Friday, March 23, 2012

Reading Comprehension: Application of or Analogous to

This is another post describing the classification system Zen of 180 uses for the reading comprehension section; if you're not sure how to approach studying for the LSAT, our 19 reading comprehension standards break it down into manageable chunks; also, our free online LSAT analyzer will let you know which types of passage structures give you the most trouble.

We'll be continuing with the Netherland's tulip bulb craze passage today, which we first outlined for the meaning of or referring to standard.

Many application of or analogous to questions are somewhat easy to identify, as they contain a synonym of application or analogous, and will reference or quote the part(s) of the passage that will serve as the comparison to the answer choices. However, some of this strand's question stems will will not have a keyword, but will clearly prompt the examinee to compare or apply the logic in the answer choices to the logic in the referenced portion of the passage. Thus, this task is part of the extrapolation strand, as it requires you to take information from the author's text and expand upon it or apply it in a new situation. 

The example question we pulled from the sample questions LSAC provides on its website is pretty standard in its form, but some other sample question stems from modern LSATs are:

The relationship between the ways in which [countries'] common law and [ancient civilization's] law treat [subject], as described in the passages, is most analogous to the relationship between which one of the following pairs?

Which one of the following is most analogous to the process, described in the last paragraph, by which the [phenomenon] can be curtailed?

Based on the passage, which one of the following scenarios is most similar to some [field’s] scholars’ use of the [theoretical] principle regarding the [policty] debate?

The explanation of the utility maximization principle in the passage suggests that which one of the following would be most appropriately described as a rational response to [phenomenon]?

The Colbert Report applies an MIT study: longer essays get better scores on the SAT despite errors or evidence, so ideally your writing section should read like Glenn Beck's teleprompter.
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This extrapolation task most often requires the examinee to consider the question stem's highlighted text within the broader context of the passage's argument. As with the extrapolation strand in logical reasoning, you want to be paying special attention to the referenced topic's actors, relationships, and degrees of certainty. While reading through the passage, you should be actively marking these structural components anyway, as we describe in detail for the main idea and primary purpose tasks. When presented with an application of or analogous to question, you should return to the referenced text's signposts in the passage and cleanly restate who the actors are, how they are related, and how certain we are about each.

