Strategy for Critical Reasoning

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Aim

Logic, not Grammar
Critical Reasoning problems are among the trickiest question types you¶ll come across in the GMAT. That¶s because CR problems are logic-based. While an understanding of English grammar rules is essential, your major challenge will be simply to learn how ETS expects you to approach the information within the sentences.

For many, this is the most feared part of the test!

Why do they fear it so? Because the world as we know it is not logical.

For Critical Reasoning questions, you must be purely and consistently logical. With each CR question, you¶ll be presented with an argument. Don¶t try to break down the argument into its essential parts. Instead, reorder the information. Reorder the information; identifying the premises and conclusion inherent within each argument.

By deconstructing a Critical Reasoning argument, you can more clearly see what it is that¶s missing. Deconstructing an argument helps you notice illogical connections. The tendency to make sense of what we read is natural and, for the GMAT, fatal. Fight your normal reading habits as you go through the questions in this lesson.

We pose arguments all the time. Often there is no logical connection between the information we present (our premises) and our conclusions. Don¶t assume information unless you see it in the argument! For example«

You: Me:

Let¶s go see a movie. I have only two dollars.

What is your conclusion? But why?

We can¶t go to a movie.

Because a movie costs more than two dollars. We don¶t!

But how do we know this?

Make sure you¶re not brining outside information into your reading of a Critical Reasoning problem.

Why? Because Joe works for Pepsi. Joe is a spy for Pepsi. Be careful! What kinds of assumptions are you making to reach these conclusions? .Here¶s another example« Me: You: Me: I can¶t believe I saw Joe drinking a Coke. Joe hates his job. What¶s your conclusion? Joe prefers Coca Cola.

What do you make of this one? On Thursday I wore a blue shirt. my argument. What could you say that would undermine my argument? Perhaps I was out all night last Thursday. This is a dumbed-down version of a Critical Reasoning problem. Maybe I live next door to an airport. my blue shirt gives me a headache. It¶s easy to argue with my logic when I present my argument so simply. Any of these statements could severely undermine. Therefore. Fight with them. Be always suspicious of CR arguments. or weaken. On Friday I had a headache. And what could you add that would completely destroy it? .

And the reverse. It¶s too logical! . my blue shirt gives me a headache. Therefore. On Friday I had a headache. that there is a direct connection between the headache and the shirt. My health is affected by the clothes I wear. would completely fix it. Now take a look at my revised argument« On Thursday I wore a blue shirt.There¶s no connection between the headache and the shirt This piece of information would completely destroy my argument. You¶ll never find an argument like this in a Critical Reasoning problem.

Differentiating between them is difficult. you¶ll be able to spot any trick that ETS test-makers throw at you. and you¶ll have to know the approach for each of them when you sit down to take the test. There are several different types of Critical Reasoning questions. Your task as you approach CR questions will be to break down an illogical argument into its stated premises and conclusion. If you can do this.Critical Reasoning questions ask you to do several things. but central to them all is having an understanding of the basic structure of an argument. .

Understanding the elements of an argument is essential to performing well in this section. The line of reasoning leading to a conclusion is often where errors in logic are made. Conclusion The conclusion is the endpoint of the line of reasoning of an argument. and a conclusion. Think of it as the result of the argument. An argument is an ordered line of reasoning composed of premises. Premise Each CR argument contains at least one premise. For the purposes of Critical Reasoning arguments. .Key Terms Argument Central to every CR question is the argument. Premises are pieces of information that provide evidence used to support the conclusion of the argument. assumptions. premises are facts not subject to dispute.

In order for the conclusion of an argument to be true.Key Terms Assumption Assumptions are unstated facts and logical connections in an argument. the assumptions upon which that argument is based must also be true. .

The Approach .

Follow these steps each time you attack Critical Reasoning questions. Read the argument.The Approach Critical Reasoning questions test your ability to use basic logic to analyze and critique arguments made up of premises and conclusions. Step 1: Step 2: Step 3: Step 4: Step 5: Read the question first. Use the process of Error Identification to eliminate the wrong answers. Predict the answer. . Paraphrase the argument using your own words. ETS test-makers write arguments that assume information which doesn¶t exist! A logical and consistent approach is the best way to avoid formulaic traps.

