Unexpected Wording

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In the previous question, we saw the correct answer as something that was totally unexpected. That threw us off during the initial answer choice elimination process. Indeed, as we have encountered before, the correct answer may often be worded in a more vague and abstract manner than we’d like. This is not a random coincidence, the test makers do this on purpose to entrap you. As we saw in Role and Method Questions back in LR Perfection, do not eliminate an answer choice simply because you don’t understand it. Only eliminate an answer if you can point to an exact reason why it is wrong.

When we are left with two answer choices and one or both of them are incomprehensible, fear not. Rather than trying to come to a hasty conclusion on what the correct answer might be, seek first to understand what the AC is really saying.

When it comes to ranking answer choices, unexpected, abstract, or vague answers should not be penalized.

PT33 S2 Q15 (PT33 Passage 3)

Experts anticipate that global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) will have doubled by the end of the twenty-first century. It is known that CO2 can contribute to global warming by trapping solar energy that is being reradiated as heat from the Earth’s surface. However, some research has suggested that elevated CO2 levels could enhance the photosynthetic rates of plants, resulting in a lush world of agricultural abundance, and that this CO2 fertilization effect might eventually decrease the rate of global warming. The increased vegetation in such an environment could be counted on to draw more CO2 from the atmosphere. The level of CO2 would thus increase at a lower rate than many experts have predicted.

However, while a number of recent studies confirm that plant growth would be generally enhanced in an atmosphere rich in CO2, they also suggest that increased CO2 would differentially increase the growth rate of different species of plants, which could eventually result in decreased agricultural yields. Certain important crops such as corn and sugarcane that currently have higher photosynthetic efficiencies than other plants may lose that edge in an atmosphere rich in CO2. Patterson and Flint have shown that these important crops may experience yield reductions because of the increased performance of certain weeds. Such differences in growth rates between plant species could also alter ecosystem stability. Studies have shown that within rangeland regions, for example, a weedy grass grows much better with plentiful CO2 than do three other grasses. Because this weedy grass predisposes land to burning, its potential increase may lead to greater numbers of and more severe wildfires in future rangeland communities.

It is clear that the CO2 fertilization effect does not guarantee the lush world of agricultural abundance that once seemed likely, but what about the potential for the increased uptake of CO2 to decrease the rate of global warming? Some studies suggest that the changes accompanying global warming will not improve the ability of terrestrial ecosystems to absorb CO2. Billings’ simulation of global warming conditions in wet tundra grasslands showed that the level of CO2 actually increased. Plant growth did increase under these conditions because of warmer temperatures and increased CO2 levels. But as the permafrost melted, more peat (accumulated dead plant material) began to decompose. This process in turn liberated more CO2 to the atmosphere. Billings estimated that if summer temperatures rose four degrees Celsius, the tundra would liberate 50 percent more CO2 than it does currently. In a warmer world, increased plant growth, which could absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, would not compensate for this rapid increase in decomposition rates. This observation is particularly important because high-latitude habitats such as the tundra are expected to experience the greatest temperature increase.

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

A. Elevated levels of CO2 would enhance photosynthetic rates, thus increasing plant growth and agricultural yields

B. Recent studies have yielded contradictory findings about the benefits of increased levels of CO2 on agricultural productivity

C. The possible beneficial effects of increased levels of CO2 on plant growth and global warming have been overstated

D. Increased levels of CO2 would enhance the growth rates of certain plants, but would inhibit the growth rates of other plants

E. Increased levels of CO2 would increase plant growth, but the rate of global warming would ultimately increase

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We have encountered this passage before, the Main Point of the passage is that increased levels of CO2 will neither lead to an increase in beneficial plants nor gradually slow down the rate of further CO2 increase and global warming. To put it succinctly, the CO2 increase that we are witnessing will not have the positive benefits some research has suggested.

A. Elevated levels of CO2 would enhance photosynthetic rates, thus increasing plant growth and agricultural yields

This is wrong. The passage states that the growth rate of weeds will increase but agricultural yields will not.

 B. Recent studies have yielded contradictory findings about the benefits of increased levels of CO2 on agricultural productivity

Yes, this describes the second paragraph, but it’s incomplete at best, since we are looking for the Main Point of the entire passage.

An incomplete MP answer is not automatically wrong, so I won’t just eliminate this one yet.

 C. The possible beneficial effects of increased levels of CO2 on plant growth and global warming have been overstated

This one talks about both plant growth and global warming, but instead of saying that the benefits of both are non-existent, the word “overstated” is used. It’s not exactly an accurate reflection of the author’s tone, but I suppose that thinking CO2 had agricultural and global warming benefits when it doesn’t is a form of “overstatement.”

So other than its weak wording, there’s nothing factually wrong with this AC. Let’s keep it for now.

 D. Increased levels of CO2 would enhance the growth rates of certain plants, but would inhibit the growth rates of other plants

Yes, this is also factually correct, but extremely limited in scope. It’s almost the same as B.

E. Increased levels of CO2 would increase plant growth, but the rate of global warming would ultimately increase

This, on its surface, is not wrong per se. But I feel like it’s an oversimplification of the actual message of the passage.

The passage tells us that increased levels of CO2 would lead to increased growth of weeds and not “good plants,” while global warming would continue and release more CO2 into the atmosphere, and the initial increase in CO2 levels would not slow this process down.

It does cover (partially) the content of the second paragraph, as well as the third paragraph. So in that sense its better than B and D.

