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Source: Revised GRE PDF 2nd Ed. Section 3; #14 (p. 56)


Which of the following, if true, most weakens

Last year, Mayor Stephens established a special law-enforcement task force with the avowed mission of eradicating corruption in city government. The mayor’s handpicked task force has now begun prosecuting a dozen city officials. Since all of these officials were appointed by Mayor Bixby, Mayor Stephens’ predecessor and longtime political foe, it is clear that those being prosecuted have been targeted because of their political affiliations. Which of the following, if true, most weakens the editorial’s argument? Complaints of official corruption in city government have decreased since the anticorruption task force began operating., Former mayor Bixby did not publicly oppose Mayor Stephens’ establishment of the anticorruption task force., Almost all of the officials who have served in city government for any length of time are appointees of Mayor Bixby., All of the members of the anticorruption task force had other jobs in city government before the task force was formed., During the last mayoral election campaign, then–Mayor Bixby hotly disputed the current mayor’s claim that there was widespread corruption in city government.

5 Explanations


Xinyi Hua

I have a question about C on its wording, "Almost all". My reasoning to eliminate C is that, since not all officials are appointees of Mayor Bixby, it is possible that the "dozen" selected were indeed more closely tied with Mayor Stephens, and it is still possible that they got picked by Mayor Bixby because of their political affiliations.
That left me with choice A. Since the situation with corruption had been ameliorated, the dozen would be likely to have corruption issues. Though I understand that they could also get picked due to, besides corruption, political affiliation as Adam explained earlier, I'm not sure how this argument vanquish my above argument about A.

Sep 12, 2018 • Comment

David Recine

I can see where you're coming form here. So let's take a closer look at C. You are correct that "almost all" could still mean that the dozen selected were targeted for political reasons, if the dozen selected had closer ties to mayor Bixby than the other appoitnees.

The operative word is "if." And in paragraph arguments, you never want to select an answer that is correct or incorrect "if" something else unstated is true. Instead, you want to pick an answer that is correct "because" of something already stated.

Answer choice C says that virtually all government officials were appointed by Bixby. This weakens the argument BECAUSE the argument is sayign that the dozen selected were singled out simply because they were Bixby appointees. But if most officials are Bixby appointees, you can't say that an official who happens to be a Bixby appointee is clearly being singled out on that basis. Prosecute a dozen random city officials, and the chances are very high that they will all be Bixby appointees.

So C appears to be correct BECAUSE of what's stated in the passage, but could be wrong IF the dozen people prosecuted had closer ties to Bixby than the other appointees, in spite of the fact that this is not stated int he passage.

"Becauses" always beat "ifs," so C is a valid answer.

But what about A? A seems like it might indicate the problem was ameliorated, and the city officials targeted were genuinely corrupt. However, A is only true IF a reduction in corruption complaints is linked to a genuine reduction in corruption and IF the 12 targeted city officials were actually involved in corruption. (The passage doesn't say one way or the other whether the officials were corrupt. It only says that corruption wasn't the reason they were targeted.)

Hopefully this makes sense, but let me know if you have any more doubts. :)

Sep 13, 2018 • Reply

Ceyhun Ozsoylu

"and IF the 12 targeted city officials weren't involved in any corruption"

I think you meant "if the 12 targeted city officials WERE involved in any corruption" not "weren't" OR I missed something. Could you please clarify?

Oct 31, 2019 • Reply

Sam Kinsman

Hi Ceyhun, yes, you're right! I've gone ahead and edited David's response accordingly :)

Nov 13, 2019 • Reply


J Li

Hi, I get why C is correct, but I have a question about the answer choice A. Since the goal is to weaken the argument, doesn't saying that these officials are indeed corrupt weaken the argument that these officials are not really corrupt but are prosecuted for another reason? A says that after the task force, the complaints decrease, which means these officials are indeed corrupt, so they are prosecuted for a legitimate reason. Doesn't this weaken the argument?

Oct 18, 2017 • Comment


Hi J I see your point :) However, you are assuming that because they are corrupt, they are not being targeted for their political affiliation. The argument claims that the officials are being targeted for political reasons. Whether they are also corrupt or not doesn't affect this argument.

Oct 18, 2017 • Reply


Robbie Segars

Hello, I missed this question by choosing answer choice D. My logic was since the anticorruption task force is made up of folks appointed by Mayor Bixby, it is safe to assume they must all be apart of the same political party. Therefore, if the anticorruption task force is going after people in their own party, then we would know their actions were not motivated by political reasons - which why I chose D. Plus, if these two mayors do not like each other, wouldn't answer choice C support the editorial's argument, not weaken it? The author's argument is how these officials have been targeted because of their political affiliations, and that these folks have been targeted because Bixby appointed them. It makes sense that the task force would go after Mayor Bixby's people. The flaw I see in answer choice C is the use of "almost all". The newspaper editorial tells us that "all of these officials were appointed by Mayor Bixby" - not just a few, but all. Any tips on how to avoid getting tripped up by similar questions? Thanks in advance.


Mar 12, 2016 • Comment


Hi Robbie,

It looks like you've misunderstood who appointed the task force:

"Mayor Stephens established a special law-enforcement task force"

So, Bixby did not establish the task force. Bixby and Stephens are of different political parties.

With this in mind, (D) doesn't tell us much:

All of the members of the anticorruption task force had other jobs in city government before the task force was formed.

Looking at (D) alone, we don't know who appointed the members of the task force to these other positions. All we know is that Stephens appointed them to the task force, and now they're going after people appointed by Bixby. So this doesn't weaken the argument.

Remember to read carefully and you won't get tripped up on things like this in the future. Taking brief notes might have helped you here, too!

Mar 15, 2016 • Reply


Louie Patrick Rosales

I'm sorry but I couldn't understand well Chris's explanation.
Can somebody expound how C became the answer.

Dec 24, 2015 • Comment


Hi Louie,

The key words in C are "almost all of the the city government" which are not included in the passage. The passage only tells us about the officials who are being prosecuted. According to (C), there are other officials (probably many) who were appointed by Bixby and are not being prosecuted.

Therefore, to say those officials are being prosecuted because of connections with Bixby would be strange--what about all the other Bixby connected officials? Why aren't they being prosecuted too? That would weaken the argument.

Dec 26, 2015 • Reply

Thank You for this answer. I was very confused until I read this.

Sep 2, 2018 • Reply


Chris Lele

Sep 21, 2012 • Comment

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