A “role of a statement” question is one that asks you to identify the function of a single statement in an argument. (These questions are also called “function of a statement questions,” “role questions,” “role played in the argument questions” and “role-played questions.”) The question stem for a role of a statement question might read:
- Which of the following most accurately describes the role of the statement ______ in the argument above
- The statement ______ played which of the following roles in the argument above?
- The statement that ______ served which of the following functions in the argument?
We solve these questions by following four steps:
- Identify the argument’s conclusion.
- Identify how the conclusion is supported.
- Identify the statement asked about in the question stem.
- Choose the answer that most accurately describes the statement’s function in the argument.
Let’s take a look at each step.
Identify the Conclusion
The main conclusion of the argument is supported by everything else in the argument; it’s what the rest of the argument is attempting to convince you is true. If you struggle with identifying conclusions, take a look at the Identify the Conclusion Questions lesson.
Identify How the Conclusion is Supported
Make a note of the premises. What supports the conclusion? Why does the author think we should believe the conclusion? Silently paraphrase the support to yourself, trying to understand why the author finds the premises to be so convincing.
Identify the Statement Asked About in the Question Stem.
Most people make this step one in role of the statement questions. But that is a big mistake. If you look at this statement in advance, you will likely end up putting too much of your focus on it. The key to these questions is proper understanding of the entire argument, so don’t look at the statement until you have taken the time to examine the argument as a whole.
Once you’ve completed the first two steps, what the statement in question is doing in the argument. Is it the conclusion? If so, great! If not, how does it support the conclusion? Perhaps it’s an intermediate conclusion (also called a sub-conclusion); perhaps it’s an example; perhaps it’s just a factual premise; or perhaps it’s an attempt to rebut an opposing position. If you properly understood the argument before knowing which statement is being asked about in the question stem, then you should have no problem understanding how the statement contributes to the argument.
Choose the Answer
Read the answer choices closely. Often LSAC will include tempting answers that are almost correct except for one tiny problem. For example, if you are looking for an answer that describes an intermediate conclusion that directly supports the conclusion, you might see a tricky answer that talks about a premise that supports the conclusion but receives no support from any other statement in the argument.