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#22 - Company president: Most of our best sales

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Complete Question Explanation

Weaken—#%. The correct answer choice is (B)

Based on the fact that the majority of the company’s best sales representatives came in with an engineering degree but no sales experience, the president quoted in this example suggests that the company should look for similar attributes when doing further hiring:

    Premise: Most of the company’s best sales representatives came to the company with engineering degrees but little sales experience.

    Conclusion: When the company hires more sales representatives, applicants with engineering degrees and limited sales experience should be favored over those with significant sales experience but no engineering degree.

An issue with the argument presented is that the company president presents a premise about the proportion of the most successful sales representatives at the company, and draws a broad conclusion about sales representatives in general (the group of sales representatives at the company is not necessarily representative of sales reps in general).

The stimulus is followed by a Weaken question, so the correct answer choice will provide some reason to question the validity of the author’s conclusion.

Answer choice (A): This choice provides that “some” sales reps got their degrees while working at the company. “Some” could mean as few as one, and this choice doesn’t even deal with people who came to the company with a degree, or necessarily with any of the most successful sales representatives. This choice has no effect on the author’s argument, and should be ruled out of contention in response to this Weaken question.

Answer choice (B): This is the correct answer choice. If, as this choice provides, the majority of the sales reps at the company fall under the category of “engineering degree but no previous experience,” then that in itself might explain why most of the company’s successful sales representatives fall under that same category (rather than the author’s assertion, that membership in this category makes one more likely to become a successful sales rep).

Answer choice (C): The portion of customers who have an engineering degree is not relevant to the author’s argument, and it does not weaken the conclusion, which deals only with the attributes that the president suggests the company should favor in its hiring of more sales representatives.

Answer choice (D): The president’s recommendations only deal with the applicants for sales representative positions, and who among the group of prospects should get preference. A majority of applicants’ lacking engineering degrees would not have any impact on the president’s recommendation, so this choice cannot be the right answer to this Weaken question.

Answer choice (E): This choice provides that some, or at least one, of the less successful sales representatives at the company also lacked previous sales experience. This does not weaken the company president’s argument, which is based on the presence of attributes shared by most of the
company’s successful sales representatives.
sarae
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How does B weaken the argument?
Steve Stein
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Hi sarae,

If, as choice B provides, the majority of the sales reps at the company fall under the category of “engineering degree but no previous experience,” then that in itself might explain why most of the company’s successful sales representatives fall under that same category (rather than the author’s assertion, that membership in this category makes one more likely to become a successful sales rep).

I hope that's helpful--please let me know whether this is clear--thanks!

~Steve
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sarae
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ohhh!! Duh. Thanks!
bk1111
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Hi, while I was prephrasing this, I thought along the lines of looking for an answer that shows "we shouldn't necessarily favor applicants who have engineering degrees over applicants with extensive experience but no engineering degree." From here, I was unable to see any of the answer choices are potential weakeners. Is my prehrase correct?

In my opinion, B just reaffirms the statement that sale representatives in the company have to same characteristics as the best sales representatives. If that is the case, why would you not want to continue to favor applicants with those characteristics? I am not sure how this weakens the conclusion.
AthenaDalton
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bk1111 wrote:Hi, while I was prephrasing this, I thought along the lines of looking for an answer that shows "we shouldn't necessarily favor applicants who have engineering degrees over applicants with extensive experience but no engineering degree." From here, I was unable to see any of the answer choices are potential weakeners. Is my prehrase correct?

In my opinion, B just reaffirms the statement that sale representatives in the company have to same characteristics as the best sales representatives. If that is the case, why would you not want to continue to favor applicants with those characteristics? I am not sure how this weakens the conclusion.


I think your prephrase was on the right track!

To see how (B) weakens the conclusion, consider this hypothetical about the company --

The company has 100 sales reps, 90 with degrees in engineering and no sales experience, and 10 with sales experience but no engineering background. Now let's imagine that of the company's 30 best sales reps, 20 have engineering degrees and 10 just have sales experience.

If those are the numbers at this company, it's not necessarily the case that most of the top salesmen at the company got that position because their education gave them a boost -- it was inevitable that a big chunk of the top positions would go to engineers, since almost all of the sales staff are engineers. In the numbers I made up, 10 out of 10 sales reps with lots of experience made the top tier of salesmen -- if that were the case, you would want to hire more sales reps like them!

