Critical Reasoning Question Types-Strengthen Or Weaken Questions Pt 2

Kaplan Strategy

For a Strengthen or Weaken Question, keep the following in mind:

  • Weakening an argument is not the same as disproving a conclusion-and strengthening is not the same as proving.  A weakener tips the scale toward doubting the conclusion, while a strengthener tips the scale toward believing in the validity of the conclusion;
  • The wording will always take the form of, “Which one of the following, if true, would most [weaken or strengthen] the argument?”  The “if true” part means that you have to accept the validity of the choice right off the bat, no matter how unlikely is may sound.
  • Wrong answer choices in these questions often have the opposite of the desired effect.  So if you’re asked to strengthen a stimulus argument, a wrong choice will likely contain information that actually weakens the argument.  And when asked to weaken a stimulus, one answer choice is sure to strengthen the argument.  Pay attention to what the question stem is asking.

Sample Stems

The stems associated with these two question types are usually self-explanatory.  Here’s a list of what you can expect to see on Test Day:

Weaken:

  • Which one of the following, if true, would most weaken the argument above?
  • Which one of the following, if true, would most seriously damage the argument above?
  • Which one of the following, if true, casts the most doubt on the argument above?
  • Which one of the following, if true, is the most serious criticism of the argument above?

Strengthen:

  • Which of the following, if true, would most strengthen the argument?
  • Which of the following, if true, would provide the most support for the conclusion in the argument above?
  • The argument above would be more persuasive if which one of the following were found to be true?

It’s also common that the question stem explicitly refers to part of the argument.  You might, for example, see the following:

Which of the following, if true, casts the most doubt on the author’s conclusion that the Brookdale Public Library does not meet the requirements of the new building code?

This example illustrates another advantage of Basic Principle 2: Reading the question stem first.  Here we would be told outright what the author’s conclusion is, making the reading of the stimulus much easier to manage.

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