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From what I have seen the problem will always tell us what kind of solution (basic or acidic) we are dealing with. There wouldn't really be a way to know which redox process otherwise so I would just worry about being able to know how to do the problems for the different solutions.
To add on, when balancing reactions in acidic solutions, you can use H2O to balance the oxygen molecules, and H3O+ to balance the hydrogen molecules. When balancing reactions in basic solutions, you would use H2O and OH- ions.
Yes, every problem I've encountered where I've had to balance a redox reaction have specified whether or not the reaction occurs in a basic or acidic solution (to know if H+ or OH- are available when it comes time to balance hydrogen in the half reactions as described in Toolbox 6K.1 on page 538).
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