# GMAT Verbal : Plan/Strategy Questions

## Example Questions

### Example Question #1 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

In an effort to eliminate congestion in the stadium entryways immediately before matches start, Plymouth Soccer Club has announced that it will host children’s soccer exhibitions two hours before matches start, typically at noon. This way, some fans will have an incentive to enter the stadium well before kickoff, keeping the entryways clearer immediately before a match starts.

Which of the following indicates a reason that the plan may fail to reach its objective?

The train line taken by most Plymouth Soccer Club spectators to the stadium arrives every four hours starting at 11:30am.

Because of its original design, the stadium used by Plymouth Soccer Club has fewer entryways than any other stadium in the surrounding area.

The neighboring Canton Soccer Club has found that the best way to incent spectators to arrive early is to discount all concessions up to an hour before kickoff.

The children’s exhibitions will likely tear up the turf before the premier match begins, resulting in a lower-quality playing surface for the main event.

Some fans of the Plymouth Soccer Club must travel for several hours to attend matches at the stadium.

The train line taken by most Plymouth Soccer Club spectators to the stadium arrives every four hours starting at 11:30am.

Explanation:

In these “Weaken the Plan” questions, your job is to find a reason that the plan will not work. And "The train line taken by most Plymouth Soccer Club spectators to the stadium arrives every four hours starting at 11:30am." supplies one – if most people cannot arrive before 11:30am, they won’t be able to respond to the new promotion of events before a noon game. Choice "The neighboring Canton Soccer Club has found that the best way to incent spectators to arrive early is to discount all concessions up to an hour before kickoff."is incorrect in that the potential existence of a better plan doesn’t necessarily mean that this plan will not work. Similarly choice "The children’s exhibitions will likely tear up the turf before the premier match begins, resulting in a lower-quality playing surface for the main event." is out of scope – the field quality is irrelevant as to whether the plan will reach its objective of reducing congestion near game time. Choices "Some fans of the Plymouth Soccer Club must travel for several hours to attend matches at the stadium." and "Because of its original design, the stadium used by Plymouth Soccer Club has fewer entryways than any other stadium in the surrounding area.", similarly, do not hinder the plan’s chance of reaching its objective.

### Example Question #2 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

Department of Energy Spokesman: Energy consumers who pay their own utility bills have a direct financial incentive to use less energy. But in most of our nation's residential rental properties, the owner of the property - not the tenant who directly consumes that property's energy - pays the utility bill. In order to reduce our nation's energy consumption, we should require that tenants be responsible for paying their utility bills in residential rental properties.

Which of the following is a reason to believe that the plan outlined above will not reach its goal?

Most of the country's energy consumption comes from commercial real estate, not residential real estate.

Energy bills are calculated not only by the amount of energy used, but also by the times of day during which energy is used.

When owners of rental properties are responsible for utility bills, they are more likely to ensure that a property's appliances and furnaces are the most energy-efficient versions.

Most rental properties are rented by younger people, and people tend to be more conscious about environmental issues like energy consumption when they are younger.

Other nations have had success reducing energy consumption by offering rental subsidies for tenants whose energy usage falls below certain thresholds.

When owners of rental properties are responsible for utility bills, they are more likely to ensure that a property's appliances and furnaces are the most energy-efficient versions.

Explanation:

In this Plan/Strategy question, the goal is to reduce a nation's energy consumption, and the plan is to require tenants to be the payers of utility bills (as opposed to the owners of those properties). Remember: with Plan/Strategy questions, two concepts are crucial:

1) Pay close attention to the specific goal, which plays the same role as the conclusion in a classic Strengthen/Weaken question. Trap answers are often related to the general topic but do not affect the specific goal.

2) A better plan does not weaken the provided plan! Your job is only to assess whether this plan will achieve this objective, not whether it's the best plan, the most efficient plan, etc.

