GMAT Critical Reasoning

GMAT Critical Reasoning

“What is there to critical reasoning? It’s just a use of logic!”

How often have you thought/heard something similar? This is the biggest danger when it comes to GMAT Critical Reasoning: the smartest of us tend to underestimate it!  

Taking up one-third of the GMAT Verbal section (approx. 12 questions) on the GMAT, CR has the power to make or break your test. While they are based on the use of logic, GMAT Critical Reasoning questions can be very very tricky, and you need to be careful to avoid red herrings. On the plus side, they require no particular subject matter knowledge from you, and all the information you need to know to solve a question would be provided there.

The Structure of a CR Question

Every GMAT Critical Reasoning question will be basically similar and have 3 parts.

  1. Argument – this is a two to five sentence paragraph that explains the argument.
  2. Question – could be of different types and ask you to strengthen or weaken the argument, evaluate it, draw a conclusion, or recognize its structure.
  3. Answer choices – as usual on the GMAT, there will be five answer options, of which only one will be correct

This is what a typical  question will look like:

{Argument} The cost of producing radios in Country Q is ten percent less than the cost of producing radios in Country Y. Even after transportation fees and tariff charges are added, it is still cheaper for a company to import radios from Country Q to Country Y than to produce radios in Country Y.

{Question} The statements above, if true, best support which of the following assertions?

{Answer choices}

  1. Labor costs in Country Q are ten percent below those in Country Y.
  2. Importing radios from Country Q to Country Y will eliminate ten percent of the manufacturing jobs in Country Y.
  3. The tariff on a radio imported from Country Q to Country Y is less than ten percent of the cost of manufacturing the radio in Country Y.
  4. The fee for transporting a radio from Country Q to Country Y is more than ten percent of the cost of manufacturing the radio in Country Q.
  5. It takes ten percent less time to manufacture a radio in Country Q than it does in Country Y.

The 7 Main GMAT CR Question Types

While the GMAC has never mentioned an exhaustive list of GMAT CR question types, the following are the most commonly seen.

  1. Strengthen/Weaken the Argument: here, you need to choose the answer choice that will most strengthen/weaken the author’s conclusion
  2. Identify the Assumption: the question will have some premises and a conclusion will be drawn based on these, plus an unmentioned assumption. You need to identify this assumption from the choices given
  3. Identify the Conclusion: the question will have a set of premises, but will not explicitly mention a conclusion. You need to extrapolate the facts and come up with the correct conclusion
  4. Structure of the Argument: here, you need to understand the structure of the argument (what are the premises, what is the conclusion, which one is supporting the conclusion and which ones is not, etc.)
  5. Flaw in the Argument: in this case, the argument presented will be logically flawed. You need to pinpoint what this flaw is, based on the missing link between the premises and the conclusion
  6. Paradox Questions: this type of question will describe a seemingly paradoxical situation. You need to identify the answer choice that best explains how this paradox can be true
  7. Evaluate the Conclusion: here, you will be asked what additional information is required or what questions need to be asked to evaluate the conclusion drawn in the argument

The 4-Step Approach to Crack CR

Step 1: Identify the question type

Recognizing your enemy is the first step to attacking! Read the question carefully and mentally slot it into one of the 7 types of CR questions, so you know what approach to take

Step 2: Deconstruct

As you read, identify each line into the different parts of the question: premise, conclusion, etc. Try and mentally formulate any assumptions made. Remember that a conclusion need not always be the last line of the argument, nor the premise the first.

Step 3: State your goal

Now that you understand the question perfectly well, put down what you need to do. Strengthen the argument? Weaken it? Evaluate it?

Step 4: Eliminate

Start testing every link in the question and eliminate options that don’t fit the goal. Typical GMAT questions are structured so that at least 2 options can be eliminated right away.  

Let’s use this approach to solve the previous question.

Step 1: The question says “The statements above, if true, best support which of the following assertions?” Clearly, this is an ‘identify the conclusion’ question, where you use given data to make an inference.

Step 2: Let’s deconstruct the argument. In this case, it’s fairly simple as two factual statements are given. Both are premises of the argument.

Step 3: What is our goal? We need to identify what can be concluded from the facts given

Step 4: Answer choices B and E can be easily eliminated as nothing in the argument has anything about the number of manufacturing jobs available in either country, or the time taken to manufacture a radio. We can then go through the remaining options systematically to arrive at the right answer.

Read on to more about GMAT Sentence Correction.

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