieve their goals. (D) They moderated their initial criticism of the economic systems that characterized their societies. (E) They did not attempt to unite the two different feminist approaches in their thought.
One of the methods that works as well on RC as it does on CR is the method of elimination. You can eliminate the first 4 and you all be left with the right answer option E.
Again the answer lies in the second para —
individualist feminism came to predominate in English-speaking countries. At the same time,the goals of the two approaches began to seem increasingly irreconcilable. Individualist feminists began to advocate a totally gender-blind system with equal rights for all.
Again a classic case of rephrasing — did not attempt to unite — is used instead of irreconcilable.
Why is it is implied that IF did not attempt to unite?
Because they began to advocate a totally gender-blind system, something which RF was against, since they wanted recognition for gender-based roles.
You would have noticed that on the tougher questions the word play involved in the posing of questions using a negative — denies the validity or does not believe — and in the framing of options become the hurdles on the which you can stumble if you are not alert and just read the question and jump to the options.
Also you will have realised the importance of checking with the passage and then going to the options — this saves valuable time spent going back and forth between options.
As you get better at RC you should be able to read faster, retain main arguments as you read and easily identify arguments when rephrased or reversed correctly or incorrectly.
Your reasoning and approach are very systematic and very difficult to negate..Great work by the way !
Thanks a lot for the generous praise Madan. Will keep posting stuff, just ensure that you consistently execute the process and you will see a marked improvement.
This is very impactful. Thanks for sharing it step by step for a clear understanding.