Practice Questions

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RC Perfection Free Preview: Chapter 8 Part II

PT7 S3 Q15 (PT7 Passage 3)

Cultivation of a single crop on a given tract of land leads eventually to decreased yields. One reason for this is that harmful bacterial phytopathogens, organisms parasitic on plant hosts, increase in the soil surrounding plant roots. The problem can be cured by crop rotation, denying the pathogens a suitable host for a period of time. However, even if crops are not rotated, the severity of diseases brought on by such phytopathogens often decreases after a number or years as the microbial population of the soil changes and the soil becomes “suppressive” to those diseases. While there may be many reasons for this phenomenon, it is clear that levels of certain bacteria, such as Pseudomonas fluorescens, a bacterium antagonistic to a number of harmful phytopathogens, are greater in suppressive than in non-suppressive soil. This suggests that the presence of such bacteria suppresses phytopathogens. There is now considerable experimental support for this view. Wheat yield increases of 27 percent have been obtained in field trials by treatment of wheat seeds with fluorescent pseudomonads. Similar treatment of sugar beets, cotton, and potatoes has had similar results.

These improvements in crop yields through the application of Pseudomonas fluorescens suggest that agriculture could benefit from the use of bacteria genetically altered for specific purposes. For example, a form of phytopathogen altered to remove its harmful properties could be released into the environment in quantities favorable to its competing with and eventually excluding the harmful normal strain. Some experiments suggest that deliberately releasing altered non-pathogenic Pseudomonas syringae could crowd out the non-altered variety that causes frost damage. Opponents of such research have objected that the deliberate and large-scale release of genetically altered bacteria might have deleterious results. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that this particular strain is altered only by the removal of the gene responsible for the strain’s propensity to cause frost damage, thereby rendering it safer than the phytopathogen from which it was derived.

Some proponents have gone further and suggest that genetic alteration techniques could create organisms with totally new combinations of desirable traits not found in nature. For example, genes responsible for production of insecticidal compounds have been transposed from other bacteria into pseudomonads that colonize corn roots. Experiments of this kind are difficult and require great care: such bacteria are developed in highly artificial environments and may not compete well with natural soil bacteria. Nevertheless, proponents contend that the prospects for improved agriculture through such methods seem excellent. These prospects lead many to hope that current efforts to assess the risks of deliberate release of altered microorganisms will successfully answer the concerns of opponents and create a climate in which such research can go forward without undue impediment.

Which one of the following best summarizes the main idea of the passage?

A. Recent field experiments with genetically altered Pseudomonas bacteria have shown that releasing genetically altered bacteria into the environment would not involve any significant danger

B. Encouraged by current research, advocates of agricultural use of genetically altered bacteria are optimistic that such use will eventually result in improved agriculture, though opponents remain wary

C. Current research indicates that adding genetically altered Pseudomonas syringae bacteria to the soil surrounding crop plant roots will have many beneficial effects, such as the prevention of frost damage in certain crops

D. Genetic alteration of a number of harmful phytopathogens has been advocated by many researchers who contend that these techniques will eventually replace such outdated methods as crop rotation

E. Genetic alteration of bacteria has been successful in highly artificial laboratory conditions, but opponents of such research have argued that these techniques are unlikely to produce organisms that are able to survive in natural environments

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Cultivation of a single crop on a given tract of land leads eventually to decreased yields. One reason for this is that harmful bacterial phytopathogens, organisms parasitic on plant hosts, increase in the soil surrounding plant roots. The problem can be cured by crop rotation, denying the pathogens a suitable host for a period of time. However, even if crops are not rotated, the severity of diseases brought on by such phytopathogens often decreases after a number or years as the microbial population of the soil changes and the soil becomes “suppressive” to those diseases. While there may be many reasons for this phenomenon, it is clear that levels of certain bacteria, such as Pseudomonas fluorescens, a bacterium antagonistic to a number of harmful phytopathogens, are greater in suppressive than in non-suppressive soil. This suggests that the presence of such bacteria suppresses phytopathogens. There is now considerable experimental support for this view. Wheat yield increases of 27 percent have been obtained in field trials by treatment of wheat seeds with fluorescent pseudomonads. Similar treatment of sugar beets, cotton, and potatoes has had similar results.

Back in Chapter 4 we talked about the importance of details: once you have a strong grasp of the passage’s argument and structure, we need to be aware of certain details such as key terms.

The first passage starts off by talking about phytopathogens, which are “bad” bacteria. They can be decreased by crop rotation or suppressed by the presence of certain “good” bacteria in the soil. One of the “good” bacteria is the Pseudomonas fluorescens.

An additional detail we said to keep an eye out for is the author’s opinion/attitude. What’s the author’s attitude towards this new finding about the Pseudomonas fluorescens? The author seems in general acceptance of the new experimental evidence (“this suggests…there is now considerable experimental support…”), but their tone seems fairly neutral and reserved at the same time.

These improvements in crop yields through the application of Pseudomonas fluorescens suggest that agriculture could benefit from the use of bacteria genetically altered for specific purposes. For example, a form of phytopathogen altered to remove its harmful properties could be released into the environment in quantities favorable to its competing with and eventually excluding the harmful normal strain. Some experiments suggest that deliberately releasing altered non-pathogenic Pseudomonas syringae could crowd out the non-altered variety that causes frost damage. Opponents of such research have objected that the deliberate and large-scale release of genetically altered bacteria might have deleterious results. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that this particular strain is altered only by the removal of the gene responsible for the strain’s propensity to cause frost damage, thereby rendering it safer than the phytopathogen from which it was derived.

