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Concept article on Resolve paradox from

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Concept article on Resolve paradox from  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Nov 2013, 07:52


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Below is the link for a Concept article on Resolve paradox by ... oJKI_mnBy0

Paradox Questions: A Closer Look

Let's examine the elements of paradox questions more closely.
A paradox question presents two seemingly contradictory statements and asks you to resolve the apparent discrepancy. After you are presented with the initial piece of information you will be analyzing (the paradox), you'll be given a choice of answers. Your job will be to choose the one that best explains the reason for the apparent discrepancy and resolves the paradox.

The stem of the paradox question - which is another way of saying 'the way the question is put to you' - generally takes on two forms:

Which of the following, if true, would best explain the discrepancy above?

Which of the following statements, if true, would best resolve the paradox...?

Confused already? Well, there's really no better way to explain paradox questions other than diving straight into an example.The following is an example of a GMAT paradox question:

A recent archeological expedition in Northern Asia revealed a great number of skeletons of animals that died about 1000 years ago. Further research indicated that all the skeletons had been subjected to temperatures in excess of 300 degrees Celsius. This fact provided grounds for speculation that they were killed and cooked by tribes that lived in Northern Asia at that time. However, some of the skeletons belonged to animals that were considered sacred by those tribes and were never hunted or eaten.

Which of the following best explains the apparent discrepancy above?

A) Some of the skeletons found during the expedition belonged to animals that no longer inhabit the area.
B) Skeletons of most animals did not have damages typical of the skeletons of animals that had been killed, cut, and cooked.
C) Tribes that inhabited Northern Asia 1000 years ago used fire to cook food.
D) Another study indicated that there was a great famine in Northern Asia at that time, which forced local tribes to look for alternative sources of food.
E) A further study indicated evidence of a large fire that had occurred in Northern Asia approximately 1000 years ago.

Resolving the Paradox Question:

This question poses quite the conundrum. We'll work through it now and demonstrate the ideal step-by-step process for solving paradox questions.

Step 1: Identifying the Paradox

Resolving a paradox or discrepancy requires you to first identify the paradox. This might seem obvious but clarity should never be taken for granted on GMAT questions.
a) How can you quickly identify the paradox? Usually, the two contradictory parts of the argument are separated by transition words such as HOWEVER, SURPRISINGLY, ON THE OTHER HAND, etc. In this example, the speculation that the animals were killed by local tribes is separated by the word HOWEVER from the contradictory fact that some of those animals were considered sacred and therefore could not have been killed by those tribes. Distill the entire paragraph into the two statements that buffer the transition word and you'll find your contradiction: Animals were found burned HOWEVER they were considered sacred and likely not to have been cooked.
b) You can further simplify the argument by reducing it to one simple question. In the example above, you're looking for the answer to the following: Why were the skeletons of sacred animals subject to high temperatures if it is barely possible that they were cooked by local tribes? Putting the arguments into one direct question will focus you thereby helping you to choose the correct answer.
You've pared down a long and complex paragraph into a simple question. Now that you've clearly identified the question, you're ready to find the answer.

Step 2: Eliminating irrelevant answer choices
When beginning to evaluate answer choices you want to be cold and calculating. The most efficient thing to do is to first go ahead and eliminate the choices that are clearly irrelevant to the question at hand.
a) In the example above, Choice A provides information that relates the past to the future, but it does not answer your question: Why were the skeletons of sacred animals subject to high temperatures if it is barely possible that they were cooked by local tribes? Since it is entirely irrelevant, cross this choice out.
b) Next you'll want to eliminate choices that clearly increase the paradox rather than solve it. Under this criterion, you would exclude Choice B, which adds to the contradiction by stating that most of those animals were unlikely to have been killed, cut, or cooked. We know that! This only increases the enigma of the paradox; a far cry from helping you to answer your central question.
c) You'll then want to ask yourself whether any answer choices address only one part of the contradiction. Choice C only deals with part 1 of the paradox. That is, it confirms the fact that animals would have been subjected to high temperatures while being cooked but it says nothing about part 2 of the paradox. It fails to answer why the skeletons of sacred animals would have been subjected to high temperatures if it is highly probable that they weren't cooked; cross it out.
d) Finally, choices that require additional assumptions should be ruled out. This is where you'll have to get your thinking caps on. Taking this analytical approach, Choice D should be eliminated as it is insufficient to explain the paradox without additional information. This answer could explain the discrepancy if it were known, for example, that famine forced local tribes to hunt and eat sacred animals. However, since that is not known, this choice—tempting as it is—is not sufficient to explain the discrepancy. This is a possible answer but it is incorrect because it requires you to assume too much.
You'll see, once you get the hang of it, following these four steps will become second nature to you. You'll become like a sculptor, carving away the peripheral material to uncover a masterpiece.

Step 3: Confidently Choosing the Right Answer
By process of elimination you're now on the brink of zeroing in on the one correct response.
Here's the rule of thumb: The correct answer will always show how the two seemingly contradictory facts can coexist.
Keep in mind however, that the correct answer may not always explain the contradiction perfectly but it will explain it to some extent. Looking at our example, if, as stated in choice E, there was a great fire in Northern Asia at that time, then both the sacred and mundane animals could have burned. This scenario would explain how the skeletons of animals not likely to be cooked were nevertheless subjected to high temperatures. We can't know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this happened. What's important though is that it's a plausible answer to our central question: Why were the skeletons of sacred animals subject to high temperatures if it is barely possible that they were cooked by local tribes?
Also, it's self-sufficient in the sense that it doesn't require any additional assumptions like the tribes being forced to eat their sacred animal because of the famine. The fire itself caused the markings without any further intervention.

Summing up

Now that we've walked you through the process of answering paradox question, it's possible you're thinking these steps are rather simplistic. It's possible you're thinking that common sense, being that it is common, is something we apply instinctively to these kinds of logic-testing questions.

Well, we can't necessarily argue with that. However (note the transition word), you should remember that the GMAT is unpredictable and contains questions with varying degrees of difficulty. If a more complex paradox question comes up on your exam, you'll want to have this systematic problem-solving method in your tool kit. Perhaps not in the short-run, but in the long-run, it will save your time and boost your results. What's more, you'll feel more confident going into your exam knowing that you're ready to handle questions that come your way, no matter their difficulty, using analytical tools that you've mastered; why leave yourself open to surprises? On the GMAT, nothing should remain in the realm of mystery.


you can know a lot about something but not really understand it."-- a quote
No one knows this better than a GMAT student does.
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Re: Concept article on Resolve paradox from  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Mar 2018, 09:13
Hello from the GMAT Club VerbalBot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

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Re: Concept article on Resolve paradox from &nbs [#permalink] 12 Mar 2018, 09:13
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