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I can see how C is correct in that it weakens the argument by giving an alternative reason for the increase in levels of achievement (i.e, grades). However, it seems like its a very, very slight weaken, or one would have to really stretch to see that it does.

I didn't even have C as a contender because it seemed so far removed that it felt irrelevant. I know this is kind of a "meta" question, but does anyone have any tips as to how I could have seen that in the heat of the moment on the test?
 Adam Tyson
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I think you have it, willmcchez - you were looking for, and found, an alternate cause for improved academic performance. I don't think C is all that weak, really, as it gives the chess playing kids a motivation to work harder at school. Maybe it's because I am a Dad that I see this more easily than you do? The chess team is a carrot, a reward, that causes the kids to try harder to do better. Parents and teachers provide those sorts of incentives all the time, and sometimes they even work!

Start with the right prephrase, which I think you did: "something else caused their academic performance to improve." Looked at that way, C should be very, very attractive.
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So we should really see (C) as an alternate cause?

I read this question several times and never got how (C) was an alternate cause. I suppose that they could have been working hard. But doesn't that seem like a stretch? Can we really assume motivation from that answer choice?

I'm so confused.
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I think (C) provides an alternative cause because of the idea of "GPA." If it is an average, the timeline couldn't be short. This could show that the student was seeking something before or during the program. And this effort provides an alternative cause.
 James Finch
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Hi Chichi and Deck,

Let's look more closely at the information given in the stimulus:

An experimental group of students is picked for a program that will teach them chess (implying they didn't play chess before).
Most of those who completed the program do significantly better in schoolwork/grades. Then it concludes by saying that the "reasoning power and spatial intuition" that chess demands led to the better grades. We need to weaken that link. The best way to weaken a causal argument is with an alternate cause. And the clue given in the stimulus is the "most of those who completed the program"-why did they complete the program? Were they motivated by a newfound love of chess? And if so, could that love of chess have been the cause of the improved grades, not anything specific to chess itself?

Answer choice (C) makes this linkage by tying "many" of the students that completed the program with trying out for a chess team requiring a high GPA. "GPA" in this answer choice is ambiguous: does it refer to current, post-experiment GPA, or GPA overall? We don't know, so we can't say for sure that some of the students were already eligible/ineligible for the team, but if many of them were trying out and good grades are necessary, then that would go back to the love of chess as a motivating factor for doing better in school. It's not a very strong weaken answer, but many of the toughest questions aren't.

Hope this helps!
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Emily Haney-Caron wrote:Hi tamarisk,

The difference here between C and D is that C gives an alternate reason why the kids in the program would have improved their performance; D gives information about kids who did not complete the program. As a result, D is irrelevant here; we're concerned with the kids who did complete the program. C is saying that there is an alternative reason (other than the power of chess) for the students' performance: they were working hard to improve their grades so they could make the team. Hope that helps!
So based on your explanation Answers (A), (D), and (E) can all be eliminated immediately because they refer to children who did not successfully participate in the program? They are irrelevant because the stimulus is specifically concerned with the effects on those who did successfully participate in the program.
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Hi there!

I selected C, but understood it to mean that these students already had a high grade average, instead that they were working to get higher grades. Is that assessment completely incorrect?
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The conclusion is causal and I understand how C weakens it. C proposes an alternative cause. C indicates that the motivation to join the chess team may have been the cause of the increased achievement in schoolwork, not the reasoning power and spatial intuition exercised in chess-playing.

But I don't understand why B is wrong. To me, it seems like B is also proposing an alternative cause. If the children who completed the program had higher preprogram levels of achievement, then isn't B basically saying "The children who completed the program were smart to begin with, so it was their intelligence/aptitude/talent/natural skills that caused their increased achievement in schoolwork, not chess."

Can you please give me a clear and detailed explanation of why C is better than B?
 Jay Donnell
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Hi LSATfighter!

This is a tricky issue within a tricky question, so let me see if I can get to the root of why C is in fact better than B.

As mentioned in a few of the earlier replies, C works as a Weaken answer choice in that it brings up an alternative cause to the increase in overall academic performance. It does so by implying that the increase in performance may not have stemmed causally from the skills gleaned from learning to play chess, but rather the performance may have been caused by a desire to cross the high GPA threshold needed to join the chess team.

The issue I have with B is one of relativity vs absolutism. B implies that the children who completed the program started at a higher level of academic achievement than those who didn't finish, which makes us flirt with the idea that perhaps it wasn't chess skills at all but rather innate knowledge or intelligence that attributed to their ending levels. Problem with that line of reasoning however, is that after the program concluded it wasn't the case that the students who finished had high levels of schoolwork achievement, but rather that they had an INCREASE in achievement levels. Since we are concluding about the relative growth rather than an absolute mark of achievement level, their starting levels were largely irrelevant to how much they may have increased over time.

I hope that helps!
 Jay Donnell
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Hi Marina, didn't mean to leave you hanging there!

Part of your issue is I think addressed in my previous reply, but I want to add to it in regards to your query. Since the argument doesn't claim that the students have high GPA/achievement but rather an increase of those levels, we don't know how far they were or are from the GPA cut off for the chess team. That leaves the door wide open that a desired increase of GPA in order to join the team was the reason for the growth in academic achievement levels, perhaps instead of those simply growing due to reasoning skills stemming from learning to play chess.

Hope that helps!

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