A “strengthen” question is one that asks you to identify a statement that, if true, would make a particular argument more believable. The question stem for a strengthen question might read:
- Which of the following, if true, would most strengthen the argument?
- The reasoning in the argument above is most supported if which of the following is true
- Which of the following, if true, would most seriously strengthens _____’s argument?
We solve these questions by following three steps:
- Identify the argument’s conclusion.
- Identify how the conclusion is supported.
- Choose the answer choice that makes the conclusion more believable.
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.
Choose the Answer
The correct answer will make the argument more believable. This usually is done by strengthening the connection between the premises and the conclusion. If there’s a gap in the argument, the correct answer might begin to fill that gap.
Another way to strengthen an argument is to overcome an objection to the argument. Objections to arguments hurt them, so if you can eliminate an objection (or at least begin to rebut it), then you are helping the argument. So if there’s an easy objection to make to the argument (a weaken statement!), strongly consider any answer choice that rebuts that objection.