The author’s tone is still fairly cautious coming into the second paragraph. The word “suggest” is used repeatedly. The author suggests that harmless genetically modified bacteria can be used be used to crowd out their regular counterparts. The Pseudomonas syringae was the example given.

The author then introduces some of the opponents’ reservations, who are fearful of the consequences of large-scale release of genetically modified bacteria. The proponents’ counter-argument is then stated.

It seems that the author has deliberately avoided taking a position on the debate up till now.

Some proponents have gone further and suggest that genetic alteration techniques could create organisms with totally new combinations of desirable traits not found in nature. For example, genes responsible for production of insecticidal compounds have been transposed from other bacteria into pseudomonads that colonize corn roots. Experiments of this kind are difficult and require great care: such bacteria are developed in highly artificial environments and may not compete well with natural soil bacteria. Nevertheless, proponents contend that the prospects for improved agriculture through such methods seem excellent. These prospects lead many to hope that current efforts to assess the risks of deliberate release of altered microorganisms will successfully answer the concerns of opponents and create a climate in which such research can go forward without undue impediment.

A more avant-garde position is introduced. No longer satisfied with simply removing the harmful traits from bacteria, some proponents now want to create organisms with desirable traits.

The author then restates their reservation about such an endeavor: “experiments of this kind are difficult and require great care.

Finally, the author reiterates the optimistic outlook of the proponents.

***

Which one of the following best summarizes the main idea of the passage?

What does the author do in this passage? They do several things. They start off by explaining how beneficial bacteria can fight off harmful bacteria. They then introduce the view held by proponents of genetic engineering, who believe that we can edit out the harmful genes in certain bacteria and use them to crowd out their harmful cousins, thereby helping plants.

The author then introduces the view held by the opponents of such a position, who are fearful of such activities’ consequences. The author finally introduces a more extreme position held by the proponents, who are content not just with editing out harmful genes, but full-on genetic engineering of beneficial bacteria.

So the reading seems like a simple explanation/comparison hybrid passage. But as we mentioned earlier, we must always be mindful of the author’s own position is, no matter how nuanced or subtle it is.

Is the author a “true believer” in the miracles of gene editing for bacteria? Not quite. Sure, the author devotes the majority of the passage to the proponents’ position, but they also express their reservations regarding the whole endeavor. The author never considered the evidence conclusive, only that it “suggests” the possibility of beneficial effects. The author is also cautious of the more extreme position of those who advocate full on genetic engineering.

An ideal Main Point answer, in this case, would not only lay out the position of the proponents, but also factor in some of the author’s reservations.

Let’s take a look at the answer choices:

A. Recent field experiments with genetically altered Pseudomonas bacteria have shown that releasing genetically altered bacteria into the environment would not involve any significant danger

We know this is not exactly what the author thinks. This is probably the position of the proponents mentioned in the passage, but what we want is not only this, but also the author’s own position.

B. Encouraged by current research, advocates of agricultural use of genetically altered bacteria are optimistic that such use will eventually result in improved agriculture, though opponents remain wary

Compared to Answer Choice A, this is more balanced and more reflective of both the makeup of the passage and the author’s position. One party is optimistic, the other party is wary. A better answer would have touched upon the author’s attitude and maybe also said that “great care is required,” but I feel like this choice is still fairly representative. Let’s see if there’s a better choice.

C. Current research indicates that adding genetically altered Pseudomonas syringae bacteria to the soil surrounding crop plant roots will have many beneficial effects, such as the prevention of frost damage in certain crops

This answer is so close. It covers maybe 80% of the passage. But it’s missing two important things.

First, even though the majority of the passage is devoted to the proponents’ view, the Author’s Purpose isn’t a complete advocation/recommendation of that position. Even though limited coverage was given to the opponents, this passage is still comparing two opposing positions.

Secondly, the author’s own attitude, as seen in the language they used throughout the passage, was not reflected in this answer choice. I would have wanted a more balanced answer choice, and this seems too one sided.

D. Genetic alteration of a number of harmful phytopathogens has been advocated by many researchers who contend that these techniques will eventually replace such outdated methods as crop rotation

This is an unsupported linkage. The author suggests in the first paragraph that beneficial bacteria can achieve the same effect as crop rotation, but proponents never said these techniques will replace crop rotation.

E. Genetic alteration of bacteria has been successful in highly artificial laboratory conditions, but opponents of such research have argued that these techniques are unlikely to produce organisms that are able to survive in natural environments

The opponents argue that the large-scale introduction of altered bacteria may have “deleterious” consequences. The author raises the possibility that genetically engineered bacteria may not compete with natural bacteria. This answer choice confuses the two positions. It also misses the proponents’ stance entirely.

The best answer is B.

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Let’s take a look at the answer choices: 

 

A. Draws a conclusion about the population in general based only on a sample of that population

 

What the test makers are describing here is a sampling bias fallacy. The previous question where the author concludes anyone fishing for trout based on how the best fishermen felt about the best selling bait would be such a flaw. Here, even though a survey and sampling are involved, we simply do not have enough information to know whether such a flaw is committed. On the real test, I would keep this answer and move on. 

 

B. Confuses a sufficient condition with a required condition

 

This is the flaw we are looking for, the conditional logic flaw. 

