GMAT Critical Reasoning – An overview
Critical reasoning is a process by which we evaluate information and ideas, for
taking effective decisions. Every human being from birth to burial is capable of
thinking because each has a mind of his or her own and there lies the problem.
We very often think as per the dictates of our minds rather than those of our
brains. Such reasoning is normal reasoning. Critical reasoning on the other hand,
differs from normal reasoning in its focused approach, objectivity and ability to
see through the phenomena and their possible pitfalls.
In GMAT, Critical Reasoning is evaluated in terms of measuring one’s ability to
observe the evidences, appraise the study results, unearth hidden assumptions
and then evaluate an argument and its conclusion for their effectiveness
Critical Reasoning also measure the ability to draw appropriate inferences ,
pick flaws, identify the various strengtheners, weakeners and paradoxes. For
this purpose, a stimulus is provided, which is normally a four–to-five line
paragraph, with a questions pertaining the passage. Each question will ask
you to perform any of the following tasks.
1. Evaluating how a conclusion or an argument is undermined or seriously
weakened. The question may run as
"Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the argument
2. Measuring how a conclusion or an argument is supported or strengthened.
The question may run as
"If all of the statements above are true, which of the following is most strongly
supported by them?"
3. Inferring what can follow given the premises and the conclusion. The question
may run as
"The foregoing argument depends on which of the following assumptions?"
4. Logically deducting a sequential event based on a series of premises and/or a
conclusion (Must be true questions. The question may run as
"If all of the statements above are true, which of the following must also be true?
5. Identifying analogical patterns. The question may run as
Which of the following is most like the argument above in its logical structure?
6. Spotting the flawed reasoning in a given argument. The question may run as
Which of the following points to the most serious logical flaw in the reviewer’s
7. Exposing the main point or the purpose of the argument. The question may
The main point of the passage is that.
8. Bold faced questions that ask you to identify the relationship between the two
In the consumer’s argument, the two portions in boldface play which of the
9. Questions that ask you resolve a paradox or discrepancy in a given question.
The question may run as
Which of the following, if true, would explain the discrepancy described above?
10. Complete the given argument questions, in which in you are required to
complete the argument with a given conclusion
Which of the following most logically completes the argument?
It is important to note that areguments are built on the strength of one’s own
beliefs and prior experiences. Although the validity of these beliefs and
experiences themselves are not under question, it is the conclusions that
emanate from these factors that are under the lens. Hence it is primarily vital to
identify these premises, which are normally past happenings or study results or
survey reports or similar such things. The other important thing is to appreciate
that these premises are assumed to be correct and that one is required to take
them on their face value. If we start questioning the validity of these premises,
then the conclusion can not stand on firm grounds
However, sometimes some premises are not explicitly stated. The evaluator is
required to identify them before validating the conclusion. Such unstated
premises are called assumptions. Normally an assumption is said to be present
when the conclusion is found to be substantially deviating from the essence of
the premises. Without taking into account of the hidden factor, the given
conclusion may not be possible to arrive at. Such conclusions drawn with out the
help of the hidden premises, may be severely weakened, when these
assumption are negated. But one important factor to remember here is that even
though an assumption is unstated premise, but, unlike a premise it is not always
considered true or fully valid. These assumptions may turn out to be false and
A weakener premise will always go against the grain of all the other premises
and hence the directions of the given premises and of the choices are vital to
know before determining the weakening factors. Similarly, the strengthener will
go along with the existing premises and their directions should be clearly
established before evaluating an argument. It should also be remembered that
weakeners, strengtheners, inferences, except questions, analogies etc occur
after conclusions. But such factors as paradoxes, improper logic and flaw lead to
erroneous conclusions and in fact occur before the conclusion.
A particular aspect of the weakeners, strengtheners and assumption questions is
that in all these cases, in some form or other an assumption will running through
the argument. We can see this happening in these question types, when we deal
with them individually.
One handy tool for solving critical reasoning questions in GMAT is the use of the
process of elimination. Of the five choices, two or three choices are fillers that fall
far outside the scope or the ambit of the argument. Many irrelevant matters will
be raised and they are easy to be cast aside in the first case. The students
should practice defining the scope of the argument and see whether the
argument falls within the ambit of the argument. For example, if the conclusion is
discussion of labor welfare, let the choice not delve into consumer welfare. Or if
the argument considers sales of a company in a particular year, production is
irrelevant and even sales in any other year may be outside the scope.
After eliminating the off-scope choices, attention should be drawn on the
remaining one or two choices. Each of these choices should be tested against
the particular strategies relevant to each of the choices and the final choice
Reject choices containing word such as "always" and "must.", in toto, leaving no
room for a few exceptions. Normally these are part of wrong choices.
Choices that contain factors that try to whip up strong emotions or those with
sweeping and radical generalizations are usually wrong