Over the last few years, Country A has suffered a pest infestation which has resulted in huge losses in agricultural yield. Since the infestation began, Country A’s imports have increased. Therefore, Country A will continue to import more than it did before the infestation started, and this will remain so until the infestation ends.
Remember we identified the components of this passage in the introductory article on argument-based passages. Now let us suppose that this passage appeared in your test with the following question-stem and possible answer choices:
Question: Which of the following roles is played by the portions in boldface in the argument above?
A. The first is evidence provided in favor of the position that the argument seeks to establish; the second is that position.
B. The first is a reason why the prediction of the author might not prove to be true; the second is that prediction.
C. The first and the second both serve as evidence in favor of the main conclusion of the passage.
D. The first is the author’s opinion regarding a recent phenomenon; the second is the author’s prediction regarding the future of that phenomenon.
E. The first is a position that the argument seeks to establish; the second is an elaboration of that position.
Before trying to select an option that correctly establishes the roles played by the portions in boldface, we have to first try to identify these roles on our own. Doing so is a good strategy for two reasons:
- Identifying roles is something that we have to do anyways, regardless of the question type. Identifying conclusions and premises is the first step in answering any argument questions.
- The language in the answer choices of ‘Identifying Roles of Sentences’ questions is often convoluted and confusing, so it is always a good idea to form a simple answer in your mind before diving into the answer choices.
Let’s try to identify the roles of the boldface sentences on our own. The second boldface portion, as we already know from the introductory article, is the conclusion of the argument. Similarly, the first boldface is one of two premises on which the conclusion of this passage is based.
Answer choice A is correct. Answer choice A states that the first boldface is evidence provided in favor of the position that the argument seeks to establish. Let’s compare it with the role of the first boldface that we identified on our own: it is one of two premises on which the conclusion of this passage is based. Aren’t these one and the same things? Yes they are: ‘evidence’ translates to ‘premise’ and ‘position’ translates to ‘conclusion’. Also, ‘in favor of’ and ‘based’ show the same relationship between evidence/premise and position/conclusion i.e. the premise supports the conclusion. Regarding the second boldface, answer choice A states that it is the position that the argument seeks to establish, in other words the conclusion. And we already know that to be true.
Answer choice B states that the first boldface is a reason why the prediction of the author might not prove to be true. In other words, it somehow weakens the main conclusion of the argument. We know that is not true. Don’t even bother to look at the second part of this answer choice.
Answer choice C states that the first and the second boldface both serve as evidence in favor of the main conclusion of the passage. While the first boldface indeed does that, the second, as we know it, does not play the role of evidence supporting the conclusion, rather it is the conclusion itself.
Answer choice D states that the first boldface is the author’s opinion regarding a recent phenomenon. We know that this is not the case: the first boldface is not the author’s opinion but a description of the phenomenon itself. In other words, it is a fact, an actual event, and not an opinion.
Answer choice E is incorrect because the first boldface is not the position that argument seeks to establish, it is only a premise of the argument.