Which of the following, if true, most helps to explain why the time

Electric washing machines, first introduced in the United States in 1925, significantly reduced the amount of time spent washing a given amount of clothes, yet the average amount of time households spent washing clothes increased after 1925. This increase is partially accounted for by the fact that many urban households had previously sent their clothes to professional laundries. But the average amount of time spent washing clothes also increased for rural households with no access to professional laundries.

Which of the following, if true, most helps to explain why the time spent washing clothes increased in rural areas?

  1. People with access to an electric washing machine typically wore their clothes many fewer times before washing them than did people without access to electric washing machines.
  2. Households that had sent their clothes to professional laundries before 1925 were more likely than other households to purchase an electric washing machine when they became available.
  3. People living in urban households that had previously sent their clothes to professional laundries typically owned more clothes than did people living in rural households.
  4. The earliest electric washing machines required the user to spend much more time beside the machine than do modern electric washing machines.
  5. In the 1920s and 1930s the proportion of rural households with electricity was smaller than the proportion of urban households with electricity.

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 in which our answers come from outside of the passage, like question 20 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1, abide by this rule.

This question is more subtle than other ones of its kind, but the phrase “if true” often tells us that we’re dealing with a passage that contains an argument. 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.

Many questions like this will ask us to strengthen or weaken a conclusion, in which case we normally need to find an answer that addresses an assumption. However, in this case, we’re asked to find support for a conclusion that we know to be true, so we’re actually dealing with finding a premise.

Our passage deals with the introduction of electric washing machines in both urban and rural homes. We know that the average time spent doing laundry increased even though the amount of time it takes to do a load of laundry decrease. We want to know how this could be the case in rural areas.

It’s important to note that the reason for why this was the case in urban areas is irrelevant. All we need to know is that the reason is NOT the same between urban and rural areas. It’s likely that some of our answers will try to establish points about urban areas or professional laundry services and these things should be red flags.

Since our answer should come from outside of the passage, it is nearly impossible to predict the actual answer. HOWEVER we know that a good answer should explain why people in rural areas would spend more time doing laundry even though washing machines make laundry a faster process. Let’s check our answers.

  • People with access to an electric washing machine typically wore their clothes many fewer times before washing them than did people without access to electric washing machines.

Ok, this answer doesn’t specifically mention “rural” households, but that may not actually be a bad thing because it DOES mention people with electric washers in general, which would include those rural households with electric machines. This answer suggests that people would effectively have more laundry to do because they would wash the same clothes more frequently given access to an electric washer. And if people are doing more loads of laundry (even though it’s really the same laundry), that could account for why people spent more time doing laundry. A actually seems like a solid choice, but we should keep reading our answers just to make sure we didn’t misinterpret something.

  • Households that had sent their clothes to professional laundries before 1925 were more likely than other households to purchase an electric washing machine when they became available.

This answer deals with households that use professional services, which we already know is a red flag! In fact, this answer tells us NOTHING about rural households because we know that rural households did not have access to these services. If we are to take this answer to mean that rural households were less likely to buy washers, that still doesn’t account for the increase in time doing laundry (we would expect the time to stay the same then). We can eliminate B>

  • People living in urban households that had previously sent their clothes to professional laundries typically owned more clothes than did people living in rural households.

This answer deals with urban households and professional services, again, red flag! Yet again, this answer doesn’t really tell us anything except that rural people owned fewer clothes than city people. While this might logically mean rural people needed to do laundry more often than city people, it does not explain why the amount of time rural households spent on laundry increased. In other words, suggesting that they may have spent more time on laundry in the first place does not answer the question. Eliminate C.

  • The earliest electric washing machines required the user to spend much more time beside the machine than do modern electric washing machines.

Tempting, but we should keep in mind what the passage said: “electric washing machines… significantly reduced the amount of time spent washing a given amount of clothes.” Therefore, no matter how much time it takes to wash clothes in an electric washer, it would still be faster than washing them by hand. The only way to account for an increase in the amount of time doing laundry, then, would be to explain why there was more laundry to be done. We can eliminate answer D.

  • In the 1920s and 1930s the proportion of rural households with electricity was smaller than the proportion of urban households with electricity.

Like B, this answer compares urban and rural households, and seems to suggest that urban households would be more likely to possess electric washers. Again, this does not explain an increase in the amount of time it took rural households to do laundry. We can eliminate E.

A is the only answer that accounts for why people in rural areas would need to do more laundry, which is the only reasonable explanation for why laundry would take up more time even though the actual process of doing laundry was faster. A is the correct answer.

 

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