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This text is given:

In the twentieth century, architects in large cities designed structures in a way that reduced noise and yet made living as comfortable as possible. [A] They used such techniques as making walls hollow and filling this wall space with materials that absorb noise. Thick carpets and heavy curtains were used to cover floors and windows. Air conditioners and furnaces were designed to filter air through soundproofing materials. [B] However, after much time and effort had been spent in making buildings less noisy, it was discovered that people also reacted adversely to the lack of sound. [C] Now architects are designing structures that reduce undesirable noise but retain the kind of noise that people seem to need. [D]

But I don't find this question quite right:

  1. According to the passage, making walls hollow and filling this wall space with materials that absorb noise results in

    A. filtered air
    B. a lack of sound
    C. an adverse reaction to noise
    D. a reduction in undesirable noise

Apparently the right choice (based on the answer key) is B. And that's ok with me and it makes sense, but what I don't understand is how D can be wrong.

I mean, if B is right (there is a lack of sound), there is also a reduction in undesirable noise. Logically I think that if B is right it automatically makes D right too. But shouldn't there be only one correct answer in a TOEFL test question?

To me it feels like asking if a square shaped image is a rectangle or a square.

Maybe I am missing something here. What is it I am missing?

  • These tests always ask for the best answer, not all possible answers. In fact, the article never defines what desirable noise is, so we can't say the work on walls decreased undesirable noise. – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Sep 26 '17 at 15:27
  • "Undesirable" is not mentioned in the passage. It's a common "unnecessary information" type of wrong answer for TOEFL. – Stu W Sep 26 '17 at 15:36
  • "Undesirable" is in the last sentence of the passage, in contrast with "the kind of noise that people seem to need", implying that a total lack of sound (b) was bad. – shoover Sep 26 '17 at 16:12
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    @Gledi Please see this page about merging your accounts. – Andrew Leach Sep 26 '17 at 16:20
  • Keep in mind also that lack does not mean complete absence. See Oxford dictionary online, for example, on lack: "The state of being without or not having enough of something." – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Sep 26 '17 at 16:20
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The reason B is correct is because D has information that is unnecessary and not supported by the referenced section of the passage.

The passage states that the technique of "making walls hollow and filling this wall space with materials that absorb noise" directly resulted in people reacting adversely to the "lack of sound". The question specifically asks for the result of the wall-filling technique. That is why B is correct.

The reason why you think D also has to be correct is because of the last sentence:

"Now architects are designing structures that reduce undesireable noise but retain the kind of noise that people seem to need."

Because of it's placement, you assume it is attributed to the wall-filling technique, but it is not; it is an independent technique that the passage states is used nowadays.

Answer D specifies "a reduction in undesireable noise" but excludes "a reduction in desireable noise", which is also a result of the mentioned technique. That also contributes to why D is less correct.

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    Even more than that, B) refers to what architects used to do, which resulted in a (bad) total lack of sound, while D) refers to what architects do now, resulting in elimination only of the undesirable sounds (and not all sounds). – shoover Sep 26 '17 at 16:14
  • (D) is deducible because 'architects in large cities designed structures in a way that reduced noise and yet made living as comfortable as possible.' This must include a reduction in undesirable noise. The presence of 'and yet' shows the quality of the material. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 26 '17 at 16:27
  • @EdwinAshworth That is true. Updated. – Hank Sep 26 '17 at 16:29
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A and C are obviously wrong - at no point in the passage is filtering air mentioned in the context of filling the walls, and at no point in the question are people (who react badly to a lack of sound) mentioned.

D is a refinement of B, not the the other way round. This means if B is true, so is D, but D can be true without B being true.

Careful reading of the passage reveals that the walls were built to remove all noises, later it was discovered that some noises are to be considered benign and others harmful. So the walls weren't built to remove undesirable noises, and so the correct answer is B.

  • The badly worded 'designed structures in a way that reduced noise and yet made living as comfortable as possible' (certainly the manner mentioned is meant to describe the building, not the working conditions of the designers) surely implies that noise reduction was aimed at as a desirable target. The walls were built to remove undesirable noises. Discounting this ignores the pragmatics of the language, which is at least as important as any other consideration. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 26 '17 at 19:25
  • they only discovered that rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution (C) after they had built the wall (B). they haven't told us how they achieve (D) - sound proofing a wall using the blunt method described in (B) will only ever reduce all noises. The 'comfortable' bit in (A) refers to the fact that heavy sound-proofing can remove the air supply, so they filtered it. D is probably more technically a subset of B without D=B, so if D is true, B is not necessarily true might be the OP's confusion. @EdwinAshworth – JonMark Perry Sep 27 '17 at 0:45
  • 'If B is true, so is D'. The question asks about the result not the intended result. Hopefully, exam moderators rejected this question because it is unclear in itself ('comfortable' is used in a non-standard way in the first sentence if you are correct. And 'lack' is probably meant to mean 'absence', which is physically impossible to achieve without vacuum gaps.) – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '17 at 8:12
  • @EdwinAshworth; so it's a crap question - so what? thick carpets and heavy curtains make me sneezey and depressed, but in an exam, these things aren't relevant – JonMark Perry Sep 27 '17 at 8:16
  • ELU is here to promote decent English, not to supply 'least worst' answers to arbitrary tests. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '17 at 15:19

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