Note that each of "Most of the country's energy consumption comes from commercial real estate, not residential real estate." and "Other nations have had success reducing energy consumption by offering rental subsidies for tenants whose energy usage falls below certain thresholds." suggests a "better plan" - "Most of the country's energy consumption comes from commercial real estate, not residential real estate." suggests that this plan wouldn't be as effective as one that tackled energy usage in commercial real estate and E suggests that rental subsidies could be a better program. But neither directly weakens this plan: as long as less energy is used under this plan, the plan has achieved its goal of reducing energy usage. So "Most of the country's energy consumption comes from commercial real estate, not residential real estate." and "Other nations have had success reducing energy consumption by offering rental subsidies for tenants whose energy usage falls below certain thresholds." may be tempting, but they are incorrect.

Choice "When owners of rental properties are responsible for utility bills, they are more likely to ensure that a property's appliances and furnaces are the most energy-efficient versions." is correct: if giving the tenants an incentive to use less energy also remove the incentive for the landowners to pursue energy-saving policies, that suggests that this plan may not work at all: it may not result in any energy reduction.

Choices "Most rental properties are rented by younger people, and people tend to be more conscious about environmental issues like energy consumption when they are younger." and "Energy bills are calculated not only by the amount of energy used, but also by the times of day during which energy is used." are too far from the scope of the current plan and its goal, and are also incorrect. "When owners of rental properties are responsible for utility bills, they are more likely to ensure that a property's appliances and furnaces are the most energy-efficient versions." is the correct choice.

### Example Question #3 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

In the two years since the state legalized the sale and use of marijuana, Kerry County has seen a dramatic increase in marijuana use. This has caused an issue both with Kerry County’s largely older and more-conservative population and with local businesses that complain of the smell. To significantly reduce the use of marijuana within the county, Kerry County plans to implement a 50% sales tax on the sale of marijuana, believing that the higher cost will serve as a deterrent to many local marijuana users.

Each of the following constitutes a reason to believe that Kerry County’s plan will not achieve its goal EXCEPT:

Marijuana use has been most popular among young professionals, a demographic that tends to have a large amount of disposable income.

Kerry County is among the smallest counties in the state, with no location that is more than a 20-minute drive from a neighboring county.

Despite the legalization of marijuana, there remains a non-trivial black market for the illegal sale of marijuana in Kerry County.

Kerry County already levies similar "sin tax" sales taxes on other recreational drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.

The state law that legalized marijuana also allows residents to grow a small amount of marijuana for personal use.​

Kerry County already levies similar "sin tax" sales taxes on other recreational drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.

Explanation:

In any Plan/Strategy question, it is important to determine exactly what the goal of the plan is. Here the goal is to "substantially reduce marijuana use," which you should see is different from related goals (perhaps to reduce marijuana sales or to eliminate marijuana use). Precision in wording and understanding the exact goal are keys to these questions.

You can anticipate reasons that raising the sales tax and therefore the cost of marijuana might not result in a significant decrease in marijuana use. Focusing on use - and not sales - provides a great entry point: what if people find a way to get marijuana without having to buy it? Choice "The state law that legalized marijuana also allows residents to grow a small amount of marijuana for personal use.​" suggests that they might be able to simply grow it on their own and avoid both the price and the tax.

What if they can buy it somewhere else and avoid the tax? That leads to answer choices:

"Despite the legalization of marijuana, there remains a non-trivial black market for the illegal sale of marijuana in Kerry County.": If people can buy it on the black market and avoid paying the sales tax, then they can still use it without being affected by the tax.

"Kerry County is among the smallest counties in the state, with no location that is more than a 20-minute drive from a neighboring county.": If people can buy it nearby in a county that doesn't have the tax, then they'll avoid the tax.

What if the tax just isn't that big of a deterrent? Choice "Marijuana use has been most popular among young professionals, a demographic that tends to have a large amount of disposable income." suggests that the largest group of users may must not care about paying more to use marijuana.

