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Complete Question Explanation
(See the complete passage discussion here: lsat/viewtopic.php?t=13369)

The correct answer choice is (A)

This Global Reference Must Be True question does not provide much basis to prephrase an answer, but it will require the only answer choice that can be confirmed by the information in the passage.

Answer choice (A): This is the correct answer choice. After extensive training on top of reasonable capacity, a superior performer could have developed the needed foundation for superior performance, so it would be quite difficult or impossible to determine whether innate talent was present at the outset.

Answer choice (B): The passage provides that innate talent does not appear to be a prerequisite to superior human performance, so this choice fails the Fact Test and should be ruled out of contention.

Answer choice (C): This an Opposite Answer, because the author points out in the passage that a basic level of skill, coupled with long term intense training seems more likely than innate talent to be the basis for eventual superior performance.

Answer choice (D): The author does not go so far as to say that innate talent is an obstacle, but just says that it need not necessarily be part of the explanation for superior performance.

Answer choice (E): Although the last paragraph does specify that motivation and interest appear to be more important predictors than innate talent, that does not mean that exceptional skill production does not depend in any way on innate talent. Since this question is not accurate according to the passage, it cannot be the right answer to this Must Be True question.
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Can you explain why A is correct and E is not? Is it because the language in E is much more definite than the passage actually commits to?
 Eric Ockert
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The language of the two answers is EXACTLY the issue here.

The author is committed to the position that innate talent DOES NOT NEED to be invoked to explain superior performance and that other factors (acquired skills) are the PREDOMINANT explanation. But to say innate talent DOES NOT NEED to be invoked to explain superior performance is not the same as saying that it is IRRELEVANT to superior performance (which is essentially what answer (E) is saying).

All that answer (A) is saying is that SOMETIMES it is DIFFICULT to determine whether an exceptional performer has innate talent. The language of that answer choice is not all that difficult to support.

On a more general note, remember that over 95% of Reading Comprehension questions are ultimately Prove Family questions, similar to Must Be True in Logical Reasoning. For that reason, the language of the answer choices is a VERY important factor in many Reading Comprehension questions. The LSAT is fond of giving answers that factually resemble what you read in the passage, but then stating those answers using language that goes beyond what the passage will support. As you narrow down your answers on RC, pay closer and closer attention to the logical language used in each statement. As you get down to 2 viable Contenders, it is often the language that ultimately eliminates one or the other.
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I am having trouble figuring out why answer E is incorrect. Specifically, the first sentence of the final paragraph says "The evidence does not support the claim that a notion of innate talent must be invoked... since it suggests instead that extended intense training, together with that level of talent common to all reasonably competent performers, may suffice to account for this difference."

I took this to support answer choice E -- that superior performance does not depend in any way on innate talent.

Is answer choice E incorrect because the sentence mentioned above makes clear that some innate talent "common to all reasonably talent performers" is indeed required for superior performance? And that the passage is merely saying that, while this basic level of innate talent is required, it is training and motivation that puts you over the top?

Alternatively, is answer E incorrect just because the author's claims are somewhat tentative and reserved -- he says that motivational factors may explain the difference between good and outstanding, but does not use very strong of absolute language. Perhaps E is correct, as mentioned in the post above, merely because its the more cautious answer and the author does not seem to be 100% certain that training and motivation can account for the difference.

If anyone could shed some more light on this question and these answers I would very much appreciate it!

Thank you
 Alex Bodaken
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Thanks for the question! I think you are right on with your second explanation: the author's claims are, as you say, "tentative and reserved." But answer choice (E) is not: I think it's "wrongness," so to speak, really hinges on the phrase "in any way"...the author is not arguing that there is no chance that the innate talents of individuals contributes to superior performance. He/she is instead arguing that it is hard to tell if it is innate talent that creates superior performers, which correlates much more strongly with answer choice (A).

