In the argument given, the two highlighted portions play which of

Rain-soaked soil contains less oxygen than does drier soil. The roots of melon plants perform less efficiently under the low-oxygen conditions present in rain-soaked soil. When the efficiency of melon roots is impaired, the roots do not supply sufficient amounts of the proper nutrients for the plants to perform photosynthesis at their usual levels. It follows that melon plants have a lower-than-usual rate of photosynthesis when their roots are in rain-soaked soil. When the photosynthesis of the plants slows, sugar stored in the fruits is drawn off to supply the plants with energy. Therefore, ripe melons harvested after a prolonged period of heavy rain should be less sweet than other ripe melons.

In the argument given, the two highlighted portions play which of the following roles?

  1. The first states the conclusion of the argument as a whole; the second provides support for that conclusion.
  2. The first provides support for the conclusion of the argument as a whole; the second provides evidence that supports an objection to that conclusion.
  3. The first provides support for an intermediate conclusion that supports a further conclusion stated in the argument; the second states that intermediate conclusion.
  4. The first serves as an intermediate conclusion that supports a further conclusion stated in the argument; the second states the position that the argument as a whole opposes.
  5. The first states the position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second supports the conclusion of the argument.

An important thing to keep in mind about the Reading Comprehension section of the GRE as we use PowerPrep online to study is that it is just that—reading comprehension. In other words, as difficult as it may seem, and it can be pretty tricky, the test makers will always give us all the information we need in the passage to answer the question, even when the question asks us about the structure of the passage itself, like question 20 of the first Verbal section on practice test 1.

Ok, so we are asked about an “argument” here. When a GRE question asks about an argument there are a few key structural ideas that we should keep in mind: the premises, conclusion, and any assumptions. The premises are the facts or pieces of evidence an argument is based on. The conclusion is the position that the argument is meant to support, and assumptions are any details that were not part of the premises but that would have to be true in order for the conclusion to be true.

Alright, in this paragraph in particular let’s see if we can identify any premises. Well, the first three sentences (one of which is highlighted) tell us facts that build on one another. However, when we get to the fourth sentence we see the phrase “it follows that”; transitional phrases like “it follows,” “thus” or”therefore” are almost always used to introduce a conclusion—but also conclusions are usually at the end of the paragraph.

Well, digging a little deeper here, we learn in this first part that rain-soaked soil contains less oxygen, which because it causes the roots to perform less efficiently, leads to the roots not being able to provide enough energy for photosynthesis. The conclusion here is that rain-soaked soil then will, ultimately, lead to lower rates of photosynthesis. But then the argument builds on this. The lower rates of photosynthesis will force the plant to use stored sugars; THEREFORE (another conclusion) the fruit will be less sweet.

So, the first highlighted portion was a premise that helped (in conjunction with other premises) lead to a conclusion that ALSO served as a premise for the overall argument that melons that have been harvested after too much rain will be less sweet. Let’s see if there’s an answer that reflects this.

The first states the conclusion of the argument as a whole; the second provides support for that conclusion.

Nope. The first is NOT a conclusion because it is part of the basis of the argument. We can eliminate A.

The first provides support for the conclusion of the argument as a whole; the second provides evidence that supports an objection to that conclusion.

The first part is a little questionable, but we could say that in supporting the conclusion in the middle of the argument that the first highlighted portion does provide support for the overall conclusion. HOWEVER, the middle chunk does NOT challenge the overall conclusion. We can eliminate B.

The first provides support for an intermediate conclusion that supports a further conclusion stated in the argument; the second states that intermediate conclusion.

Yes, the first portion does support an intermediate conclusion—and that second portion is said intermediate conclusion, which we know from the phrase “it follows that.” C seems like a good answer.

The first serves as an intermediate conclusion that supports a further conclusion stated in the argument; the second states the position that the argument as a whole opposes.

Nope. The first portion is not a conclusion. We can eliminate D without reading further (also the second part is not true either so, all around D is a dud).

The first states the position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second supports the conclusion of the argument.

Nope. There’s no part of this argument that the rest of the argument opposes, so we can eliminate E because it does not properly characterize the first portion.

The correct answer is C.

 

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