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Verbal reasoning question

Deal Fanatic
Apr 11, 2006
8140 posts
2846 upvotes
Mississauga
A part of these types of questions is to get to the mindset that it is about the best answer.

Those that say C is ambiguous and then claim A, B, D, and E can easily be eliminated are technically incorrect if you use your own line of thinking.

Only B and E can be outright eliminated because they are completely false.

A and D (assuming coat and jacket can be interchanged) can be considered ambiguous as well since those can be other traits of the jacket they want just not stated.

So if you are using the ambiguity argument for C, you have to use it for A and D.

But if you were able to eliminate A and D, then you should know that C is the best answer. But you can't eliminate A and D and then only say C is ambiguous because then your logical thinking is inconsistent.
Deal Addict
Dec 27, 2013
3217 posts
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Woodbridge
kenchau wrote: A part of these types of questions is to get to the mindset that it is about the best answer.

Those that say C is ambiguous and then claim A, B, D, and E can easily be eliminated are technically incorrect if you use your own line of thinking.

Only B and E can be outright eliminated because they are completely false.

A and D (assuming coat and jacket can be interchanged) can be considered ambiguous as well since those can be other traits of the jacket they want just not stated.

So if you are using the ambiguity argument for C, you have to use it for A and D.

But if you were able to eliminate A and D, then you should know that C is the best answer. But you can't eliminate A and D and then only say C is ambiguous because then your logical thinking is inconsistent.
I'm not sure I agree. A and D state what they want, not what they don't want. You're right that it's still an assumption, but based on the most common usage and understanding it's a more logical and natural assumption to make.

"Peter and Sally want brightly coloured jackets with hoods. "

A. Sally and Peter want different types of jackets.
D. Sally wants a coat with a hood and a warm lining.

If Sally tells me that she wants a brightly colored jacked with a hood, I hand her that jacket, and she gets upset because it's missing a warm lining, my reaction would be to point out that she didn't say she wanted a warm lining. If she got mad at me because it had a warm lining I'd point out that she should have made those restrictions clear. "I want a pizza with pepperoni but no mushrooms. Anything else is fine." That's how we communicate in a functional way to describe exactly what we want and what we don't want. Similarly, if I hand the same jacket to Peter and Sally and one is upset because it's missing some feature, I'd react the same way.

Verbal reasoning is an element of many psycho educational and academic assessments. The problem is that wording like this can lead to invalid results as it opens the door for various cultural interpretations of what the words do or don't mean. There are countless examples of these questions that don't have this problem. I have no experience with the use of these questions in the context of assessing a job applicant's aptitude, but I know quite a bit about their use in educational settings as well as assessment of students' knowledge and understanding in general. The fact thay there's a discussion about the question is evidence of its ambiguity and that ambiguity introduces a confounding variable that muddies the results.

But many @digger314 is right. I'm just being a pedantic ass. Thanks for the food for thought!
Deal Fanatic
Apr 11, 2006
8140 posts
2846 upvotes
Mississauga
OntEdTchr wrote: I'm not sure I agree. A and D state what they want, not what they don't want. You're right that it's still an assumption, but based on the most common usage and understanding it's a more logical and natural assumption to make.

"Peter and Sally want brightly coloured jackets with hoods. "

A. Sally and Peter want different types of jackets.
D. Sally wants a coat with a hood and a warm lining.

If Sally tells me that she wants a brightly colored jacked with a hood, I hand her that jacket, and she gets upset because it's missing a warm lining, my reaction would be to point out that she didn't say she wanted a warm lining. If she got mad at me because it had a warm lining I'd point out that she should have made those restrictions clear. "I want a pizza with pepperoni but no mushrooms. Anything else is fine." That's how we communicate in a functional way to describe exactly what we want and what we don't want. Similarly, if I hand the same jacket to Peter and Sally and one is upset because it's missing some feature, I'd react the same way.

Verbal reasoning is an element of many psycho educational and academic assessments. The problem is that wording like this can lead to invalid results as it opens the door for various cultural interpretations of what the words do or don't mean. There are countless examples of these questions that don't have this problem. I have no experience with the use of these questions in the context of assessing a job applicant's aptitude, but I know quite a bit about their use in educational settings as well as assessment of students' knowledge and understanding in general. The fact thay there's a discussion about the question is evidence of its ambiguity and that ambiguity introduces a confounding variable that muddies the results.