Step 1: Read the question first. 3. It will not affect the argument at all (neutral). Adding any one answer choice to the argument will do one of three things: 1. Determine which of the eight kinds of Critical Reasoning questions you¶re facing before turning to the argument itself. This is done for a reason. It will weaken the argument. 2. It¶s natural to read the question after the argument because that¶s how they¶re presented on the page. It has nothing to do with the argument (out of scope). . Read the question and determine what to look for within the answer choices. It will strengthen the argument. you¶ll be looking for the answer choices that either strengthen or weaken the argument. Reading the argument first is confusing. Think of answer choices as additional premises. 2. In general.

Paraphrasing is a good way of understanding the sense an argument presented. 1. Determine what assumptions are being made. using words and situations that you can relate to. and restate an argument.Step 2: Read the argument. if necessary. While it¶s necessary to understand the meaning of each argument (and paraphrasing is a good tool to help you do this). restating or paraphrasing an argument brings you unavoidably further away from the actual text. Take the time. 3. wordy and complex. Identify the argument¶s conclusion. 2. Identify each premise (each piece of information) that is being presented within the argument. . Step 3: Paraphrase the argument using your own words. Note: This is the only step you¶re permitted to skip. Critical Reasoning arguments are intentionally heavy.

You understand it. and you can use your predictions as a measuring stick with which to compare the choices given to you by ETS. What one thing could you add that would completely fix it? Now imagine the opposite.Step 4: Predict the answer. . you¶ve read the argument. Answer choices are intentionally misleading. You can identify it¶s premises and it¶s conclusion. Imagine which additional premise would best strengthen the argument. So. Now imagine additional premises (additional pieces of information) and what affect each would have on the argument overall. Brainstorm for a moment. How could you weaken the argument? How could you completely destroy it? This is perhaps the most important step in the process.

Strengthen Weaken Neutral Out of scope Use the Process of Error Identification to get rid of any choices that do not affect the conclusion (neutral) or have nothing to do with the argument whatsoever (out of scope). 3. 2. As you read each choice. Whether you eliminate strengthen or weaken answer choices depends on the question related with that argument. using five steps« . 2.Step 5: Use the Process of Error Identification to eliminate the wrong answers. ³How would this additional premise affect the strength or weakness of the argument¶s conclusion?´ Categorize answer choices as one of the following: 1. Try the following Critical Reasoning example. ask yourself. Think of answer choices as additional premises.

The conclusion above presupposes which of the following? (A) The increase in baseball injuries is due to a factor other than weightlifting. the more an athlete lifts weights. professional baseball players lifted weights less but were also injured less often during games. (E) Weightlifting has always been common practice for professional athletes.In years past. (D) There is no proven correlation between how much athletes lift weights and how likely they are to be affected by injury. . Obviously. (C) Most baseball injuries today result from too much weightlifting. the higher the likelihood of injury. (B) The activities of baseball players represent those of athletes as a group.

Premise #2: But they were also injured less often during games. the more an athlete lifts weights.The correct answer is (B). The conclusion above presupposes which of the following? This is what¶s called an assumption question. What specific piece of information is presupposed (assumed) in the preceding argument? Break it down to understand what the writer is really saying. professional baseball players lifted weights less. read the question. Can you identify the premises and the conclusion? Premise #1: In years past. the higher the likelihood of injury. Let¶s see how it¶s done« First. Conclusion: Obviously. . Restate or paraphrase the argument. if necessary. Stick as close to the actual text as possible.

that baseball injuries definitely are a result of weightlifting.If necessary. return to the actual argument! Then Now. think about some of the big assumptions that are being made. imagine someone you can¶t stand. paraphrase the argument. Now come up with the one thing you could say to this person that would shut him up. Ask yourself what you could add to fix the argument. might fix it. What other assumptions can you come up with? . Put the events in a context you can understand. And the contrary. What if I offered evidence that proved baseball injuries are definitely not a result of weightlifting? That might destroy the argument. Try changing the subjects without changing what they did. What could you add to the argument to completely destroy it! If it helps. Keep trying until the GMAT argument makes sense to you. but stick as close to the actual text as possible. Think up a real or fictional know-it-all.

