Editorial: Teenagers tend to wake up around 8:00 A.M., the time when they stop releasing melatonin, and are sleepy if...

on December 18, 2019


I don't understand the explanation for E. The instructor says E is correct because E eliminates a third option but he did not explain it well. His explanation is that if crime rate in surrounding cities were to decrease also then the reason for decrease am accidents in Granville could be another factor other than the late start time. However, just because accidents increased in surrounding cities does not does not mean it's because they have an earlier start. Does it? Wouldn't it make more sense to say that morning accidents among high school students with an earlier school start time staid the same in surrounding towns?

4 Replies

Andrea on December 18, 2019

Hi @tomgbean,

This is a pretty tricky question. On a difficult strengthen question like this one, a correct answer choice may not strengthen the argument very much, or very directly. That happens here, which is why this answer choice doesn’t seem to jump out as much.

Here, the stimulus uses the example of Granville’s high school start time change as evidence for the argument that car accidents could be reduced if teenagers started the school day later. This is a causal connection. By providing that example, the author is implying that Granville’s decrease in teenage car accidents was caused by the new start-time policy. But, what if something else was actually at play and even though the start time was changed by a half an hour, the car accidents were actually declining for some other reason? For instance, Granville is being hit by climate change and while they used to have icy roads for most of the school year, now it’s sunny and 75? (Silly, I know, but I hope that helps get you in the right headspace for thinking critically about the relationship between premise and conclusion here).

Since this is a strengthen question, we want to think about how we’d prove that connection. There are a few ways to do this.

In an answer choice, look for:
1. same cause, same effect
2. no cause, no effect
3. eliminating an alternate explanation

E does this by number 2. Granting that the schools in the surrounding region did not all change their start time as well (which is a fair assumption to make here given the context of the argument), we have no cause, i.e. the changed start time. Likewise, we have no effect (the number of car accidents decreasing)—in fact, the car accidents had the effect of increasing. So here, we have a hypothetical scenario of a region in which the start time did not change, and the amount of accidents actually increased. This helps strengthen the idea that what happened in Granville was in fact due to the start time change, and thus helps strengthen the causal connection to the conclusion that there would be fewer car accidents if schools set their start times back.

Now, let’s go back to that observation you made about that answer choice, that the fact that accidents increased in surrounding cities may not necessarily be because they have an earlier start. The way you want to be thinking about this instead is the fact that accident rates rose in the surrounding region helps strengthen the fact that Granville’s successful decreases were actually from the changed start time, which in tern helps strengthen the idea that if the school day was pushed back later, teenage car accidents would be reduced. So, you’re kind of getting there indirectly, which makes this question tricky. The key here is making sure you pick up on that causal aspect of the stimulus, first.

I know this was kind of long, but I hope that made sense and helped you understand this tricky question a little better! Feel free to follow up if you have any more questions!

on December 18, 2019

Thanks Andrea. I have scheduled a review of the strengthen and weaken lessons so hopefully I become better at these. But your explanation makes sense. It's kind of difficult knowing when the answer choice has to directly relate to the content of the passage vs when to use inferences about external situations that indirectly impact the passage. For example, I chose A because if teenagers stopped releasing melatonin later in the morning then it could strengthen the argument. However, upon reviewing that answer choice, the comparison to younger children made that answer choice incorrect. just because teenagers stop releasing melatonin later in the morning than younger children does not mean that they stop releasing it later than 8:00am. Younger children could stop releasing melatonin at 6am and teenagers at 7am and that would not strengthen the argument. Do you recommend on questions like this, as another method to the one you describe, to try to eliminate wrong answer choices to get to the right one even if you don't understand the right answer choice completely? Its hard sometimes because even eliminating wrong answer choices can be difficult. My score right now is fluctuating in the 162-166 range. I take the test in January, I want to jump above 170.

Ravi on January 16, 2020

@tomgbean, first off, I hope that the January test went well for you. If you're continuing to study, then I recommend using the strategy of eliminating wrong answer choices as much as you can. There are always two ways to arrive at the correct answer choice: 1) You can have an anticipation and select the answer choice that matches your prediction, or 2) you can eliminate the four incorrect answer choices and be left with the correct one by process of elimination. When all of the answer choices are confusing you a bit, eliminating the ones you know are wrong for sure is an excellent strategy. I'm sure if Andrea has more to say that she'll respond to this thread. In the meantime, keep up the great work!

Andrea on January 26, 2020

Hi @Tomgbean,

Chiming in here again, I would say don't beat yourself up too much about this one - this is a hard question, one I suspect many of those scorning over 170 might get wrong. I wouldn't say there is such a thing, as you put it, as "knowing when the answer choice has to directly relate to the content of the passage vs when to use inferences about the external situations that indirectly impact the passage." That's not really the dichotomy I think you might be imagining. Rather, easier questions will be easier to make connections for, and more difficult questions might require a greater degree of connecting the dots to find your way. Generally, an easier question is going feel more obvious/direct. A harder question is hard for the same reasons - the right answer isn't always going to be apparent right away. If it were, that question would be easy too! So it's not about when to look for an answer choice to relate to the passage in one type of way or another. Instead, it's about needing to go deeper in your thinking to find a line of reasoning that goes beyond the surface.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other follow up questions. :)