GMAT: Anatomy of a Weaken Question – Part 2

Last time we discussed that CR is testing not the implication of single words but the logic of entire arguments, and the need to write down the Conclusion, Evidence & Assumptions as you practice CR to better hone in on what the BASIS is for each argument. We need to spend more time with the argument itself BEFORE reading the answer choices when we practice to improve. For a “weaken” question, the answer choice that MOST weakens the argument will always undermine the premise for the conclusion. If you do not understand the argument first, then you will be tempted by the wrong answer choices that seem to relate to a small part of the premise. It’s all about the bigger picture.

Let’s look at the passage and the question we analyzed last time:

Recent U.S. legislation limiting the emissions permissible from automobiles will require auto manufacturers to incorporate new technology and more costly components in cars. This will drive up the price of cars, both at home and abroad. Therefore, the legislation will result in the loss of many export markets.

Conclusion: Legislation = loss of export markets
Evidence: Legislation requires $$ technology; will drive up price of cars
Assump: US cars are more expensive to foreigners; they will stop buying the US cars

Now let’s see how the assumption relates to the answer choices:

The argument to the left is most seriously weakened by which of the following?

A) Most of the countries to which U.S. automobiles are exported have recently enacted similar legislation limiting emissions.
B) Non-compliance with the new legislation can be punished with high fines.
C) Training factory workers to use the new technology required to manufacture compliant automobiles will be expensive and time-consuming.
D) Some automobile manufacturers will choose to relocate their plants to other countries that do not have stringent emissions standards.
E) Environmental groups have been leaning heavily on the auto industry to voluntarily institute such emissions standards.

This question is weakening “the argument” so we will take the entire argument into consideration here. There are no outside opinions or secondary conclusions we need to worry about. We know the assumptions are NECESSARY to the strength of the argument, and we understand that the underlying assumption here links Legislation to Loss of Export Markets, so the correct answer will make that link invalid. Look for the answer choice that creates a gap between the Legislation and the Loss of Export Markets.

For weaken questions that ask about the entire argument, you can reverse the assumption to make a prediction. If the assumption is something that is necessary, then reversing the assumption will strongly weaken the entire argument.

Prediction: US cars are NOT more expensive to foreigners; they will NOT stop buying US cars

With our Prediction in hand, we can see the correct choice is A. If the legislation has been already enacted, then the US cars will not be more expensive than the foreign cars in the exported countries. Therefore, the conclusion that there will be a loss of export markets is unlikely.

Remember that CR is not based on what you think (or what I think), or on what seems “logical.” It is not an inference. It is based on the ARGUMENT. Don’t start to eliminate or compare answer choices until you have thoroughly broken down the premise. In Part 3 of this series, we’ll look at two harder Weaken questions!