(E) Weightlifting has always been common practice for professional athletes. (C) Most baseball injuries today result from too much weightlifting. (A) The increase in baseball injuries is due to a factor other than weightlifting. For this particular question. (B) The activities of baseball players represent those of athletes as a group. also eliminate any answer choices that weaken the argument. . turn your attention to the answer choices.When you¶re ready. Use the Process of Error Identification to eliminate any answer choices that are neutral or out of scope. (D) There is no proven correlation between how much athletes lift weights and how likely they are to be affected by injury.

but we don¶t know what it¶s relative to.Only answer choices (B) and (C) strengthen the argument. there are many different kinds of athletes. (E) Weightlifting has always been common practice for professional athletes. Be aware of vague and undefined categories. (B) The activities of baseball players represent those of athletes as a group.´ Weakens (A) The increase in baseball injuries is due to a factor other than weightlifting. Weakens Neutral . Of course. ³Most´ is a relative term. such as ³athletes. What¶s wrong with answer choice (C) ? The trigger word ³most´ is undefined. All athletes are not baseball players. (D) There is no proven correlation between how much athletes lift weights and how likely they are to be affected by injury. (C) Most baseball injuries today result from too much weightlifting. The correct answer is (B).

produce prices had dropped and no ill effects had been reported. provoking many objections that they would damage both the environment and the produce they were growing. (B) Several areas in which use of the pesticide was forbidden have also experienced a drop in produce prices. Which of the following. produce growers began using a new. would be the strongest objection to the argument above? (A) Consumption of the produce declined from 1991 to 1993. (E) Since 1992. (D) The time since the beginning of the use of the pesticide has been too short to allow some of the predicted effects to occur. if true. However. the fears have proven unfounded as. though 1996. (C) The amount of produce grown in 1991 was larger than that of 1996.Try one more« In 1991. new pesticides have been developed that scientists agree are relatively risk-free. inexpensive pesticide. . but rose sharply from 1994 to 1996.

In 2000. My friends said it is unhealthy.(D) is the only answer choice that weakens the argument. Look back and compare this rephrasing with the actual argument itself. In 1991. There¶s a fatal flaw to this logic. are out of scope! Make it personal« Sorry. the correct answer is (D). . I am still Okay: Therefore. in fact. I started smoking cigarettes. All the others. cigarettes are not unhealthy.

in fact.(D) is the only answer choice that weakens the argument. I started smoking cigarettes. are out of scope! Make it personal« Good job! In 1991. There¶s a fatal flaw to this logic. All the others. My friends said it is unhealthy. Look back and compare this rephrasing with the actual argument itself. cigarettes are not unhealthy. In 2000. I am still Okay: Therefore. .

Take your time as you go through the test questions in the next section. Practice. If have difficulties. Practice! The best way to prepare for Critical Reasoning questions is to practice Critical Reasoning questions. don¶t worry.Practice. Critical Reasoning is the most dreaded question type in the exam! Good luck! .

There are. Click on the Next Screen button to see a brief description of these eight Critical Reasoning question types. There is a limited variety of questions you¶ll be asked relating to a Critical Reasoning argument.Critical Reasoning Question Types The GMAT is. eight definitive types of Critical Reasoning questions. Each question type has its own traps and a specific strategy is required to ace each one of them. . if anything. in fact. predictable.

Strengthen 4. Assumption 3. Complete the passage 8. Draw a conclusion 2. Explain the (apparent) contradiction 7. Weaken 5. ³Except´ questions .Critical Reasoning Question Types 1. Inference 6.

Fire! .

