QUESTION TYPE: Paradox
PARADOX: Two studies in the same area examined a particular species of plant. One study found 70% of the plants had patterned stems. The other study found only 40% of the plants had a patterned stem.
ANALYSIS: To solve Paradox questions, you must first ask: How is this situation confusing?
In this case, the naive assumption would be that in two similar areas, the plants must be the same. So that’s why this is confusing. The next step is to ask “what could account for this”? Off the top of my head, without looking at the answers, I thought of:
- Maybe the survey was done in different seasons (which affected how often the plant was patterned)
- Maybe different methods were used
- Maybe the definition of “patterned” was different.
You don’t need to be able to come up with all of those. But you should get into the habit of thinking “what are all the possibilities”, because this skill is useful on all LR question types. When you think about alternate possibilities regularly, it becomes fast and second nature.
- The total amount of plants doesn’t matter! We only care about the rate of patterns. This answer seems to match my prephrase, but it’s referring to the wrong concept. You have to watch for traps: don’t just blindly pick something that matches part of what you predicted.
- We only care about the particular plant species.
- Same as A. Individual plant numbers don’t matter, we only care about the rate of patterns. And 15% more plants isn’t enough to suggest a sample size issue.
- CORRECT. A broader definition will find more patterned plants, so this explains the difference.
- It doesn’t matter what the main focus of a study was. A study can still report accurately on secondary focuses.
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