Question


In setting environmental standards for industry and others to meet, it is inadvisable to require the best results that state-of-the-art technology can achieve. Current technology is able to detect and eliminate even extremely minute amounts of contaminants, but at a cost that is exorbitant relative to the improvement achieved. So it would be reasonable instead to set standards by taking into account all of the current and future risks involved.

The argument given concerning the reasonable way to set standards presupposes that

(Because of copyrights, the complete official question is not copied here. You can access the question here: GMAT Club)

Difficulty: Medium

Accuracy: 75%

Based on: 7186 sessions

Solution


The Story

In setting environmental standards for industry and others to meet, it is inadvisable to require the best results that state-of-the-art technology can achieve.
The statement talks about what not to do when setting environmental standards. It doesn’t make sense to require the best results that tech can achieve. 
(Don’t require the best —> ask for less than the best.)

Current technology is able to detect and eliminate even extremely minute amounts of contaminants, but at a cost that is exorbitant relative to the improvement achieved.
Ok, so we now get a reason for why it doesn’t make sense to require the best results. The statement gives us an example of what current tech can achieve. But, such an achievement comes at an extreme cost. The cost is too high relative to the improvement achieved. 
Connecting this statement to the previous one, I understand that it doesn’t make sense to set environmental standards according to what best tech can achieve. Because the associated cost would be exorbitant.

So it would be reasonable instead to set standards by taking into account all of the current and future risks involved.
The first statement gave something that is inadvisable. This sentence starts with talking about what would be ‘reasonable instead’. So, the statement will give us a suggestion about what should be done instead of requiring best results that tech can achieve. 
What would be reasonable? To set standards by taking into account all the current and future risks involved.

Wait. What? Where did current and future risks come from? My brain is in overdrive. I could have understood had they said: It would be reasonable instead to set standards that take into account the cost implications as well. Why are they talking about risks here?

Ah! I got it. I connected this statement back to the previous one. The previous statement tells us that the cost associated with implementing a state-of-the-art tech solution is exorbitant relative to the improvement achieved. So, it is not a question of affordability, but a question of worth.

The head of the standards committee might say:

  • If it is not a big risk now or in the future, and if the cost associated with it is high, let’s not include that in the standards. 
  • If it is a significant risk, and even if it is expensive, as long as we have the tech for it, let’s include it in the standards.

Gist
The argument is about the basis upon which the environmental standards should be set. Whether: 

  1. the standards should be set as high as tech allows —> inadvisable
  2. or, the standards should be balanced with cost, and set as high as needed taking into account the associated risks —> reasonable

I can’t think of any gaps at this point. Can you? I’ll move on to the question now.

Question Stem


The argument given concerning the reasonable way to set standards presupposes that
‘presupposes’ – an assumption question. 

Framework: We’re looking for something that would support the argument and without which the argument would fall apart. 

In the context:

  1. something that would increase my confidence in the point that “it would be reasonable to set standards by taking into account all of the current and future risks involved.”,
  2. and without which (on negating it), it would not be reasonable to set standards by taking into account all of the current and future risks involved.

Answer choice analysis


Answer Choice: A

Incorrect

Selected by: 10%

No impact.

Say there is a recommendation that it is reasonable to make the minimum marriageable age 18.

What impact does the following information have on the recommendation?

Society currently meets the standards that have been set by the government

No impact. 

  1. We don’t learn anything about whether the current marriageable age in the standards is too low or too high, or just right. 
  2. Even if we had that information, whether society currently meets the standards or not doesn’t matter. What matters is whether it is reasonable to set the marriageable age to 18. E.g.
    1. Say the current marriageable age according to the standards is 12. Now whether society currently meets these standards doesn’t help us understand anything about whether the marriageable age should be reasonably set to 18.
    2. Say the current marriageable age according to the standards is 28. Again, whether society currently meets these standards doesn’t help us understand anything about whether the marriageable age should be reasonably set to 18.

Whether it is reasonable to set the marriageable age to 18 would depend on factors such as biology and society, and not on whether the people meet the currently set standards.

The argument at hand claims that it is reasonable to set environment standards based on risk assessment. Now, whether industry currently meets the current standards is irrelevant.


Answer Choice: B

Correct

Selected by: 75%

This makes sense. I hadn’t thought about it earlier, but yes, the argument does assume that there are effective ways to assess risks. If there are effective ways to assess risks, it does sound reasonable to set standards based on such assessment. The answer choice strengthens the argument.

If some of the relevant risks cannot be evaluated properly (negation), then a significant risk may not be covered by the standards.In that case, it would not be reasonable to set standards based on risk assessment.

The negation breaks down the argument.


Answer Choice: C

Incorrect

Selected by: 3%

The argument mentions “industry and others”. So, what if these ‘others’ do not generate contaminants worth measuring? Well, even then, on what basis should the standards be set? Even if the standards would only be needed for industry and not for others, I don’t learn anything about whether it is reasonable to set the standards based on risk assessment.
This option has no impact on the argument, and, thus, is not an assumption.


Answer Choice: D

Incorrect

Selected by: 10%

No impact. It is not a matter of cost. It is a matter of cost balanced with the associated risk.

To explain why this answer choice has no impact, I’ll elaborate on a negation example: it is costly to prevent large amounts of contaminants from entering the environment.

Say, arsenic is a contaminant released into the environment by industry. 
Say arsenic is extremely toxic, and even 0.00001% presence of arsenic can be very harmful for humans. 

Now, say a plant owner says that they can’t afford to eliminate arsenic to that level. 

What should happen in such a case?
Should the standards be lowered, or should the plant either find a way to meet the standards, or be shut down?

If I were the commissioner of the Environmental Standards Agency (or some other awesome name), I would tell the plant that it’s my way or the highway. Plain and simple.

*Ok. Back to being a GMAT coach now.*

Whether the associated cost is high or low would not figure into whether it is reasonable to set standards based on risk assessment.

Answer Choice: E

Incorrect

Selected by: 2%

The recommendation is not that “let’s not go all the way till the minutest contaminants can be eliminated (the tech allows), and let’s go till ~90%.” The argument doesn’t claim that going all the way till the limit of technology would be an overkill.

The recommendation is that “let’s make the standards as strict as needed based on the associated risks.” The argument claims that standards be set based only on what is needed, and not based on what is technologically possible.

The argument is about what is reasonable while “taking into account all of the current and future risks involved”. So, if even minute amounts of some contaminants can be poisonous, the standards would take that risk into account.

This option has no impact on the argument, and, thus, is not an assumption.

If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

Anish Passi

GMAT Coach

With over a decade of GMAT training experience, top 1 percentile scores on the CAT and GMAT, and a passion for teaching, I’d like to believe I am quite qualified to be a GMAT coach. GMAT is learnable, and I help students master the GMAT through a process-oriented approach based on logic and common sense. I offer private tutoring and live-online classroom courses. My sessions are often sprinkled with real-world examples, references to movies, and jokes that only I find funny. You’ve been warned 🙂

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