Analysing Proverbs in GAMSAT Section 1

You have been dealing with proverbs since childhood, often applying them carelessly in your essays, stories and even daily communication. But, what if you face these very same proverbs in your GAMSAT paper? A considerable number of vignettes in GAMSAT consist of proverbs and adages, singularly as well as an accompaniment of prose, poetry and picture study vignettes.

Types of Questions

GAMSAT questions based on proverbs can be of the following kinds:

Q01. Which of the following statements exactly describe the given proverb?

Q02. Which of the following statements is closest to the given proverb?

Q03. Which of the following statements is the opposite of the given saying?

Q04. How can the relationship between the proverb and the prose/poem/image be best described?

Analysing a Proverb

Here, let’s take a look at an example of a proverb vignette.

A fool flatters himself, a wise man flatters the fool.” – Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

Which of the following is closest in meaning to the quote above?

  • A wise man never flatters himself; that is something that a foolish person does.
  • A wise man never chooses to advise a fool, while a fool tries to impart lessons.
  • Wise men choose to wear the garb of folly while fools try to act wise.
  • A wise man manipulates pride in others, while a fool happily beguiles himself.

With us so far? Remember that reading the question carefully is the first and easiest step, but at the same time the most important. Get that part wrong and you’ll not only waste time but also probably get the question wrong!Let’s look at what the question requires of you first. There are two factors to this question. Firstly you’ll be given a proverb and then as the answer you’re required to provide the necessary proverb that matches the meaning of the first.

Now apparently you don’t need any pre-knowledge to answer the GAMSAT questions (barring some basic science/biology knowledge for section 3). With this in mind based on this question would we agree? We actually would! Despite these being relatively well known proverbs (ESL students take note-if you don’t recognise these then do some cramming to become familiar with some of the nuances of English) even if you don’t know them, analysing the proverb will reveal its meaning.

Here is a video that tells you about the many proverbs normally used in our daily life.

TIP: The English language is filled with proverbs, sayings and figurative language. More than any GAMSAT test creator could ever hope to use. While you’d probably struggle to ever know them all, by becoming as familiar with the proverbs and their meanings as possible prior to the test, you’d actually have the necessary skills to take them on.

Don’t Recognize the Proverb? Where to Start…

So, once you know what the question is asking you to do, it’s time to break it down. Firstly, you need to understand the given proverb (refer to the previous article of this series). In this case, let’s first look at who it’s about. The words “fool” and “wise” are used, so, it is about a group of people among men.

So, the proverb is basically saying that a fool tells himself that he is great, and is happy with that, while a wise man flatters the fool to get his own way. You know that flattery is a great way to get things done as you want, and the wise man exploits this human trait in the fool.

Remember if it’s a little wordy you can substitute your own words or even try to personalise it for better comprehension. Break down the sentence into smaller phrases. If English is not your native language, translate the proverb mentally to your vernacular; the meaning will instantly become clearer.
As proverbs go, this is rather simple. Just remember- if the meaning is totally elusive- that you have 75 of these questions to get through in a limited time. If the meaning totally eludes you, just move on to another question. There is no point in wasting time over one particularly difficult question and miss out on several easy ones for lack of time.

What’s Next?

So far you’ve understood what the question wants you to do and you’ve dissected the proverb so it makes sense for yourself. Now in the next step you can take the hard route; which involves dissecting each of the proverbs in turn. Or you could take the simple (and recommended) route by trying to eliminate the obviously wrong answers. So, with that in mind, which sayings seem totally out of kilter?

Remember to not only look at the sayings as a whole, but you’re going to have to dissect them even further. In our follow up article, we’ll look at breaking down the answers, so as to eliminate them within the shortest time span.

Breaking Down the Question

If you recognise the proverb, well and good. But chances are pretty slim. GAMSAT draws from a wide range of proverbs and quotations for its questions, and they would not all necessarily be from the English language. Translated proverbs and quotes are pretty common too.Source: 

But, if you are seeing the proverb for the first time, then elimination of the given options is the best way to go about it. Before that, you need to simplify the proverb. Rephrase it in your own words, or translate it in your language if necessary, that is, if you are an ESL student. Now, see what the question is asking. You might be asked to choose an option closest in meaning to the proverb or completely opposite to it. In other cases, the options might consist of other quotations or sayings, either similar to or opposing to the given proverb.

Solving the Question via Process of Elimination

Now, let’s look at the adage we dealt earlier: ‘A fool flatters himself, a wise man flatters the fool’. As we discussed earlier, a wise man knows that flattery is a great way of getting things done. So, he flatters the fool to his own advantage. The fool, on the other hand, doesn’t recognise the benefits of flattery, and is thus too busy patting his own back. So, how do we understand which of the given options are closest in meaning to this proverb? Let’s eliminate one by one.

Look at the first option. It states that only a foolish person flatters himself, a wise man doesn’t. This is in fact pretty close to the given proverb. A wise man doesn’t flatter himself, because he knows there’s nothing to gain from it. A fool, on the other hand, doesn’t understand that flattery has its advantages, and so flatters himself. Let’s keep this option in hand and look at the others.

Options B and C don’t really have much in connection to the given proverb. The statement doesn’t say that a fool tries to impart lessons. Nor does it say that a wise man pretends to be a fool. These are the most noticeably incorrect options. If you glance through the options after an analysis of the proverb, you will come across some such options that can be eliminated immediately.

Now, let’s look at the final option. It states that a wise man recognises pride in others, and manipulates it to his own advantage. A fool, on the other hand, keeps taking pride in himself without really understanding its purpose. This option really takes into account every aspect of the proverb, recognising that flattery is possible only when there is pride, and that too pride that can be manipulated. Option A was close, but it did not deal with the proverb as thoroughly as option D. so, we choose option D as our answer.

Eliminating the Weakest Option

The process of elimination is the best way of going about choosing the correct answer if you cannot distinguish it in the beginning. Eliminate the ones that are most unlikely to be the answer and work your way through them to the correct conclusion. For this, glance through the options once after analysing the given statement and determining what the question is asking to find. You will be able to locate the weakest option(s). Now you can start working with the rest.

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