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Critical Reasoning - Discussing the Plan Questions

We have been requested to discuss how to handle the “plan” questions in critical reasoning. Here is how they are different from your regular strengthen/weaken questions - instead of a conclusion, we have situations and plans given to remedy them. In each of these questions, we have to evaluate the success of the plan or a weakness in the plan or an assumption of the plan etc.

 

Note that a plan question is similar to a strengthen/weaken/assumption question. Just that instead of a conclusion, you have to strengthen/weaken the possibility of the plan working out or an assumption made in the plan. Examples will make this clearer. We will look at an example of each of these three types.

 

Example 1: In the country of Bedenia, officials have recently implemented a new healthcare initiative to reduce dangerous wait times at emergency rooms in the country’s hospitals. This initiative increases the number of available emergency nurses and doctors in urban settings: scholarships and no-interest loans are being offered to prospective students in these fields if they work in major city hospitals, relocation packages to urban centers are being offered for current emergency practitioners, and immigration rules are being changed to enable foreign emergency doctors and nurses to more easily move to Bedenia’s major cities. 

 

Which of the following would be most important to determine in assessing whether the initiative will be successful?

 

(A) What percentage of current nurses and doctors work in emergency medicine

(B) Which hospitals in Bedenia have dangerous wait times in their emergency rooms

(C) Whether a career in emergency medicine pays substantially less than other types of medicine

(D) Whether wait times could be reduced by means other than increasing the number of available nurses and doctors

(E) Whether many foreign doctors and nurses are currently not allowed to enter Bedenia

 

Plan: Reduce the dangerous wait time by increasing the availability of emergency nurses and doctors in urban settings by providing scholarships, offering relocation packages and changing immigration rules

 

We need to find out whether this plan will reduce wait time. Note that we are not worried about what else could reduce the dangerous wait time or what else this plan could do. The only point of concern is whether this plan with reduce wait time.

 

Here is a question - this plan intends to increase the availability of emergency nurses and doctors in urban settings. Is this what is required? Do the urban hospitals have dangerous wait times? What if only rural hospitals have wait times and that is where the impetus is required? Option (B) addresses exactly this question and hence will help in determining whether the initiative will be successful. 

 

Answer (B)

 

Example 2: In the last two years alone, nearly a dozen of Central University's most prominent professors have been lured away by the higher salaries offered by competing academic institutions. In order to protect the school's ranking, Central University's president has proposed increasing tuition by 10% and using the extra money to offer more attractive compensation packages to the most talented and well-known members of its faculty.

 

Which of the following provides the most persuasive argument against the university president's proposed course of action?

 

(A) It is inevitable that at least some members of the faculty will ultimately take jobs at other universities, regardless of how much Central University offers to pay them.

(B) Other universities are also looking for ways to provide higher salaries to prominent members of the faculty.

(C) Central University slipped in the last year's ranking of regional schools.

(D) The single most important factor in ranking a university is its racial and socioeconomic diversity. 

(E) The president of Central University has only been in office for 18 months and has never managed such a large enterprise.

 

Plan: Protect school’s ranking by retaining most prominent members by increasing their compensation

 

We need to find a persuasive argument against the plan - something because of which the plan should not be implemented. 

 

Here, test takers often have confusion between options (B) and (D):

 

(B) Other universities are also looking for ways to provide higher salaries to prominent members of the faculty.

This option supports the plan. It is a reason to actually implement the plan since if more disparity gets created, more prominent professors will leave.

 

(D) The single most important factor in ranking a university is its racial and socioeconomic diversity.

This is an argument against the plan. The single most important factor in ranking is “racial and socioeconomic diversity”. So trying to retain prominent professors is not likely to retain ranking. 

 

Hence answer would be (D)

 

Example 3: The general availability of high-quality electronic scanners and color printers for computers has made the counterfeiting of checks much easier. In order to deter such counterfeiting, several banks plan to issue to their corporate customers checks that contain dots too small to be accurately duplicated by any electronic scanner currently available; when such checks are scanned and printed, the dots seem to blend together in such a way that the word “VOID” appears on the check.

 

A questionable assumption of the plan is that

 

(A) in the territory served by the banks the proportion of counterfeit checks that are made using electronic scanners has remained approximately constant over the past few years

(B) most counterfeiters who use electronic scanners counterfeit checks only for relatively large amounts of money

(C) the smallest dots on the proposed checks cannot be distinguished visually except under strong magnification

(D) most corporations served by these banks will not have to pay more for the new checks than for traditional checks

(E) the size of the smallest dots that generally available electronic scanners are able to reproduce accurately will not decrease significantly in the near future

 

Plan: To deter counterfeiting, several banks plan to issue checks that contain dots too small to be accurately duplicated (which will form the word VOID) by any electronic scanner currently available

 

We need to find an assumption the plan makes. Note that the plan is based on the capabilities of the currently available scanners. The plan assumes that their capability will not improve in the near future. Hence (E) is an assumption. 

 

Some test takers get confused with (C).

 

(C) the smallest dots on the proposed checks cannot be distinguished visually except under strong magnification

 

This is not an assumption. Even if the dots can be distinguished visually, they don’t form the word VOID. Only when current scanners scan and then we print them do the dots merge to form the word. 

 

Answer (E)

 

We hope you have understood how to handle various plan questions. The most important aspect of such a question is to identify the plan and what one hopes to achieve through it. 

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