Executive Assessment: Verbal Strategies – Part 2

by on December 15th, 2017

verbalWelcome to part 2 of our series! If you’re just joining us, take yourself back to part 1 and start from there.

Give yourself ~2 minutes to try the below Critical Reasoning (CR) problem and then we’ll talk.

All problems in this series are from the free problem sets that appear on the official Executive Assessment website; this one is labeled #5  in the CR set as of December 2017.

“To persuade consumers to buy its personal computers for home use, SuperComp has enlisted computer dealers in shopping centers to carry its product and launched a major advertising campaign that has already increased public awareness of the SuperComp brand. Despite the fact that these dealers achieved dramatically increased sales of computers last month, however, analysts doubt that SuperComp’s products accounted for much of that increase.

“Which of the following, if true, best supports the claim that the analysts’ doubt is well founded?

“(A) In market surveys, few respondents who had been exposed to SuperComp’s advertising campaign said they thought there was no point in owning a home computer.

“(B) People who own a home computer often buy a second such computer, but only rarely do people buy a third computer.

“(C) SuperComp’s dealers also sell other brands of computers that are very similar to SuperComp’s but less expensive and that afford the dealers a significantly higher markup.

“(D) The dealers who were chosen to sell SuperComp’s computers were selected in part because their stores are located in shopping centers that attract relatively wealthy shoppers.

“(E) Computer-industry analysts believed before the SuperComp campaign began that most consumers who already owned home computers were not yet ready to replace them.”

Have an  answer? You know what I’m going to say: make a guess if you don’t!

Ready? Let’s do this!

In this case, we’ve got the if true clue again, so is this a Weaken like the last one?

Not quite. This time we’re asked to support a particular claim, so this one is a Strengthen. It’s very much like a weaken:

(1) The argument up above will be a full argument (premises and conclusion) and there will be gaps in that argument. Those gaps will be filled by unstated assumptions—things the author assumes to be true but does not actually say are true.

(2) Your goal is to find an answer that makes the argument at least a little more likely to be valid, if that answer choice is indeed true. (And the question stem told you to assume that it is true. :) )

Time for our next step.

Here’s the argument:

“To persuade consumers to buy its personal computers for home use, SuperComp has enlisted computer dealers in shopping centers to carry its product and launched a major advertising campaign that has already increased public awareness of the SuperComp brand. Despite the fact that these dealers achieved dramatically increased sales of computers last month, however, analysts doubt that SuperComp’s products accounted for much of that increase.”

Here’s my personal Map of the argument (that first S = Strengthen):

S

SC: cons PC @ home

dealers: sell SC

ad camp: ­ brand

Ds >>> comp sales

© BUT A: SC not much

(Aside: If you have studied CR extensively, you might notice that this argument also resembles an Explain the Discrepancy argument. I think it would be reasonable to classify this one as either Strengthen or Discrepancy—but the early clues all point to Strengthen. It’s not until you get to the very last line of the argument that Discrepancy becomes a possibility. Since it can go either way, stick with your original classification.)

Speaking of that last line: Right up until then, it seemed like SC’s plan to increase PC sales to consumers for home use had worked. But these analysts seem to have some reason to think that SC’s computers didn’t really contribute much to the increase…and now I’m noticing that we’re only told that the dealers sold a lot more computers—not what brand or even who bought those computers Maybe the dealers sold them to businesses or schools.

Okay, so is there some other reason to think that some other company or brand would have sold a lot more for some reason? That would be one way to strengthen the idea that the analysts are correct.

On Strengthen questions, my goal is to find the answer that makes the argument a little more likely to be valid. This answer will convey a new piece of information and I am to accept that information as true.

Note: When we looked at our Weaken question last time, do you remember the most common type of trap answer?

The opposite answer—a strengthener. So expect, this time, to see some trap answers that weaken the question. That’s the opposite answer this time!

All right, let’s go find a choice that fits our desired parameters.

“(A) In market surveys, few respondents who had been exposed to SuperComp’s advertising campaign said they thought there was no point in owning a home computer.”

The multiple negatives here are really annoying: few, no point. Let’s unpack this.

Some people were exposed to SC’s ad campaign. Few said that they thought it was useless to have a home computer. So most maybe did think there was at least some reason to have a home computer?

None of this addresses buying SC’s home computers in particular, though. These people may or may not buy SC’s brand (and, if they did, that would weaken the analysts’ claim, not strengthen it). Eliminate (A).

“(B) People who own a home computer often buy a second such computer, but only rarely do people buy a third computer.”

According to the argument, lots of people did buy computers—we just don’t know whether they were SC computers. This choice doesn’t help us to evaluate whether the analysts’ claim is correct (that SC didn’t contribute much to the increase in computers sold). Eliminate (B).

“(C) SuperComp’s dealers also sell other brands of computers that are very similar to SuperComp’s but less expensive and that afford the dealers a significantly higher markup.”

This choice does distinguish between SC and other brands—that’s a good starting point. So these dealers sell computers from multiple brands…oh, and the dealers can make more profit by selling those other brands. That’s key! The dealers actually have an incentive to push other brands, not SC. That does strengthen the analysts’ claim that SC didn’t sell more computers despite their efforts. Leave this one in.

“(D) The dealers who were chosen to sell SuperComp’s computers were selected in part because their stores are located in shopping centers that attract relatively wealthy shoppers.”

Certainly, wealthy shoppers might have more disposable income to buy computers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will choose SC computers over other brands. This choice doesn’t provide additional information regarding whether more SC computers, in particular, were purchased. Eliminate (D).

“(E) Computer-industry analysts believed before the SuperComp campaign began that most consumers who already owned home computers were not yet ready to replace them.”

I think this one is really tempting. If people weren’t ready to replace their home computers, then it’s unlikely that SC would have achieved its initially stated goal: to persuade consumers to buy its personal computers for home use.

But! This is so tricky. While this is SC’s goal, it is not the conclusion of the argument. The conclusion does not state whether the increased sales were mostly to home users or business users or…? It states merely that sales did increase but that analysts think that the increase was not driven by an increase in SC sales.

As a result, SC’s goal in launching the ad campaign is irrelevant. The only factor is whether SC was able to sell more computers to anyone—and this choice does not provide us any additional information in that regard. Eliminate (E).

The correct answer is (C).

Key Takeaways for EA Critical Reasoning:

(1) First identify the question sub-type. The language if true (or similar) and anything about strengthening or supporting an argument signals a Strengthen the Argument question.

(2) Make a little Map of the argument to make sure you understand the premises and the conclusion—and any little weaknesses in the argument that you might uncover as you go. Remind yourself of your goal for this type: a choice that makes the argument at least a little more likely to be valid.

(3) Turn that knowledge into Know the Code flash cards:

* Executive Assessment questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

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