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How to Visualize/Prethink "Strengthens" Questions (Part 2)

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How to Visualize/Prethink "Strengthens" Questions (Part 2) [#permalink]

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19 Aug 2013, 08:38
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"Strengthens" CR Questions (Part 2)

In Part 1, we covered the basics of the Visualization Approach within GMAT Pill’s Table-top Framework. By following the GMAT Pill 3-Step approach we used a methodical, structured approach for strengthening an argument. Here in Part 2, we'll apply one of GMATPill's 10 CR Frameworks to a CR question to help you speed up your response time and increase accuracy.

Recall, again, that “Strengthens” questions are the most popular type of CR question on the GMAT. Here is a summary of GMAT Pill’s analysis of OG13’s 124 CR questions:

30% General Strengthen
20% Weaken
12% Helps Explain
10% Bold / Identify Structure of Argument
10% Evaluate the Argument
10% Argument Depends
8% Inference

“Strengthens” questions include all the bolded sections above: 30% General Strengthens, 12% Helps Explain, and 10% Argument Depends.

Together, that’s 30% + 12% + 10% = 52% of CR.

While we categorize these questions as 3 separate types, these are ALL “strengthen” questions and among these 3 categories, the same overlapping frameworks are used. So keep that in mind.

We broke out “Helps Explain” and “Argument Depends” because there a number of such questions phrased this way. There is a slight nuance for these question types from other “general strengthen” questions but we’ll get into that another day.

Combining Visualization and Frameworks

In Part 1, we already covered the introduction to visualization using the Table-top Approach.

In the two examples in Part 1, we looked at the basis of the argument and found ways to strengthen that basis.

Now, in this Part 2 lesson, we’ll dive into a CR question and use one of GMATPill's 10 CR Frameworks on TOP of the visualization approach, to further increase speed and accuracy. The specific framework we'll be using will be applied to CR questions that have a “before” scenario and and “after” scenario. For example, the “before” scenario may describe some negative characteristic and the “after” scenario may describe some positive characteristic. Why the difference? Well, the difference between these two scenarios is due to some new variable that is introduced in the passage. The author’s prediction is that this new variable is the reason why the “after” scenario is different from the “before” scenario. Our job is to strengthen that claim, to explain why or how exactly that variable is responsible for the changes observed between the “before” and “after” scenarios.

Whenever we come across this type of CR question, we should quickly have a few pre-thinking questions in mind before going into the answer choices. We don’t want to read through the answer choices without having something in mind. If you blindly read through the answer choices, you’ll lose a lot of time reading and re-reading answer choices and ultimately you get distracted.

With before/after questions, we want to use a before/after framework approach. Here’s what we focus on:
1) The Variable. What is so special about it? Can we elaborate on some detail about how the new variable works and how it interacts with everything before to create a “positive” outcome.
2) (occasionally) Show that “nothing else” is responsible for the new positive outcome.

Most of the time, the answer will be attained via the first pre-thinking strategy above. With #1, you want to ask yourself, “what’s so special about X?” Give me more details. How exactly does it work. If it already has some basis, challenge that basis. If it doesn’t, find out more information about it.

Let’s take an example that uses the first pre-thinking strategy above within the context of GMAT Pill’s Before/After Framework.

CR Example 1

Quote:
Rheumatoid arthritis has been associated with deficiency in Vitamin B6. In parts of Southeast Asia, agriculturists are attempting to lower the frequency of arthritis in the aging population by encouraging farmers to use land for raising versatile meats such as chicken and turkey which are rich in vitamin B6. The plan has good chances of success, since meats are increasingly becoming a part of the region's diet, and the crop varieties currently grown contain little vitamin B6.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the prediction that the plan will succeed?
(A) The growing conditions required by the varieties of agricultural crops currently cultivated in the region are conditions in which raising poultry farms of chicken and turkey can flourish.
(B) The flesh of chicken and turkey meats differs from that of the beef meats currently in the region's diet, so traditional meats would look and taste somewhat different when replaced with chicken and turkey.
(C) There are no other varieties of meats that are significantly richer in vitamin B6 than chicken and turkey is.
(D) The varieties of meats currently cultivated in the region contain some important nutrients that are lacking in vitamin B6.
(E) There are other meats currently grown in the region that contain more vitamin B6 than the meats imported do.

Most people reading the passage above will come across a lot of details – from arthritis to vitamin b6 to raising chicken to diet in the region.

What is the best way to comprehend all of this?

Let’s follow the GMAT Pill 3-Step Approach
1) Identify the conclusion
2) Visualize the Question

Doing all 3 steps is feasible in real-time once you get enough practice. And you’ll notice how efficient it is over time.

Step 1: Identify the Conclusion

Typically the conclusion is the last sentence of the CR passage, though not always. Here it is. The last sentence has a sentence structure of “[Conclusion], since [support]”.

Notice the keyword “since” – it signifies a claim to the left of it, and a reason for that claim to the right of it. This means the “conclusion” is the yellow portion highlighted above and the “support” is the rest of the sentence after “since”.

So what is the conclusion?

“The plan has good chance of success”.

