March 31, 2022

Solving “Role” Questions

These top-down questions ask you to describe what one of the claims in the argument is doing:

  • The claim that there is a crisis in journalism plays which one of the following roles in the critic’s argument?
  • The statement that storms are dangerous serves which one of the following functions in the argument?
  • The claim that people sleep better after exercise figures in the argument in which one of the following ways?

Make a Strong Prediction

Role questions are perfect for making predictions. All the information you need is in the passage, and there’s zero guesswork. Logical Reasoning experts can predict the correct answer to Role questions every single time. 

Although the passage has to be an argument, it doesn’t have to be flawed. 

Before you read the answers, make your prediction:

  1. Find the main conclusion. You should have done this before even reading the question. If you’re still having trouble, brush up your skills on spotting conclusions or go back to the basics of argument parts and indicators.
  2. Find the specific claim mentioned in the question. For example, let’s say the question asks: “The statement that drinking coffee in the morning is correlated with increased levels of anxiety plays which one of the following roles in the argument?” Figure out where the passage discusses a morning coffee’s relationship with anxiety levels. 
  3. Describe the role of that claim in your own words. Is it the main conclusion? An intermediate conclusion? A premise? A concession? An opposing viewpoint? Something else entirely? 

If the claim is the main conclusion, you’re done. If it’s something else, figure out how it relates to the main conclusion

If the claim helps the main conclusion, it’s likely either a premise or an intermediate conclusion. 

If the claim hurts the main conclusion, it’s probably a concession or an opposing viewpoint. 

Once you’ve made a strong prediction, look for the answer choice that matches it.

What to Look For in Answer Choices

The correct answer must describe exactly what’s happening in the argument. If the claim you found is the main conclusion, for example, but the argument also has an intermediate conclusion, then saying it is “the author’s only conclusion” would be wrong since it’s not the only conclusion in the argument. And if you’ve made a good prediction, the answer choice should match your prediction.

Break down the answers and read them part by part. Ask yourself if each part accurately describes something that’s happening in the argument. Replace the answer choice’s abstract words with concrete ideas from the passage.

Consider this possible answer:

A)  It is a premise that, in conjunction with another premise, is intended to support the argument’s conclusion.

You can break this answer into three parts: 

  1. a premise that
  2. in conjunction with another premise 
  3. is intended to support the argument’s conclusion

After reading part 1, ask yourself, “Is the statement describing a premise?” If so, keep reading. After part 2, ask: “Is the statement working with another premise?” If so, read part 3 and restate it, asking: “Do these statements together try to support the main conclusion?” 

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” stop reading. It’s not the correct answer. Move on to the next answer choice.