Although there is no record of poet Edmund Spenser’s parentage, we do know that as a youth Spenser attended the Merchant Tailors’ School in London for a period between 1560 and 1570. Records from this time indicate that the Merchant Tailors’ Guild then had only three members named Spenser: Robert Spenser, listed as a gentleman; Nicholas Spenser, elected the Guild’s Warden in 1568; and John Spenser, listed as a “journeyman cloth-maker.” Of these, the last was likely the least affluent of the three—and most likely Edmund’s father, since school accounting records list Edmund as a scholar who attended the school at a reduced fee.
Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?
(Because of copyrights, the complete official question is not copied here. You can access the question here: GMAT Club)
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Although there is no record of poet Edmund Spenser’s parentage, we do know that as a youth Spenser attended the Merchant Tailors’ School in London for a period between 1560 and 1570. – There is no record of who Spenser’s parents were. We know the school he attended as a youth, though. (Wonder what the school has to do with parentage. Let’s see …)
Records from this time indicate that the Merchant Tailors’ Guild then had only three members named Spenser: Robert Spenser, listed as a gentleman; Nicholas Spenser, elected the Guild’s Warden in 1568; and John Spenser, listed as a “journeyman cloth-maker.”– Records indicate that the school’s Guild has three members named Spenser in the time period when Edmund attended the school.
The three Spensers:
1. A gentlemen
2. The Guild’s warden
3. A “journeyman cloth-maker”
(I don’t see a connection with Spenser’s parentage yet. These three weird titles don’t even mean much to me. Let’s read on …)
Of these, the last was likely the least affluent of the three—and most likely Edmund’s father, since school accounting records list Edmund as a scholar who attended the school at a reduced fee. – John, the “journeyman cloth-maker”, was probably the least affluent Spenser.
(No basis given for this. Perhaps “gentlemen” and wardens were typically more affluent than “journeymen cloth-makers”.)
John was most probably Edmund’s father.
Because Edmund was listed as a scholar who paid a reduced fee, according to the school’s accounting records.
John was probably Edmund’s father (main point).
1. In the time period when Edmund attended MTS, Only three Spenser’s were members of the school’s Guild:
– “a gentleman”
– a warden
– a “journeymen cloth-maker” (John)
2. John was probably the least affluent of the three
3. Edmund had a partial scholarship and paid a reduced fee.
Edmund on partial scholarship + John likely the least affluent Spencer in the Guild ==> John was most likely Edmund’s father.
Gap(s) in logic:
The argument seems pretty weak.
1. Were parents of all the students attending the MTS members of the MT Guild?
a. Were parents of all students attending the MTS, Merchant Tailors?
b. Were all Merchant Tailors members of the MT Guild?
The author seems to have somehow already decided that Edmund Spenser’s father was one of the three Spenser’s listed in the MT Guild. If Spenser’s father was not even a Merchant Tailor, or at least if somehow he was not listed in the Merchant Tailor Guild, it would not make sense for the author to pursue an argument along the lines that Edmund’s father is one of the three Spenser’s listed in the Guild.
2. Couldn’t scholarships be granted to kids of affluent parents as well? Perhaps a merit-based scholarship.
3. Couldn’t “gentlemen” and “wardens” be not-affluent? Were “journeymen cloth-makers” typically less affluent than wardens and gentlemen?
Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?
A standard assumptions question. We’re looking for an assumption that is required for the argument. So, the correct answer choice should:
- Support the argument
- Be necessary for the argument. i.e., the argument’s logic should break down if the answer choice were not true (negation).
Each of the gaps we’ve discussed is linked with an assumption. e.g.:
- All the students who attended MTS had a parent who was a member of the MT Guild.
- Scholarships were typically granted based only on financial need.
- “Journeymen cloth-makers” were typically less affluent than ‘gentlemen’ and ‘wardens’.
Answer choice analysis
Answer Choice: A
Selected by: 3%
We are talking about cloth-makers and Merchant Tailors. So, if all clothing professionals in that time period were members of the MT Guild, my confidence does go up marginally in the argument. I do believe more then that perhaps Edmund’s father would have been a part of the Guild.
However, while for the argument, it is necessary that all students of MTS had a parent as a member of the Guild, is it necessary that all professional cloth-makers were members of the Guild in 16th century London?
No, it isn’t.
Even if some professional cloth-makers were not members of the guild (negation), the argument doesn’t break down. As long as those cloth-makers with children who were students of the MTS (subset of all cloth-makers) were members of the Guild, the argument still remains valid.
We are given that Edmund became a poet later. So, yes, the fact that Edmund Spenser attended the Merchant Tailors’ School did not necessarily mean that he planned to become a tailor.
This statement seems true in general. But that is irrelevant. We need to check whether the answer choice is an assumption.
What Edmund’s plans were with regard to his career, is irrelevant to the argument about who was likely Edmund’s father. The statement has no impact on the argument. Moreover, the argument doesn’t depend on Edmund’s career aspirations and intentions while he attended MTS.
Answer Choice: C
Selected by: 1%
The answer choice is basically stating that all Guild wardens were gentlemen.
There is nothing mentioned in the passage about the affluence of gentlemen. So even if all Guild wardens were gentlemen, I don’t learn anything about whether they were more affluent than journeymen cloth-makers. The statement has no impact on the argument.
Since the statement doesn’t strengthen the argument, we can already safely reject it.
To be doubly sure, let’s check what happens to the argument when we negate this answer choice and add to the argument. Negation: Members of the Guild could become Guild wardens in the sixteenth century London even if they were not gentlemen.
So, even if some wardens were not gentlemen, wardens and gentlemen could still be likely more affluent than journeymen cloth-makers. The negation does not breakdown the argument.
Answer Choice: D
Selected by: 13%
This answer choice is tempting.
However, it is actually the reverse of what we need.
We need: all students had a parent who was a member of the Guild.
What the answer choice is talking about: Most children with fathers in the Guild attended MTS.
So, all students need a parent to be a member of the Guild. But that doesn’t mean that most fathers in the Guild had children who attended MTS.
Say, 5,000 students attended MTS in the given time period. Now, for the argument, those 5,000 students need their fathers to be members of the Guild.
On the flip side, say the Guild had 20,000 members who had children. Did most of these children need to be students at the MTS? No.
The statement has practically no impact on the argument. Moreover, is it necessary that most of the people who’s fathers were Guild members were MTS students? It isn’t.
The Guild could very well have a lot of members whose children did not attend MTS.
In the following official question too, one of the answer choices (B) links the right things, but from the wrong direction. Official question for additional practice: Technically a given category of insurance policy is underpriced.
Answer Choice: E
Selected by: 81%
Aha! This one is in line with one of the predictions we made initially.
The author’s logic is that John is likely the least affluent Spenser in the Guild and Edmund studied at a reduced fee (scholarship), that’s why John is most likely Edmund’s father.
If the MTS reduced the fees for children of the more affluent Guild members as well (negation), then Edmund’s father could have been one of the other two more affluent Spensers. Thus, the author’s logic falls flat.
If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.
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