GMATPrep Reading Comp: Tackling a History Passage – Part 5

by on April 30th, 2017

Book with glassesAre you ready for your fifth and final question? We’ve been examining a History RC passage from the GMATPrep® free exams. If you’re just starting, go through the earlier installments first, then come back to this one—and feel free to do all five questions (one per installment) in a block for the passage. (Take some screen shots or set up separate browser tabs so that you can cycle through them all efficiently.)

Here are the passage and the fifth problem. Good luck!

“Two recent publications offer different assessments of the career of the famous British nurse Florence Nightingale. A book by Anne Summers seeks to debunk the idealizations and present a reality at odds with Nightingale’s heroic reputation. According to Summers, Nightingale’s importance during the Crimean War has been exaggerated: not until near the war’s end did she become supervisor of the female nurses. Additionally, Summers writes that the contribution of the nurses to the relief of the wounded was at best marginal. The prevailing problems of military medicine were caused by army organizational practices, and the addition of a few nurses to the medical staff could be no more than symbolic. Nightingale’s place in the national pantheon, Summers asserts, is largely due to the propagandistic efforts of contemporary newspaper reporters.

“By contrast, the editors of the new volume of Nightingale’s letters view Nightingale as a person who significantly influenced not only her own age but also subsequent generations. They highlight her ongoing efforts to reform sanitary conditions after the war. For example, when she learned that peacetime living conditions in British barracks were so horrible that the death rate of enlisted men far exceeded that of neighboring civilian populations, she succeeded in persuading the government to establish a Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. She used sums raised through public contributions to found a nurse’s training hospital in London. Even in administrative matters, the editors assert, her practical intelligence was formidable: as recently as 1947 the British Army’s medical services were still using the cost-accounting system she devised in the 1860s.

“I believe that the evidence of her letters supports continued respect for Nightingale’s brilliance and creativity. When counseling a village schoolmaster to encourage children to use their faculties of observation, she sounds like a modern educator. Her insistence on classifying the problems of the needy in order to devise appropriate treatments is similar to the approach of modern social workers. In sum, although Nightingale may not have achieved all of her goals during the Crimean War, her breadth of vision and ability to realize ambitious projects have earned her an eminent place among the ranks of social pioneers.”

“According to the passage, the editors of Nightingale’s letters credit her with contributing to which of the following?

“(A) Improvement of the survival rate for soldiers in British Army hospitals during the Crimean War

“(B) The development of a nurses’ training curriculum that was far in advance of its day

“(C) The increase in the number of women doctors practicing in British Army hospitals

“(D) Establishment of the first facility for training nurses at a major British university

“(E) The creation of an organization for monitoring the peacetime living conditions of British soldiers”

First, determine the kind of question you were asked.

The language according to the passage signals a Detail question. Which details, in particular, will you need?

In this case, the question stem wants to know about what the editors said. Glance at your Map (here’s mine). Which paragraph do we need?

SK 416 - image 1

Right, second paragraph. And what does the question specifically want to know here? The editors credit (Nightingale) with contributing to something.

It’s super important at this stage not to go just by memory. Each paragraph mentions various things that Nightingale did. You don’t want to mix up something that someone else said; you care about what the editors said.

Here’s the second paragraph again. Start skimming with an eye toward giving credit to FN for contributing to some good thing. (Emphasis added below.)

“By contrast, the editors of the new volume of Nightingale’s letters view Nightingale as a person who significantly influenced not only her own age but also subsequent generations. They highlight her ongoing efforts to reform sanitary conditions after the war. For example, when she learned that peacetime living conditions in British barracks were so horrible that the death rate of enlisted men far exceeded that of neighboring civilian populations, she succeeded in persuading the government to establish a Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. She used sums raised through public contributions to found a nurse’s training hospital in London. Even in administrative matters, the editors assert, her practical intelligence was formidable: as recently as 1947 the British Army’s medical services were still using the cost-accounting system she devised in the 1860s.”

I italicized four different details that might help to answer this question. The first two go together—at a broad level, she helped to reform sanitary conditions for soldiers. The specific example given here was establishing a Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. The other two examples are distinct: found a nurse’s training hospital and establish a cost-accounting system that was still in use nearly a century later.

Time to look for an answer choice that matches one of those details!

“(A) Improvement of the survival rate for soldiers in British Army hospitals during the Crimean War”

Survival rate is a very specific term. The second paragraph doesn’t mention survival rate, nor does it mention things she did during the war, only after. Eliminate (A).

“(B) The development of a nurses’ training curriculum that was far in advance of its day”

Training nurses—that sounds good. What was the specific language from the second paragraph? She found(ed) a nurse’s training hospital. Hmm. Founding a hospital and developing the curriculum for that hospital are not exactly the same thing. Nor do we know whether the curriculum was far in advance of its day. We might be able to infer that her cost-accounting system was far in advance of its day (since it was still used nearly 100 years later). But we have no information about the nurse’s training curriculum. Eliminate (B).

“(C) The increase in the number of women doctors practicing in British Army hospitals”

This paragraph mentions nothing specifically about female doctors (or even female nurses, for that matter). Eliminate (C).

“(D) Establishment of the first facility for training nurses at a major British university”

She did establish a nurse’s training hospital! Is this it? Hmm. The passage doesn’t say that it was the first one at a major British university. It just says it was a training hospital in London. This one is closer than any of the previous answers, so you might leave it in—but an according to the passage question really should repeat what the passage says, so this one probably isn’t correct either. Let’s check (E).

“(E) The creation of an organization for monitoring the peacetime living conditions of British soldiers”

Check the passage again. She succeeded in persuading the government to establish a Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. What did that Royal Commission do? Go to the prior sentence: this is an example of her efforts to reform sanitary conditions after the war, in response to the fact that peacetime living conditions in British barracks were … horrible. So, yes, she did help create an organization that monitored the peacetime living conditions of these soldiers.

This answer fully matches, unlike (D) which only partially matches, so the correct answer is (E).

Make sure to check back for the final installment in this series.

Key Takeaways for RC

(1) Follow the process. Don’t skip steps! That’s how mistakes creep in.

(2) On your read-through, go for the big ideas and the main contrasts or twists. Don’t get sucked into annoying detail. Jot down an abbreviated Map to help you navigate the passage later, when you’re answering questions. By the time you’re done, you will (hopefully!) be able to articulate the Simple Story of the passage.

(3) Know what kind of question type you have, as each type is asking you to perform a different kind of analysis. According to the passage questions are asking you to find and repeat back some specific detail from the passage (that’s why we call them Detail questions!). Don’t rely on your memory—use the clues from the question stem to re-read the part of the passage specifically referenced by the question. Get that information straight in your head (maybe even jot down a few words), then look for a match in the answers.

* GMATPrep® questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

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