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Bold-faced Arguments

The bold faced questions in paragraph argument are some of the most difficult paragraph argument questions. So we’re gonna go through this slowly, but it’s important to understand what these questions are expecting of you and getting maybe a little bit more insight into why they’re so difficult. So, they’re challenging, yes.

And what are they asking you to do is to actually understand the function of a sentence or part of a sentence. A clause, if you will. And what that function is in terms of the overall argument that unfurls, or unfolds, in the paragraph. And that sounds a bit abstract, so what we’re going to do, in a moment, is go through sentence by sentence in actual argument.

Bold-facing each sentence, and then describing the function of that bold-faced part. Sometimes bold-faced questions will have two parts that they’re focusing on. That is, there are two bold-faced parts, and those of course can become quite tricky. Now, out of all the questions, the one that’s the easiest to identify as being of a certain type is the boldface because it’s the only question in which the passage or the paragraph is boldface.

So you don’t even have to really pay attention to the question stems, but yes, boldface will also probably show up. And even if it doesn’t, it’s clear that you are dealing with a bold face question. So what do you do then? Well, you read the entire paragraph. That doesn’t sound as common sensical or intuitive as you might think.

See, if a part’s bold-faced, you want to focus on that part, or at least instinctually, but you really shouldn’t. You should read the entire paragraph to get the gist, to understand how the sentences connect to each other, before really focusing on the bold-faced part. Once you do focus on the bold-faced part, what you wanna do is use your own words to describe what that bold-faced part is doing.

You will see in a moment just how verbage laden and terribly convoluted some of the answer choices can be. So, if you use your own words to get a sense of what the bold-faced part is doing, you will be on much better footing than if you just dive down into the answer choices. Now, if you do have two bold faces, do one of them at a time, meaning, describe one of them, understanding its function before moving on to the other.

And what makes these so complicated is they’re not just spoon feeding you a premise and then saying, okay, here’s the big conclusion. There will be twists and turns. There will be multiple premises, some that support an opposing argument. And so what’s gonna happen is usually there are multiple positions in a boldface question type.

And you’ll have to identify which one argument is in favor of and which one it is against. And of course, the supporting details for each side. And as I already mentioned, don’t get lost in that verbage cuz it’s bound to be waiting in the answer choices as you’ll see in a moment. Interesting thing, what will help you with this verbage is, if you can confidently eliminate one part of an answer choice, don’t read the second part.

And, of course if I’m saying second part, that implies there are two parts and what you’ll often times see, if there are two bold-faced parts to a paragraph and then the answer choices corresponding to those parts will be phrased so that there’s a semicolon splitting up those two parts. Notice here in B. Look at the first part.

The first provides evidence that challenges the conclusion. That is really easy to understand. Look at the second part, though. The second part is a consideration that weakens the force of this challenge against the conclusion. Whoa, what is going on there?

Yes, you can reread it and wrap your head around it. But that takes time and it takes you out of the question when all you have to do is say well, does this first part, does that even work? If it is a check mark, I would maybe come back to B and look At the other answer choices. Of course if this is just completely wrong, then you don’t even have to deal with this horrible second part.

So that is important to keep in mind. But before we go through actual answer choices, let’s take a look at a paragraph. And what I’m going to do is a little bit different here than what’s going to happen on the test. On the test you’ll just see an actual paragraph with either one or two parts boldface, and you have to determine what the function of that part or parts is.

But, here I’m actually gonna go, as you can see I’m just gonna give you a little preview. Notice that I’m moving that bold sentence through there. So we’re gonna get practice describing what each sentence is doing in this paragraph. That is not necessarily strategy you wanna use, but it’s good to get your brain thinking of describing each sentence as you go through the paragraph.

That way you have a better sense of what the bold faces are playing. Okay, let’s start here. FurnAce, furnace, nice pun. A waste treatment center switched from burning toxins in its incinerator to storing them in barrels. This is making a statement.

It’s a premise, it’s a fact. This is what we know. FurnAce has done the following. The thing is, the paragraph might say this is a good thing. And here is support for it. Or it may be against this change, then it will of course give you support for that.

We just don’t know at this point. So not much can be gleaned there. Moving on. Such a change will clearly improve the air quality in Purica. Hm. Purica, interesting. Pure air quality.

Well, the air quality will be improved. But the thing here is, is this necessarily a good thing according to the argument? Well, if we read on, we will notice it says, yet since the initial aim was to protect toxic waste, and we can kinda stop there, but you notice yet is that shift. And so, basically, the author’s gonna disagree with this change here in the beginning, and he’s gonna mention, hey, here is something that might be good about it, but.

And so you wanna be, again, paying attention to that yet, to that but. And he’s gonna say that the focus isn’t the air quality. Now, we go on to the second part of that long sentence. And notice that I did break this up into two parts, since it is such a long sentence. And here’s the main part.

It shifts here, and it says, since the initial aim was to protect citizens from toxic waste, the switch to storing toxins in barrels, that they mention over here, will lead to greater long-term negative consequences. This is the person writing this making a statement, taking a position, making a conclusion. Notice the conclusion is not at the end.

But their conclusion is, this change here is bad. Okay. Now that we’ve mentioned that, we can go to the next sentence. The barrels are made of a plastic that will start to corrode in 10 years– gosh I do not want to live in Purica, or even sooner depending on the toxins stored within.