But many @digger314 is right. I'm just being a pedantic ass. Thanks for the food for thought!
But you can apply the same rationale for point C. Hence my point that, if you were comfortable eliminating A and D, you should be just as comfortable, assuming C to be true. That's why we're getting C as the answer because, as you've illustrated above, we are applying that same reasoning to Sally, as we are to all of them for point C.
Deal Addict
Dec 27, 2013
3217 posts
1065 upvotes
Woodbridge
kenchau wrote: But you can apply the same rationale for point C. Hence my point that, if you were comfortable eliminating A and D, you should be just as comfortable, assuming C to be true. That's why we're getting C as the answer because, as you've illustrated above, we are applying that same reasoning to Sally, as we are to all of them for point C.
I see a subtle distinction between saying that I want something and saying that I don’t want something. I guess this goes to show how nuanced language is. We almost never take thing literally and there are always established norms and colloquialisms that are foundational to our understanding what people are or aren’t saying. I gave a few analogies above. Maybe you could provide an example to help me see your perspective.
Deal Fanatic
Apr 11, 2006
8140 posts
2846 upvotes
Mississauga
OntEdTchr wrote: I see a subtle distinction between saying that I want something and saying that I don’t want something. I guess this goes to show how nuanced language is. We almost never take thing literally and there are always established norms and colloquialisms that are foundational to our understanding what people are or aren’t saying. I gave a few analogies above. Maybe you could provide an example to help me see your perspective.
Okay,
- As you have already established, Sally didn't say she wants a warm lining, so you have safely assumed she doesn't want a warm lining, and therefore eliminated D right?
- Then using the same rationale, Sally and Peter want brightly coloured jackets with hoods, so again, they didn't say they wanted other features, so you have safely assumed they want the same type of jackets, and therefore eliminated A right?

So both of those are based on assumptions that they didn't say they wanted other features, so therefore, they don't.

Now back to the facts that were given:
- Marco wants a brightly coloured lightweight jacket (didn't say he wants a hood)
- Laura wants a waterproof lightweight jacket (didn't say she wants a hood)
- Peter wants a brightly coloured jacket with a hood (didn't say he wants a lightweight jacket)
- Ben wants a waterproof brightly coloured jacket (didn't say he wants a lightweight jacket with a hood)
- Sally wants a brightly coloured jacket with a hood (didn't say she wants a lightweight jacket)

So again, applying the same assumption that they didn't say they wanted other features, and therefore they don't. That would have to make C correct (no one wants a lightweight jacket with a hood).

And so therefore, back to my original point, if you eliminated A and D, it doesn't make sense that you would find C ambiguous. You are literally applying the same assumption, just on five people instead of one or two (to eliminate A and D).
Deal Addict
Dec 27, 2013
3217 posts
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Woodbridge
kenchau wrote: Okay,
- As you have already established, Sally didn't say she wants a warm lining, so you have safely assumed she doesn't want a warm lining, and therefore eliminated D right?
Not wanting a thing and being indifferent to having a thing are not the same. I know what Sally wants. I can't assume that she would be opposed to anything extra unless it's mutually exclusive with what she wants. "Sally wants a coat with a hood and a warm lining" suggests that both criteria must be met to satisfy Sally. The information above does not support this so this option can be eliminated. I could give her a coat with warm lining and she might be perfectly happy with it as long as it's brightly coloured and has a hood.
- Then using the same rationale, Sally and Peter want brightly coloured jackets with hoods, so again, they didn't say they wanted other features, so you have safely assumed they want the same type of jackets, and therefore eliminated A right?
No, I'm not sure that's the assumption that I made. I could give Sally and Petter two different types of jackets and both might be perfectly happy as long as they're both brightly coloured and have a hood. The jackets could be identical, but the statement doesn't say that they want the same jacket, just that they want jackets with two common features. It also doesn't say that they want different jackets. I could give Sally and Peter the exact same brightly coloured hooded jacket and they would both be happy. Therefore, I have eliminated A.
So both of those are based on assumptions that they didn't say they wanted other features, so therefore, they don't.
My interpretation of the statements is that they don't require other features, but that doesn't mean that they would be opposed to those other features.
Now back to the facts that were given:
- Marco wants a brightly coloured lightweight jacket (didn't say he wants a hood)
- Laura wants a waterproof lightweight jacket (didn't say she wants a hood)
- Peter wants a brightly coloured jacket with a hood (didn't say he wants a lightweight jacket)
- Ben wants a waterproof brightly coloured jacket (didn't say he wants a lightweight jacket with a hood)
- Sally wants a brightly coloured jacket with a hood (didn't say she wants a lightweight jacket)

So again, applying the same assumption that they didn't say they wanted other features, and therefore they don't. That would have to make C correct (no one wants a lightweight jacket with a hood).

And so therefore, back to my original point, if you eliminated A and D, it doesn't make sense that you would find C ambiguous. You are literally applying the same assumption, just on five people instead of one or two (to eliminate A and D).
Yes, and I'm perfectly happy to accept this possible interpretation of the question; however, to me, the statement "No one wants a lightweight jacket with a hood" would suggest that if I had such a jacket and offered it to these 5 individuals, none of them would want it. That may be the case, but it's not necessarily clear. For example, if the jacket was brightly coloured and had a warm lining, Marco might be happy with it even though it has a hood. It meets the three criteria that Marco wants.

