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, Critical Reasoning 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 is the most likely to either strengthen/weaken the author’s conclusion. For both these types of questions it is recommended that you first find out exactly what the argument is. This will break down the task for you while you work on the answer. You can find out a weaken the argument question when the question explicitly states – Which of the following, if found to be true could weaken the argument or could cast most doubt on…?
  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 based on the given facts alone. Do not make assumptions or infer from any data which is outside the mentioned passage.
  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: These type of questions will describe a seemingly paradoxical situation. You need to identify the answer choice that best explains how this paradox can be true. A paradox are two contradictory statements which convey seemingly opposite pieces of information. It is your task to identify and explain in a logical manner why these pieces of information are not actually contradictory.
  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 stem first and carefully and mentally slot it into one of the 7 types of CR questions, so you know what approach to take. When you identify which type of question is being asked you will tend to arrive at the solution in a quicker manner as well. It is essential to find out the assumption of the argument, since this will help you to determine how to proceed with either strengthening the same or weakening it. In some cases the assumption would also help you to find the flaw in the argument as well.

Step 2: Deconstruct and pace yourself

As you read, segregate 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. It is always a wise idea to form a summary of the passage in your own words so that you are able to recall the same in a better manner. Framing the sentences in your own words will help you to simplify language and decipher the content in a swift manner making your task easier. You can also make short notes while reading the CR questions so you can refer back to the same while going through the question and finding the correct answer. Pacing forms an important part of answering the questions in the CR section. You may not take as much time to solve the CR as you did for the Reading comprehension but it will still take more time than the sentence correction question.

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? Marking down what you require to do helps you to figure out the right solution. Think about what it is you are being asked and determine what are the conclusions which you can draw from the same.

Step 4: Eliminate obviously incorrect answer choices

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. It is also wise to avoid extreme answer choices(i.e) Answers which contain the words never, always, none, worst, best etc. Such answers are most likely to be incorrect answers. Use information which is only provided in the passage. Don’t make assumptions or use any information which you may already have if it is not given in the question. The options are framed that way to mislead you, even if the information is true if it is not given in the question then you shouldn’t choose the same.

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.

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