Fact-based conclusion questions

What is it?

Fact-based conclusion questions test your ability to recognize and draw logical conclusions based on given a set of data/facts. This type of question probably has the greatest degree of variability: it can go from something very similar to “Reading facts” questions to challenging inferences from vague introductory paragraphs.

Question formats

  • Which of the following statements can be concluded from ...?
  • Based on the data on table xx, which of the following statements is a valid conclusion ...?

Example

Pharcom is a global pharmaceutical company engaged in the development of small molecule drugs for curing. Your team has been called by the Head of R&D to help him pre-select the drugs that are most likely to reach patenting and commercialization. He claims that on average 12% of researched drugs are cleared to be marketed, while the remaining part are dismissed either during the R&D process or final certification. Currently the average total expense for every drug in development is 12 Mn£ and the full trial and certification lasts for 10 years for the drugs going through the full process. The research and development process of the drugs is constituted by the following steps:

  1. Trial 1: Laboratory trial to test the effect of the active ingredients. The trial costs 3.5 Mn£ and lasts for 2 years.
  2. Trial 2: Laboratory trial to test the impact of side effects. The trial costs 4 Mn£ and lasts for 1.5 years.
  3. Trial 3: Animal testing to evaluate bacteria resistance. The trial costs 4.5 Mn£ and lasts for 4.5 years.
  4. Final certification by Food and Drug Administration. Filing costs 4.5 Mn£ and certification lasts for 2.5 years.

Which of the following statements can be concluded based on the information above?

  1. Most drugs complete the entire research, development and certification process.
  2. Before being either approved or dismissed, drugs remain in the development and certification process for an average of 7.5 years.
  3. Reducing by 50% the length of Trial 2 and Trial 3 would reduce the total cost of the Pharcom research and development process by 4.25 Mn£.
  4. Over 50% of the drugs reach Trial 3 stage in the research and development process.

Method

  1. Read the question carefully and make sure you understand what is being asked.
  2. Go through the answers and underline key words. Identify the graph or part of the introductory paragraph each answer relates to.
  3. Start with the numerical answers. They are often the easiest and clearest to solve. Go back and forth between the answers and the introductory paragraphs/graphs. In order to identify the right answers, always think whether the opposite of the statement would be true.
  4. Go back to the answers, crossing out the wrong ones:
    1. The average time drugs are in the process before being certified or dismissed is 8 years, given by the average expense of 12 Mn£ that is reached in 8 years, after Trial 3. Take the extreme case to disprove it: if you assume that half of the drugs are dismissed after 7.5 years and half after 8.5 years, the average would be 8 years. In this case no drug would complete the full process. FALSE
    2. From the solution above, the average time drugs are in the process before being certified or dismissed is 8 years, given by the average expense of 12 Mn£ that is reached after Trial 3 (3.5 in Trial 1, 4 in Trial 2 and 4.5 in Trial 3). FALSE
    3. We simply do not have enough information to make such a conclusion. What if for example reducing investments reduces accuracy and prevents Pharcom from dismissing drugs that should not reach the next phase? FALSE
    4. Trial 3 is reached after 3.5 years, the length of Trial 1 and 2. The average time drugs are in the process before being certified or dismissed is 8 years, given by the average expense of 12 Mn£ that is reached in 8 years after Trial 3. Taking the extreme example, such result could be achieved even if, for example, half of the drugs were dismissed marginally before 3.5 years and the other half after 12.5 years. However this is impossible, since the maximum length of the process is only 10.5 years. Hence, this implies that more than half of the drugs reach Trial 3. TRUE

Tips & Tricks

There are three possible types of answers that you may encounter in fact-based conclusion questions:

  1. False conclusions - some conclusions may simply be false or wrong. Even if their logic is correct, the outcome may be reversed or wrong.
  2. True conclusions - answers which both sound logic and draw the correct conclusion.
  3. Unproven conclusions - the logic may be correct and the conclusion reasonable, however they are not supported by facts in the introductory graph or paragraph.

How to tell false from true conclusions?

Telling true from false conclusions may prove challenging and time-consuming. Some answers especially will require you to mentally estimate a set of values for which some statements or relationships can hold. Here are a few steps which may prove useful in assessing a statement:

  • Can the opposite also be true?

    Always evaluate whether the opposite of what is stated can be disputed. Candidates typically do not ask themselves this question. You’ll be surprised how asking yourself this kind of question can make a significant difference.

  • Consider the extremes

    Conclusions should always be true, not just most of the time. If a conclusion is not always true, it’s not valid. When dealing with ranges of numbers, select them so as to keep them as close as possible to the situation described in the statement, but do not comply with it. What would make it wrong?

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