Critical Reasoning - Weaken the Argument

GMAT® Verbal Practice Questions

This GMAT verbal practice question is a critical reasoning question. This question is a weaken the argument question.

Question

Linda: In the 1800s, it was found that one in every six women who gave birth in hospitals died of a fever they had contracted after delivering the child and that the mortality was not as high if they gave birth at home with the help of a mid wife. It was found that the doctors had a poorer sense of hygiene and that their dirty hands and instruments were leading to pathogens entering a woman's bloodstream. Thankfully, hygienic conditions today are much better and women are safer.

Fiona: But doctors today are so overworked that a number of doctors, while aware of the need for better hygiene, barely find the time to wash their hands. The likelihood of infections caused by doctors is probably not any better.

Which of the following can be used by Fiona to further establish that Linda need not be correct in her reasoning?

  1. A nationwide survey found that doctors, especially experienced ones, are more prone to the belief that they could not possibly be carrying pathogens.
  2. It is reported that around 50,000 people die every year in our country from hospital acquired infections.
  3. Compulsory hand cleansing is strictly adhered to by all doctors and nurses before every major surgical procedure.
  4. During a study, doctors handling newborn babies self reported a hand cleansing rate of 90℅.
  5. Nurses are not any better than doctors in adhering to strict cleansing schedules, especially when busy.

Explanatory Answer

Video explanation will be added soon.
  1. Step 1: Analyzing the Argument

    Look for differences across the answer options to identify what is being tested in the sentence.

    • Linda’s argument has a cause-effect relationship and a comparison element as well.
      • The causal argument is that the safety of women (or low mortality among women) is dependent on the hygiene awareness among the doctors.
      • The comparison element is that women today are better off than the women in the 1800s.
    • If Fiona is to question Linda’s argument, she has to establish that one of these two (the causal and the comparison) relationships do not actually hold true. This is the reason that Fiona’s argument tries to establish that awareness is not enough. Mortality is also affected by the actual practices of the doctors.
    • To further weaken Linda’s argument, the correct answer Option must extend this discussion or question whether women today are actually better off than the women from the 1800s.
  2. Step 2: Eliminating Options

    • Option (B) can be eliminated because we do not know whether these hospital-acquired infections were because of poor practices of the doctors or because of other factors.
    • Option (C) can be eliminated because the option adds further support to Linda’s argument, when in fact the objective is to weaken her argument.
    • Option (D) can be eliminated because the option again adds support to Linda’s argument. Some people wonder about the usage of the words “self-reported”, which might imply that the 90% figure may not be accurate. However, it cannot be assumed that the doctors are lying or that the actual rate is much lower than 90%.
    • Option (E) seems to imply that the nurses do not have proper practices in place. At first glance, the option seems to work. However, the option assumes that doctors do not adhere to the schedules, implying that nurses are as bad. Nurses and doctors could both be GOOD at sticking to the cleansing schedules. Moreover, the focus of the discussion is on the practice of doctors and not of nurses.
    • Option (A) works because it establishes another reason for carelessness among doctors when it comes to hygiene. If doctors believe they do not carry pathogens, they are more likely to be careless about cleansing schedules.
Option A is the correct answer.

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