Solving “Strengthen” Questions
These questions ask you to help the main conclusion:
- Which one of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument’s overall conclusion?
- Which one of the following, if true, most supports the television executive’s argument?
- Which one of the following principles most strongly supports the argument above?
- Which one of the following, if true, most justifies the educator’s reasoning?
- The reasoning in the advertisement would be most strengthened if which one of the following were true?
Make a Strong Prediction
Because it’s impossible to strengthen a valid argument, there must be at least one flaw in a Strengthen question’s argument. Pinpoint at least one flaw when you actively engage with the passage the first time you read it:
- Find the main conclusion. If the conclusion rejects an idea, restate the conclusion as the opposite of that idea. If you need to brush up on argument parts and indicators, go here.
- Find the premises. Premises are statements that support the main conclusion. Don’t confuse these for background information, concessions, and opposing viewpoints.
- Figure out why the premises don’t prove the main conclusion. Accept the premises as true, but they still won’t prove the conclusion. Why don’t they? Catch any sneaky assumptions and find a way to state them explicitly to strengthen the author’s argument.
There might be multiple problems with the argument. Identify as many as you can. After spotting one or two serious flaws, jump into the answer choices.
What to Look For
The correct answer won’t necessarily prove the main conclusion, but it will make that conclusion stronger. As you read each answer, ask yourself: Does this answer help the main conclusion more than the other four answers?
While all five answers can be true, only the correct answer will give you new evidence which might have been assumed but never explicitly stated by the author. The new evidence should fix, at least partly, one of the problems you identified.
If two answers both help the conclusion, the more strongly-worded answer is usually the correct one in a Strengthen question. For instance, it might say “all” rather than “some.” As always, though, the content of the answer matters more than word strength.
If a question uses the word “EXCEPT,” look for the opposite: The correct answer will either weaken the conclusion or do nothing, so rule out answers that strengthen the conclusion at all.