So let’s take a look at C and E.

The passage tells us the CO2 will not lead to positive plant growth and lessened global warming. Answer choice C tells us that the “beneficial effects…have been overstated.”

Is it an “overstatement?” To put it mildly, yes. Let’s say that you met someone on Tinder whose photos had them sitting in a Rolls Royce and in Private Jets. But in real life they are unemployed and is trying to scam you. Would you say that they have “overstated” their wealth?

That would be a bit of an understatement, although it would technically be correct.

Let’s look at answer E. The issue I had with this answer was that the passage was talking about not just increased plant growth, but increased growth of weeds at the expense of agricultural yields. So E is an oversimplification that is actually quite misleading.

The choice boils down to C, which is an overly modest but factually correct answer; and E, which is an oversimplified and potentially misleading answer.

I think C wins over E. C is the better answer here.

PT25 S1 Q12 (PT25 Passage 2)

While a new surge of critical interest in the ancient Greek poems conventionally ascribed to Homer has taken place in the last twenty years or so, it was nonspecialists rather than professional scholars who studied the poetic aspects of the Iliad and the Odyssey between, roughly, 1935 and 1970. During these years, while such nonacademic intellectuals as Simone Weil and Erich Auerbach were trying to define the qualities that made these epic accounts of the Trojan War and its aftermath great poetry, the questions that occupied the specialists were directed elsewhere: “Did the Trojan War really happen?” “Does the bard preserve Indo- European folk memories?” “How did the poems get written down?” Something was driving scholars away from the actual works to peripheral issues. Scholars produced books about archaeology, and gift exchange in ancient societies, about the development of oral poetry, about virtually anything except the Iliad and the Odyssey themselves as unique reflections or distillations of life itself—as, in short, great poetry. The observations of the English poet Alexander Pope seemed as applicable in 1970 as they had been when he wrote them in 1715: according to Pope, the remarks of critics “are rather Philosophical, Historical, Geographical . . . or rather anything than Critical and Poetical.”

Ironically, the modern manifestation of this “nonpoetical” emphasis can be traced to the profoundly influential work of Milman Parry, who attempted to demonstrate in detail how the Homeric poems, believed to have been recorded nearly three thousand years ago, were the products of a long and highly developed tradition of oral poetry about the Trojan War. Parry proposed that this tradition built up its diction and its content by a process of constant accumulation and refinement over many generations of storytellers. But after Parry’s death in 1935, his legacy was taken up by scholars who, unlike Parry, forsook intensive analysis of the poetry itself and focused instead on only one element of Parry’s work: the creative limitations and possibilities of oral composition, concentrating on fixed elements and inflexibilities, focusing on the things that oral poetry allegedly can and cannot do. The dryness of this kind of study drove many of the more inventive scholars away from the poems into the rapidly developing field of Homer’s archaeological and historical background.

Appropriately, Milman Parry’s son Adam was among those scholars responsible for a renewed interest in Homer’s poetry as literary art. Building on his father’s work, the younger Parry argued that the Homeric poems exist both within and against a tradition. The Iliad and the Odyssey were, Adam Parry thought, the beneficiaries of an inherited store of diction, scenes, and concepts, and at the same time highly individual works that surpassed these conventions. Adam Parry helped prepare the ground for the recent Homeric revival by affirming his father’s belief in a strong inherited tradition, but also by emphasizing Homer’s unique contributions within that tradition.

According to the passage, which one of the following is true of Milman Parry’s immediate successors in the field of Homeric studies?

A. They reconciled Homer’s poetry with archaeological and historical concerns.

B. They acknowledged the tradition of oral poetry, but focused on the uniqueness of Homer’s poetry within the tradition.

C. They occupied themselves with the question of what qualities made for great poetry.

D. They emphasized the boundaries of oral poetry.

E. They called for a revival of Homer’s popularity.

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We just keep on returning to this passage. In many ways I think it’s better to re-use the same passage, because our energy will be focused on the nuances of the answer choices, as opposed to trying to understand the reading itself.

What do we know about MP’s immediate successors? This information is found in the latter part of the second paragraph:

But after Parry’s death in 1935, his legacy was taken up by scholars who, unlike Parry, forsook intensive analysis of the poetry itself and focused instead on only one element of Parry’s work: the creative limitations and possibilities of oral composition, concentrating on fixed elements and inflexibilities, focusing on the things that oral poetry allegedly can and cannot do.

They stopped analyzing the poetry itself. They focused the limitations and possibilities of oral poetry.

The correct answer is D, “they emphasized the boundaries of oral poetry.”

That’s just another way of saying “they focused on the limitations of oral poetry.”

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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. 

We saw in this section two questions where the correct answer choice was something we weren’t expecting. When we are ranking answer choices based on their desirability, it’s important to remember that just because an answer is worded awkwardly or in an unexpected way is not grounds for dismissal.

Read these answers word for word and try to interpret them into more comprehensible language, then compare them to the text of the passage. Only eliminate an answer choice if it contains a specific error or flaw.

We saw two such correct answer choices just now. In both of these answers, we were resistant to them more because of the way they were phrased rather than any gaps or mistakes they contained. Perhaps they were worded too vaguely and not as specific as we’d have liked; perhaps we felt that the strength of the wording was a little off. But they were not wrong, per se. Furthermore, if you compared them to the next best alternative, you’ll find that the other answers had even more issues.