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#17 - Politician: Over the next decade, our city will be

PowerScore Staff
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Please post below with any questions!
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I don't understand why the correct answer is correct! Ugh!
Jonathan Evans
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Hey DMR, welcome to the forums! Thanks for your post. In general, we are better able to answer questions if provided specific details about difficulties you're having or concepts you would like for us to clarify.

However, I'm going to give your question my best shot, but if I don't address your specific issue, I encourage you to follow up.

Let's break this question down. What's the claim/conclusion? Evidently the politician thinks replacing all the current signs with more readable signs would be a massive waste of money. Why does she think this? Well, for one, no one is complaining about the current signs.

Okay, strong argument or weak argument? I'm gonna go with weak here. She's got one reason it might be a waste of money ("people aren't complaining"), but she leaves the door open to just about any and every other possible reason under the sun why it may or may not be a waste of money.

These arguments can be frustrating because it's hard to know where to begin. Will these new signs greatly reduce accidents? Will they greatly improve the appearance of the city, increasing property value and attracting businesses? Will they cause magic pixies to sprinkle fairy dust and make everyone fly? Who knows? The answer to any one of these questions might be helpful to know whether we have a good plan or not.

That is what this question is asking: what would be helpful to know to know whether we have a good argument or not?

At PowerScore, we use our "Variance Test" to determine whether given information is helpful or not. In other words, imagine extreme scenarios that go along with the answer choices.

Take a look here:

(A) who cares? We already know they increase readability. Don't care how they do it.
(B) Here you can do the Variance Test. Okay, maybe the signs are like ridiculously expensive to manufacture. In this case, probably a waste of money. However, even if they were the same price or even cheaper, they still could be a waste of money because we simply didn't need to replace them at all.
(C) Credited Response Okay, well what if the city replaces all its signs every year anyways? In that case, replacing these signs is far less likely to be a waste of money because they were going to do it anyhow. On the other hand, what if the city almost never replaces signs? In this case, her argument that it's going to be a waste of money is far stronger.
(D) All the other cities plan to replace their signs. None of the other cities do. Either way, doesn't help us out, at least without introducing new assumptions of our own.
(E) Lots of experts consulted. No experts consulted. Same as (D). This one doesn't do anything for us without bringing in our own suppositions.

I hope this helps.
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This test is such a nightmare. And I think its gotten worse over the years. There's way more questionable answers in the later tests than the earlier.

B, if the signs are about the same price, one could determine if they were a "colossal" waste of money

C, If the city replaces most of its signs annually, then you could say that they won't have to do so because of the new signs being put in place over the "next decade" and so they would save money, or you could say that they have to replace many signs regardless of whether they buy new ones. If the city replaces very few of its signs annually, you could still say that the new signs reduce accidents and so reduce costs to the city.

It's just luck whether you choose the answer they want you to or not.
Adam Tyson
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Not luck, peterius, but logic, always! The test has slowly evolved over time, for sure, with minor tweaks and with some question types or use of language becoming more or less popular, but the test is still fundamentally the same now as it was in 1991. There have been innovations, but nothing really revolutionary.

Here, it's all about "what do you want to know?" How do the potential answers to these 5 questions impact your view of the argument?

For answer B, what if the new signs are not more expensive to make? Does that mean replacing the signs is not a waste of money? Not at all - it could be a waste, even a colossal one, even if they cost 1/10th what the old ones did, because the old ones have already been paid for and are up and working. And what if they are more expensive - does that mean the money is a colossal waste? Not at all - high cost does not help show a lot of waste, not without knowing what would constitute a waste of money.

For answer C, if the city is already replacing 100% of the signs annually, then swapping out the old design for the new would not be wasteful because you are swapping out the signs anyway! If they are replacing 0% annually, then that strengthens the claim that swapping would be wasteful because now we are paying to do something that we would not otherwise be doing. By supplying those two opposite answers to answer C you can show that one answer weakens while the opposite strengthens, and that is what you are looking for on these relatively rare "evaluate the argument" questions.

As long as you adopt the attitude that the test is beatable, that the correct answer CAN be proven by using logic, you will continue to improve your speed, your confidence, and your score. If you go into it with a defeatist attitude, that it's all just luck and there's not much point trying to apply logic and reason, then you will be destined to stall out and see little, if any, improvement. We talk a lot about test mentality, in this forum and in our blog and in our books. Spend some time looking at that material and see if you can adopt a more positive, can-do attitude about this test. If you can, and you do, then you will see it pay off. Tough love here, peterius, but if you don't, then honestly you probably shouldn't bother continuing with your LSAT studies, because it won't get any better in law school or in the practice of law.

Turn that frown upside down! Fake it til you make it! Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given to you!

Good luck, peterius. Don't give up yet.
Adam M. Tyson
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