That leaves choice "Kerry County already levies similar "sin tax" sales taxes on other recreational drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.", which you should see does not directly address marijuana at all. Even if similar taxes for similar goods are already on the books, that still means that the net cost of marijuana will markedly increase under the sales tax. If that is, indeed, a deterrent then the taxes on similar goods won't matter. "Kerry County already levies similar "sin tax" sales taxes on other recreational drugs such as alcohol and tobacco." does not attack the problem head on, and is therefore the only answer choice that does not give reason to believe that the plan will not work.

### Example Question #1 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

According to a recent study, employees who bring their own lunches to work take fewer sick days and are, on average, more productive per hour spent at work than those who eat at the workplace cafeteria. In order to minimize the number of sick days taken by its staff, Boltech Industries plans to eliminate its cafeteria.

Which of the following, if true, provides the most reason to believe that Boltech Industries' strategy will not accomplish its objective?

Because of Boltech's location, employees who choose to visit a nearby restaurant for lunch will seldom be able to return within an hour.

Employees have expressed concern about the cost of dining at nearby restaurants compared with the affordability of the Boltech cafeteria.

Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch.

Boltech's cafeteria is known for serving a diverse array of healthy lunch options.

Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of its generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center.

Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch.

Explanation:

The strategy outlined in this Weaken problem makes a classic error of correlation vs. causation, assuming that "bringing lunch to work" is a cause of "takes fewer sick days." In actuality, it could be that bringing lunch is an effect of a totally different cause, as choice "Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch." correctly points out. With choice "Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch.", the cause of both "brings lunch to work" and "takes fewer sick days" is that generally-healthier people do both - they bring their lunch to work and they take fewer sick days. Forcing someone else - someone less healthy - to bring his or her lunch wouldn't change the other unhealthy habits that lead to extra sick days, so the plan would not work.

While choice "Boltech's cafeteria is known for serving a diverse array of healthy lunch options." seems like it should weaken the plan (taking away the healthy options at the cafeteria), keep in mind that we already have the evidence that those who bring their lunch take fewer sick days than those who eat at the cafeteria, so those healthy cafeteria options have already been called into question as a driver of fewer sick days.

Choice "Because of Boltech's location, employees who choose to visit a nearby restaurant for lunch will seldom be able to return within an hour." could very well be correct if the goal were to minimize "time away from one's desk" or something similar, but the goal is specifically called out as "fewer sick days." Being away for a longer period for lunch may well be a problem worth considering, but in the context of this particular goal it is irrelevant.

Choice "Employees have expressed concern about the cost of dining at nearby restaurants compared with the affordability of the Boltech cafeteria." is similar: it shows a reason why the plan might not be a great plan overall (it could hurt employee morale) but the goal is specifically drawn at "fewer sick days" so that morale is irrelevant to the specific aims in the problem. For similar reasons, choice "Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of its generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center." is also incorrect - while morale may be hurt and people might feel misled (or future recruitment efforts may fall short), the only objective specifically addressed in the problem is "reduce the number of sick days" so choice "Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of its generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center." is not relevant.

### Example Question #5 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

In response to a high unemployment rate and to complaints from businesses that prospective employees are under-qualified for the available jobs, particularly in the sciences, the Labor Department has released its plan to remedy both problems. It will offer six-month training programs, free of charge to unemployed citizens, to prepare citizens for jobs as laboratory and medical technicians. Each citizen will have the opportunity to participate in one program free of charge, and the Labor Department will offer salary subsidies to firms that hire graduates of these programs.

Which of the following, if true, would constitute reason to believe that the labor department’s plan will not achieve its aims?

Laboratory and medical technician jobs are not the only jobs for which companies are struggling to find qualified employees.

Successful graduates of technical training programs nearly always have scientific job experience prior to enrolling in such programs.

Similar programs in neighboring countries have had mixed results.

Many universities and technical colleges offer nine- and twelve-month programs to train students in the same fields.

The proposed program is significantly more expensive than several alternatives proposed by members of the legislative body.