 

C. Is based on an ambiguity of one of its terms

 

The flaw this answer is talking about is called Equivocation, where one word has two meanings and the meaning of the word shifts through the argument. 

 

D. Draws a conclusion about a specific belief based on responses to queries about two different specific beliefs

 

This answer is tricky because it’s half wrong half right. The author drew a conclusion about two specific beliefs (more people believe Indicted → Resign than Convicted → Resign) based upon two specific beliefs, one of which is the same (Indicted → Resign), and one of which is different. (Resign → Convicted)

 

E.. Contains premises that cannot all be true

 

This is the Self Contradiction flaw, it does not appear here. 

A rather tricky question, but it does present us with several take aways, many of which we have already covered earlier on in the chapter.

If the author’s position, stance, or attitude is visible in a passage, then the correct answer will be reflective of that. So as we are reading through a passage, pay attention not just to its content and structure, but also to what the author actually thinks about the topic they are discussing.

Try to come up with what the Author’s Purpose might be before thinking about the Main Point of the passage. Thinking about why the author wrote this specific passage will force us to examine the author’s position or attitude, and that in turn will help us with MP answer choice elimination.

Lastly, watch out for one sided answer choices, answer choices that make unsupported connections between ideas discussed in the passage, and answer choices that are simple summaries of content within the passage.

PT20 S2 Q23 (PT20 Passage 4)

In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe attempts to solve the mystery of the collapse of the Classic Mayan civilization. Lowe bases his study on a detailed examination of the known archaeological record. Like previous investigators, Lowe relies on dated monuments to construct a step-by-step account of the actual collapse. Using the erection of new monuments as a means to determine a site’s occupation span, Lowe assumes that once new monuments ceased to be built, a site had been abandoned. Lowe’s analysis of the evidence suggests that construction of new monuments continued to increase between A.D. 672 and 751, but that the civilization stopped expanding geographically; new construction took place almost exclusively in established settlements. The first signs of trouble followed. Monument inscriptions indicate that between 751 and 790, long-standing alliances started to break down. Evidence also indicates that between 790 and 830, the death rate in Classic Mayan cities outstripped the birthrate. After approximately 830, construction stopped throughout the area, and within a hundred years, the Classic Mayan civilization all but vanished.

Having established this chronology, Lowe sets forth a plausible explanation of the collapse that accommodates the available archaeological evidence. He theorizes that Classic Mayan civilization was brought down by the interaction of several factors, set in motion by population growth. An increase in population, particularly within the elite segment of society, necessitated ever more intense farming. Agricultural intensification exerted stress on the soil and led to a decline in productivity (the amount of food produced through each unit of labor invested). At the same time, the growth of the elite class created increasing demands for ceremonial monuments and luxuries, diverting needed labor from the fields. The theory holds that these stresses were communicated— and amplified—throughout the area as Mayan states engaged in warfare to acquire laborers and food, and refugees fled impoverished areas. The most vulnerable states thus began to break down, and each downfall triggered others, until the entire civilization collapsed.

If there is a central flaw in Lowe’s explanation, it is that the entire edifice rests on the assumption that the available evidence paints a true picture of how the collapse proceeded. However, it is difficult to know how accurately the archaeological record reflects historic activity, especially of a complex civilization such as the Mayans’, and a hypothesis can be tested only against the best available data. It is quite possible that our understanding of the collapse might be radically altered by better data. For example, Lowe’s assumption about monument construction and the occupation span of a site might well be disproved if further investigations of Classic Mayan sites established that some remained heavily settled long after the custom of carving dynastic monuments had ceased.

Which one of the following best expresses the main idea of the passage?

A. In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe successfully proves that the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization was set in motion by increasing population and decreasing productivity.

B. In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe breaks new ground in solving the mystery of the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization through his use of dated monuments to create a step-by-step account of the collapse.

C. In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe successfully uses existing data to document the reduction and then cessation of new construction throughout Classic Mayan civilization.

D. Although John Lowe’s study is based on a careful examination of the historical record, it does not accurately reflect the circumstances surrounding the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization.

E. While John Lowe’s theory about the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization appears credible, it is based on an assumption that cannot be verified using the archaeological record.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Let’s take a look at this passage:

In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe attempts to solve the mystery of the collapse of the Classic Mayan civilization. Lowe bases his study on a detailed examination of the known archaeological record. Like previous investigators, Lowe relies on dated monuments to construct a step-by-step account of the actual collapse. Using the erection of new monuments as a means to determine a site’s occupation span, Lowe assumes that once new monuments ceased to be built, a site had been abandoned. Lowe’s analysis of the evidence suggests that construction of new monuments continued to increase between A.D. 672 and 751, but that the civilization stopped expanding geographically; new construction took place almost exclusively in established settlements. The first signs of trouble followed. Monument inscriptions indicate that between 751 and 790, long-standing alliances started to break down. Evidence also indicates that between 790 and 830, the death rate in Classic Mayan cities outstripped the birthrate. After approximately 830, construction stopped throughout the area, and within a hundred years, the Classic Mayan civilization all but vanished.

The first paragraph introduces JL’s book, The Dynamics of Apocalypse. Lowe uses the date of monument construction as a timeline for the decline and collapse of Mayan civilization.

It will be helpful if we broke down the subsequent information. The details are arranged in chronological order, something we looked at in Chapter 4.