(C) The plants in the group for which he played city traffic sounds died several weeks after the experiment. The group to which he played thunderstorms all died within a few weeks. . Which of the following. if true. He therefore concluded that the sound of city traffic is more effective for helping plants grow than is the sound of thunderstorms. (D) The plants were all purchased at the same time. and moisture. would most seriously weaken the scientist¶s conclusion? (A) The scientist put different varieties of plants in each group. A scientist planted two groups of plants under identical conditions of light.Weigh each choice carefully before eliminating it. but the other group thrived during the experiment. humidity. (B) The light affecting the plants changed according to the time of day. temperature. Every day he would play sound effects of thunderstorms to one of the groups of plants and sounds of city traffic for the other. (E) The plants in the group for which he played city traffic sounds required more water than the scientist actually gave them. Click on the oval that corresponds with your choice.

all flights arriving from continent B would continue to land at airport X.You¶ve got it! We know we have two groups of plants. the government decided to redistribute landing slots. (C) There are fewer runways. justifies the airline¶s conclusion? (A) The airlines¶ customers prefer less congested airports. at airport Y. What¶s assumed is that both groups are the same! Try a harder one« In response to years of increasing congestion at airport X. Henceforth. (D) Airport Y is located in a region with better transport links to the final destinations of many travelers from continent B. if true. all international flights arriving from continent A would be rerouted to nearby airport Y. and thus less capacity. Several airlines opposed this measure on the grounds that it would result in lost business. Which of the following. . (B) It takes five minutes more flying time to reach the second airport. (E) Many customers traveling between continent A and continent B choose certain airlines because of the easy flight connections they offer at airport X.

Make it personal. the conclusion. Predict the answer.Sorry. and the flaw (the assumption). Which answer choice will best weaken the argument¶s conclusion? Eliminate any answer choices that strengthen or are out of scope. Let¶s look at this problem using the MBA Center¶s five steps. Read the argument. If necessary. Use the process of Error Identification to eliminate the wrong answers. translate it into something that makes sense. Who said the plants in both groups are the same? Step 1: Step 2: Step 3: Step 4: Step 5: Read the question first. . the correct answer is (A). Identify the premises. Paraphrase the argument using your own words. Imagine a piece of new information that would destroy the argument.

Here¶s an easier one« A city¶s public transportation board has decided to cut costs by reducing the frequency of its bus service from an average of eight minutes to an average of ten minutes between buses. The board announced that it can do so without seriously reducing the quality of service. showing that some lines are used by many more riders than others. (D) The public transportation board has recently gathered data on the levels of ridership on all bus lines. if true. passenger patronage has increased substantially in recent years. resulting in savings that can be used for much-needed repairs of the city¶s pedestrian bridges. (B) At rush hour. would most strengthen the validity of the board¶s announcement? (A) The less frequent use of the buses will lower maintenance costs. (E) The contract with the bus drivers union stipulates that the city not lay off any drivers because of reduced bus service. (C) Because of a robust economy in the city. Which of the following statements. congestion in the city slows bus service by thirty percent. .

(B) Marlowe Street corree has more caffeine than Chula Vista coffee. it follows that Kobayashi coffee has more caffeine than Valentino coffee. (E) Chula Vista coffee has more caffeine than Kobayashi coffee. makes the argument above logically correct EXCEPT? (A) Marlowe Street coffee has more caffeine than Valentino coffee. . if introduced into the argument as an additional premise. Any of the following. But since Chula Vista coffee has more caffeine than Valentino coffee. (C) Marlowe Street and Chula Vista coffees have the same amount of caffeine.Right again! This one¶s harder still« Kobayashi coffee has more caffeine than Marlowe Select coffee. (D) Kobayashi and Chula Vista coffees have the same amount of caffeine.

Let¶s look at this problem using the MBA Center¶s five steps. If necessary.Sorry. Paraphrase the argument using your own words. Step 1: Step 2: Step 3: Step 4: Step 5: Read the question first. Identify the premises. the conclusion. the correct answer is (E). Which answer choice will best weaken the argument¶s conclusion? Eliminate any answer choices that strengthen or are out of scope. Read the argument. translate it into something that makes sense. Imagine a piece of new information that would destroy the argument. Use the process of Error Identification to eliminate the wrong answers. and the flaw (the assumption). Predict the answer. . Make it personal.

