• Nathan Fox

Flaw-Weaken Confusion

Test 27 - Section 2 - Question 25

Logical Reasoning Difficulty: 2


Demon user Terry F. asks, "Can you guys explain this question stem? I initially had the question right but the stem confused me and I changed my answer. Thanks."

Terry, I'm quite sure that you're not the only one confused! Most people would reflexively put this in the "Flaw" category (or "Flaw… EXCEPT" if they have one of those) simply because it contains the word "flawed." But this question stem is properly categorized as a Weaken question (or "Weaken… EXCEPT.")

The difference between Flaw and Weaken questions is that Flaw questions ask you to describe a flaw that exists in the argument while Weaken questions ask you to find an answer that, if true, would hurt the argument. 

But when all five answer choices on a Flaw question start with "overlooks the possibility that," or when, like it does here, the question includes "overlooks the possibility that," it turns the Flaw question into a Weaken question. The argument did overlook literally infinite possibilities. The argument has overlooked everything it did not say. So instead of using our Flaw analysis (Did the argument do this? Is it a problem?) we skip straight to the second part: Is it a problem?

On an EXCEPT question the analysis doesn't change, but there are four answers that do weaken the argument and one correct answer that does not. (The correct answer might be irrelevant or strengthen. It's the only one that doesn't weaken.)

Phew! I'm getting tired from explaining it, and you're probably tired of hearing me explain. But I promise it's easier than you think—it's all just baby steps.

A) This weakens the argument, so it's out. If a candidate's hobbies indicate that she can stick to things for the long term, then why isn't this a useful question to ask?

B) This doesn't weaken. This actually strengthens. If candidates might lie about their hobbies anyway—oh, I'm huge into nuclear physics just for fun!—then there's another reason why it's dumb to ask this question. Since this doesn't weaken the argument, it's the correct answer on this Weaken… EXCEPT question.

C) This weakens, so it's out. Don't we want our candidates to be relaxed and forthcoming in their interviews? Ask about their hobbies so that we can hit them with the zingers later!

D) This weakens, so it's out. If a candidate is deeply into organizing library card catalogues as a "fun" hobby, they're probably going to kick ass on our office filing system.

E) This weakens, so it's out. If personnel managers have to be skittish when asking questions, and therefore become worse interviewers, then we shouldn't restrict what questions they can ask.

The correct answer is B because it's the only one that doesn't weaken. This question is properly categorized as a "Weaken… EXCEPT" question. Thanks Terry!

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