1:04 pm Understanding Gmat Critical Reasoning

Understanding Gmat Critical Reasoning

In this post, you will understand how to approach GMAT critical reasoning questions. Even if you are not planning to take GMAT, this type of critical reasoning will help you improve your understanding in general and sharpen your overall common sense. We will discuss in this article, the following details pertaining to GMAT critical reasoning:

  • The terminology of GMAT critical reasoning.
  • A step by step approach to solving any Critical reasoning question.
  • The three basic types of critical reasoning questions.

Need-to-Know Terminology

For GMAT Critical Reasoning, you won’t need to know the technical terminology of formal logic, except for a few basic terms. Here are the ones you should know before you proceed any further.

ARGUMENT

The process of reasoning from premises to conclusion.

PREMISE

A proposition helping to support the argument’s conclusion; premises form the basis on which reasoning proceeds; premises are often signaled with words and phrases such as since, because, and given that.

ASSUMPTION

Something taken for granted to be true in the argument; strictly speaking, assumptions are actually unstated, assumed premises.

CONCLUSION

A proposition derived by inference from the premises of an argument. Conclusions are typically signaled by words and phrases such as hence, as a result, consequently, therefore, and it follows that.

INFERENCE

Deriving from assumed premises a probable or strict logical conclusion.

Note

Don’t get hung up on precise dictionary definitions, The GMAT won’t ask you to define terms or try to trick you based on semantics; that’s not what the GMAT is about. But, the test-makers will use these terms in phrasing Critical Reasoning questions; s0 you should have at least a layperson’s understanding of what they mean.

Also read: Percent, Fraction, And Decimal Equivalences

Critical Reasoning – Your 6-Step Game Plan

There are six (6) basic steps to learn for handling a GMAT critical reasoning question. Apply this six steps to the following example:

Apply this six steps to the following example:

Customers and breakfast restaurants order fresh fruit for breakfast more than any other items. Nevertheless, a modern health study states that eating eggs doesn’t impact the health as previously thought. Based on this study, owners of breakfast restaurants should increase the number of eggs but decrease buying fresh fruit from the suppliers.

Which reason of the following is true would be the best to reject the proposition made in the argument above?

  1. Eating eggs still inflicts risk to health especially for men over age 50.
  2. Eggs are available at any time of the year. However, fresh fruits are seasonally available.
  3. Popularity of alternatives to eggs in breakfast such as pancakes and cereals is growing.
  4. Many customers who order eggs in breakfast restaurants, order fresh fruits as well.
  5. Compared to fresh fruits, the popularity of pre-prepared fruit juices is growing among customers of breakfast restaurants.

Step 1: Read the question “stem” (the actual question or prompt that follows the passage)

The first thing you should do is to read the question stem so that you would know what to think about as you read the passage. Make sure to recognize the exact task that the question is asking you to do.

Step 2: Read the passage and identify its key elements

Recognize the premises and conclusion of the argument. Follow the line of the argument from its premises to its conclusion. Most of arguments have conclusion. Read the passage again but this time starting from the conclusion. A second reading should not take much time because critical reasoning questions are not long.

Step 3: Try to think of your own answer to the question

Step 4: Read the five answer choices, looking for one that provides something similar to one of the “best” answers you’ve formulated.

But don’t assume that the answer you thought of would be exactly the same as one of the answer choices. Just look for a choice that conveys the same general idea. Also, be open to other possible viable choices.

Step 5: If you’re still not sure what the best answer choice is, eliminate whichever ones you can.

Eliminate choices that make no sense to you, that don’t seem directly relevant to the argument, or that accomplish just the opposite of what the question asks for.

Step 6: Compare the quality of the remaining (viable) answer choices.

Try to determine which is qualitatively better than the others. Don’t try to make ultra-fine semantic distinctions, parse words, or second-guess the test-makers. The qualitative difference between the best and any runner-up choice will be clear enough -if your thinking is straight enough.

