It’s Not “Out of Scope”!!!

by on September 13th, 2011

Too often do I see students eliminating an answer choice on a critical reasoning question because it is out of scope. The appeal is clear – in the confusing wealth of information hurled at us by this crazy test, we are anxious to alleviate the burden of having to ponder through another vaguely phrased answer choice. If the argument concerns the price of salmon caught on an Alaskan river, and the answer choices says something about the holes in the size of a net, then what does a hole size have to do with the price of fish? It’s out of scope!!!

And yet, some questions (indeed, some question types) call for exactly an “out of scope” answer choice. This article was spawned by a thread which discussed the following weaken question:

Company X conducted a taste test to determine whether its new soft drink had a good chance of commercial success. A sample of consumers was asked to compare the flavor of the new soft drink to that of an established brand without knowing the true identity of either beverage. Overwhelmingly, the consumers preferred the taste of the proposed soft drink to that of the established brand. Clearly, Company X has a good chance of commercial success with its new soft drink.

Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the argument above?

(A) Some of the consumers in the taste test preferred the flavor of the established brand.
(B) The other soft drink used in the taste test is also manufactured by Company X.
(C) The new soft drink will cost more than three times as much as any other soft drink on the market.
(D) Company X has not yet designed a label for the new soft drink.
(E) The name of the new soft drink is very close to that of the established brand.

Several students on the thread eliminated the right answer because it was out of scope: the argument did not discuss costs, only taste. This is a prime example of why bandying the “out of scope” label about is dangerous, as introducing a new issue/alternative explanation is a common practice in weakening questions, particularly for causal arguments such as the one above.

The argument’s premise is that the taste test was successful – people like the taste of the new product better than an established brand.

The conclusion is that the new brand will be a commercial success.

We are asked to weaken this, so we need to think of ways why this is NOT true – why would the brand fail commercially, despite the fact that it tastes better?

The assumption behind the conclusion is that taste ALONE is a guarantee for commercial success – in other words, that no factors other than taste determine the product’s commercial success. In order to weaken this assumption, the answer choice needs to point out another factor not considered in the argument – in other words, the answer choice MUST deal with something that seems “out of scope”. Answer choice C above does just that – it says that while the taste is indeed a good selling point, the new beverage falls short in another factor for commercial success – cost. If C is true and the beverage is much more expensive than its competition, then the product’s chances of becoming a commercial success are much reduced, its taste advantage notwithstanding.

The bottom line is this: remove the words “out of scope” from your GMAT CR vocabulary. The only true criterion to eliminate an answer choice is whether it does what the right answer choice needs to do, or not.


  • Thanks sir for the nice article.

  • Hi, Geva, we should also note that the question states it explicitly :
    'Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the argument above?
    In this case, if the answer is out of scope, it is still valid.

    On the other hand, if the question states, if the above statement is true, , then you should eliminate answers that are out of scope.


  • correction,
    On the other hand, if the question states, if the above statements are true , then you should eliminate answers that are out of scope.

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