A “parallel principle” question is one that asks you to identify two arguments that contain the same underlying principle. The question stem for a parallel principle question might read:

  • Which of the following best illustrates the principle illustrated by the argument above?
  • Of the following, which one most closely conforms to the principle illustrated by the argument above?
  • The principle illustrated by the argument is also illustrated by which of the following arguments?

We solve these questions by following four steps:

  1. Identify the argument’s conclusion.
  2. Identify how the conclusion is supported.
  3. Determine what principle would connect the support to the conclusion
  4. Choose the answer that uses the same principle to connect its support to its conclusion.

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.

Determine What Principle Would Connect the Support to the Conclusion

There’s no need to get too specific here. All you need is a general principle that would connect the support and conclusion together. Even a vague notion of what principle the argument assumes is enough to start eliminating answer choices.

Choose the Answer

You want to choose the answer that uses the same principle as stimulus. The best way to approach these question is to eliminate wrong answers. Your goal is not to find the correct answer; it’s to find the wrong answers. So cross out any answer that does not rely on a principle like the one you identified in the stimulus.

A common trick in these questions is to make wrong answers look like the original argument without using a parallel principle. So be suspicious of answer choices that have a similar structure to the stimulus.


Parallel Principle Questions

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