Also read: Data Sufficiency: How Many Quarts Of Oil Will A Car Burn

Now let’s apply the above mentioned 6-step approach on the example of the breakfast restaurants.

Step 1

This question stem indicates what you should you look for in a best answer choice and what the passage is about. This question stem also asks you to weaken the argument. Moreover, the question stem refers to “the argument above” and hence, you should know that the passage contains at least one premise and a conclusion which is in the form of “recommendation” in the subject question.

Step 2

The first two sentences express the premises and the last sentence indicates the conclusion of the premises. So, what is the connection between the premises and the conclusion/recommendation? In other words, what is the line of reasoning in the subject passage?

It is clear that the passage implies that the customers of the breakfast restaurants know that it is innocuous to eat eggs. As a result, a large number will order eggs instead of fresh fruits. Therefore, breakfast restaurants should order more eggs meet the increase in demand. Well, if you think that this reasoning is full of holes, you are in the right track. Proceed to step 3.

Step 3

The question task is to weaken the subject argument. Hence, it is time to critique it. To weaken the argument, ask yourself what else is required to justify the conclusion/recommendation based only the promises. Doesn’t the leap from the premises to the conclusion needs some more assumptions about the the breakfast restaurants customers. Here are three assumptions on which the conclusion relied on:

  • As the conclusion states to increase the eggs supplies; this indicates that the customers have already known about the health study.
  • Also, the conclusion states to decrease the fresh fruits supplies; which means that the customers consider the eggs a substitute for fresh fruits.
  • Moreover, we can also assume that the customers would prefer eggs over fresh fruits and that’s why anticipate a shift in demand from fresh fruits to eggs.

To draft an answer to this question, all what you need to do is to refute the assumptions mentioned above. Highlight one of the following:

  • The customers are not aware of the health study.
  • They don’t consider eggs a good substitute for fresh fruits.
  • They don’t prefer eggs over fresh fruits.

Step 4

If we compare answer choice (D) (Many customers who order eggs in breakfast restaurants, order fresh fruits as well) with our refuted assumption mentioned above (They don’t consider eggs a good substitute for fresh fruits); we’ll find out that they may not be similar, yet they are essentially the same. It is unreasonable to assume that a significant number of customers will prefer to order eggs over fresh fruits without supporting evidence. Notice that answer choice (D) uses the word “many” leaving it open that some customers may order eggs more than fresh fruits.

So, will there be a better choice than (D). No, it is pretty sure that (D) is the safest choice. However, proceed and consider other choices. Mark (D) as your answer, then continue to step 5.

Step 5

Let’s discuss each choice in turn:

Choice (A) somehow weakens the argument. If eating eggs is risky; people will refrain from eating them and they will rather eat fresh fruits. But we need to assume that the majority of the breakfast restaurants’ customers are men over 50 years old. However, this assumption is not directly inferred from the passage’s premises. We’ll mark this choice as a runner up.

Choice (B) can be confusing. Stating that fresh fruits are seasonal and eggs are available all the time of the year gives the feeling that breakfast restaurants should not reply on fresh fruits and should replace them with eggs. However, this is somehow not directly relevant to the argument. Hence, eliminate it!

Choice (C) tends to weaken the argument as it states that the popularities of alternatives to eggs is growing which means that orders of eggs will decrease. But this weakens only part of the conclusion. What about the part of decreasing the fresh fruits supplies. So, mark choice (C) as another runner up.

Choice (E) explains why breakfast owners should decrease their fruits because the popularity of pre-prepared fruit juices increased; however, this choice supports, strengthens the argument and this is exactly the opposite of what you are after. So, eliminate choice (E).

Step 6

Reflecting back on the three viable answers (D), (A) and (C); we find that choice (D) is the best answer choice that strongly weakens the argument. Therefore, confirm selection (D).

Last Word

In the preceding question, the difference between (D), the best choice, and the two runner-up choices, (A) and (C), is just the degree of qualitative difference that’s typical of the GMAT. On the actual exam, you won’t need to make judgment calls that are any closer than the ones made here.

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