Which of the following best characterizes the function of the

The most plausible justification for higher taxes on automobile fuel is that fuel consumption harms the environment and thus adds to the costs of traffic congestion. But the fact that burning fuel creates these “negative externalities” does not imply that no tax on fuel could ever be too high. Economics is precise about the tax that should, in principle, be levied to deal with negative externalities: the tax on a liter of fuel should be equal to the harm caused by using a liter of fuel. If the tax is more than that, its costs (including the inconvenience to those who would rather have used their cars) will exceed its benefits (including any reduction in congestion and pollution).

Which of the following best characterizes the function of the highlighted portion of the passage?

  1. It restates a point made earlier in the passage.
  2. It provides the evidence on which a theory is based.
  3. It presents a specific application of a general principle.
  4. It summarizes a justification with which the author disagrees.
  5. It suggests that the benefits of a particular strategy have been overestimated.

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 questions that ask us how a particular portion of the passage is functioning, such as number 20 on the second Verbal section of practice test 1, follow this rule.

We’re asked about the “function” of a particular portion of the passage, meaning we want to know the role that it plays or how the information fits in with the rest of the passage. We’ll notice that our answer choices aren’t very specific—they could be answers to just about any question asking about the function of a portion of the passage—so we’ll want to be sure to come up with our own idea of what the highlighted portion is doing in order to be sure that we don’t get confused by any of our answer choices. Let’s start by reading the passage.

The first sentences tells us that one “justification” or reason to tax fuel consumption is that harms the environment. The second sentence begins with the word “but,” so we should immediately be on the look out for how the ideas in this sentence might contrast with those in the previous sentence: apparently, these “negative externalities,” which we can infer are drawbacks to burning fuel like harming the environment, can’t justify an unlimited amount of tax. The third sentence tells us that economics “is precise about the tax that should, in principle, be levied,” or in other words, that economics provides a general rule for the amount that something like fuel burning can be taxed. We should definitely note the colon that sets our first part of this sentence apart from the highlighted portion because a colon usually notes an explanation, elaboration, or example. Here, it looks as though the part of the sentence after the colon (the highlighted portion) elaborates on the rule, or “principle,” that economics has regarding these taxes (the amount should be equal to the amount of damage). The last sentence provides some reasoning for this rule, explaining that a higher tax would exceed the benefits it would provide.

Alright, so it seems that our highlighted portion elaborated on a “principle” referenced in the previous part of the sentence, so let’s see if there’s an answer choice that says something similar.

  • It restates a point made earlier in the passage.

Our highlighted portion actually gives us new information: until here, we don’t know what principle economics supplies for this kind of tax. We can eliminate A because the highlighted portion doesn’t merely restate a previous point.

  • It provides the evidence on which a theory is based.

What theory does the passage talk about? There isn’t one. The passage discusses a rule or “principle” of economics, not a theory. The highlighted portion couldn’t provide evidence for a theory never mentioned, so we can eliminate B.

  • It presents a specific application of a general principle.

Ahh. This answer specifically discusses a “principle,” which our passage did talk about. And, the highlighted portion does specify how the tax levied specifically on burning fuel should be determined, while the first part of the sentence just mentioned that a limit of the amount of tax that should be levied exists. C seems pretty plausible, but let’s check our last couple of answers before we commit.

  • It summarizes a justification with which the author disagrees.

What “justification” was provided in the passage? Ahh. The idea that fuel use should be taxed because it harms the environment. BUT the author said this was a “plausible” justification. While the next sentence did begin with a contrast word, the author only told us that this justification couldn’t be used to justify taxes that are too high. Also, the highlighted portion doesn’t summarize that idea but instead gives us more information on how it should be applied. We can eliminate D.

  • It suggests that the benefits of a particular strategy have been overestimated.

The author doesn’t discuss “benefits” until the next sentence, and, in fact, the highlighted portion actually tells us how these “benefits” can be achieved without going overboard. E can be eliminated.

Paying careful attention to the structure of the third sentence helped us establish that the highlighted portion elaborates on a principle, and C is the only answer that reflects this. Therefore, C is the correct answer.

 

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