Here's a simple example of a verbal reasoning question that a quick Google search showed up:

Five horses named Rocky, Prince, Thunder, Hurrican and Fury are competing in a race.

Which place does Thunder attain if the following statements are true?

- Rocky crosses the finish line earlier than Hurricane
- Prince comes in second
- Thunder finishes ahead of Rocky
- Thunder finishes behind Fury

Can you find any ambiguities in that question? Can you provide any arguments, even superficial ones, to suggest that the answer isn't 3rd place?
Deal Fanatic
Nov 15, 2008
8949 posts
3295 upvotes
Dead simple. All you need to do is make a list of names and then list the types of jackets each one wants.

M: L Bl
L: W L
P: BH
B: W Bl
S: BH

A. false S = P
B. false 1 person
C. true
D. false bright with hood
E. false 3 persons
Deal Addict
Dec 27, 2013
3217 posts
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Woodbridge
lecale wrote: Dead simple. All you need to do is make a list of names and then list the types of jackets each one wants.

M: L Bl
L: W L
P: BH
B: W Bl
S: BH

A. false S = P
B. false 1 person
C. true
D. false bright with hood
E. false 3 persons
Yes, but that's analyzing it in a very black and white way without thinking about the language involved. Here's my thought process:

Sally and Peter want different types of jackets. Could I give Sally and Peter the same jacket and make them both happy? Yes. Therefore, this statement is false.

Only two people do not want brightly coloured jackets. Peter, Sally, Marco and Ben all want brightly coloured jackets. We don't know what Laura's opinion is on brightly coloured jackets but we know that she doesn't require one. Since 4 of 5 people require a brightly coloured jacket, this statement is false.

No one wants a lightweight jacket with a hood. This statement tells me the weight of the jacket and the hood but says nothing about the colour or weatherproofing. I guess we can assume that lightweight and warm lining are mutually exclusive, but a lightweight jacket could be waterproof and it could be multicoloured. If I had a lightweight jacket with a hood that also happened to be multicoloured and waterproof and I gave this jacket to Laura, would she be happy? Yes. It meets the two criteria that she asked for. Nothing in this statement excludes any other features. Since I could give a multicoloured, waterproof, lightweight jacket with a hood to Laura and make her happy, it comes down to how we interpret the words "no one wants." If your interpretation is "No one desires/requires a lightweight jacket with a hood," then yes, C is absolutely the right answer. If your interpretation is "No one would be happy with a lightweight jacket with a hood," then the question is incomplete. What colour is the jacket? Is it waterproof? Information is missing to know whether or not this jacket meets Laura's criteria.

Sally wants a coat with a hood and a warm lining. Sally wants a brightly coloured jacket with a hood. She might be happy with a warm lining, we don't know, but she definitely wants it to be brightly coloured and appears to be indifferent with respect to the weatherproofing.

E. Four of them do not want waterproofs. Ben and Laura want waterproof jackets. The other three might be happy with waterproof jackets as long as they meet the other criteria, but since 2 of 5 require waterproofing, this statement is false.

C is the only option that isn't obviously wrong, but it's not obviously right either. If this were given to me as part of a series of multiple-choice questions, I'd answer C. I would infer that the author of this question is looking for C as the correct answer. If this were given to me as part of an interview process and I had an opportunity to communicate my thinking, I'd go through everything that I've mentioned so far in this thread.
Sr. Member
Mar 6, 2014
683 posts
122 upvotes
Toronto
These tests are common in Asia and parts of Europe.

In places like Hong Kong, your children are benchmarked against other children since the grade 1 entrance exam and this rat race doesn't end until the kids goes into University.

Can you answer the following:
Who is Qin Shi Huang and what are most of his most significant contributions to Chinese history?
Explain cell division and contrast the difference between cell division in animals versus plant life
If 2 trains 10 km apart are traveling towards each other, one is traveling at 60km/h and the other is traveling at 40km/h... how long will it take for the 2 trains to meet

This is shit I was asked when I was 6, entering grade 1.

This is not a test to find the average child, it is a test to find the brightest children. Unlike Canada, schools around the world is a system of eliminations. How far you go is what differentiates a janitor, from a retail salesperson from a doctor. The idea that someone who can't really excel in school here can somehow get into University because they can paint really well, or is a really good writer or is very good at throwing this ball into a 10 foot high net and they can later have a successful career in life is foreign thing there.
Sr. Member
Jul 8, 2009
660 posts
222 upvotes
Toronto
OP certainly seems to be very defensive here. Why? Tugendhat did you write this question and you're getting upset that people are criticizing it?

