Articles tagged "Critical Reasoning"

How to Tackle Every Single GMAT Problem (Seriously!) – Part 5


Blog-Tackle-Pt5Welcome to part 5 of our series on how to answer every single GMAT problem you’ll ever see. :) If you haven’t already read the earlier installments, start with part 1 and work your way back to me.

Last time, I left you with a Critical Reasoning question from the free questions that come with the GMATPrep® software. Let’s talk about it! Read more

Everything you need to know about the New Official Guides, Part 4


I’ve just finished trying all of the new verbal OG problems. (If you haven’t yet read my earlier installments, start here.) This installment includes my summary of All Things Verbal as well as lists of the new problems by book and question type.

Also, we’re hard at work writing new solutions to add to our GMAT Navigator program, so if you have access to Navigator, you can start to check for new solutions there in—best guess—July.

What’s new in Verbal?

Now that I’ve seen everything, I’ve been able to spot some trends across all of the added and dropped questions. For example, across both The Official Guide for GMAT® Review (aka the big book) and The Official Guide for GMAT® Verbal Review (aka verbal-only or the verbal supplement), 6 science passages were added (out of 11 new passages total), while only 3 were dropped. In addition, 3 social science passages were added (compared to 5 dropped) and 2 business passages were added (compared to 2 dropped).

So, in the books at least, there’s a slight shift towards science. It’s unclear whether this signals an actual change in emphasis on the test, though; these may just be the best retired passages that they wanted to use.

For Critical Reasoning, the same total number of questions were added and dropped. The differential (added minus dropped) for Strengthen questions was +8. Further, 6 of the 22 total new Strengthen questions are fill in the blank (FitB) format, and no new FiTB’s were introduced that were not Strengthen questions.

The differential for Weaken questions was -8 and for Inference questions, it was -4. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the drop in Weaken. I’ve been hearing from students that they’ve been seeing a lot of Strengthen / Weaken on the real test and not many (CR) Inference questions. The Strengthen jump and the small Inference drop seems to go along with that, but not the larger Weaken drop. (This is why I’m always skeptical about drawing broader conclusions based on changes in the books.)

As I mentioned in my first report on Sentence Correction (part 2 of this series), it is difficult to compare categories here because one SC can (and usually does) cross multiple topics. The trends I reported before still hold after my review of the Verbal supplement: meaning and sentence structure are increasingly important, and parallelism and comparisons are just as important as they’ve always been.

Ready for the problem lists?

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How to Infer on the GMAT


2-11-ScienceWe’re going to kill two birds with one stone in this week’s article.

Inference questions pop up on both Critical Reasoning (CR) and Reading Comprehension (RC), so you definitely want to master these. Good news: the kind of thinking the test-writers want is the same for both question types. Learn how to do Inference questions on one type and you’ll know what you need to do for the other!

That’s actually only one bird. Here’s the second: both CR and RC can give you science-based text, and that science-y text can get pretty confusing. How can you avoid getting sucked into the technical detail, yet still be able to answer the question asked? Read on.

Try this GMATPrep® CR problem out (it’s from the free practice tests) and then we’ll talk about it. Give yourself about 2 minutes (though it’s okay to stretch to 2.5 minutes on a CR as long as you are making progress.)

“Increases in the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in the human bloodstream lower bloodstream cholesterol levels by increasing the body’s capacity to rid itself of excess cholesterol. Levels of HDL in the bloodstream of some individuals are significantly increased by a program of regular exercise and weight reduction.

“Which of the following can be correctly inferred from the statements above?

“(A) Individuals who are underweight do not run any risk of developing high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

“(B) Individuals who do not exercise regularly have a high risk of developing high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream late in life.

“(C) Exercise and weight reduction are the most effective methods of lowering bloodstream cholesterol levels in humans.

“(D) A program of regular exercise and weight reduction lowers cholesterol levels in the bloodstream of some individuals.

“(E) Only regular exercise is necessary to decrease cholesterol levels in the bloodstream of individuals of average weight.”

Got an answer? (If not, pick one anyway. Pretend it’s the real test and just make a guess.) Before we dive into the solution, let’s talk a little bit about what Inference questions are asking us to do.

