An assumption is a thing, which is accepted as being true or certain to happen in the future, without any evidence.
1) Firstly identify the conclusion of the text.
2) Then ask yourself “Why?”
3) The answer to the question “Why?” will help you reach the assumption.
It may sound complicated but let us look at an example
Try and figure out what the assumption is in the following sentence:
“Carbon dioxide contributes to global warming. Therefore, we should limit carbon dioxide emissions”.
Conclusion: “We should limit carbon dioxide emissions.”
Why?: Because “Carbon dioxide contributes to global warming.”
In the answer to the question “Why?” you need to realise that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming. Since we want to limit carbon dioxide emissions, we must also want to limit global warming. Therefore, global warming is a bad thing.
The assumption in the above sentence is that global warming is bad for us. Now, you may be wondering, well, global warming is obviously bad for us and that is a fact.
However, no matter how obvious it is, that is still the underlying assumption of the sentence above.
“I bought a lot of lottery tickets so I have a higher chance of winning the lottery”
Conclusion: “I have a higher chance of winning the lottery.”
Why?: Because “I bought a lot of lottery tickets.”
There is a link between buying a lot of lottery tickets and a higher chance of winning the lottery. Assumption: Buying more lottery tickets increases your chances of winning the lottery.
Using “Opposite Sentences”
I don’t really know what to call this but this method also helps us to identify assumptions. This helps to identify the assumption when we are confused between two given options.
1) Identify the conclusion of the text.
2) Eliminate all the obvious, incorrect options.
3) Make the potential or possible options opposite. E.g. “You should exercise” would become “You should not exercise”.
4) Fit the opposite, possible options into the text and see if it makes sense.
Should people who have committed serious crimes, be allowed to return to their career after serving jail time? It seems fair but what if these criminals are influential people who have millions of fans and supporters, such as a footballer. In this case, it seems risky to give them a second chance since this would send out a wrong message to young people that such behaviour is acceptable. For such influential people, there should not be a second chance.
Which of the following is an assumption of the argument made above?
A – Football attracts a higher population of young supporters than any other sport.
B – The rights of the individual are less important than risks to society.
C -Football fans cannot distinguish from right or wrong.
D – Criminals should in most cases be allowed to obtain employment after serving jail time.
Conclusion: For such influential people, there should not be a second chance.
Why?: This would send out a wrong message to young people that such behaviour is acceptable.
1) A (only focuses on football fans whilst the text just uses football as an example)
2) D (depends on the nature of the crime)
3) C (Again, football is only used as an example in the text)
Let us see now why B is the correct answer by using the opposite sentence.
B would become “The rights of the individual are more important than risks to society”.
Opposite: Influential people such as footballers should not be allowed back into employment if they have served a prison sentence for serious crimes because it risks sending a message to young fans that such behaviour is acceptable. The rights of the individual are more important than risks to society.
This certainly does not make sense. If the rights of individuals are more important than risks to society then certainly, influential people should be allowed back into employment. Since this does not make sense and we make option B original again, it should make sense.
Original: Influential people such as footballers should not be allowed back into employment if they have served a prison sentence for serious crimes because it risks sending a message to young fans that such behaviour is acceptable. The rights of the individual are less important than risks to society.
This certainly makes sense. Therefore B is the correct answer.
In these types of questions, you are given 2-3 sentences in which either, one is an assumption, two are assumptions or all are assumptions.
These types of questions are pretty difficult and they require a longer amount of time to answer. However, you can still answer them using the methods described above.
Our skin becomes wrinkled when we soak our hands in water. Wrinkles form a pattern of channels that direct water away from the fingertips. Researchers believe that this characteristic must have evolved because it gave us the ability to grip things better underwater. In a study, people were timed as they transferred wet or dry objects from one box to another, either with or without wrinkled fingers. Wet objects were transferred faster with wrinkles than without. This suggests that wrinkled fingers are advantageous to us as they improve our grip underwater.
Which of the following is an assumption/ are assumptions underlying the above argument?
- Some human characteristics are not advantageous
- It is advantageous for humans to be able to grip things underwater
- Advantageous characteristics must have evolved since they were advantageous
A – 1 only
B – 2 only
C – 3 only
D – 1 and 2
E – 1 and 3
F – 2 and 3
Conclusion: “Wrinkled fingers are advantageous to us”
Why?: “It gives human beings a better grip underwater”
Statement 1: Imagine this sentence was in the text. It would not make sense at all. Therefore, statement 1 is irrelevant. We can eliminate options, A, D and E.
Statement 2: If wrinkled fingers are advantageous to us, and they help us grip things underwater, then gripping things underwater must be advantageous. Therefore, statement 2 is an assumption. So we can eliminate C.
Statement 3: The fact that characteristics are termed advantageous means that they must have helped us in some way (been advantageous to us). Therefore, this is an assumption of the text. So we can eliminate B.
So, F is the correct answer.