Critical Reasoning questions are major part of the verbal section of the GMAT which cannot be ignored. These questions are designed to test your logic and reasoning skills, particularly in evaluating arguments. The questions themselves could deal with almost any subject matter, and no familiarity with that subject matter is assumed or required.
Out of 41 questions on GMAT Verbal Section, 12 questions are on critical reasoning.
A Critical Reasoning Problem is comprised of three main parts:
Each critical reasoning question has essentially the same structure. The question usually begins with a two to five sentence paragraph that contains the argument. The short argument paragraph is followed by a question. The question may ask that you weaken or strengthen an argument, draw a conclusion, analyze the structure of an argument, or identify an unstated assumption the author makes. Each question has five possible answer choices.
The best way to tackle a critical reasoning question is to read the question first to determine its type. When you first read the question, don’t read all the answer choices. After you figure out what kind of question you’re dealing with, you can read the paragraph very carefully.
Make sure to locate the conclusion of the argument. The conclusion may come at the beginning, middle, or end of the paragraph. When you have identified the conclusion, you can better understand the rest of the paragraph. As you read the paragraph, look for inconsistencies or gaps in the argument that may help you answer the question. Isolating the argument’s premises, assumptions, and conclusion helps you determine the method of reasoning.
A CEO of a major company noted a serious decline in worker productivity during the previous five years. According to a report done by an outside consultant, productivity dropped by 35% by the end of that period. The CEO has therefore initiated a plan to boost productivity by giving employees shares of the company as part of their pay package.
We can use the text above to show the four different parts of a Critical Reasoning Text.
Conclusion or Main Idea
Most problems have a central idea or thesis. This is almost always located in the sentence at the beginning of the text or in the sentence at the very end. In this case, it is at the end of the passage: The CEO has therefore initiated a plan to boost productivity by giving employees shares of the company as part of their pay package. Words like therefore, thus, hence, and so usually tell us that this is the conclusion or the main idea.
Premises are the facts or evidence that support or lead to the conclusion. Unlike assumptions, they are explicit. Here is an example from the text: A CEO of a major company noted a serious decline in worker productivity during the previous five years. This premise helps the author lead to the conclusion or main idea of the text.
Assumptions are the facts that support the conclusion, like the premise does, but unlike the conclusion and premises they are not stated in the text, they are implicit. Here is what would be an example of an assumption for this particular Critical Reasoning problem: Owning something or part of something obliges you work harder to make it succeed.
Like a premise, this is stated and explicit information embedded in the text, but unlike a premise, it does not support the conclusion. At best, it supports a premise or provides further detail or information regarding a premise. From the text: According to a report done by an outside consultant, productivity dropped by 35% by the end of that period.
GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions can be categorized into eight types. First four types occur more frequently than other types.
Strengthening or Weakening Arguments
The argument presents premises and a conclusion and asks you to evaluate the answer choices to determine which one would best strengthen or weaken the author’s conclusion.
Drawing Conclusions from Premises
The argument paragraph consists of a bunch of premises but doesn’t provide a conclusion. Your job is to choose the best conclusion for the argument.
This more subtle type of question requires you to discover an essential premise of the argument that the author doesn’t state directly.
Finding the Method of Reasoning
In these questions, you will be asked to find an argument in the answer choices that uses the same method of reasoning as the original given argument.