Difficult Trait #5

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LR Perfection Free Preview: Chapter 3 Part V

Difficult Trait #5: Wrong answer choices that are ideas the author would probably agree with, but is not the actual main conclusion of the argument

This is another common trap found in the hardest Find the Conclusion Questions. The test makers will throw in some valid MBT/MSS answers into the mix. The undiscerning student sees these, forgets that they are actually doing a Find the Conclusion/Main Point Question, and is led astray.

Take a look at the following example:

John: My flight was delayed and my friend, who came to pick me up from the airport, simply went home without waiting for me. Since my tardiness was due to a reason beyond my control. Her actions are extremely selfish and speaks volumes about her character.

What is John’s conclusion here? His friend did something selfish and is (probably) a selfish person. This is fairly straightforward.

But you may also encounter an answer that read “John doesn’t think his friend leaving early is justified.” This is ok for a MBT/MSS Question, because that’s most likely what John thinks. But it’s NOT the conclusion of the argument! Always know your task at hand when doing LR questions.

PT24 S2 Q12

For years scientists have been scanning the skies in the hope of finding life on other planets. But in spite of the ever-increasing sophistication of the equipment they employ, some of it costing hundreds of millions of dollars, not the first shred of evidence of such life has been forthcoming. And there is no reason to think that these scientists will be anymore successful in the future, no matter how much money is invested in the search. The dream of finding extraterrestrial life is destined to remain a dream, as science’s experience up to this point should indicate.

Which one of the following most accurately states the main point of the argument?

A. There is no reason to believe that life exists on other planets

B. The equipment that scientists employ is not as sophisticated as it should be

C. Scientists searching for extraterrestrial life will not find it

D. Only if scientists had already found evidence of life on other planets would the continued search be justified

E. We should not spend money on sophisticated equipment to aid in the search for extraterrestrial life

The stimulus is actually fairly straightforward, summarize as you read through it and think about whether the statement you are reading is supporting or being supported. It’s basically saying that scientists have been looking for aliens (statement 1), but they haven’t found any (statement 2). They won’t find any in the future (statement 3), they will never find aliens (statement 4).

Sometimes when the stimulus is relatively easier to understand, the traps will lay in the answer choices. The authors will include answer choices that closely mirror what was said in the stimulus but not quite true, or answer choices that can probably be inferred from the stimulus but are not the conclusion of the argument.

Let’s take a quick look at the answer choices:

A. There is no reason to believe that life exists on other planets

Tricky! Remember the stimulus is about scientists not being able to FIND aliens, and NOT that aliens don’t exist? This is the most commonly selected wrong answer. Be careful of closely related ideas that don’t actually appear in the stimulus.

B. The equipment that scientists employ is not as sophisticated as it should be

Is this a possibility? Sure, if the goal is to find more aliens. But is this the conclusion of the argument? Remember that we cannot stray from the scope of what is discussed in the stimulus. So any could be true or most likely true answers will be wrong. We are doing a Find the Conclusion question, not a MBT/MSS Question!

C. Scientists searching for extraterrestrial life will not find it

Here we go. This is the correct answer and matches our summary/understanding. Because the dream of finding aliens will just be a dream.

D. Only if scientists had already found evidence of life on other planets would continued search be justified

Whenever a conditional statement appears in Find the Conclusion answer choices, I immediately go back to the stimulus to check if this conditional relationship can be located/derived. This answer choice is basically saying

  • Continued search for aliens justified → Already found evidence of life

Does the author imply/assume that the search for aliens is unjustified? Yes, because the scientists will never find them. But again, this answer choice is another MSS answer. This is not a MSS Question.  

E. We should not spend money on sophisticated equipment to aid in the search for extraterrestrial life

This answer choice makes the same mistake as the previous one: it’s a could be true/most likely true statement that needs to be inferred from the stimulus. It’s probably what the author believes, but if we analyze the structure of the stimulus, we realize that the argument is that scientists have not found any aliens, therefore they will never find aliens. The conclusion is that scientists will never find aliens.

The correct answer is C.