  • Prior to AD 672: Mayan civilization expanding geographically (We can infer this because the paragraph tells us that the Mayans stopped expanding between AD672 and AD751.)
  • 672-751: New construction, but within existing settlements
  • 751-790: Monuments tell us that alliances started to break down
  • 790-830: Population decline
  • 830 onwards: Construction stopped, eventual site abandonment? (we were told earlier that Lowe assumed that once new monuments ceased to be built, a site had been abandoned)
  • Prior to 930: Mayan civilization vanishes (within a hundred years)

Having established this chronology, Lowe sets forth a plausible explanation of the collapse that accommodates the available archaeological evidence. He theorizes that Classic Mayan civilization was brought down by the interaction of several factors, set in motion by population growth. An increase in population, particularly within the elite segment of society, necessitated ever more intense farming. Agricultural intensification exerted stress on the soil and led to a decline in productivity (the amount of food produced through each unit of labor invested). At the same time, the growth of the elite class created increasing demands for ceremonial monuments and luxuries, diverting needed labor from the fields. The theory holds that these stresses were communicated— and amplified—throughout the area as Mayan states engaged in warfare to acquire laborers and food, and refugees fled impoverished areas. The most vulnerable states thus began to break down, and each downfall triggered others, until the entire civilization collapsed.

The author presents Lowe’s hypothesis (“Lowe theorizes“) in the second paragraph:

Increase in elite population ⇒ More intensive farming ⇒ Stress on soil ⇒ Decline in productivity

An additional effect of the increase in elite population is that:

Increase in elite population ⇒ More demand for monuments and luxuries ⇒ Less farmers

The result of decline in productivity (less food) and less labor is increased warfare to acquire food and labor, which led to civilizational collapse.

If there is a central flaw in Lowe’s explanation, it is that the entire edifice rests on the assumption that the available evidence paints a true picture of how the collapse proceeded. However, it is difficult to know how accurately the archaeological record reflects historic activity, especially of a complex civilization such as the Mayans’, and a hypothesis can be tested only against the best available data. It is quite possible that our understanding of the collapse might be radically altered by better data. For example, Lowe’s assumption about monument construction and the occupation span of a site might well be disproved if further investigations of Classic Mayan sites established that some remained heavily settled long after the custom of carving dynastic monuments had ceased.

Does the author approve of or disapprove of Lowe’s explanation? They point out a central flaw in Lowe’s hypothesis. The author doesn’t go to extremes and completely rejects Lowe’s argument, only to point out a significant weakness in it.

So Lowe bases his understanding of the decline and collapse of the Mayan civilization on monuments. But our understanding of these monuments isn’t complete. Maybe there are undiscovered monuments telling a different story, or maybe monuments were destroyed. Maybe even after the Mayans stopped building monuments, settlements still existed.

***

What is the purpose of this passage? I’d say it’s two fold: to present a review of Lowe’s new work, and to point out a central flaw in it.

With that in mind, we can come up with a potential main point for the passage:

While John Lowe presents a plausible (beginning of second paragraph) explanation of the Mayan collapse based on historical monuments in his book The Dynamics of Apocalypse, a central flaw in it is his over reliance on limited archaeological evidence.

***

Let’s take a look at the answer choices:

A. In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe successfully proves that the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization was set in motion by increasing population and decreasing productivity.

Based on the passage, Lowe doesn’t “prove” anything. He presents a hypothesis, and the author even points out a central flaw with that hypothesis.

B. In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe breaks new ground in solving the mystery of the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization through his use of dated monuments to create a step-by-step account of the collapse.

Same issue as Answer Choice A. To argue that Lowe had “solved the mystery” of Mayan collapse is too strong.

C. In The Dynamics of Apocalypse, John Lowe successfully uses existing data to document the reduction and then cessation of new construction throughout Classic Mayan civilization.

Does John Lowe do this? Sure, he makes note of the decrease and cessation of monuments being constructed. But he does this in order to present a chronology of the Mayan collapse.

He then comes up with an explanation for the collapse, which the author thinks contains a central flaw.

This answer choice really only covers what was discussed in the first paragraph.

D. Although John Lowe’s study is based on a careful examination of the historical record, it does not accurately reflect the circumstances surrounding the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization.

Very tricky! What did the author think was the problem with John Lowe’s book? The author thinks that it’s overly depending on archaeological records which may or may not be accurate/complete. This is a very nuanced difference.

The author says, in the last paragraph, that Lowe’s hypothesis may be overturned by new or better data. So in other words, maybe his study does accurately reflect on the collapse of the Mayan civilization based on existing data, but since existing data may be inaccurate or incomplete, his hypothesis does not rest on a solid foundation.

So the author isn’t arguing that Lowe’s conclusions are wrong, only that they are based on potentially weak evidence.

E. While John Lowe’s theory about the collapse of Classic Mayan civilization appears credible, it is based on an assumption that cannot be verified using the archaeological record.

The first half of this answer is great. Words like “theory” and “appears credible” all closely mirror details found in the passage.

The second half is a little convoluted. Let’s try to break it down.

What is John Lowe’s assumption? We are told this way back in the first paragraph, and again in the last paragraph.

In the first paragraph, we are told that Lowe assumes that once monuments ceased to be built, sites are then abandoned. This concept is revisited in the last paragraph. The author tells us that if we ever found out that there were sites continuously inhabited, even after monuments ceased to be built, then Lowe’s chronology of Mayan collapse would be overturned.

