IMAT 2013 Q20 [ Assumption | Degrees]

It has recently been suggested that some degrees can be completed in two years instead of the traditional three years. But staff teaching engineering and medicine at degree level say that the current first year mostly involves getting students up to a common level of maths and physics, which in the past was achieved by high school teaching. By the end of the second year few students have reached the level of attainment that students did 40 years ago. Two year degrees are not realistic ­-certainly not for engineering.

Which one of the following is an assumption of the argument in the passage above?

A. Two year degree courses will have the same amount of teaching per year as three year courses.

B. School examinations are easier now than they were 40 years ago.

C. Maths and physics are more important elements of engineering than they were 40 years ago.

D. Engineering students are less motivated than they were 40 years ago.

E. Two year degree courses will be more popular with students than three year courses.

Steps:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)

Briefly going over the passage, the main argument is revolving around how possible it would be to have 2 year degrees instead of 3. The author states their opinion at the end by saying this is not realistic, and provides supporting evidence by previously saying that: “By the end of the second year few students have reached the level of attainment that students did 40 years ago”. This is to show that only a few students can successfully gain what is needed out two years however the majority cannot. Now that we have broken down the argument, let us read over the answers.

A Two year degree courses will have the same amount of teaching per year as three year courses:

The main sentence where we can see this statement to be true is in the sentence: ‘By the end of the second year few students have reached the level of attainment that students did 40 years ago’. The flaw with this is that it is assuming that the amount of teaching would not change. Evidently, a 2 year degree would be more academically rigorous, however, they instead decide to compare the $2$nd year of a 3 year program, which should in theory be different than the $2$nd year of a 2 year program. To further prove this statement, use the negation test by seeing if the inverse could damage the argument: if there was NOT the same amount of teaching per year, it would mean that you could still cover the same amount of content and therefore have the same amount of knowledge as someone who took a 3 year degree. Therefore A is correct.

B School examinations are easier now than they were 40 years ago:

This is not an assumption we need, nor can it be found anywhere in the text. The author brings up that few students have reached the level of attainment that students did 40 years ago but this is a wide statement that can be caused by many different things (ex. Quality of resources, teachers, etc…).

C Maths and physics are more important elements of engineering than they were 40 years ago:

This cannot be taken anywhere out of the text and therefore we can immediately eliminate it. The period of 40 years ago was just used as an example when comparing knowledge from a new and older course. It does not talk about the importance of math and physics in the text, we mention it only to say that the first year spends time reviewing the math and physics from high school. Therefore, C is not correct.

D Engineering students are less motivated than they were 40 years ago:

This again is not relevant and cannot be assumed. The text just says that engineering students currently in 2 year do not know as much as those students who finished $3$rd year 40 years ago. Therefore, D is incorrect.

E Two year degree courses will be more popular with students than three year courses:

This is not an assumption of the argument because the argument is talking about whether or not it will be possible to reduce a 3 year course into only 2 years. The fact that it may or may not be more popular does not affect the argument, we only want to know if it is realistic and possible. Therefore, E is incorrect.