Hi - back with a question, a more general question though.
I'm having trouble with MSS questions.
I've found that generally, they have pretty long a convoluted stimuli filled with little details that you have to push together and make some sort of inference, one that usually eludes me, and its usually because its such a SMALL thing that is actually being supported when it comes down to looking at the answer choices. I'm speaking more specifically about level 3/4 MSS questions, I can usually do well on the lower level questions.
I guess I'm asking how to best approach this question type. Do I just break it down to premises and conclusions? Or will I miss some important details by doing so?
They are unique in that you aren't trying to find gaps and the inference isn't necessarily 100 percent true, so in combining all of these aspects, they give me a hard time.
I'll provide an example of where a MSS gave me a hard time. PT 16, S2, Q11
I chose (B) --> bad reading on my part. Factories of the future, my mistake.
However, but in looking at (D), I can see why its correct after looking at an explanation, but to me its one of those questions where I say to myself "seriously??". I'd absolutely miss a question in the future - and I think this highlights how the littlest details are what the right answer revolves around. Its a very subtle answer choice, at least I think.
If I could get a full breakdown if how you'd deal with a convoluted stimulus and a hard MSS question, I'd' appreciate that a lot.
Thanks again Manhattan peeps.
After reading Christine's post here : (viewtopic.php?f=6&t=234328http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=234328
I realized I don't really have a great process for MSS. I feel like the process is different from other questions types such as str/wea/flaw, that I feel a lot more comfortable approaching.
It's an interesting question that you raise, flash21
First, I'll say that I don't treat most-strongly-supported and must-be-true questions very differently. The correct answer to an MSS question needs to be *quite* strongly supported, so you aren't being asked to make any more than the most minimal assumptions. Additionally, I've never seen a wrong answer to an MBT that could arguably have been the correct answer to an MSS. The only real difference is that the MSS leaves just a tiny tad of wiggle room for things that aren't completely and totally, mathematically, 100%
provable. Both are simply 'really dang likely to be true inferences we can make'.
Second, I think it's critical to remember that inferences are typically not very predictable. You're being given a number of bits of information, then asked to find something you can (mostly) prove. Because you cannot generally predict where the correct answer will focus, it's not a good use of your time to read the stimulus with the same level of analysis as we might use on an assumption question, where we are trying to identify the gap *before* we reach the answer choices.
I typically read the stimulus relatively quickly, just taking note of the various bits of information I'm given, and what they relate to - just organizing the information with a rough map of where to find things again, much the same way that I would on a reading comp passage. This affords me plenty of time to compare each answer choice to the information that I actually have in the stimulus. You can generally knock out 2-3 answers on a first read for either:
1) bringing up a new idea that doesn't relate to the concepts in the stimulus
2) using structural language that isn't reflective or supported by the stimulus: comparative language, prescriptive language (should/ought), conditional relationships, predictions about the future, value judgments, etc
3) using extreme language that isn't supported[/list]Remember, though, that anything in #2 or #3 is fine IF that language is reflected/supported directly in the stimulus
At that point, you should be down to perhaps two answer choices, and you absolutely will want to compare those two answer choices directly to the information from the stimulus. If the answer choice makes a claim about snapping sea turtles, pop back to the stimulus to quickly review everything you've been told about snapping sea turtles, and see how it compares. If you feel a bit stuck (don't use this strategy all the time), you can actually try negating the answer choice to see if it then conflicts with something you've been told (more on this in a moment). If something is a valid inference, negating should conflict with SOMETHING.
You do end up doing a decent bit of analysis in the answer choices, but this is 1) necessary, since you can't predict in advance what the inference will be and 2) acceptable, since your initial read of the stimulus doesn't generally require you to break apart an argument core; all you're doing is mentally mapping the info you're being given for later reference.
Now, the specific question (PT16-S2-Q11) you bring up is a somewhat unusual inference question, though a favorite of mine. Let's apply that negating trick to (D)
: if the needles wear out at PREDICTABLE rates, then why the heck would they need to use some fancy-pants acoustic device? They would surely just set up a schedule of replacements. Wouldn't that be easier, if it were predictable? But no, we're told this fancy-pants acoustic device is totally where the future is going, and we have to believe it, so these things are probably not predictable. I'd have to work pretty hard to come up with a rationale for why we are going to use these sophisticated devices if the needle-wear is predictable.
If you thought that negating trick sounded an awful lot like something you'd do on a necessary assumption question, you'd be right. Notice that in this stimulus, we actually DO get an argument: the conclusion is the last line, heavily signaled by "therefore". This conclusion makes a prediction about the future (fancy acoustic thing will become standard). Here's the argument core:
PREMISE:Inefficient to hire people for sole purpose of needle checking
CONCLUSION:Fancy acoustic checker will become standard
In other words, because one solution is unacceptable (hiring people just to check), we conclude some other solution is THE WAY IT WILL HAPPEN. This argument assumes that no other
solution would work either! (Such as, for instance, simply making a replacement schedule based on predictable wear.)
Now, we haven't been asked for a necessary assumption, exactly. We've been asked for an inference, based on the information above
. So, we're being told to ACCEPT this argument, in total. If we accept this argument, and its conclusion, then we must also accept any assumptions it is making. So we're being asked to accept not only the explicit information, but also the necessary assumptions embedded in the argument!!
That's the added layer here that makes this question particularly tough - it's not a typical laundry list of information, but rather an argument with a clear assumption being made - one that we are forced to accept.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this, both in regards to this specific question and the general approach to inference questions!
PS - I'm also curious exactly why you were tempted by (B)
, and how you finally realized it was incorrect. I find it tempting because we can infer that the future factory can't or won't hire people to do some other job AND check needles. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the future factory won't ever hire ANYONE to do a single task (maybe the floor-sweeper does that and only that, for example).