Step 2: Visualize the Question

If you followed along with the course, you’ll also see that this is an action outcome conclusion. We are not really describing a characteristic of the “plan”. Instead we are making a statement that “following the plan” will result in “success”. The word “following” is not explicitly used in the passage, but that is the intended meaning.

Visually, it looks like this:

The conclusion is that ‘following the plan’ will lead to a positive outcome. The support for such a conclusion is everything else in the passage.

Sentence structure-wise, the support comes to the right of “since” – meats are increasingly becoming a part of the region’s diet.

But that alone does not comprise the support. That’s some additional information on top of information already presented in the question stem that further helps support the claim.

So what does the whole support look like?

Well, that’s what we’ll do utilizing the GMAT Pill Before/After framework. Recall that once the author introduced the “plan”, the outcome of the whole passage switched to success, a positive. So with the before/after framework, you want to envision what’s going on before and after. Then ask the key question: what is so special about the “plan”? Why is it that following the plan will change things and around and make a negative turn into a positive (success)?

Here’s what that visualization looks like:

1) What’s so special about the plan? Elaborate
2) Nothing else is responsible for the positive success we see, only the “plan” is responsible

So with key question #1 above, it seems we already have some details. Let’s visualize those details.

Notice we have a basis for that plan and the basis for that plan is connected to the outcome of “lower arthritis”. This is considered “success” for the author since the objective of the plan is to find ways to lower arthritis in the population. By following the rationale presented for the “plan”, we see that it leads to more Vitamin B6 in the population, and since we avoid Vitamin B6 deficiency, it’s possible that we avoid Rheumatoid arthritis as well. If so, then this would be the positive outcome the author is hoping for.

So it seems the question stem already found a way to strengthen the argument. How the plan works is described – then the second half of the sentence after “since” gives us additional information that confirms the population will increase B6. Specifically, it says that “meats are becoming a part of the region’s diet. This strengthens the basis of the plan. By strengthening the basis and showing that the plan actually will result in higher vitamin b6, the author ‘s claim that the plan will lead to lower arthritis/success is strengthened.

Great, so we already strengthened the argument. Why then does the question STILL ask us to strengthen the argument?

Well, it’s certainly true that that last statement strengthened the argument. But our job is to strengthen the argument even further. This means finding another way to further strengthen the basis shown above.

Our first pre-thinking strategy was to ask “what’s so special about the plan” – well, let’s see if we can find something else to strengthen the basis even further. Visually, let’s look at the green chains above and see whether we can strengthen the link at any point in the chain. So any answer choice that talks about details of the plan and/or that connects one idea to the next idea in the sequence would be interesting to keep an eye on.

Essentially, what we’re doing is visualizing the details about the ‘plan’ – then looking for ways to strengthen the basis for that plan leading to the positive outcome.

So the pre-thinking you should have going into the answer choices is “focus on the plan”. Will “using land for meats” necessarily lead to increase in B6? Will increase in B6 necessarily result in lower arthritis? Will lower arthritis necessarily mean success?

These are all important questions to pre-think before looking at the answer choices.

(A) The growing conditions required by the varieties of agricultural crops currently cultivated in the region are conditions in which raising poultry farms of chicken and turkey can flourish.
Yes. Mentions that it’s possible to raise “chicken/turkey” – this is part of the “plan” – OK. Does this then result in success? If conditions are compatible with poultry farms, this means that yes, the effort to raise chicken will actually work. With actual chicken raised and the fact that the diet is increasingly turning toward meats, the population will likely have more vitamin B6. If this is the case, then arthritis is likely lower and we will likely have “success”.

(B) The flesh of chicken and turkey meats differs from that of the beef meats currently in the region's diet, so traditional meats would look and taste somewhat different when replaced with chicken and turkey.
Not relevant
Mentions difference in taste between existing foods and foods under new plan. Does not make a stronger association between ‘plan’ and ‘more B6’ in the area. “Difference in taste” does not lead to anything else – we cannot link it to the plan’s chain of events that eventually leads to the outcome.

(C) There are no other varieties of meats that are significantly richer in vitamin B6 than chicken and turkey is.
Not relevant.
Mentions chicken/turkey are quite good B6 sources – but does not make a stronger association between ‘plan’ and ‘more B6’ in the area. (C) just cannot be linked to the basis we visualized, thus not relevant in strengthening that basis.

(D) The varieties of meats currently cultivated in the region contain some important nutrients that are lacking in vitamin B6.
Not relevant.
Mentions some positives for existing food and acknowledging the lack of B6. But not related to the ‘plan’ and saying the plan *will* boost B6. Characteristics of the current meats is not relevant to the plan which is about new meats (chicken/turkey).

(E) There are other meats currently grown in the region that contain more vitamin B6 than the meats imported do.
Not relevant.
Mentions meat imports are low in B6 – but our plan is not about importing meats. It’s about the new meats – chicken and turkey. (E) is not related to anything about the plan and showing that the ‘plan’ will result in ‘more B6’ in the area. So, not relevant. The existence of other meats with B6 (even if high levels) is not related to the plan which is about chicken/turkey and whether that plan has success or not.