Hope that clears things up.

Good luck!

Athena Dalton
bk1111
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AthenaDalton wrote:
bk1111 wrote:Hi, while I was prephrasing this, I thought along the lines of looking for an answer that shows "we shouldn't necessarily favor applicants who have engineering degrees over applicants with extensive experience but no engineering degree." From here, I was unable to see any of the answer choices are potential weakeners. Is my prehrase correct?

In my opinion, B just reaffirms the statement that sale representatives in the company have to same characteristics as the best sales representatives. If that is the case, why would you not want to continue to favor applicants with those characteristics? I am not sure how this weakens the conclusion.


I think your prephrase was on the right track!

To see how (B) weakens the conclusion, consider this hypothetical about the company --

The company has 100 sales reps, 90 with degrees in engineering and no sales experience, and 10 with sales experience but no engineering background. Now let's imagine that of the company's 30 best sales reps, 20 have engineering degrees and 10 just have sales experience.

If those are the numbers at this company, it's not necessarily the case that most of the top salesmen at the company got that position because their education gave them a boost -- it was inevitable that a big chunk of the top positions would go to engineers, since almost all of the sales staff are engineers. In the numbers I made up, 10 out of 10 sales reps with lots of experience made the top tier of salesmen -- if that were the case, you would want to hire more sales reps like them!

Hope that clears things up.

Good luck!


That's very helpful, thank you!
bli2016
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Hi, I was just wondering if the flaw in the argument is one that is common. I keep thinking that it's a part-to-whole flaw (generalizing that the qualities of the best sales representatives should apply to all good sales representatives), but I'm not entirely sure if that is correct, nor if it helps me answer this question. What is a better way to approach this question?
Adam Tyson
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I see where you are coming from with that "part-to-whole" approach, bli, and I think it has some merit. Since there are individuals with engineering degrees that make up the majority of the best salespeople, all people with those degrees will be among the best salespeople. Prephrasing that folks with that first characteristic (the degree) may not necessarily put them in the group that has the second characteristic (best salespeople) could help you select the right answer here.

Another way to look at it, though, is to recognize that there is something going on with numbers and percentages, a common issue on LSAT questions that makes for fertile ground in which all sorts of flaws will flourish. "Most" means more than half, maybe just 50% plus 1. What about the other folks? What do we know about them? How many are there, and how do they compare to the folks who make up "most"? Numbers and percentages are at the heart of a lot of questions, and zeroing in on those concepts will prove very useful in your continued studies. In our full length course we devote an entire lesson to numbers in both LR and LG - that's how big a deal they are!

Finally, while the various labels like "part to whole" and "source argument" and "straw man" are helpful tools to begin your analysis of flaws, they are not themselves the goal of that analysis. It's not about putting the right label on a given flaw, but about understanding that flaw and being able to see when an answer choice does, and does not, describe it. Learn those labels as handy shortcuts to understanding, but they should never substitute for that understanding. There are many more ways to make a mistake, and to describe that mistake, than we have convenient labels for!

Study the wrong answers on flaw questions as much as the right ones and ask yourself with each one, "what does this flaw describe, and did that happen in this stimulus?" Also ask yourself "what would the argument have to do in order for an answer like this to be correct?" That will help prepare you for future Flaw questions that commit those other flaws, whether or not you can identify the handy labels we may have for them.

Keep pounding, and always remember to think about the numbers!
Adam M. Tyson
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JaredBeats
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You guys realize that your explanation to this problem is misleading, right? Especially the "official" explanation, which is lousy af. There is no fallacy of overgeneralization here. It's not as if the president is arguing that the top sales reps have a given set of qualifications, ergo all sales reps do. I shouldn't be the one telling you this, but this is a false correlation-to-causation problem. The president is like, hire the guys with a degree but no sales experience, because our best guys have a degree and no sales experience. He's assuming that these qualifications are the cause for why some people rise to the top. What does this conclusion also assume? At the very least, a correlation between performance and credentials. Has he established a correlation? NO. What about the guys in the middle, or the ones at the bottom? Do they also have a degree in engineering and no sales experience? Who knows! That's why (B) works so well - it shows that your correlation coefficient is, like, 0.

Seriously, how come no one picked up on that?