In other words, the author is suggesting that Lowe’s whole argument rests upon data that may be incomplete. I wish the answer had been more direct and just said that, but Answer Choice E is still getting at that same idea, albeit super indirectly.

E is the best available answer choice.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Let’s take a look at the answer choices: 

 

A. Draws a conclusion about the population in general based only on a sample of that population

 

What the test makers are describing here is a sampling bias fallacy. The previous question where the author concludes anyone fishing for trout based on how the best fishermen felt about the best selling bait would be such a flaw. Here, even though a survey and sampling are involved, we simply do not have enough information to know whether such a flaw is committed. On the real test, I would keep this answer and move on. 

 

B. Confuses a sufficient condition with a required condition

 

This is the flaw we are looking for, the conditional logic flaw. 

 

C. Is based on an ambiguity of one of its terms

 

The flaw this answer is talking about is called Equivocation, where one word has two meanings and the meaning of the word shifts through the argument. 

 

D. Draws a conclusion about a specific belief based on responses to queries about two different specific beliefs

 

This answer is tricky because it’s half wrong half right. The author drew a conclusion about two specific beliefs (more people believe Indicted → Resign than Convicted → Resign) based upon two specific beliefs, one of which is the same (Indicted → Resign), and one of which is different. (Resign → Convicted)

 

E.. Contains premises that cannot all be true

 

This is the Self Contradiction flaw, it does not appear here. 

Knowing exactly what the author’s position is will help us on the harder MP questions. We saw that in PT7 S3 Q15, where the author’s relatively neutral/balanced stance on genetically modified bacteria meant that the correct MP answer would take on a balanced tone as well.

It’s the same situation here. The author’s complaint about Lowe’s book is that the data upon which it is based may be incomplete. Is Lowe wrong? Maybe, maybe not. But his hypothesis is based on data that may be inaccurate.

PT6 S1 Q21 (PT6 Passage 4)

Although the United States steel industry faces widely publicized economic problems that have eroded its steel production capacity, not all branches of the industry have been equally affected. The steel industry is not monolithic: it includes integrated producers, minimills, and specialty-steel mills. The integrated producers start with iron ore and coal and produce a wide assortment of shaped steels. The minimills reprocess scrap steel into a limited range of low-quality products, such as reinforcing rods for concrete. The specialty-steel mills are similar to minimills in that they tend to be smaller than the integrated producers and are based on scrap, but they manufacture much more expensive products than minimills do and commonly have an active in-house research-and-development effort.

Both minimills and specialty-steel mills have succeeded in avoiding the worst of the economic difficulties that are afflicting integrated steel producers, and some of the mills are quite profitable. Both take advantage of new technology for refining and casting steel, such as continuous casting, as soon as it becomes available. The minimills concentrate on producing a narrow range of products for sale in their immediate geographic area, whereas specialty-steel mills preserve flexibility in their operations in order to fulfill a customer’s particular specifications.

Among the factors that constrain the competitiveness of integrated producers are excessive labor, energy, and capital costs, as well as manufacturing inflexibility. Their equipment is old and less automated, and does not incorporate many of the latest refinements in steelmaking technology. (For example, only about half of the United States integrated producers have continuous casters, which combine pouring and rolling into one operation and thus save the cost of separate rolling equipment.) One might conclude that the older, labor-intensive machinery still operating in United States integrated plants is at fault for the poor performance of the United States industry, but this cannot explain why Japanese integrated producers, who produce a higher-quality product using less energy and labor, are also experiencing economic trouble. The fact is that the common technological denominator of integrated producers is an inherently inefficient process that is still rooted in the nineteenth century.

Integrated producers have been unable to compete successfully with minimills because the minimills, like specialty-steel mills, have dispensed almost entirely with the archaic energy- and capital-intensive front end of integrated steelmaking: the iron-smelting process, including the mining and preparation of the raw materials and the blast-furnace operation. In addition, minimills have found a profitable way to market steel products: as indicated above, they sell their finished products locally, thereby reducing transportation costs, and concentrate on a limited range of shapes and sizes within a narrow group of products that can be manufactured economically. For these reasons, minimills have been able to avoid the economic decline affecting integrated steel producers.

Which one of the following best expresses the main idea of the passage?

A. United States steel producers face economic problems that are shared by producers in other nations.

B. Minimills are the most successful steel producers because they best meet market demands for cheap steel.

C. Minimills and specialty-steel mills are more economically competitive than integrated producers because they use new technology and avoid the costs of the iron-smelting process.

D. United States steel producers are experiencing an economic decline that can be traced back to the nineteenth century.

E. New steelmaking technologies such as continuous casting will replace blast-furnace operations to reverse the decline in United States steel production.  

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Although the United States steel industry faces widely publicized economic problems that have eroded its steel production capacity, not all branches of the industry have been equally affected. The steel industry is not monolithic: it includes integrated producers, minimills, and specialty-steel mills. The integrated producers start with iron ore and coal and produce a wide assortment of shaped steels. The minimills reprocess scrap steel into a limited range of low-quality products, such as reinforcing rods for concrete. The specialty-steel mills are similar to minimills in that they tend to be smaller than the integrated producers and are based on scrap, but they manufacture much more expensive products than minimills do and commonly have an active in-house research-and-development effort.  

