07 Mar 2018

GMAT Basics: Critical Reasoning

The verbal section of the GMAT is comprised of 41 questions of three different types: Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, and Critical Reasoning. Of these, Critical Reasoning makes up around 13 questions. Since all the question types are spread out during the exam, you have to be proficient in all three major question types as well as all the subtypes for each. For this article let’s take a look at the basic strategy for Critical Reasoning questions and introduce CR question tasks.

Below is the sample CR question from the official GMAT website.

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.

The statements above, if true, best support which of the following assertions?

(A) Labor costs in Country Q are ten percent below those in Country Y.

(B) Importing radios from Country Q to Country Y will eliminate ten percent of the manufacturing jobs in Country Y.

(C) 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.

(D) 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.

(E) It takes ten percent less time to manufacture a radio in Country Q than it does in Country Y.

Answer: (C)

The first thing to do for any CR question is to identify what the question is asking. Which means you should always start by reading the question stem, not the blurb. Generally speaking the questions can be categorized into a handful of specific subtypes. This is important to do because how you approach the blurb may change depending on the question task. I’ll go into more detail on the different question tasks in later articles. For now here is my list of question tasks: Weaken, Strengthen, Assumption, Reasoning, Inference, Explain, Evaluate, Flaw. FYI, the sample question above is not a strengthen question but rather an inference question.

Once you determine the question task and understand what you need to do, the next step is to break down the blurb into its parts. Most question tasks will require you to find the main conclusion, the premises upon which the conclusion is based, as well as key assumptions. Some tasks, such as inferences, require a different approach. Inferences require you to take all pieces of given information as fact. All you need to do is keep the information straight.

At this point you will have identified the question task and found the pieces of the puzzle that you need. However, before you jump to the answer choices, you should think about what kind of answer you need. This is where having a good understanding of common flaws is very helpful. I’ve mentioned the big ones in a previous post. This part takes practice, but after a while you will see the patterns and get a sense of what the credited answer should look like.

The last step is to evaluate the answer choices. Match the choices to your idea of what the answer should be, making sure that they address the question task. Depending on the question task the evaluation/elimination criteria may change. More detail on the criteria will have to be in a follow up blog. Until next time, keep up the good prep work!

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