IMAT 2012 Q2 [Flaw | Arson]

In 2010 there were over 110,000 incidents of arson (deliberately setting fire to buildings) in the UK in which over 100 people were killed, usually in attacks on people’s homes. Only a small percentage of homes have smoke alarms. If more homes had smoke alarms, the number of domestic fires would be significantly reduced. There should be a campaign to persuade people to install smoke alarms in their home as this would reduce the number of deaths.

Which one of the following identifies the flaw in the above argument?

A. It assumes that having smoke alarms will prevent fires.

B. It assumes that all deaths in fires are from arson attacks.

C. It overlooks the fact that smoke alarms may not work.

D. It assumes that people will be willing to install smoke alarms.

E. It assumes that all arson attacks are on people’s homes.


  1. Read the question first
  2. Read the passage
  3. Find the conclusion, highlight keywords
  4. Find assumptions that the argument lies on
  5. Attack these assumptions with the answer options
  6. Discard any invalid options and you’ll have your answer

The most important standout statement in this text is: “If more homes had smoke alarms, the number of domestic fires would be significantly reduced.” This is the author’s argument and what they believe to be true. But they are basing it on one key assumption, that smoke alarms reduce fires. Does this make sense? Does having an alarm that detects smoke (after there is already a fire) prevent fires? No, this is a huge flaw made in his argument.

A. This is a huge flaw in his argument as previously mentioned. Although smoke alarms could reduce the number of deaths from fires, it will not prevent the fires in the first place. Therefore A is the correct answer.

B. Although it talks about arson in the beginning, this is done to introduce the topic. Arson is not the main focus of the passage, the focus is on how can we reduce domestic fires (which are not limited to only arson). If there was no mention of arson, it does not change the last sentence which is generalized by saying that smoke detectors in people’s homes could reduce death from fires (not specifically what kind of fires). Therefore this is not the correct answer.

C. This is an extra detail that does not factor into the argument. Yes, if smoke alarms did not always work, there could not be a huge reduction in the number of deaths, however, the problem in the text is that there is not enough houses with smoke alarms, not that they do not always work. Because the main problem is with the lack of use of smoke alarms and not their ability, this cannot be the correct answer.

D. This is another irrelevant option. It does not matter whether people want to or not, it is a fact that smoke alarms could save your life. The author is trying to find a solution on how to reduce death from home fires, so this answer choice does not change this solution. Therefore D cannot be the correct option.

E. This is not true. The text defines arson as “deliberately setting fire to buildings” without specifying the kind. Then it follows up by saying that “100 people were killed, usually in attacks on people’s homes”. “Usually” does not mean always so we cannot assume arson was limited to houses. Therefore E cannot be correct.