Three types of steel mills are introduced:

  • Integrated Producers (IP): uses iron ore and coal to produce a wide assortment of shaped steels
  • Minimills (MM): reprocess scrap steel into low quality products
  • Specialty Steel Mills (SM): similar to MM, but higher tier and do in house research

Both minimills and specialty-steel mills have succeeded in avoiding the worst of the economic difficulties that are afflicting integrated steel producers, and some of the mills are quite profitable. Both take advantage of new technology for refining and casting steel, such as continuous casting, as soon as it becomes available. The minimills concentrate on producing a narrow range of products for sale in their immediate geographic area, whereas specialty-steel mills preserve flexibility in their operations in order to fulfill a customer’s particular specifications.  

MM and SM make money, IP don’t. For several reasons:

  1. MM and SM take advantage of new technology.
  2. MM focuses on a narrow range of products and serve local customers.
  3. SM are flexible and fulfill special demands.

Among the factors that constrain the competitiveness of integrated producers are excessive labor, energy, and capital costs, as well as manufacturing inflexibility. Their equipment is old and less automated, and does not incorporate many of the latest refinements in steelmaking technology. (For example, only about half of the United States integrated producers have continuous casters, which combine pouring and rolling into one operation and thus save the cost of separate rolling equipment.) One might conclude that the older, labor-intensive machinery still operating in United States integrated plants is at fault for the poor performance of the United States industry, but this cannot explain why Japanese integrated producers, who produce a higher-quality product using less energy and labor, are also experiencing economic trouble. The fact is that the common technological denominator of integrated producers is an inherently inefficient process that is still rooted in the nineteenth century.  

IP are disadvantaged by excessive costs and manufacturing inflexibility. Their equipment is old and outdated.

But old and outdated equipment is not the reason why they are losing money. Because Japanese IPs, which have higher quality products and less energy and labor, are also losing money.

The real reason is the outdated manufacturing process.

Integrated producers have been unable to compete successfully with minimills because the minimills, like specialty-steel mills, have dispensed almost entirely with the archaic energy- and capital-intensive front end of integrated steelmaking: the iron-smelting process, including the mining and preparation of the raw materials and the blast-furnace operation. In addition, minimills have found a profitable way to market steel products: as indicated above, they sell their finished products locally, thereby reducing transportation costs, and concentrate on a limited range of shapes and sizes within a narrow group of products that can be manufactured economically. For these reasons, minimills have been able to avoid the economic decline affecting integrated steel producers.

It’s mining and preparation of iron ore and blast-furnace operations that’s making IPs uncompetitive.

MM also sell locally, reduce transportation costs, and have more limited offerings.

***

A fairly straightforward passage with a lot of details. The purpose of the passage isn’t hard to discern. It’s to compare three types of mills and explain why MM and SM are able to make money while IP can’t.

The Main Point of the passage might look something like this:

Minimills and Specialty Mills, due to their ability to take advantage of new technology, niche market specialization, and avoidance of the iron-smelting process, have been able to remain profitable while integrated producers, stymied by an inefficient and outdated labor process and excessive costs, have become uncompetitive.

***

Let’s look at the answer choices:

A. United States steel producers face economic problems that are shared by producers in other nations.

There is literally one sentence that talks about this. We are told that US integrated producers and Japanese integrated producers both face problems. We are told this because the author wants to suggest that costs are not the real reason why IPs have not been competitive. Do not be led astray by answer choices that describe something that does happen in the passage but are not the Main Point.

B. Minimills are the most successful steel producers because they best meet market demands for cheap steel.

Not quite accurate. Minimills and Special Mills are more successful than Integrated Producers, and for a multitude of reasons.

C. Minimills and specialty-steel mills are more economically competitive than integrated producers because they use new technology and avoid the costs of the iron-smelting process.

This answer starts off looking great. But only two out of four reasons why MM and SM are competitive are mentioned. If you recall from the passage, the other two reasons are MM’s focus on a smaller geographical area and narrower range of products; and SM’s ability to cater to customers’ special needs.

This is a classic example of a correct answer that doesn’t cover all the bases. We know that the Main Point of the passage will tell us MM and SM are more competitive than IP, and for what reasons. Even though a few of the reasons listed in the passage were not mentioned here, it is still an acceptable answer if there isn’t an alternative that’s both accurate and more complete.

D. United States steel producers are experiencing an economic decline that can be traced back to the nineteenth century.

This passage is not talking about the historic origins of American steel producer decline.

E. New steelmaking technologies such as continuous casting will replace blast-furnace operations to reverse the decline in United States steel production.

We are concerned with MM/SM’s competitive advantages over IP; not that new technology will save US steel production.

C is the best answer.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Let’s take a look at the answer choices: 

 

A. Draws a conclusion about the population in general based only on a sample of that population

 

What the test makers are describing here is a sampling bias fallacy. The previous question where the author concludes anyone fishing for trout based on how the best fishermen felt about the best selling bait would be such a flaw. Here, even though a survey and sampling are involved, we simply do not have enough information to know whether such a flaw is committed. On the real test, I would keep this answer and move on. 

 

B. Confuses a sufficient condition with a required condition

 

This is the flaw we are looking for, the conditional logic flaw. 

 

C. Is based on an ambiguity of one of its terms

 

The flaw this answer is talking about is called Equivocation, where one word has two meanings and the meaning of the word shifts through the argument. 