Successful graduates of technical training programs nearly always have scientific job experience prior to enrolling in such programs.

Explanation:

In this Weaken the Plan question, the goal is to solve problems of high unemployment and a lack of qualified candidates for certain jobs. The plan, then, is to offer a free training program to unemployed citizens to prepare them for those jobs. But if "Successful graduates of technical training programs nearly always have scientific job experience prior to enrolling in such programs." were true - if the program required related job experience beforehand to be successful - then that plan is not likely to work on its own. Note that choices "Many universities and technical colleges offer nine- and twelve-month programs to train students in the same fields." and "The proposed program is significantly more expensive than several alternatives proposed by members of the legislative body." both commit the "cardinal sin" of Weaken the Plan questions - they propose better plans, but don't weaken this plan. Choice "Laboratory and medical technician jobs are not the only jobs for which companies are struggling to find qualified employees." is also incorrect; the goal isn't to "eliminate unemployment" but rather just to lessen it, and so "Laboratory and medical technician jobs are not the only jobs for which companies are struggling to find qualified employees." does not weaken the plan. And choice "Similar programs in neighboring countries have had mixed results." neither strengthens nor weaken the plan - it shows that there is a possibility that the plan could work and that it could not based on prior evidence, and doesn't give any reason to believe that this plan will fall in the "not" column.

### Example Question #6 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

In an attempt to protect the environment and stop oil companies from sinking a decommissioned North Sea oil platform to the bottom of the ocean, environmental groups ringed the platform with protest boats and demanded that it be towed to land, where it could be dismantled above water. Environmentalists argued that sinking the oil platform would cause irreparable damage to the deep sea ecosystem and release into the ocean over 53 tons of oil residue and heavy metals.

Which of the following, if true, indicates the plan to tow the oil platform to land is ill-suited to the environmentalist group’s goals?

The release of 53 tons of toxic material into the ocean is very little compared to the volume of very highly toxic materials released by deep sea volcanoes.

The National Environmental Research Council approved the sinking of the oil platform, calling it the “best practicable environmental option.”

The sinking of the platform is fully in line with internationally approved guidelines for the disposal of off shore installations at sea.

Towing the oil platform into shallow waters poses a massive risk that it may break up on its way to land, releasing the contained pollutants into fragile coastal waters.

Dismantling the oil platform on land would cost over 70 million dollars, compared to the $7.5 million needed to secure and sink it in a deep ocean location. Correct answer: Towing the oil platform into shallow waters poses a massive risk that it may break up on its way to land, releasing the contained pollutants into fragile coastal waters. Explanation: This is a Weaken question, due to the phrase, “which of the following…indicates the plan…is ill-suited.” However, unlike other Weaken questions that focus on arguments containing premises and conclusions, this problem focuses on the steps and goals of a particular plan. Thus, instead of zeroing in on a conclusion (as we normally would if attempting to weaken a traditional argument), we pay special attention to the goal of the plan. The correct answer will show that the proposed solution would not meet the predefined goals. The primary goal of the environmental groups is found in the very first sentence of the question: they want to “protect the environment”. To reach this goal, their plan is to keep a decommissioned oil platform from sinking. Naturally, any answer choice that shows the plan does not “protect the environment” could potentially weaken the efficacy of the solution. Answer choice “The National Environmental Research Council approved the sinking of the oil platform, calling it the “best practicable environmental option.”” uses a fairly common trick of the Testmaker: luring test takers into accepting an “expert opinion” when the evaluatory criteria used by the expert are not explicitly stated. While the expert (in this case, the National Environmental Research Council) may give an official statement, this does not mean that the expert has the same goals or motives as the environmental groups have. “The best practicable environmental option” may or may not protect the environment. Answer choice “The National Environmental Research Council approved the sinking of the oil platform, calling it the “best practicable environmental option.”” does not necessarily weaken the plan. Answer choice “Dismantling the oil platform on land would cost over 70 million dollars, compared to the$7.5 million needed to secure and sink it in a deep ocean location.” is a misdirection answer. Here the Testmaker introduces different criteria than those used by the environmental groups (in this case, the cost of different options.) As compelling as saving millions of dollars may be, the goal of the environmental groups is to “protect the environment” not “save money”. Our goal is to undermine the efficacy of the proposed plan in meeting the proposed goal; whether the plan saves money is irrelevant.