The question stem for today's sample provides some helpful focusing issues for the reader.
7. Given Garber’s account of the seventeenth-century Dutch
    tulip market, which one of the following is most analogous to
    someone who bought a tulip bulb of a certain variety in that
    market at a very high price, only to sell a bulb of that variety at
    a much lower price?
It's worth noting that the question is only focused from Garber's point of view; the passage presents both Garbar's opinion and that of Mackay, and a savvy examinee will be sure to make clear structural marks to indicate when the author is presenting which POV. Before we can even get to the full sample question today, though, we of course need to go over the passage.
       In economics, the term “speculative bubble
       refers to a large upward move in an asset’s price
       driven not by the asset’s fundamentals—that is, by
       the earnings derivable from the asset—but rather by
(5)   mere speculation that someone else will be willing to
       pay a higher price for it. The price increase is then
       followed by a dramatic decline in price, due to a loss
       in confidence that the price will continue to rise, and
       the “bubble“ is said to have burst. According to
(10) Charles Mackay’s classic nineteenth-century account,
       the seventeenth-century Dutch tulip market provides
       an example of a speculative bubble. But the
       economist Peter Garber challenges Mackay’s view,
       arguing that there is no evidence that the Dutch tulip
(15) market really involved a speculative bubble.
       By the seventeenth century, the Netherlands had
       become a center of cultivation and development of
       new tulip varieties, and a market had developed in
       which rare varieties of bulbs sold at high prices. For
(20) example, a Semper Augustus bulb sold in 1625 for an
       amount of gold worth about U.S. $11,000 in 1999.
       Common bulb varieties, on the other hand, sold for
       very low prices. According to Mackay, by 1636 rapid
       price rises attracted speculators, and prices of many
(25) varieties surged upward from November 1636 through
       January 1637. Mackay further states that in February
       1637 prices suddenly collapsed; bulbs could not be
       sold at 10 percent of their peak values. By 1739, the
       prices of all the most prized kinds of bulbs had fallen
(30) to no more than one two-hundredth of 1 percent of
       Semper Augustus’s peak price.
       Garber acknowledges that bulb prices increased
       dramatically from 1636 to 1637 and eventually
       reached very low levels. But he argues that this
(35) episode should not be described as a speculative
       bubble, for the increase and eventual decline in bulb
       prices can be explained in terms of the fundamentals.
       Garber argues that a standard pricing pattern occurs
       for new varieties of flowers. When a particularly
(40) prized variety is developed, its original bulb sells for
       a high price. Thus, the dramatic rise in the price of
       some original tulip bulbs could have resulted as tulips
       in general, and certain varieties in particular, became
       fashionable. However, as the prized bulbs become
(45) more readily available through reproduction from the
       original bulb, their price falls rapidly; after less than
       30 years, bulbs sell at reproduction cost. But this
       does not mean that the high prices of original bulbs
       are irrational, for earnings derivable from the millions
(50) of bulbs descendant from the original bulbs can be
       very high, even if each individual descendant bulb
       commands a very low price. Given that an original
       bulb can generate a reasonable return on investment
       even if the price of descendant bulbs decreases
(55) dramatically, a rapid rise and eventual fall of tulip bulb
       prices need not indicate a speculative bubble.
The passage clearly sets up a debate between Mackay and Garber on whether Tulip Mania was a speculative bubble. However, for our purposes today, we're only interested in how Garber describes the original purchaser of an expensive bulb and sold that same variety for a low cost later. Once again, after reading the question stem, you should try and prephrase the actors, their relationships, and our degree of certainty about each before approaching the questions.
7. Given Garber’s account of the seventeenth-century Dutch
    tulip market, which one of the following is most analogous to
    someone who bought a tulip bulb of a certain variety in that
    market at a very high price, only to sell a bulb of that variety at
    a much lower price?
A good examinee would return (either mentally or physically) to the passage's third paragraph, where Garber's argument is fully described. The question stem tells you to focus on the buyer of the expensive tulip bulb who eventually sells versions of that bulb at a much lower price--the best examinees will realize that the question is referring to "original" and "descendant" bulbs from the text and make note of this relationship between the buyer, the original bulb, the descendant bulbs, and the ability to make a profit even with low prices because of the large number of descendant bulbs.
                                                                                                                But this
       does not mean that the high prices of original bulbs
       are irrational, for earnings derivable from the millions
(50) of bulbs descendant from the original bulbs can be
       very high, even if each individual descendant bulb
       commands a very low price.

With this prephrase in mind, we can compare the actors, their relationships, and the degree of certainty to the answer choices.
(A) someone who, after learning that many others had
      withdrawn their applications for a particular job,
      applied for the job in the belief that there would
      be less competition for it
(B) an art dealer who, after paying a very high price for
      a new painting, sells it at a very low price because
      it is now considered to be an inferior work
(C) someone who, after buying a box of rare motorcycle
      parts at a very high price, is forced to sell them
      at a much lower price because of the sudden
      availability of cheap substitute parts
(D) a publisher who pays an extremely high price for a
      new novel only to sell copies at a price affordable
      to nearly everyone
(E) an airline that, after selling most of the tickets for
      seats on a plane at a very high price, must sell the
      remaining tickets at a very low price
Answer choice D nicely analogizes the Garbar's argumentation of turning an expensive single original product into a profitable business by selling many copies of that original at a lower price. All of the important actors from the tulip market are replicated: buyer/seller, original bulb, descendant bulb. The relationships are similarly analogous, with an expensive price for the original product and a much lower price for the copies. Additionally, noted that D does not imply that the buyer/seller is forced to do anything because of market conditions: this is the standard business model for this market, and thus the buyer/seller plans to sell the copies at a low price in order to recoup their high initial cost.

Answer choice C and E clearly violate this important relationship between the buyer/seller and his descendant bulbs: although Mackay describes Tulip Mania as forcing original buyers to sell at a low price, you must note that the question stem clearly limits our application of the ideas from within Garber's argument.

Answer choice A introduces extraneous elements: actors (other applicants) and a relationship in the decision making process (less market competition) that simply doesn't exist in the passage.

Answer choice B is the most attractive distractor, as it has many of the actors and relationships from the passage. However, it is missing the crucial descendant bulb actors, and actively misstates the relationship between the original high and subsequent low price. Garber's opinion is that the original bulb's owner created copies to sell them cheaply and recoup costs, not because others had judged the tulips to be inferior.