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 Francis O'Rourke
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Hi Andriana,

You will come across causal relationships in the premises of a stimulus. When this happens you are able to diagram these statements. The only things that you need to consider are if diagramming will help you understanding of the information, and how much time you will need to invest in diagramming the statement.
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THis stimulus really puzzled me because I had trouble understanding the reasoning in the argument, meaning I didn't understand that lower rates of geophysical processes meant earthquakes, volcanos, etc, and thus that lower rates of these might "erase" evidence of craters (particularly the erasure part).

In the face of dwindling time, I tried to mechanistically look for "new info" in the conclusion and match it to an answer choice (B), which ended up being wrong.

This isn't the first time I've struggled understanding the reasoning behind an argument in a LR stimulus. Sometimes I'm completely stumped on how an alleged argument even makes sense.

Do you have any tips on what to do in these situations? or how to better dissect confusing meaning?

Thank you!
 Adam Tyson
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Take a look at the earlier answers in this thread, biskam, and especially at Ricky's response showing that "lower rates of destructive geophysical processes" was not actually new info in the conclusion.

As to your more general question about how to deal with confusing, difficult arguments, there are a few things you can try to get a better handle on things. First, my favorite is to paraphrase the argument in the simplest abstract terms. Strip away the confusing details and get to the core of the argument. In this case, that looks to me to be something like this:

There's this phenomenon that shows up mostly in one type of place (an effect).

It must be because that type of place has a special characteristic (a cause).

To justify this causal conclusion, I need to eliminate every other possible cause.

Now, as it happens, in this case I don't think the correct answer DOES justify the conclusion. I think it only strengthens it. There still could be other causes. Perhaps the evidence in the less stable regions was obscured by human activity, while the stable places are remote and there is no such activity? Maybe our alien overlords decided to clean up those other places and leave the stable ones alone? It's hard - really hard! - to justify a causal argument, because they are so inherently flawed. Still, this answer at least eliminates an alternate cause of sorts, and so it is the best answer of the bunch, even if it is a bad answer, and since we are supposed to pick the best answer we must pick this one.

Another approach to confusing arguments is to look for key language, or indicators, which may be present in the argument. Conditional language, for example, should stand out, as should the language of comparison/analogy, and those indicators may give you some clues as to how to attack or support an argument. Here, it's a bit subtle, but "explained by" is causal language - the presence of one thing explains the presence of another if it causes the other. Catching that subtle hint here should set you on the path of seeking to eliminate alternate causes, show that where the cause is present the effect is also, etc.

Finally, and this is a difficult one for many of us, you must give up on the idea of making sense of the arguments. Arguments can be a bunch of baloney, so long as they have a logical structure and so long as the author at least appears to believe that certain claims (premises) support other claims (conclusions). Follow the underlying logical structure of the argument, and don't worry about how much sense it makes to you. You can treat an argument like this one the same way you would treat an argument made up of nonsensical statements, and attack it structurally. For example:

Minnesotans are allergic to walnuts, and monkeys prefer convertibles to comic books, so my cousin must be home this weekend.

Now, justify the conclusion. How? Tell me that either that allergy, or that preference, or both together, prove that my cousin will be home. Find an answer that links one or both premises to the conclusion in a way that erases all doubt. Forget sense, forget the real world, and focus on the logical structure of the argument (and in this case, because it is a justify question, focus on the gap between the premises and the conclusion and close it up).

The authors want you to get lost in the details. They want to confuse you and distract you and mislead you at every turn. It can be even worse on reading comp, if the topic is a dense one (science for some people, art and literature for others, maybe economics if that isn't your thing) and you allow yourself to focus on the details rather than the structure, the tone, the arguments, the viewpoints, etc. Don't get bogged down in details, ever! Strip them away and get to the core, the abstraction, the structure. Use key language, or paraphrasing/abstraction, or whatever you need to do to get there.

That's your mission, should you choose to accept it. Good luck!
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Thanks for the motivation Adam!! I appreciate it. Fundamentals that I often forget

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