Hope that helps!
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Hi! I was between A and E for this one, but I ultimately went with E. A felt like too far a leap from what the author was saying throughout the passage, and in lines 23-27, it even seems as though the author is contradicting A since they say that recent research has suggested the predominance of acquired over innate skills. I recognize that the predominance of one over the other doesn't mean that one doesn't exist at all like A says, but A still felt like more of a leap from the topics covered by the passage, and E felt like a more reasonable and closely inferrable answer choice.

For E, I was cautious of the stronger language, but ultimately I went with it because of the word "depend" - by saying that the exceptional skill doesn't DEPEND in any way on innate talent, the "depend" seemed to balance out the strength of the "any way," by saying that exceptional skill can still be a factor, but isn't a necessary factor. Therefore, I didn't think that E was claiming that innate talent was completely irrelevant to skill, like Eric said in his explanation above. If E did say that innate talent was not relevant in any way, I would not have chosen it; I chose it because it said innate talent isn't depended upon in any way.

I'd really appreciate any help with where I'm going wrong with this! Thank you!
 Rachael Wilkenfeld
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Hi Snowy,

This one tripped up a lot of students. Part of the problem is that the stimulus doesn't really PROVE anything either way. It seems like superior performance requires years of hard work, which in turn requires motivation. But doesn't mean there wasn't innate talent that helped motivate the work. Once they have the extensive training, someone with some talent can elevate their skill set. If you take a look at lines 40-45, it suggests as much. If people are able to improve to the elite level, even WITHOUT the innate talent, that would mean that it's not always possible to tell the difference between those that have an innate talent and those that don't. That's all that answer choice (A) is saying. We may not be able to tell the difference.

Answer choice (E) is too strong to be supported by the passage. To say that exceptional skill doesn't depend in any way on innate talent isn't supported. In fact, the passage suggests that there is a baseline talent level that performers must have in order to become superior. If we look at the final paragraph, it explicitly references a baseline competence required to become superior. That would mean that skill at least requires (or depends on) some baseline talent level, which would contradict answer choice (E).

The union of "depends" and "in any way" in answer choice (E) actually work together to make it very hard to support. The way it is written, it means that the development of superior skill cannot in any way require any innate talent. That's a really strong statement, and that's not consistent with the language in the passage.

Let's think of an easier example of this language at work. Suppose we had the following statement: "Winning the Superbowl does not depend in any way on good coaching." For this to be something that had to be true, it would have to mean that good coaching played no part in winning the Superbowl, no matter how small a part it would be. That's a hard statement to support.

Hope that helps!
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I also struggled between A and E, and ultimately picked E, which I can now see is unsupported and wrong. However, what confused me about A was the verb 'to ascertain.' I felt like the passage was devoted to the issue of whether it is genes or something else that accounts for someone being at the top of their field, and also felt like the idea of 'ascertaining' or 'determining' something to be the case (here, having innate talent) seemed kind of out of scope. In other words, I struggled to find somewhere in the passage that discusses the act or difficulty of determining whether someone has innate talent. Am I focusing too much on this detail, or could I be misinterpreting the text? Thank you!
 Robert Carroll
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Lines 51-57 should provide the evidence. As it says there, the evidence suggests that innate talent needn't be invoked to explain superior performance, because training may "suffice" to account for the difference. So, if you observe person X (has exceptional innate talent and extensive training) and person Y (has a level of talent equal to all competent performers, plus extensive training), there's a good chance that, in at least some cases, persons X and Y would show the same level of achievement. But X had exceptional innate talent, and Y did not. So based on observing that exceptional performance, we cannot tell which, if either of them, had exceptional innate talent. If we're going to try to observe something else they do that allows us to tell the difference in talent levels, I'm not sure what it would be - if person X is a chess grandmaster and person Y is a chess grandmaster, that'll basically mean they're both really good at chess (a lot better than I am!). If the training can suffice to explain their grandmaster-level play, then even if we wanted to find out which one was more talented, how could we do so? By the time they both got appropriate training, they're both really good, and just about as good as each other. So it's difficult, maybe impossible, to discover by observation of their performance (equally excellent in both cases) which one started out with the greater talent.

Robert Carroll

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