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Assumption Questions

In this video we are going to be dealing with the assumption question in the paragraph argument question. Now, we’ve already been doing a lot of this in the weakening and the strengthening videos. We’ve been identifying the assumption. And based on that assumption, we can either weaken or strengthen the conclusion.

So much of what we’re doing here in the assumption question, we’ve already done. In fact, we’re doing a little bit less because we don’t have to make the extra oh, let’s attack the assumption now. All we have to do is identify the assumption. However, it’s not always that straightforward, and there are some tricks as you’ll see here in a moment.

But first off, let’s revisit the question that we’ve been using for the strengthening and weakening lesson modules. And it’s the good old boll weevil and the Eradicon. Now, we identify the assumption is that the boll weevil is the primary cause in the drop in cotton production. Okay, now this may actually be an answer choice in the assumption question.

It’s actually not going to be the answer choice here in a moment. But it’s important that we identify the assumptions, so that we start thinking about the assumptions in general. But there are a few of them. And what the correct answer’s gonna be is gonna be one of the assumptions. What the almost correct answer, but not really, is going to be slightly irrelevant and slightly not something that actually holds the argument together.

And what we’re gonna learn in this video is a way to determine the almost, kind of, seems like the right answer to the actual assumption or the right answer. But first off, let’s have a look at five answer choices. A lot of these are gonna be familiar since we went through them in the strengthening and weakening videos. For instance, answer choice A is a usual suspect.

What you may also notice, and if you have a very good memory or have just watched the weakening video, the answer D here, Eradicon leaches the ground of nitrates, is boom, part of this video. Why? Well, often times in assumption questions, the test writers know that people are drawn to answer choices that are relevant to the prompt.

And sometimes students simply don’t read the question and race to the answer choices and forget that they’re dealing with an assumption, not a weakener. So, there’s answer choice D for you. Both answer choice of A and C, as we learned in the other videos, simply restate one of the premises. Now, wrong answer choices that are usually clearly off the mark will do that, restate a premise, or they will be completely out of scope and irrelevant to the conclusion.

Then there will be a few others. One of them will be the answer. Often one of them will be a weakener to pull you in again because it’s relevant to what’s going on, but it’s not an actual assumption. In fact, it’s very close to the opposite, because with the assumption we’re describing the assumption itself.

We’re not weakening or attacking in it. And then finally, we’re gonna be dealing with an answer choice that’s very close. And on that very close answer choice, and maybe let’s say you’re astute, and you notice that it’s a weaken in one of the answer choices. On the remaining two, though, it’s really difficult sometimes to tell which one is really an assumption that the conclusion rests on.

Therefore, we are going to learn a powerful technique called negating the assumption. And this technique will help you identify which one of those remaining two answer choices is the correct one. So let’s come back to B and E in a moment, but first off let’s talk about negating an assumption.

But first we have to remember that the conclusion, the validity of that conclusion, is based on these unstated assumptions, they’re not mentioned in the prompt itself. But, if these assumptions are not valid, then the conclusion completely falls apart. That’s something we did in the weaken question.

We found an answer choice that cast doubt on one of these assumptions, and therefore cast doubt on the conclusion. But, this is actually gonna give us an important technique here. Knowing that if assumption is not valid, that the conclusion falls apart, allows us to actually determine whether or not an answer choice is an assumption. Because if we attack an answer choice and say okay, let’s come up with the opposite of this.

If we come up with the opposite, and the conclusion is completely unfazed, unblemished, is not hurt in any way, then we know that wait a second, we just did the opposite of this answer choice, which is perhaps the assumption, and nothing happened to the conclusion. So if something is an actual assumption, and we attack that assumption and say the opposite of that assumption, then the conclusion should fall apart.

If it doesn’t fall apart, if it’s unscathed, then we know we’re not dealing with an assumption, and that’s called negating an assumption. You add a no or a not to one of those two remaining answer choices, therefore you’re coming up with the opposite of that assumption. And if the argument still holds together after you’ve added that no or not, then that’s not an assumption.

On the hand, if you add that no or not and then a conclusion completely falls apart, then there you got it. That is your assumption, the assumption that holds the argument together. Because again, we’re not dealing with the assumption itself, we’re dealing with the opposite, the no or not of that assumption. Yes, I know, a little bit vague, and so what we’re gonna do is have a little mini example here.

Not an actual question type obviously. Jason studied three hours for the test. Therefore, Jason will pass the test. Really? So, let’s see. We have answer choice A.

Is this an assumption upon which this conclusion, Jason will pass the test, is based? So we’re gonna add a no or not somewhere in choice a. Obviously, no Jason has studied for previous tests is absurd. So where’s a natural place to put it? Jason has not studied for previous tests.

So we’ve negated that answer choice. If it is an assumption, if it is the assumption we are looking for, then this conclusion should fall apart. Well, the fact that Jason has not studied for previous tests, does that mean 100% he will not pass this test? No, it could go either way.

Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. Therefore, A is not an assumption upon which this conclusion rests. Let’s take a look at B. Three hours of studying is sufficient preparation for the test. Where’s a good place to add that no or that not? Three hours of studying is not sufficient preparation for the test.

That’s a good place. What happens? Well, it says he studied three hours, therefore he’ll pass the test. If it turns out three hours is not enough time, then he will not pass the test. So, it’s not sufficient preparation, he will not pass the test. Therefore the conclusion will fall apart, Jason will not sorry, poor Jason, he will not pass the test.

That is how negating a conclusion works. So, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna bring back those two answer choices, getting a little bit ahead of myself there actually. But the ones we had earlier, I’m just gonna put them in A and B format and you’ll see here I already negated the assumption, but let me go back for a second.

A, boll weevils will not develop an immunity to Eradicon. It’s very easy to negate an assumption or an answer choice that already has no or not in it. Simply get rid of no or not. So, boll weevils will develop an immunity to Eradicon. If this results in the conclusion falling apart, then it is an assumption.

Remember the conclusion is that farmers will use Eradicon, boll weevils go away, and cotton production will be back to normal. But wait a second, I’ve negated answer choice A and it says boll weevils are gonna develop an immunity to Eradicon, it’s gonna do nothing. They’re gonna keep infesting, here they come, ahh! Watch out for the cotton crops.

So you can see, therefore, that this conclusion, this optimism on the part of the agricultural board completely falls apart. Therefore, because we said the opposite of A, and the argument completely falls apart. A, going back to without the not on there, boll weevils will not develop an immunity to Eradicon, is an assumption.

So again by negating it, if we weaken it or have the argument fall apart then, that is an assumption upon which the argument rests, therefore A is our answer. What about B though? B was the other one going back to the original and it was answer choice E, but here we’re just doing A and B. B, Eradicon is the only chemical available on the market to fight boll weevils.

Where can we add the no or not? Well, Eradicon is not the only chemical available on the market to fight boll weevils. There are other chemicals. Okay, you can have supercon. Therefore, because there’s supercon, does that mean Eradicon won’t work, and cotton production will not return to normal levels?

Well, maybe, maybe not. And therefore, because everything is fine after we negate answer choice B. We know that B, in its original, without the not there is not an assumption of farmers the argument rests. And again the answer was A because only when we negated this assumption did the conclusion fall apart.

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