Answer choice “The release of 53 tons of toxic material into the ocean is very little compared to the volume of very highly toxic materials released by deep sea volcanoes.” is also a misdirection answer. It tries to get novice test takers to focus on other sources of toxic materials irrelevant to the goals of the proposed plan: environmentalists could still protect the environment from the toxic materials released by sinking the oil platform, regardless of the amount of chemicals released by natural phenomena.

(Now, if they could somehow plug an undersea volcano by sinking the oil platform, that would be another story entirely; however, such a possibility is not mentioned here!)

Answer choice “Towing the oil platform into shallow waters poses a massive risk that it may break up on its way to land, releasing the contained pollutants into fragile coastal waters.” shows us how the potential effects of the environmentalists’ plan could actually pose a greater risk to the environment, thus undermining the environmentalists’ goal of “protecting the environment”. Answer choice “Towing the oil platform into shallow waters poses a massive risk that it may break up on its way to land, releasing the contained pollutants into fragile coastal waters.” weakens the plan.

Answer choice “The sinking of the platform is fully in line with internationally approved guidelines for the disposal of off shore installations at sea.” is another variation on the “expert opinion” trap used by the Testmaker. Even if the disposal process were “internationally approved” (implying the “okay” of some governing body), this could still come in conflict with the environmentalists’ goals.

### Example Question #7 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

Members of the staff at the local daycare suggest that parents would have more incentive to pick up their children on time if the parents were assessed a fine after arriving more than 10 minutes late to pick up their children.

Which of the following, assuming that it is a realistic possibility, argues the most strongly against the effectiveness of the suggestion above?

Late fines might cause some parents to enroll their children in other daycares.

There might be irreconcilable disagreements among the daycare staff about whether the late fines should be imposed.

By replacing social norms with market norms, fines might induce parents to weigh the “costs” of picking their children up late and, as a result, to frequently choose to be late.

Some parents might pick up their children late no matter what level of fine is imposed against them.

Removing the late fine policy might actually increase the number of tardy pick-ups.

By replacing social norms with market norms, fines might induce parents to weigh the “costs” of picking their children up late and, as a result, to frequently choose to be late.

Explanation:

This is a Weaken question, as evidenced by the phrase, “which of the following…argues most strongly against.” This particular problem highlights one of the sub-types of Weaken questions: notice that we are not necessarily looking at a logical argument, but instead at a proposed solution or plan. Whenever we encounter these kinds of Weaken questions, we need to mind the gap between the proposed goal of the plan and the methods used to obtain that goal. The disconnect often lies between those two components. In the case of this particular problem, the staff at a local daycare believes that parents would be incentivized to pick up their children if late fines were assessed. The question naturally arises: would late fines actually change the behavior of the perpetually late parents? Any answer choice that undermines this would weaken the plan.

Answer choice “By replacing social norms with market norms, fines might induce parents to weigh the “costs” of picking their children up late and, as a result, to frequently choose to be late.” does exactly that. This suggests that fines might actually exacerbate the behavior of parents to pick up their children late. This runs completely counter to the goals of the daycare staff, who hoped fines would reduce the propensity for parental lateness. “By replacing social norms with market norms, fines might induce parents to weigh the “costs” of picking their children up late and, as a result, to frequently choose to be late.” weakens the plan, and, therefore, is the correct answer.

