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CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 13

A medical journal used a questionnaire survey to determine whether a particular change in its format would increase its readership. Sixty-two percent of those who returned the questionnaire supported that change. On the basis of this outcome, the decision was made to introduce the new format.

Which one of the following, if it were determined to be true, would provide the best evidence that the journal's decision will have the desired effect?

[A]. Of the readers who received questionnaires, 90 percent returned them.
[B]. Other journals have based format changes on survey results.
[C]. The percentage of surveyed readers who like the format change was almost the same as the percentage of the entire potential readership who would like format change.
[D]. It was determined that the new format would be less costly than the old format.
[E]. Ninety percent of the readers who were dissatisfied with the old format and only 50 percent of the readers who like the old format returned their questionnaires.
Answer: C

We’re given the results of a survey that are used to support a journal’s decision, and we’re asked to find the choice that provides the best evidence that the decision was the correct one. Many strengthening questions involve shoring up a central assumption or recognizing and discounting a potential flaw in the logic. And maybe you saw the problem right off the bat: “Sixty-two percent of those that returned the questionnaire supported that change.” “Of those that returned the questionnaire” should have sent up a red flag: Maybe the people who bothered to return the questionnaire are more likely to agree with the changes; maybe those who weren’t thrilled with the proposed change were less likely to reply.

Furthermore, maybe the sample size was very small, and thus not a good indicator of the preferences of the larger potential readership. Any of these problems may very well skew the results, and would make us less likely to believe that the change will lead to an increase in readership. However, if (C) were true, and the opinions of the entire potential readership matched almost exactly the opinions of those that returned the questionnaires, then close to sixty-two percent of the potential market favours the change. In that case, changing to the new format would be more likely to increase readership, and thus (C) would provide evidence that the journal’s decision will have the desired effect.

(A) still doesn’t discount the possibility of a non-representative sample: It could be true that the questionnaire was sent only to those who for some reason or another are likely to support the change. It also leaves open the possibility of a very small sample size, one that may not reflect the attitudes of the journal’s larger potential readership.

(B) So? How do we know these changes were successful?

(D) Cost is not the issue—we’re interested solely in whether the change will have the desired effect, which is increased readership. (Even if this cost cut were passed on to the reader, which theoretically could increase readership, the journal’s decision is based on the general positive reaction to format changes, and thus the argument needs to be strengthened or weakened on these grounds, not on grounds irrelevant to the survey such as a price change.)

(E) could only weaken the argument. If the readers who disliked the old format were more likely to respond to the questionnaire than those that liked the old format, then the survey results would seem to be biased against the old format, which suggests that changing it may not have been such a good idea after all.

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