As most of you already know, half of the GRE verbal section comprises the much-dreaded reading comprehension. While ETS does not make any classification regarding the types of passages, there is one distinct type that very visibly stands out from the regular passages. This distinct type is informally referred by different names in different resources e.g. the paragraph argument passages, argument structure passages, critical reasoning passages to name a few. The name does not matter, but notice the word “argument” in most of these terms. This is what these passages are all about: an argument is presented in one paragraph i.e. a point is being made on the back of a set of reasoning. Given below is an introduction of the argument-based passage and how it is constructed. For the question types associated with argument-based passages, see Argument/Critical Reasoning Passages: Question Types.
Components of an Argument based passage
An argument-based passage consists of the following three components:
- Premises: Premise is a fact stated in the passage.
- Conclusion: Something deduced or inferred by the author on the basis of the stated facts or premises. The conclusion is not a fact, rather the author’s opinion which he reaches by tying together the stated facts.
- Assumption (Unstated): An assumption or a logical gap is something that the conclusion does not take into account. It is an unstated fact on which the validity of the whole argument rests. If the assumption is not true, the conclusion falls apart. Remember that the assumption is NOT stated in the passage, rather it’s something that should have been stated and the author has missed out on it. Also take note that there can be multiple assumptions on which an argument rests.
Here’s a typical argument-based passage:
Over the last few years, Country A has suffered a pest infestation which has resulted in huge losses in agricultural yield. Since the infestation began, Country A’s imports have increased. Therefore, Country A will continue to import more than it did before the infestation started, and this will remain so until the infestation ends.
The above passage can be broken down as follows:
In the passage above, two facts are stated:
Fact # 1: Over the last few years, Country A has suffered a pest infestation, and as a result, has experienced major losses in agricultural yield.
Fact # 2: Since the infestation began, Country A’s imports have increased.
The conclusion of the given passage is:
Conclusion: Therefore, Country A will continue to import more than it did before the infestation started, and this will remain so until the infestation ends.
III) Assumption/Logical Gap:
One of the assumptions on which the conclusion of the given passage rests is:
Assumption: Infestation is the only factor that can cause an increase in the amount of imports.
In other words, we assume that there can be no other factors that affect imports and that all of Country A’s imports are agricultural in nature. This assumption justifies the author’s conclusion that as the losses of agricultural yield persists because of the infestation, its imports will remain greater than they were before the infestation.