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One of the most vexing problems in historiography (PowerScore GMAT CR)

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One of the most vexing problems in historiography (PowerScore GMAT CR) [#permalink]

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One of the most vexing problems in historiography is dating an event when the usual sources offer conflicting chronologies of the event. Historians should attempt to minimize the number of competing sources, perhaps by eliminating the less credible ones. Once this is achieved and several sources are left, as often happens, historians may try, though on occasion unsuccessfully, to determine independently of the usual sources which date is more likely to be right.


Which one of the following inferences is most strongly supported by the information above?

(A) We have no plausible chronology of most of the events for which attempts have been made by historians to determine the right date.
(B) Some of the events for which there are conflicting chronologies and for which attempts have been made by historians to determine the right date cannot be dated reliably by historians.
(C) Attaching a reliable date to any event requires determining which of several conflicting chronologies is most likely to be true.
(D) Determining independently of the usual sources which of several conflicting chronologies is more likely to be right is an ineffective way of dating events.
(E) The soundest approach to dating an event for which the usual sources give conflicting chronologies is to undermine the credibility of as many of these sources as possible.


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Last edited by BrainLab on 08 Feb 2015, 11:49, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: One of the most vexing problems in historiography (PowerScore GMAT CR) [#permalink]

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New post 04 Feb 2015, 00:39
Quote:
Issue: Dating an event, when sources do not agree about the time periods, is difficult.
Method: Try to minimize the number of competing sources. eg. by eliminating less credible ones.
Result: If this is done, the historians can use the sources which are remaining (mostly several of them will still be left) to arrive at the date which is more probably correct. They are sometimes unsuccessful.

INFERENCE? Ok first things first - your question is a VERY good one, and here is where the subtleties of the GMAT are in play. The reason you are expecting to see predictions / recommendations in the answer choices, is because you think the question is asking you to infer something from an argument / claim / recommendation.

In truth, the question stem reads, "most strongly supported by the information above". Now the word information is key here. Whenever we have a question like this, and it looks like there is a recommendation in there, you need to question whether that is truly a prediction or simply a "directive" that is already in use.

For example, if I say that "Nurses should wash their hands. This has been proven to prevent infection." Though I seem to be making a recommendation, this has already been proven, and it is only a general directive which is actually already in effect. Nurses do wash their hands, as it seems to be proven that this prevents infection. I am just reaffirming that they should.

Similarly, though it looks like the author is recommending a strategy for historians, he is actually reaffirming that this is the correct method. We should take this as a fact, such as from a textbook, that is already being used by these historians. There are also a lot of tells in the passage that point to this... "several sources are left, as often happens..." and "...on occasion unsuccessfully..."

This clearly indicates that historians have in the past tried to eliminate sources and seek a new estimation of dates.

I hope this makes sense. Thus, now we will approach the answer choices to infer what historians do, based on these directives in the information.

A. Too extreme. The passage only talks about events that involve multiple, conflicting sources.

B. We can infer on the basis of the recommendation, that in the past, when faced with an event like this, historians would try to eliminate some sources, and try to determine the date, BUT SOMETIMES UNSUCCESSFULLY. Thus, some of these events cannot be dated reliably by historians.

C. This is out of scope, the passage only says "eliminate less credible ones", not to "identify ones most likely to be true". Also there's no way to know if we can even do this or not.

D. Again out of scope and probably untrue.

E. "undermine the credibility of as many sources as possible" No- this is not the aim. You can only try to eliminate the ones that are less credible, you should not try actively to undermine the sources -- too extreme.

Pick B.

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Re: One of the most vexing problems in historiography (PowerScore GMAT CR) [#permalink]

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New post 04 Feb 2015, 00:49
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(A) We have no plausible chronology of most of the events for which attempts have been made by historians to determine the right date.
The passage does not talk about all the events, only the events with multiple date sources
(B) Some of the events for which there are conflicting chronologies and for which attempts have been made by historians to determine the right date cannot be dated reliably by historians.
Correct. This can be inferred from the passage
(C) Attaching a reliable date to any event requires determining which of several conflicting chronologies is most likely to be true.
We are not talking about all the events, only the ones with multiple date sources.
(D) Determining independently of the usual sources which of several conflicting chronologies is more likely to be right is an ineffective way of dating events.
No where is the passage talking about the ineffective ways
(E) The soundest approach to dating an event for which the usual sources give conflicting chronologies is to undermine the credibility of as many of these sources as possible.
To extreme, we have not talked about other ways, so soundest way should not be used
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Re: One of the most vexing problems in historiography (PowerScore GMAT CR) [#permalink]

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Official Answer :
The correct answer choice is (B). The stimulus is a fact set and offers a
solution for dating an event when the usual sources offer conflicting
chronologies: 1. Minimize the number of competing sources, possibly by
eliminating the less credible ones. 2. Independent of the usual sources,
determine which date is more likely to be right. Notice how the test makers
throw in the word “historiography” in order to be intimidating. As usual, you do
not need to know the meaning of this word (or any unusual word) in order to
continue with the problem. The remainder of the sentence makes clear that
dating an event is the point of discussion, and you can comfortably connect
the “historio” word root to “date an event” and “historians” and confidently
move on with a good idea that historiography is connected to history in some
way. By definition, historiography is the writing of history. Answer choice (A):
The stimulus discusses dates where there is conflict between sources. In no
way does the stimulus support answer choice (A). Answer choice (B): This is
the correct answer. As stated in the last sentence, historians are on occasion
unsuccessful in determining independently the date of an event. If the usual
sources offered are in conflict about the date of a particular event and an
analysis independent of the usual sources fails to confirm a date, then a date
cannot be reliably determined for the event. Answer choice (C): About onethird
of all test takers choose this answer. The stimulus speaks specifically of
dating an event when the usual sources offer conflicting chronologies. The
stimulus does not discuss dating an event when there is no conflict of
chronologies, and most likely many dates could be set with certainty in the
absence of any conflict. With this in mind, the language of the answer choice
becomes problematic because “attaching a reliable date to any event” would
not “require determining which of several conflicting chronologies is most
likely to be true.” Answer choice (D): The language of the answer choice is
too strong in saying that an independent determination is an ineffective way
of dating events. There is simply not enough information about what
constitutes a “determination independent of the usual sources” to say it is
ineffective. Answer choice (E): This is another tricky answer, and just under a
quarter of test takers incorrectly select this answer. The answer claims that
the soundest approach to dating an event is to undermine the credibility of as
many of the competing sources as possible. First, the stimulus suggests that
the historian should, perhaps, eliminate the less credible ones. No mention is
made of eliminating as many as possible, and the stimulus indicates that
several remaining sources are to be expected. Second, that same section
discusses eliminating less credible sources, not undermining the credibility of
those sources.
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Re: One of the most vexing problems in historiography (PowerScore GMAT CR)   [#permalink] 16 Aug 2017, 00:37
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