Answer choice “There might be irreconcilable disagreements among the daycare staff about whether the late fines should be imposed.” is a distraction from the real issue. The entire question centers on the effectiveness of the plan to reduce parental lateness. Disagreements about whether the plan should be enacted are independent of any questions of effectiveness. The Testmaker is hoping that novice test takers “read between the lines” on this answer, imagining that such disagreements would lead to resistance and ineffectiveness.

This is a dangerous trap. No such connection is explicitly made here. Reading between the lines generally gets the novice test taker into trouble.

Answer choice “Late fines might cause some parents to enroll their children in other daycares.” is another distraction designed by the Testmaker to introduce additional (and irrelevant) criteria. The question stem asks us to consider situations that would reduce the “effectiveness” of the plan of using fines to incentivize parents to pick their children up on time. Answer choice “Late fines might cause some parents to enroll their children in other daycares.” gives us other side-effects (loss of enrollment), but this is outside the scope of the question.

Answer choice “Removing the late fine policy might actually increase the number of tardy pick-ups.” is completely irrelevant and is outside the scope of the problem. Since the question asks us to evaluate situations that would reduce the “effectiveness” of the current plan of using fines to incentivize parents to pick their children up on time, any suggestion that focuses on what happens after the plan is no longer in effect is irrelevant. We are only asked to evaluate what happens when the plan is in effect.

### Example Question #8 : Strengthen/Weaken Critical Reasoning

According to a recent study, employees who bring their own lunches to work take fewer sick days and are, on average, more productive per hour spent at work than those who eat at the workplace cafeteria. In order to minimize the number of sick days taken by its staff, Boltech Industries plans to eliminate its cafeteria.

Which of the following, if true, provides the most reason to believe that Boltech Industries' strategy will not accomplish its objective?

Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of its generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center.

Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch.

Boltech's cafeteria is known for serving a diverse array of healthy lunch options.

Employees have expressed concern about the cost of dining at nearby restaurants compared with the affordability of the Boltech cafeteria.

Because of Boltech's location, employees who choose to visit a nearby restaurant for lunch will seldom be able to return within an hour.

Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch.

Explanation:

The strategy outlined in this Weaken problem makes a classic error of correlation vs. causation, assuming that "bringing lunch to work" is a cause of "takes fewer sick days." In actuality, it could be that bringing lunch is an effect of a totally different cause, as choice "Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch." correctly points out. With choice "Employees who bring their lunch from home tend to lead generally healthier lifestyles than do employees who purchase lunch.", the cause of both "brings lunch to work" and "takes fewer sick days" is that generally-healthier people do both - they bring their lunch to work and they take fewer sick days. Forcing someone else - someone less healthy - to bring his or her lunch wouldn't change the other unhealthy habits that lead to extra sick days, so the plan would not work.

While choice "Boltech's cafeteria is known for serving a diverse array of healthy lunch options." seems like it should weaken the plan (taking away the healthy options at the cafeteria), keep in mind that we already have the evidence that those who bring their lunch take fewer sick days than those who eat at the cafeteria, so those healthy cafeteria options have already been called into question as a driver of fewer sick days.

Choice "Because of Boltech's location, employees who choose to visit a nearby restaurant for lunch will seldom be able to return within an hour." could very well be correct if the goal were to minimize "time away from one's desk" or something similar, but the goal is specifically called out as "fewer sick days." Being away for a longer period for lunch may well be a problem worth considering, but in the context of this particular goal it is irrelevant.

Choice "Employees have expressed concern about the cost of dining at nearby restaurants compared with the affordability of the Boltech cafeteria." is similar: it shows a reason why the plan might not be a great plan overall (it could hurt employee morale) but the goal is specifically drawn at "fewer sick days" so that morale is irrelevant to the specific aims in the problem. For similar reasons, choice "Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of its generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center." is also incorrect - while morale may be hurt and people might feel misled (or future recruitment efforts may fall short), the only objective specifically addressed in the problem is "reduce the number of sick days" so choice "Many Boltech employees chose to work for the company in large part because of its generous benefits, such as an on-site cafeteria and fitness center." is not relevant.

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