Hello, I had some questions about the answers to the example cause and effect problem on page 289 of the 2018 LRB. I understand why A is the correct answer, but I am unsure why D is incorrect. The explanation for D states that D is incorrect because it refers to the wrong population, high school graduates not dropouts. I found this explanation unsatisfying because it seems to ignore that the program offered to graduates described in D could incentivize students to graduate and therefore to stay in school. Moreover, the claim that the scope of D is incorrect made in the explanation seems to miss what is at issue. That is, the issue isn't whether high school dropouts stay in school – they definitionally cannot – it's how recent students, who might have otherwise dropped out, were made to continue their education (whether by an increase in morale, shortages in the job market or incentivization through job placement programs). In other words, it is obvious that D says something about graduates, but it is also clear that that doesn't preclude D from being an alternative cause to explain a decrease in drop out rates (by the logic of the shell game explanation, A seems to say something about the labor market as a whole).
The only way I could see D being absolutely wrong is if the stimulus stipulated that those students prone to dropping out actually did not and could not meet the criteria for graduation, but this is not what the stimulus says. It just says they "feel they are not succeeding."
Perhaps A is correct because it's a preferable answer to D. A says students who feel they are underperforming are disincentivized to drop out rather than, as per D, incentivized to graduate, hence to continue their education. Perhaps A's preferability over D trades on its simplicity as an explanation? Maybe I'm just missing something about the concept of a shell game?
I've really wracked my brain trying to figure out why D is incorrect. I'd appreciate some help!
LRB p289 "Basic Cause and Effect Problem Analyzed"
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Thanks for the question! You've hit on the easiest explanation for (A) within your comments: "Perhaps A is correct because it's a preferable answer to D." Let's say that every point you made about (D) happened for sure. Even then, it would still be a more circuitous route to providing an alternate cause (and one with very likely a lesser impact) than (A). Of course, LSAC covers themselves for this by using the classic language, "most seriously weakens," and here they are telling you they value the directness of (A) moreso. Looking at (A) vs (D) in this context gives you clues to how they think (and they are, after all the arbiters of right and wrong on this exam).
In one sense, I focus on how the test makers like to look at certain answers, and I know they see the "graduates" group and immediately think, "that's heading in the wrong direction" which to them will lead to a weaker ending point.
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