 

D. Draws a conclusion about a specific belief based on responses to queries about two different specific beliefs

 

This answer is tricky because it’s half wrong half right. The author drew a conclusion about two specific beliefs (more people believe Indicted → Resign than Convicted → Resign) based upon two specific beliefs, one of which is the same (Indicted → Resign), and one of which is different. (Resign → Convicted)

 

E.. Contains premises that cannot all be true

 

This is the Self Contradiction flaw, it does not appear here. 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Let’s take a look at the answer choices: 

 

A. Draws a conclusion about the population in general based only on a sample of that population

 

What the test makers are describing here is a sampling bias fallacy. The previous question where the author concludes anyone fishing for trout based on how the best fishermen felt about the best selling bait would be such a flaw. Here, even though a survey and sampling are involved, we simply do not have enough information to know whether such a flaw is committed. On the real test, I would keep this answer and move on. 

 

B. Confuses a sufficient condition with a required condition

 

This is the flaw we are looking for, the conditional logic flaw. 

 

C. Is based on an ambiguity of one of its terms

 

The flaw this answer is talking about is called Equivocation, where one word has two meanings and the meaning of the word shifts through the argument. 

 

D. Draws a conclusion about a specific belief based on responses to queries about two different specific beliefs

 

This answer is tricky because it’s half wrong half right. The author drew a conclusion about two specific beliefs (more people believe Indicted → Resign than Convicted → Resign) based upon two specific beliefs, one of which is the same (Indicted → Resign), and one of which is different. (Resign → Convicted)

 

E.. Contains premises that cannot all be true

 

This is the Self Contradiction flaw, it does not appear here. 

PT8 S3 Q7 (PT8 Passage 2)

Gray marketing, the selling of trademarked products through channels of distribution not authorized by the trademark holder, can involve distribution of goods either within a market region or across market boundaries. Gray marketing within a market region (“channel flow diversion”) occurs when manufacturer-authorized distributors sell trademarked goods to unauthorized distributors who then sell the goods to consumers within the same region. For example, quantity discounts from manufacturers may motivate authorized dealers to enter the gray market because they can purchase larger quantities of a product than they themselves intend to stock if they can sell the extra units through gray market channels.

When gray marketing occurs across market boundaries, it is typically in an international setting and may be called “parallel importing.” Manufacturers often produce and sell products in more than one country and establish a network of authorized dealers in each country. Parallel importing occurs when trademarked goods intended for one country are diverted from proper channels (channel flow diversion) and then exported to unauthorized distributors in another country.

Trademark owners justifiably argue against gray marketing practices since such practices clearly jeopardize the goodwill established by trademark owners: consumers who purchase trademarked goods in the gray market do not get the same “extended product,” which typically includes pre and post sale service. Equally important, authorized distributors may cease to promote the product if it becomes available for much lower prices through unauthorized channels.

Current debate over regulation of gray marketing focuses on three disparate theories in trademark law that have been variously and confusingly applied to parallel importation cases: universality, exhaustion, and territoriality. The theory of universality holds that a trademark is only an indication of the source or origin of the product. This theory does not recognize the goodwill functions of a trademark. When the courts apply this theory, gray marketing practices are allowed to continue because the origin of the product remains the same regardless of the specific route of the product through the channel of distribution. The exhaustion theory holds that a trademark owner relinquishes all rights once a product has been sold. When this theory is applied, gray marketing practices are allowed to continue because the trademark owners’ rights cease as soon as their products are sold to a distributor. The theory of territoriality holds that a trademark is effective in the country in which it is registered. Under the theory of territoriality, trademark owners can stop gray marketing practices in the registering countries on products bearing their trademarks. Since only the territoriality theory affords trademark owners any real legal protection against gray marketing practices, I believe it is inevitable as well as desirable that it will come to be consistently applied in gray marketing cases.

Which one of the following best expresses the main point of the passage?

A. Gray marketing is unfair to trademark owners and should be legally controlled.

B. Gray marketing is practiced in many different forms and places, and legislators should recognize the futility of trying to regulate it.

C. The mechanisms used to control gray marketing across markets are different from those most effective in controlling gray marketing within markets.

D. The three trademark law theories that have been applied in gray marketing cases lead to different case outcomes.

E. Current theories used to interpret trademark laws have resulted in increased gray marketing activity.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Gray marketing, the selling of trademarked products through channels of distribution not authorized by the trademark holder, can involve distribution of goods either within a market region or across market boundaries. Gray marketing within a market region (“channel flow diversion”) occurs when manufacturer-authorized distributors sell trademarked goods to unauthorized distributors who then sell the goods to consumers within the same region. For example, quantity discounts from manufacturers may motivate authorized dealers to enter the gray market because they can purchase larger quantities of a product than they themselves intend to stock if they can sell the extra units through gray market channels.

Within a market region: authorized distributors sell to unauthorized distributors who then sell to consumers

When gray marketing occurs across market boundaries, it is typically in an international setting and may be called “parallel importing.” Manufacturers often produce and sell products in more than one country and establish a network of authorized dealers in each country. Parallel importing occurs when trademarked goods intended for one country are diverted from proper channels (channel flow diversion) and then exported to unauthorized distributors in another country.

Across boundaries/parallel importing: trademarked goods destined for one country are diverted to be sold in another country.

Trademark owners justifiably argue against gray marketing practices since such practices clearly jeopardize the goodwill established by trademark owners: consumers who purchase trademarked goods in the gray market do not get the same “extended product,” which typically includes pre and post sale service. Equally important, authorized distributors may cease to promote the product if it becomes available for much lower prices through unauthorized channels.