If you used the pre-thinking strategy we recommended (finding more details about the plan and looking for ways to strengthen its basis) – you would quickly eliminate 3 of the 5 answer choices. (C), (D), and (E) used subjects that were not relevant to the plan.

If we think to ourselves, “details about plan, details about chicken/turkey, details about raising these animals, details about eating these meats” – well, (C) says there are no meats with more B6 than chicken/turkey. Well, yes it does mention the word “chicken/turkey” BUT this is not the subject. It’s a mere comparison. The main subject is that there are no other varieties of meats with a lot of B6. Well, this doesn’t match our pre-thinking.

Then (D) talks about the meats currently cultivated there – but whatever details about these meats is not important. The details about these current meats is not related to the argument – which is about the “new” meats – chicken/turkey.

Then (E) talks about the existence of other meats with certain characteristics. “Other meats” is not important to our pre-thinking (plan’s chicken/turkey).

Now, we are left with (A) and (B).

With (B), we do talk about characteristics of chicken/turkey – so yes, this is some detail about the plan. It’s some detail about the chicken/turkey, which is important to the plan. Specifically, (B) talks about how the chicken/turkey of the new “plan” is different from the meats in the current situation. Could the difference in “taste” be the cause for the plan being a success? Well, we already have a rationale for what’s causing the success – it’s the plan details. Now we’re saying there’s a difference in taste – ok, how do we connect difference in taste to “success / lower arthritis / higher B6”? We can’t. Taste is a topic all on its own. We can’t connect it to any other topic we have in our visualization. Thus, it cannot be used to strengthen our argument.

This is the beauty of pre-thinking your answer choice BEFORE looking at the answer choices. You save time reading and re-reading through answer choices – many times you get even more confused because you start reading what they tell you and start believing what it is they say. Sometimes, the answer choices may repeat something in the passage and simply by repeating, you may think that you have an answer choice that is strengthening the conclusion. But this is not the case.

The best way is to deconstruct the argument given using visualization – specifically by packaging what you have into the GMAT Pill table-top framework.

Once you visualize it this way, you can see exactly what you’re missing, exactly what you’re looking for as an ideal answer choice.

Answer choices C, D and E were not relevant to details of the “plan”. B was close but could not be connected to the visualization and thus could not be used to strengthen the basis of the argument. (A) was the best answer choice that was relevant, could connect to details of the plan and thus strengthened the basis for the argument that the plan would have success.

So the final answer (A) strengthens the basis of the argument by elaborating on some detail about the plan. So the Before/After framework got us asking for more details about the “plan” and encouraged us to find ways to strengthen the chain presented. We discovered the last sentence of the question stem already did this by saying that meats are becoming a part of the regions’ diet – and so this will likely result in a Vitamin B6 increase.

Still, with the Before/After framework, we stuck to finding out more information about the “plan”. In doing so, we focused on details about the plan and quickly eliminated 3 answer choices that did not elaborate on the plan. Then the 4th answer choice (B) was eliminated because while it did talk about chicken/turkey (some detail about the plan) – that specific detail about a difference in tastes could not be connected to the chain of topics that then led to the outcome of lower arthritis and success.

Only (A) offered another approach to strengthening basis – specifically it talked about the weather conditions. (A) linked weather conditions to poultry by saying the conditions were good for raising poultry. If so, this means the decision to use land for meats will actually be effective. Raising poultry will actually be a good move because the poultry will then flourish. If so, then using land for meats will result in a flourishing flock of poultry and the population will see an increase in Vitamin B6 from its consumption of that poultry. With more b6, we might see less B6 deficiency and thus less Rheumatoid arthritis, which would ultimately mean success.

Summary

By visualizing this question with the Before/After framework (GMATPill's Framework #1) and applying the key pre-think question, you saved yourself plenty of time and more clearly understood what exactly this CR question is testing you on. Once you start applying this framework to other CR questions that test you on this concept – you’ll find that you have an advantage. You know exactly where to be looking for your answer. That advantage translates into higher scores on the GMAT and you’ll be glad that you discovered this framework and learned how to apply it.

This is the beauty of not just the visualization, but also the framework that is applied to this question. Once you use both, the power of conquering CR becomes that much more within your reach.

Visualization of CR can get more complex for various types of CR questions. As such, GMAT Pill utilizes additional frameworks to help you take advantage of certain question types that come up over and over. These frameworks help pinpoint what parts of a visual diagram are less important for the purposes of answering the question and which parts are more important and can utilize quick strategies to yield the final answer.

Learn more about the GMAT Pill CR Framework and find out if it’s the secret sauce you’re missing for conquering critical reasoning.
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Re: How to Visualize/Prethink "Strengthens" Questions (Part 2) [#permalink]

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23 Aug 2013, 14:39
Great article! Very well written
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Re: How to Visualize/Prethink "Strengthens" Questions (Part 2) [#permalink]

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25 Aug 2013, 11:51
Thank you! This was very helpful
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Re: How to Visualize/Prethink "Strengthens" Questions (Part 2) [#permalink]

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05 Jun 2015, 03:15
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Re: How to Visualize/Prethink "Strengthens" Questions (Part 2)   [#permalink] 05 Jun 2015, 03:15
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