This question would be total crap in any logic exercise. There are two levels on which it fails:

1) In a strict sense, any one of the people mentioned could positively want a lightweight jacket with hood, yet every statement in the OP could still be true.
You have to assume that any "want" that isn't explicitly mentioned, doesn't exist.

2) Saying that someone "doesn't want" something, in common language, is not that same as saying they're neutral about it. Marco didn't explicitly say he wants a hood, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want (i.e. would object to) a hood.
You have to assume that any lack of "want" is equivalent to "doesn't want".

The first assumption is something that ordinary people would probably make, though as I said, that wouldn't be true in a strict logical analysis of the statements. Nevertheless, this assumption should be made clear, or the question is unfair.

The second assumption is something that, as this thread shows, a lot of ordinary people wouldn't make. Again, this assumption should be made clear, or the question is unfair.

I wouldn't want to be a kid in the class that gets this question. As an adult, I can at least argue for myself when I know I'm right. Poor kids would just be unjustly criticized.
Deal Fanatic
Mar 21, 2010
5128 posts
1928 upvotes
Toronto
OntEdTchr wrote: Sally wants a coat with a hood and a warm lining. Sally wants a brightly coloured jacket with a hood. She might be happy with a warm lining, we don't know, but she definitely wants it to be brightly coloured and appears to be indifferent with respect to the weatherproofing.
She doesn't want a coat though, she wants a jacket. They're very consistent with calling everything a jacket except for this one time. So it doesn't matter whether she wants a warm lining or not, and you don't have to assume that anyone doesn't want something just because they don't say they want it.

C is the only possible option.

Also these kinds of questions, especially in UK schools, are very much "pick the most reasonable answer". You're not meant to try to break them and the teacher will flat out tell you you're being ridiculous if you do.

Another one I remember answering as a kid (who knows why this stuck in my memory... probably because I got it wrong) was:

How long it takes to build a house is measured in...
a) hours
b) days
c) weeks
d) months
e) years

Being about 8 and knowing nothing about building houses, I picked e (which was wrong, it was supposed to be d - months).

You could poke all kinds of holes in that. Firstly you could use any of them really, they're all measurements of time. Even if it said "the most useful measurement", e could be most useful in many cases (mansions, condos, etc.). But implicit in all of this - and as kids we were told this many many times - you're supposed to pick the most reasonable, stereotypical, normal person answer. When you see "house", it's a little British cottage with a cobbled front drive in a village. Don't try to think of extreme situations or make assumptions that aren't there. Don't try to be too smart, basically.
Deal Addict
Dec 27, 2013
3217 posts
1065 upvotes
Woodbridge
Manatus wrote: She doesn't want a coat though, she wants a jacket. They're very consistent with calling everything a jacket except for this one time. So it doesn't matter whether she wants a warm lining or not, and you don't have to assume that anyone doesn't want something just because they don't say they want it.

C is the only possible option.

Also these kinds of questions, especially in UK schools, are very much "pick the most reasonable answer". You're not meant to try to break them and the teacher will flat out tell you you're being ridiculous if you do.

Another one I remember answering as a kid (who knows why this stuck in my memory... probably because I got it wrong) was:

How long it takes to build a house is measured in...
a) hours
b) days
c) weeks
d) months
e) years

Being about 8 and knowing nothing about building houses, I picked e (which was wrong, it was supposed to be d - months).

You could poke all kinds of holes in that. Firstly you could use any of them really, they're all measurements of time. Even if it said "the most useful measurement", e could be most useful in many cases (mansions, condos, etc.). But implicit in all of this - and as kids we were told this many many times - you're supposed to pick the most reasonable, stereotypical, normal person answer. When you see "house", it's a little British cottage with a cobbled front drive in a village. Don't try to think of extreme situations or make assumptions that aren't there. Don't try to be too smart, basically.
That very last sentence is what I have a huge problem with. I’m not teaching sheep that just do as their told never question anything. That’s not the type of person a I want to share a society with. It’s laziness on the part of the author to write a question like that. It doesn’t take much to remove the ambiguity. How big is the house? How many people are working on it? When is it considered “finished?” That one isn’t that bad since the range is probably still a matter of months, but why not include “the best measure” in the question? I’ll try giving that one to my students next week as well and see what they come up with.
Deal Fanatic
Nov 15, 2008
8949 posts
3295 upvotes
I was lucky enough that my high school math teacher chose to teach kids while working on his Ph.D., and he was all in on math culture. He built a competition math team and we went to war!! (And the thing is how many kids do you think are in this? My mother: "I still have your math metals and your yearbooks and your first pair of baby shoes WHY WON'T YOU TAKE THIS STUFF??" Yup.)

He got us all into Martin Gardner who wrote the "Mathematical Games" column for Scientific American, as well as a bunch of accessible books like Aha! and Gotcha! that I can't recommend enough.

It was presented to me as fun not torture?

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