DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE QUESTION STEM.
Of the five answer choices each Most Strongly Supported (MSS) question gives you, only one will have any support at all. The other four will be utterly unsupported. That means there is only one correct answer choice and four very wrong answer choices. This question type, despite what its name may suggest, is not actually asking you to decide between some marginal differential in the intensity of support between two answer choices. Which answer choice is better supported is the wrong question to ask. Rather, the right question to ask is which answer choice has some support and which four have no support whatsoever.
MSS questions are very similar to Main Point (MP) questions. This shouldn’t be surprising as you’ll notice the word “support” in the title of this question type and in the definition of conclusions. Recall that definition. What do we call a statement that receives the most support? We call it the conclusion. As such, the MSS question type is asking you to search out the conclusion. Sounds familiar right? There is a difference between the two question types of course. It is minor and it is this: For MP questions, the conclusion is in the stimulus. You simply have to identify it, which of course, assumes that you can tease out the support structure between the statements in the stimulus. For MSS questions, the conclusion is removed from the stimulus and tucked away in the answer choices. If you understand the notion of “support” you’ll still be able to locate the displaced conclusion, here, known as the right answer choice.
Another point of difference between MSS and MP questions lies in how much of the stimulus is used to support the right answer choice. For MP questions, often there is the feeling that the entire stimulus is moving towards supporting one main conclusion. That does happen for MSS questions as well, as we stated in the previous paragraph. However, many of these questions zero in on only one or two statements from the stimulus and push just those together to force out the right answer choice, i.e., the most strongly supported answer choice. An example of this is where the correct answer choice simply restates a particular statement in the stimulus in a more general way, e.g., the stimulus tell you that there is a black cat in the house and the right answer choice says that there are mammals that live in the community. It’s absolutely right. Take those two statements together and you’ve got yourself a very well-supported argument.
In my mind, I lump Most Strongly Supported questions into the Inference question types (which include Must Be True). They are technically not the same. But, that’s a discussion to be had later, when we encounter Inference question types.
Examples of Most Strongly Supported question stems include:
- The consultant’s statements, if true, most strongly support which one of the following?
- Which one of the following conclusions is most strongly supported by the information above?
- Which one of the following is most strongly supported by the information above?
- Which one of the following is most reasonably supported by the information above?
- Which one of the following is most strongly supported by the statements above, if they are true?
MSS questions contain only one answer choice with support. The other four are utterly without support. MSS questions are very similar to MP questions in that you’re being asked to identify a conclusion, i.e., a statement which receives support. However, unlike MP questions, sometimes only a small portion of the stimulus is used to support the right answer choice.