Trademark owners do not like such sales, for two reasons. One, consumers who buy unauthorized products do not get the same warranty or service. Two, if unauthorized sellers are undercutting authorized distributors, the authorized distributors may cease to promote a product.

Notice how the author thinks the trademark owners’ position is “justified.” We now know where the author stands.

Current debate over regulation of gray marketing focuses on three disparate theories in trademark law that have been variously and confusingly applied to parallel importation cases: universality, exhaustion, and territoriality. The theory of universality holds that a trademark is only an indication of the source or origin of the product. This theory does not recognize the goodwill functions of a trademark. When the courts apply this theory, gray marketing practices are allowed to continue because the origin of the product remains the same regardless of the specific route of the product through the channel of distribution. The exhaustion theory holds that a trademark owner relinquishes all rights once a product has been sold. When this theory is applied, gray marketing practices are allowed to continue because the trademark owners’ rights cease as soon as their products are sold to a distributor. The theory of territoriality holds that a trademark is effective in the country in which it is registered. Under the theory of territoriality, trademark owners can stop gray marketing practices in the registering countries on products bearing their trademarks. Since only the territoriality theory affords trademark owners any real legal protection against gray marketing practices, I believe it is inevitable as well as desirable that it will come to be consistently applied in gray marketing cases.

In the last paragraph, the author introduces three legal theories that have been “variously and confusingly applied.” Clearly, the author is dissatisfied with how the laws have been applied. We also know that earlier, the author called protection of owners’ rights “justifiable.” So we can infer that the author is frustrated at the lacklustre protection of owners’ rights.

The three theories are:

  • Universality: Grey marketing is okay because these products are authentic products that came from the same place as the authorized products.
  • Exhaustion: When the goods are sold to a distributor, the owners relinquish their rights, so the distributors can subsequently resell to anyone else.
  • Territoriality: Owners retain their rights in countries where the trademarks are registered. So they have the right and legal means to stop grey marketing practices.

The author’s view is quite evident in the last sentence. They believe that it is desirable as well as inevitable that Territoriality be applied, granting trademark owners more protection under the law.

***

What is the Author’s Purpose in this passage, or why did they chose to write this?

I think there’s two parts to this answer, the author explains what grey marketing is; and then recommends the legal theory that would bring maximum protection to trademark owners. So the Purpose of the passage would be to explain a practice and to recommend an applicable legal theory to govern such a practice.

As for the Main Point, it should look something like this:

Grey marketing involves the unauthorized sale of goods in the same market and abroad, the theory of territoriality provides the most legal protection to trademark owners, and should be more consistently applied.

 ***

Let’s take a look at the answer choices:

A. Gray marketing is unfair to trademark owners and should be legally controlled.

This is definitely what the author is arguing for. But it’s so general! It does not mention 90% of the things the passage talks about. It doesn’t mention what gray marketing is; it doesn’t mention parallel importing vs. unauthorized distribution locally; it doesn’t mention the three legal theories…I both like and hate this answer simultaneously. Let’s keep it and move on.

B. Gray marketing is practiced in many different forms and places, and legislators should recognize the futility of trying to regulate it.

This is the opposite of what the author is advocating. The author thinks it desirable as well as inevitable that gray marketing will be regulated.

C. The mechanisms used to control gray marketing across markets are different from those most effective in controlling gray marketing within markets.

We are told the difference between domestic and international gray marketing. But we don’t really compare the mechanisms (rules, regulations, sanctions, etc.) used in both.

D. The three trademark law theories that have been applied in gray marketing cases lead to different case outcomes.

Yes, this is true. It’s the message of the majority of the last paragraph. But the author’s voice is non-existent in this answer. We need the answer to tell us that gray marketing should be regulated.

E. Current theories used to interpret trademark laws have resulted in increased gray marketing activity.

Nope, the passage tells us that two out of three legal theories don’t do anything to prevent gray marketing activity; but to say that they result in increased gray marketing activity would be a stretch.

Furthermore, the answer choice is talking about “current theories,” and doesn’t specify which ones.

It looks like Answer Choice A is the best answer. I was wary of it initially, given how broad it was. I knew that the correct answer doesn’t have to cover all the sub points in the paragraph; but this one barely covers any of them.

Nonetheless, it’s the only answer that expresses what the author’s opinion is. Remember, if the author expresses their opinion in the passage, that opinion will appear in the correct answer choice.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Let’s take a look at the answer choices: 

 

A. Draws a conclusion about the population in general based only on a sample of that population

 

What the test makers are describing here is a sampling bias fallacy. The previous question where the author concludes anyone fishing for trout based on how the best fishermen felt about the best selling bait would be such a flaw. Here, even though a survey and sampling are involved, we simply do not have enough information to know whether such a flaw is committed. On the real test, I would keep this answer and move on. 

 

B. Confuses a sufficient condition with a required condition

 

This is the flaw we are looking for, the conditional logic flaw. 

 

C. Is based on an ambiguity of one of its terms

 

The flaw this answer is talking about is called Equivocation, where one word has two meanings and the meaning of the word shifts through the argument. 

 

D. Draws a conclusion about a specific belief based on responses to queries about two different specific beliefs

 

This answer is tricky because it’s half wrong half right. The author drew a conclusion about two specific beliefs (more people believe Indicted → Resign than Convicted → Resign) based upon two specific beliefs, one of which is the same (Indicted → Resign), and one of which is different. (Resign → Convicted)

 

E.. Contains premises that cannot all be true

 

This is the Self Contradiction flaw, it does not appear here.