What is this bold face part doing? Well, you may even want to come up with your own description at home. But, it is offering supporting evidence for the conclusion that was mentioned in the previous sentence. Then we have finally the last sentence. Once the toxins enter the groundwater, they pose a serious health risk.

This is not a conclusion. This argument’s simply building on what is stated before. Giving more support to the conclusion. Not only will the barrel start to corrode. Once they do though, water gets in, or, toxins rather, get into the ground water and the whole idea of making the environment safer, well, that falls apart.

So, all it does is provide further support that it’s not a conclusion. Okay, now I’ve bold-faced through the parts that we went through just a second ago. But this is what it would actually look like in a bold-face question. These two parts, not necessarily the entire sentence in the first bold-face, and not necessarily the second and the entire sentence in the second bold-face, are what we have here.

Again, the strategy is to think, and I’m not gonna give you the answer choices right off. But to think, what is the function of these bold faced parts we have up here? So first one. Let me put little brackets around it. Such a change will clearly improve the air quality in Purica.

This is the conclusion? Well no, the conclusion comes after this. So, you can see that this is something that the author of the passage doesn’t disagree with. He’s pointing out something that is positive. But it’s something that isn’t consistent with what the conclusion is actually talking about.

The idea that they have to keep the people safe, and these barrels are not gonna do the job. Sure, you’ll have cleaner air. But, the second bold-face, the barrels are made of plastic that will start to corrode in 10 years. I think this is easier to describe what’s going on here.

This part simply provides support for the conclusion mentioned here. So what I would do, if I were to see this question, is, I would eliminate focusing on the second part, knowing that it’s pretty clear what this bold-face part is doing. Let’s look here at A. The second provides evidence in favor of the main argument.

That’s great. That’s perfect. Now, it’s worth my time to back to the first part of this. The first provides an objection to the main argument. Does it provide an objection to the main argument? No, it’s not an objection at all.

It’s simply saying that, hey look, the air quality in Purica is going to improve, but that’s not the important element that we should be focusing on. Of course that’s not an actual objection to the person’s conclusion. So we can get rid of A. B, again, I’m focusing on the second part. What do we have here?

The second part is a consideration that weakens the force of this challenge against the conclusion. Aha! That’s the convoluted part. So I have to be nimble, I don’t want to get all tangled up in those words, so I go back here and say, okay, well let’s just deal with the first part.

The first provides evidence that challenges the conclusion. Again, it’s similar to A, provides an objection to the argument, challenge to the conclusion. It doesn’t do either of those so bam, both gone, I don’t have to get tangled up in the verbage. C, the first is an objection to the main conclusion that the author dismisses.

Again, it’s not an objection. So here I can just deal with the first part, cuz I’m getting a sense of what that first part is about. You can go on to the second part, but wait, it’s a waste of time if you’re confident that the first part isn’t right. D, The first part is a premise upon which the conclusion rests.

Now, wait a second. Now the conclusion is saying, is something different? It’s saying, at least this bold-face part, is not important. Here’s what is important is that these barrels are going to leak, that’s the conclusion. So it’s definitely not a premise upon which the conclusion rests.

Now, if you’re not really comfortable that that doesn’t feel like a slam dunk reason to get rid of it, of course, always read the second part. The second part is an additional premise that lends strength to the conclusion. Well, that seems a little bit more reasonable. But if you’re wishy-washy about the first, what do you do? Do you reread it?

Do you try to go back here and make it work? No. Do not do that, because you can start convincing yourself of all sorts of things. Put like a squiggly mark or maybe a question mark next to it. Whatever you want to use to denote–I’m not sure, and go on to the Final answer. E, the first part is a consequence the author accepts as fact.

He accepts this as a fact, that’s a consequence, this will happen. But, he’s saying that’s not the important thing, It does not have bearing on the conclusion. Sounds pretty good, check mark for good. The second part provides direct evidence in support of the actual conclusion, which is over here.

That it does, and remember we can Deal with the second part first if you don’t like the first part. But here, second part and the first part both check out. We don’t have to get tangled up in other convoluted phrases, and E is our answer. Okay, so hopefully there’s some take aways there, is that there are general strategies, and then when you get into the nitty gritty of any specific question, there are always specific strategies.

And you wanna remember to stay nimble. Of course, there’s some other things we will want to review as well, here at the end. You’ll want to identify the roles the parts play before looking at the answer choices. Again, you saw that I wasn’t terribly eloquent there with the first bold-face part.

I was more or less giving a sense of what it was about. With the second part, I was a little bit more direct because it was easier to describe that function. And in general, don’t hold yourself to a really high standard, I have to describe it perfectly. Just get the gist of what it’s doing.

Important, as we saw, if half of the answer choice is wrong and you’re confident about it, don’t even bother with the other half. Of course, if there is convoluted stuff, don’t eliminate it right off the bat, but come back to it, because it may actually end up being the right answer. But, of course, this takes practice in general, and I know that sometimes the convoluted answer choices do turn out to be right, and sometimes there’s two answer choices, both with convoluted wording, and you just have to pick up on that little difference.

But remember, those are the hardest questions, and in general, amongst the paragraph argument questions, these bold-faced are tough. Give it time and you will get better at it.

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