Main Point. The correct answer choice is (D)
The argument is structured as follows (reordered for clarity):
- Premise: It is not uncommon for a politician to criticize his or her political
opponents by claiming that their exposition of their ideas is muddled
Counter-premise: Every politician knows that political mobilization requires
commonality of purpose.
Sub. Conclusion: Political agendas promoted in a manner that cannot be understood by
large numbers of people will not be realized.
Conclusion: Such criticism is never sincere.
Your ability to quickly identify the correct answer to a Main Point question is directly tied to your
understanding of the structure of the argument and its conclusion. Since the correct answer is
often a simple paraphrase of the conclusion, test makers often introduce competing viewpoints,
counterarguments, subsidiary conclusions, and double negatives in order to increase the level of
difficulty of the question. Despite the relatively convoluted nature of this argument, there are certain
clues you should use to your advantage.
First, we can simplify the first sentence by removing the double negative construction in it (“not
uncommon”). Simply put, the political scientist observes that it is common for politicians to criticize
their opponents for promoting ideas in an incomprehensible manner. Second, note that whenever the
stimulus begins by describing someone else’s position (politicians criticizing their opponents), you
can be sure that the author’s conclusion will ultimately counter it.
Predictably, the author asserts in the second sentence of the stimulus that such criticism is never
sincere. Why? Because political mobilization requires commonality of purpose, and political agendas
promoted in a manner that cannot be understood by large numbers of people will not be realized. The
indicator “however” indicates the presence of a counter-argument, and a possible conclusion. Also,
since the last sentence provides grounds for accepting the author’s conclusion, the statements in that
sentence function as premises for the main conclusion.
Thus, the main conclusion of the argument lies in the second sentence of the stimulus and can be
paraphrased as follows:
- It is insincere for a politician to criticize his or her political opponents by claiming that their
exposition of their ideas is muddled and incomprehensible.
This prephrase helps identify answer choice (D) as correct.
Observant test-takers would also note that the premise indicator “for” in the last sentence implies
that the second clause of that sentence (“political mobilization requires commonality of purpose”) supports the first (“Political agendas promoted in a manner that cannot be understood by large
numbers of people will not be realized”). Therefore, the second clause of the last sentence functions
as a pure premise, while the first clause serves the role of a subsidiary conclusion. Ultimately, this is
irrelevant to answering the Main Point question, since both statements support the main conclusion
of the argument.
Answer choice (A): This answer choice is incorrect because the author never argued that the people
who promote political agendas in an incomprehensible manner are insincere. Rather, the author
regards as insincere those who criticize their political opponents for promoting political agendas in
an incomprehensible manner.
Answer choice (B): Just because author regards as insincere those who criticize their opponents
for promoting ideas in an incomprehensible manner does not mean that sincere critics should never
focus their criticisms on the manner in which their opponents’ agenda is promoted. This statement
is too broad and not supported by the information in contained in the stimulus. A sincere critic can
criticize the manner in which her opponents’ political agenda is promoted, as long as she does not
claim that their exposition is muddled and incomprehensible.
Answer choice (C): Although the ineffectiveness of a confusingly promoted political agenda may be
a reason for refraining from criticism of those who are promoting it, this is certainly not the author’s
main conclusion. Your initial prephrase of the conclusion should help you eliminate this answer
choice rather quickly.
Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice, as it is simply a paraphrase of the main
conclusion in the second sentence of the stimulus.
Answer choice (E): Although the author would agree with the statement that mobilizing large
numbers of people requires a comprehensible political agenda, this is a premise used in support
of the conclusion that politicians criticizing the incomprehensibility of their opponents’ political
agendas are being insincere. Do not fall into the trap of assuming that the last sentence of the
stimulus will always contain the conclusion: oftentimes, the conclusion is hidden somewhere else the
argument, especially in Main Point questions.