the scope of the argument
(this section is a repeat from the Critical Reasoning Section)
it comes to determining the scope of a passage, you need to understand
what we mean by "scope." Think of scope as a narrowing
of the topic. If you've found the main point, you must also identify
what is in the range of the argument. Scope is related to more
than just the general topic being discussed; it is the narrowing
of the topic. Is the article about graduate school admissions,
MBA admissions, or helping international students get into the
business school program of their choice? Each step represents
a narrowing of the scope.
is one of the most important concepts for doing well on the verbal
section, particularly for high scorers. Why? Put yourself in
the position of the test question writers. They must write difficult
questions. Only one of the five choices is correct; the rest
are "junk" answers. They have to write questions
that a certain number of students will get wrong, and they have
to make up "junk" answers to fool people. The issue
of scope solves both problems for test question writers: it allows
them to easily generate wrong answers, and it makes the questions
harder because scope is a challenging issue. Most Critical
Reasoning or Reading Comprehension questions have "junk"
answers that are outside of the question's scope.
common examples of scope junk answers are choices that are too
narrow, too broad, or literally have nothing to do with the author's
points. Also, watch for and eliminate choices that are too extreme
to match the argument's scope; they're usually signaled by such
words as all, always, never, none, and so on. Choices
that are in some way qualified are often correct for arguments
that are moderate in tone and contain such words as usually,
words that signal answers
that are too strong and therefore usually outside the scope of
Some scientists believe that
carbon dioxide-induced global warming may increase the number
of hurricanes in the future and their severity.
What if someone inferred from
that statement that
All of this season's severe hurricanes were
caused by global warming.
That statement would be outside
of the scope of the original argument. The inference made is
outside the scope of the argument. The argument is not that strong.
What about this statement:
Some of this season's storms may have been
caused and exacerbated by global warming.
This statement is more measured
and is within the scope of the original argument.
- In general, these phrases indicate
statements that are outside of the scope of an argument: always,
never, none. Usually, arguments aren't that strong, so answers
with extreme language are usually outside the scope of the argument.
- These phrases tend to indicate
that a phrase is within the scope of an argument: usually,
Strategy: If the question asks "which of
the following is NOT an assumption of the argument" or "which
of the following does NOT describe an argument made in the passage
above", the answer will often be the one with extreme language.
Here is a critical reasoning question
that illustrates scope.
Apartment building owners
argue that rent control should be abolished. Although they acknowledge
that they would increase rents in the short term, owners argue
that in the long term the rent increases would lead to greater
profitability. Higher profits would lead to increased apartment
construction. Increased apartment construction would then lead
to a greater supply of residences and lower prices as the potential
apartment residents have a better selection. Thus, abolishing
rent control would ultimately reduce prices.
Name an assumption made by
the owners. (Hint: this is a difficult question, but you may eliminate
4 of the 5 answers as outside the scope of the argument).
a) Current residents of rent-controlled apartments would be able
to find new apartments once their rents increased.
b) The fundamental value of any society is to house its citizens.
c) Only current apartment owners would profit significantly from
d) New apartment construction will generate a great number of
e) The increase in the number of apartments available would exceed
the number of new potential apartment residents.
Which possible answers are outside
of the scope? The scope is the argument that deregulation will
increase supply and lower prices. "Name an assumption"
means find a direct assumption of that supply/demand argument.
a) Current residents of rent
control apartments would be able to find new apartments once
their rent increased--is this outside of the scope?
Well, this sentence expresses a nice sentiment for the welfare
of renters, but it has nothing to do with our argument, which
is about a supply/demand dynamic.
b) The fundamental value of
any society is to house its citizens. Is this outside of
the scope? Again, nice sentiment, but this does not directly
tie into the argument.
c) Only current apartment
owners would profit significantly from market deregulation.
Is this outside of the scope? The profitability of the apartment
owners is not directly relevant. If the profitability of the
apartments increases, it would help increase supply because other
companies would be drawn into the market, thus increasing supply.
Indeed this looks good and as if it is an assumption, but "Only
current apartment owners" is too limiting. How about newer
apartment owners? The profits made by "only current owners"
is not the issue at hand; it is the price of apartments. Again,
as previously mentioned, answer choices that use words such as
"only" tend to be outside the scope of the question.
Here "only" is too restrictive and allows you to eliminate
this answer choice.
d) New apartment construction
will generate a great number of jobs. This is clearly outside
of the scope.
e) The increase in the number
of apartments available would exceed the number of new potential
apartment residents. Aha! This is an argument about supply
and demand, and this is an answer about supply and demand. This
is clearly within the scope of the argument, and it is the correct
answer. If demand rose with new apartment construction, then
prices would not decline, invalidating their argument.
w E. Determining
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