. However. if true. which increases every year. Which one of the following. these claims never stand up to scrutiny. (D) It is the policy of all major oil producers to locate new reserves at a rate consistent with that at which old reserves are depleted. will deplete the supply of oil. as the volume of oil in reserves around the world has remained constant. best resolves the apparent paradox? (A) The actual annual consumption of oil is below that which many experts estimate.There you go! It has often been hypothesized that global oil consumption. with catastrophic results for the global economy. (C) The consumption of oil has greatly increased in the past 50 years. (B) The cost of operating oil refineries has steadily decreased over time. (E) The number of oil-producing countries has been steadily declining.

Click on the Previous Section button and try these questions again.Sorry. Answer choice (D) is neutral. . the correct answer is (A). (C) and (E). This tells us nothing. Those weaken the argument. Some lines are used by many more riders than others. Use the Process of Error Identification to eliminate answer choices (B).

support the change in billing. if true. all of whom have free unlimited Internet access. (D) The popularity of other Internet service providers relies on their having billing systems similar to the one this company is adopting. would most strengthen the conclusion of the company representatives? (A) Customers will connect to the service less frequently and spend more time connected to the service each time they do. (B) The change in the billing system will attract new customers resulting in increased profits for the company. charging customers per each connection to the system rather than per total hours connected. under the new system. According to company representatives. (E) The company¶s employees. customers will spend more time connected to the Internet while being billed the same or smaller amounts. . Which one of the following statements. (C) By spending more time connected to the Internet customers will be able to take advantage of services that previously would have been too expensive.Here¶s an easier one« A popular Internet service provider changed its billing system.

(D) Inexperienced players lose more money than they expect to when playing poker at casinos.Right again! Wow. these people lose money to the casino. which increases the casino¶s profits. (B) The probability of winning a game of poker increases with experience. (E) All games played at casinos involve an element of risk. (C) Casinos make extremely large profits. You ought to go on television. on average. you¶re a Critical Reasoning wiz. This one¶s even more difficult« The owners of gambling casinos are keen to attract inexperienced poker players because. This is because the average inexperienced player does not have sufficient skill at the game to win. Which one of the following can be inferred from the above argument? (A) There is always an element of chance when playing poker. .

they say. (A) (B) (C) (D) raise the tariffs on goods imported from Country Z encourage businesses in Country A to reduce their labor costs increase taxes on all goods not manufactured in Country A improve the products manufactured by Country A¶s companies and market them heavily in Country A (E) subsidize all of Country A¶s companies that manage to maintain their prices at the level of the goods produced by Country Z . Government officials. Therefore.Way to go! Try one more« Which of the following best completes the passage? Critics of Country A¶s trade policy with Country Z contend that Country A¶s low tariffs are responsible for its large trade deficit with Country Z. argue that there is a trade deficit with Country Z because low labor costs in Country Z allow its companies to manufacture goods cheaply. however. the most logical way to lower the trade deficit without hurting Country A¶s consumers is to _________. The officials also claim that economic competition from Country Z is responsible for better prices for Country A¶s consumers.

. and you only had problems with the final difficult problem.Critical Reasoning Got you that time! You did well.

Critical Reasoning Good job! You got the second wrong. . but the other two were right.

I got you on that one. Be careful! This one is an Inference question.Critical Reasoning Inference is once logical step away from the conclusion. What¶s inferred in the argument« that a player must have skill to win! (B) is the best answer. The best answer will paraphrase words and ideas from the text and contain an inference just one step in logic away from the message of the text. though. Well done. .

but you pulled it back up with two and three.Critical Reasoning Good job! You got the first one wrong. .

You got the second problem right.Critical Reasoning Sorry. . but the other two were wrong.

Critical Reasoning What can I say? You¶re a Critical Reasoning genius! .

.Critical Reasoning Sorry. but you answered the next two wrong. You got the first question right.

Critical Reasoning Got you that time! Well done. Keep it up and you¶ll be on your way to Harvard! . You got four out of five right. though.

Summary .

.Summary Remember the five steps when approaching CR problems.

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