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#20 - Professor: The number of new university students

lday4
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Can you explain why E is correct? Is the key really, "over the years" which explains the decline? I thought A and C had the same appeal as E in that people come in majoring in chemistry, but then change their major.

Thanks!
Nikki Siclunov
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Hi lday4,

Good question! This was one of the trickiest questions on the October 2015 exam.

The discrepancy is as follows: the number of students who enter as chemistry majors hasn't changed in the last 10 years, but the number of students who earn chemistry degrees has dropped. What has changed? The correct answer choice needs to explain the discrepancy by presenting a possible cause for the shift. (One such possible cause - lack of jobs for Chemistry majors - was promptly dismissed in the first sentence of the stimulus.)

Answer choice (A) is attractive, but incorrect. Just because many students aren't qualified to be chemistry majors doesn't explain why the number of chemistry majors has remained the same, while the number of graduates with degrees in chemistry has gone down. If someone isn't qualified to major in chemistry, that person wouldn't be a chemistry major in the first place! What you need to figure out is why people are dropping out of chemistry, not why many students aren't majoring in it in the first place.

Answer choice (B) explains the drop in the number of people earning chemistry degrees, but doesn't reconcile it with the fact that the number of new students entering as chemistry majors has remained unchanged.

Answer choice (C) is also attractive, but ultimately incorrect. Yes, if students are unsure of their choice of major, then no wonder some will drop out. But, two problems remain: 1) This is true of all majors: answer choice (C) does not suggest that a chemistry major is any more likely to drop out than an English major, so the behavior of the Chemistry majors is still puzzling; and 2) Why have the number of Chemistry graduates dwindled over the years, despite steady enrollment numbers in the chemistry program? Answer choice (C) does not show how things have changed over the specified period of time.

Answer choice (D) is irrelevant. We know that job prospects for Chemistry majors are better than ever.

Answer choice (E) is the correct answer choice. If, over the years, first-year chemistry has become quite boring, then no wonder people are dropping out of Chemistry now more than before. It's reasonable to assume that most students don't know how boring Chemistry 101 would be before declaring their major, which explains why the enrollment numbers have kept steady.

Hope this helps! Let me know.

Thanks,
Nikki Siclunov
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lday4
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Makes sense to me, thanks for breaking down all the answer choices!
emilysnoddon
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I understand why answer choice C is incorrect in terms of not explaining the decline but I dont quite understand the above argument that it doesnt explain why Chemistry majors would be more likely than say English majors to change majors. Why does it need to be that Chemistry majors change majors more than other majors? The argument doesnt compare chemistry majors to other majors. Any insight would be helpful! Thank you.
Clay Cooper
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Hi emily,

Thanks for your question.

If students with other majors are just as likely to change majors as are chemistry majors, then unless some other reasons exists why they don't change to chemistry (which we don't know, so it doesn't exist for us), we can expect that the number of chemistry majors will remain roughly unchanged, because some of the English majors will change to chemistry.

In order for C to explain the decline, we would need to know that more chemistry majors than other majors changed majors; in other words, we would need to know that more people left chemistry than could be expected to join it.
LSAT1416
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I would like some clarification for this. I discounted E because it seems to have so much conjecture. While it is possible that chemistry has become more boring is causing people to drop out, it also requires me to assume that people don't expect it to be boring, that people who have already completed this course would likely drop out of it, and that other academic focuses do not have similarly boring classes. I thought this demonstrated too much out of scope discussion. Is the reason why that is acceptable here that all of the other answers do an equally vague job of attempting to answer the questions so this is the least bad?
Francis O'Rourke
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If answer choice (E) stopped at the end of the second line, after the word "fashion," I would agree with your analysis. There might not be enough to show that the facts would lead to fewer people earning chemistry degrees.However, the answer choice does not stop there.

The final clause of this answer choice provides further relevant information. This statement connects the routine method of teaching to how many people pursue chemistry degrees by saying that the new teaching style "dampens [chemistry's] intellectual appeal." This gives us a comparison between how likely people were to be enticed by one aspect of chemistry in the past versus today. This is one factor (in addition to the factors mentioned in the stimulus) that students would consider when they are debating whether to stay in a university's chemistry major, so it provides some resolution to the facts in the stimulus.
LSAT1416
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That makes a lot more sense! Thank you
RandyB
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In my opinion, this is just a poorly thought out and constructed question. Oh well....they are only human after all.
LSAT2018
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Nikki Siclunov wrote:
Answer choice (B) explains the drop in the number of people earning chemistry degrees, but doesn't reconcile it with the fact that the number of new students entering as chemistry majors has remained unchanged.


I am still concerned as to why Answer (B) is incorrect. When this answer compares to the answer to Question 22 in Practice Test 73 Section 4, they seem very similar: Answer (D) says supermarkets throughout the entire nation have experienced a sharp decrease in sales of yogurt recently. But the answer for this question was considered correct, while Answer (B) for this question was incorrect. What am I missing here?