The passage suggests which of the following about “skeleton

Some universities have created environmental studies programs that can be marketed to prospective students but that suffer from too little administrative support, limited faculty resources, and a lack of careful deliberation over the hard choices. In the short term, this institutional strategy can pay rich dividends: at minimal expense a university can lay claim to an environmental studies program and attract new students or accommodate the interest of existing ones, perhaps with the full intention of bringing additional resources to bear in later years. As the number of students in these skeleton programs grows, however, the flimsy administrative and curricular scaffolding begins to buckle, leading to an anything-goes strategy that degenerates into curricular incoherence.

The passage suggests which of the following about “skeleton programs” in environmental studies?

  1. They may fail to attract prospective students.
  2. At some point they are likely to collapse into curricular confusion.
  3. They may pay rich dividends in the short term.

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. This is especially important to keep in mind when the question asks us about something the passage “suggests,” like question 11 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1.

Asking what is “suggested” by the passage is just another way to ask what is “inferred.” In other words, correct answers will not necessarily be spelled-out for us in the passage, but should reflect conclusions that can logically be drawn from the information in the passage and must be true based on the passage. This is a select-all-that-apply question, so we’ll want to consider each choice individually to determine whether or not it can be inferred.

When the GRE is kind enough to point us to a particular part of the passage, we should approach with a bit of caution: sometimes that means we want to limit our search to only that particular area, but sometimes the test makers do this to narrow our focus when perhaps we should keep it broad. For example, even though “skeletal programs” only appears in the last sentence, the phrase “skeletal programs” refers to “environmental studies programs” that are discussed throughout this short passage. In other words, anything the passage suggests about environmental studies programs is really fair game. Therefore, we’ll want to use keywords in our answers to help us navigate the passage in order to determine whether or not each answer is something that is truly suggested.

  • They may fail to attract prospective students.

If we aren’t sure about this answer, we should skim for information about “prospective” or “new” students. Indeed, the second sentence tells us that these programs are an inexpensive way to “attract new students,” and the third sentence suggests that the “number of students in these skeleton programs” will grow. On the other hand, there’s no reference in the passage as to what will happen if the number of students does not grow or that the programs will not achieve their purpose. We can eliminate A because the passage seems to imply that the programs will, indeed, attract new students.

  • At some point they are likely to collapse into curricular confusion.

The last sentence tells us that “as the number of students in these skeleton programs grows” the fact that these programs are not fully realized and do not have strong curriculums or administrative support will begin to show, and that, ultimately, will lead to a strategy that “degenerates into curricular confusion.” So, while there are a couple of steps in between, it does seem that the passage suggests that these programs will “collapse into curricular confusion.” Answer B is true based on information in the passage, so we should select this answer.

  • They may pay rich dividends in the short term.

The second sentence does mention something about the “short term” and “rich dividends.” However, it says “this strategy” is what will bring those dividends—the word “this” has to refer back to something, so what “strategy” is this sentence talking about. Aha! The previous sentence talks about creating “environmental studies programs,” which we know are the “skeleton programs” referred to later, in order to market them to prospective students. So the “strategy” mentioned in the second sentence refers to the technique of creating these very skeleton programs in order to produce “rich dividends” in the “short term.” C is true based on information in the passage, so we should select this answer.

 

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