Many countries spent billions on vaccines in response to advice that a virus had the potential to kill millions. These countries are now trying to sell the stockpiles of vaccines which they do not need. There is concern that advice given by officials may have been influenced by pharmaceutical companies. Clearly, such companies would have an interest in making sure that governments spent large quantities of money on vaccines that they produced. It is essential that an investigation into this matter takes place as soon as possible so that those responsible can be held to account.
Which one of the following is an assumption on which this argument depends?
A. The pharmaceutical companies influenced the advice given by officials.
B. The advice given by officials was not appropriate.
C. It will not be possible for the stockpiles of vaccines to be sold.
D. The pharmaceutical companies misjudged the dangers of the virus.
E. Groups with financial interests do not advise officials in other areas of decision making.
Identify the question type. Although not phrased in the typical Cambridge format (“What is the assumption in the argument…”) we can easily identify that it is asking for an assumption.
Strategy Tool Kit for solving assumptions
Find the conclusions
Find the reasons
Find the unwritten link that the conclusion relies on
Discard and decide (use negation test if needed)
Before we go into the answer, we should keep an eye out for the link between the problem and what the author believes the solution is. The problem is that countries are spending billions and stockpiling vaccines they do not need. The solution is to investigate the information given to officials in the government who make the decisions to buy these vaccines. So what is the weak link? The source of information. The assumption made by the author is that there is a problem with the information given to the officials, likely coming from people in the pharmaceutical companies with interests in making more money. Now lets go through our answers.
A This is something that is said in the text, therefore it cannot be an assumption. “There is concern that advice given by officials may have been influenced by pharmaceutical companies”. It is rather the problem that the author thinks is causing the government to have these stockpiles they need to sell. Therefore A is not the answer.
B Let’s test this answer using the negation test, one of the strategies in our tool kit where we take the opposite of the statement and see if it has any effect. If the advice given by the officials WAS appropriate, then it would mean that it was not out of financial interest but rather out of concern for public health. If the information was true, then it is not the fault of the pharmaceutical companies. As you can see, we cannot reverse this statement or else the argument collapses, therefore we need to assume that the advice given by the officials was not appropriate or else they would not be the problem (as stated in the text). Therefore B is the answer.
C. This is not relevant to the text. If we use the negation test: If it was possible for the vaccine stockpiles to be sold, what changes? There is still the issue that there is potential biased information influencing officials in the government that make these decisions. Therefore you would still need to investigate and punish those involved (which is the conclusion of the author). This answer does not change or invalidate the conclusion so it is not a valid assumption. Therefore C is not the answer.
D. If this statement was true, it would still leave the possibility open that the pharmaceutical companies are still influencing the officials, even if it was not intentional there is still a leak of external information flowing in and influencing the officials. Just because there is no mal-intent because they believe there actually was a problem, it does not mean that they should be influencing the officials. Therefore this cannot be the correct answer.
E. This answer can be tricky because of the wording. If groups with financial interest did not advise officials in other areas of decision making, it would mean they only do so in this one case. If this was an assumption it would not be inferred from the text because we do not know what the other areas of decision making are, they are not relevant. Therefore this cannot be the correct answer.