These questions will test your logical thinking skills. You’ll be given an argument in the form of a short paragraph. You’ll then need to analyze conclusions, assumptions, and/or evidence given by the author. You could also be asked to identify additional data which could pinpoint strengths or weaknesses in the argument. Often, many of the answer choices may seem to be “shades of correct;” you should select the best option.

These questions are designed to test the reasoning skills involved in making arguments, evaluating arguments, and formulating or analyzing a plan of action. Questions are based on materials from a variety of sources, so familiarity with the specific subject matter is not necessary.

This section measures the test-taker’s ability to reason effectively in the following areas:

  • Argument construction. Questions of this type may ask the test-taker to recognize the basic structure of an argument. You are also asked to grasp conclusions, underlying assumptions, well-supported explanatory hypotheses, and/or parallels between structurally similar arguments.
  • Argument evaluation. Questions of this type may require that the test-taker analyze a given argument and recognize factors that would strengthen or weaken an argument. You are asked to identify reasoning errors and supplementary information that could either bolster or subvert the author’s contention.
  • Formulating and evaluating a plan of action. Questions of this type may ask the test-taker to recognize the relative appropriateness, effectiveness, or efficiency of different plans of action. You are asked to recognize factors that would strengthen or weaken a proposed plan of action or its underlying assumptions.

Question 1

The oldest pieces of Tlingit art found in the Pacific Northwest of North America date from about 2,500 years ago. However, a 4,000-year-old longboat was recently found in this region. This longboat resembles the Tlingit’s distinctive fishing vessels. Moreover, this longboat has features that have never been observed in the vessels of any other culture known to have inhabited North America. Therefore, the Tlingit almost certainly began to reside in the Pacific Northwest at least 4,000 years ago.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

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Answer & Explanation

The author tells us two things about the Tlingit civilization: 1) the earliest piece of Tlingit art found in this region is 2,500 years old, and 2) a 4,000-year-old longboat that looks like a Tlingit vessel has recently been found in this region. Since no other known North American culture has used such boats, the author concludes that the Tlingit must have resided in the Pacific Northwest 4,000 years ago.

We are asked to weaken the author’s argument. The author’s argument assumes that the 4,000-year-old longboat can be attributed to Tlingit living in the Pacific Northwest. The answer should provide a reason to doubt this assumption.

Choice A states that when new cultures replace or absorb previous cultures in a region, they sometimes absorb the previous culture’s style of boat building. If this is true, then the Tlingit could have acquired their distinctive longboats from an older Pacific Northwest culture that has since disappeared. This previous culture could have created the 4,000-year-old longboat, undermining the author’s assumption that the Tlingit did so. This would weaken the author’s argument.

Choice B informs us that Tlingit oral history sheds no light on the date of the tribe’s first appearance in the Pacific Northwest. B therefore offers us a factor that can’t be used to judge the author’s argument, and is therefore incorrect.

Choice C mentions that the Tlingit’s longboats don’t generally contain Tlingit artwork, while Choice D notes a general connection between Tlingit fishing and Tlingit artwork. However, the author’s argument hinges on the attribution of one particular 4,000-year-old longboat to the Tlingit, to which choices C and D are not relevant.

Choice E confirms that fishing took place in the Pacific Northwest 4,000 years ago, but we already know that a 4,000-year-old longboat has been found here. Therefore, this offers us no new information pertaining to the author’s argument.

Choice A is correct.

Question 2

The removal of hillsides and mountaintops, necessary for mining companies to extract coal quickly from deeply-buried seams, destroys forests. Experts therefore recommend that coal be extracted using time-consuming deep bore techniques.

Because public opinion opposes coal mining, some states now allow mining companies to extract coal from any particular site for only a short period of time.

The statements above, if true, best support which of the following conclusions?

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Answer & Explanation

The passage states that mining companies can extract coal quickly only by removing hillsides and mountaintops. This destroys forests. Mining companies can also extract coal more slowly using deep bore techniques, a method which experts recommend.

Furthermore, public opinion is against coal mining, and as a result of public opinion, states allow mining companies to extract coal from a given site only for a short period of time.

The question asks for the conclusion that is best supported by these statements. The answer should be able to be inferred from the information in the passage.

Choice A states that mining companies will no longer be able to extract coal by removing hillsides and mountaintops. But despite experts’ recommendations, nothing prevents coal companies from using this technique.

Choice B makes the extreme claim that coal mining must be stopped entirely if forests are to be preserved. However, only one type of coal mining is linked in the passage to the destruction of forests; the type of mining that experts suggest is not.

Choice C predicts the development of new mining methods that allow quick removal of coal without the negative effects that contribute to the destruction of forests. Though the passage supports the conclusion that such advances would be desirable, it provides no evidence to conclude that they will definitely be developed.

Choice D states that public opinion works against preservation efforts. Public opinion results in states granting only short-term leases to mining companies. A mining company only able to operate in one place for a short period of time would have additional incentive to retrieve coal using the quick method of hillside removal rather than the time-consuming deep bore process. This, in turn, would lead to the destruction of forests. Choice D is correct.

Choice E states that granting mining companies short-term permits is unlikely to be a successful response to public opinion. However, the passage doesn’t state precisely what about mining bothers the public, so it’s not possible to conclude whether or not the state’s response will address public concerns effectively.

Question 3

A major city uses income from tax revenues to fund incentives for high-end retailers from out of town to open stores in its new downtown shopping district. Although city taxes on such stores will generate tax revenues greater than the cost of the incentives, this practice is unwise. Locally based high-end retailers would open stores in the new shopping district without requiring the city to spend tax revenue on incentives.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the city’s policy of offering cash incentives to out-of-town retailers?

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Answer & Explanation

This passage presents two arguments about an issue.

The first is that of a city: this city concludes that it should use tax money to fund incentives to persuade retailers from out of town to open locations in its shopping district, based on the evidence that tax revenue generated by these retailers will be greater than the cost of the incentives.

The second is that of the author, who concludes that the city should not pursue this policy, based on the evidence that retailers from inside the city would move into its business district for free.

We are asked to support the city’s argument, which will likely involve weakening the argument of the author against the city’s policy. Our answer should give us additional evidence for why the city will be better off with out-of-town retailers in its shopping district, even though they must be paid to move there.

Choice A supports the author’s argument and weakens the city’s argument. If the city’s retailers are very similar to out-of-town retailers, the incentives would be a waste of money. Choice B cites a decline in the city’s tax revenues, but doesn’t give us any information about whether the city’s policy or the author’s plan will more effectively address this trend.

Choice C, however, does provide us with such information. If locally based businesses are exempt from city taxes, this means that the city won’t gain any tax revenues at all from these businesses. Therefore, despite the cost of the incentives, the city will gain a greater net tax revenue from out-of-town retailers’ stores than from locally-based retailers’ stores. This weakens the author’s argument and thus strengthens the city’s argument.

The status of cash incentives as a relatively recent phenomenon (choice D) doesn’t tell us anything about their effectiveness for the city, and there’s no necessary connection between the number of stores that a retailer operates elsewhere (choice E) and the ability of one of its stores to generate tax revenues. Therefore, choices D and E are irrelevant.

Choice C is correct.