Inference questions are sometimes also called Draw a Conclusion questions. I don’t like that title, though, because it can be misleading. Think about a typical CR argument: they usually include a conclusion that is…well…not a solid conclusion. There are holes in the argument, and then they ask you to Strengthen it or Weaken it or something like that.
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The newest GMAT Strategy Guides have arrived! (Part II)


GMAT_ChartThe newest GMAT Strategy Guides have hit the shelves! We’re really excited about these new books, the perfect stocking stuffers to make all of your dreams come true. (Well…your GMAT-related dreams, anyway.)

Yesterday, we talked about the Quant Guides and today I’ve got the Verbal scoop for you. Let’s start with Sentence Correction.

The SC Guide begins with a new strategy chapter that discusses our 4-Step SC Process and lays out drills that you can do to get better at such skills as the First Glance and Finding a Starting Point. We’ve also significantly expanded the Subject-Verb Agreement chapter to include a full treatment of Sentence Structure, an area that has been becoming much more commonly tested on the GMAT.

We’ve added important segments to Modifiers, Parallelism, and Verbs and we’ve woven relevant Meaning topics into every chapter in the book.

Finally, we’ve streamlined the Idioms material. The main chapter contains a strategy for tackling idioms as well as the most commonly tested idioms found on the GMAT. A separate appendix contains the less-commonly-tested idioms. We recommend taking the time to memorize the ones listed in the main chapter, but to use the appendix more as a resource to look up the correct idiom when you struggle with a particular problem. (It’s impossible to memorize every idiom in a language; there are thousands, if not tens of thousands!)

What about RC and CR?

Glad you asked! Our Reading Comprehension Guide was re-written from scratch. We’ve streamlined the process for reading passages and added lessons designed to help you wade through these dense passages and extract the kernels you need to answer questions. We’ve also expanded our lessons for each question type and provided you with end-of-chapter cheat sheets that summarize what to do for each question type and what common traps to avoid. (I’m most excited about this book; students often complain that RC is hard to study, and I’m hoping that this book will change your minds!)

Of all of the books, Critical Reasoning has changed the least, although we did add more information about Fill-In-The-Blank question types. This Guide also provides you with end-of-chapter cheat sheets that summarize how to recognize each type of question, what to look for in the argument, what kind of characteristics the right answer needs to possess, and how to spot the most common trap answers.

What is the best way to use the books?

Here’s how we typically study each topic in class:

Sentence Correction

First, we learn how to use the SC Process and we discuss the main topics being tested (grammar and meaning); these correspond to chapters 1 and 2 of the book. Then, we work through one new chapter a week, starting with Chapter 3 (Sentence Structure). The order of chapters in the book is the same order we use in class.

You can use the same approach mentioned for quant (in the first half of this article): do some end-of-chapter problems first to see what your skills are. If you know that you don’t really know this material, then you can also skip this step. After you’ve finished a chapter, try some of those end-of-chapter problems to ensure that you did actually internalize the concepts that you just learned. Then, if you have the OG books, follow up with some questions from the OG Problem Sets, located in your Manhattan Prep Student Center.

Reading Comprehension

The class contains three RC lessons. First, we learn how to read. Bet you thought you already knew how, didn’t you?

Of course you do know how to read, but the way you read in the real world may not work very well on the GMAT. You’ll learn a new way to deal with the short timeframe we’re given on the test. After that, you’ll learn how to handle General questions, the ones for which you need to wrap your brain around the main ideas of the passage.

Then, you’ll move on to Specific Questions, including Detail, Inference, and Purpose questions. The test writers are asking us to do something a bit different for each one, so you’ll need to learn how to recognize each type in the first place and then how to handle it.

In class, we finish off with a Challenging RC lesson. You can create something similar for yourself by tackling harder and harder OG passages.

Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning begins with a thorough treatment of argument building blocks and the 4-Step CR Process. After that, you’ll learn about each question type (do actually use the order presented in the book). Pay attention to what the book says about frequency of each type; some types are much more common than others (and those types should obviously get more of your attention).

For both CR and RC, tear out or photo-copy the cheat sheets and use them to quiz yourself. Alternatively, put the material onto flash cards yourself (the act of rewriting the material will help you to remember it better!) and drill while you’re sitting on the subway or waiting for that meeting to start.

Is that all I need to do?

That will certainly keep you busy for a while. As you get further into your studies, note that you also need to lift yourself to the 2nd Level of GMAT Study. Yes, of course, there are lots of facts, formulas, and rules to memorize, and your brain will be focused on those areas at first. It’s crucial, however, for you to learn the various strategies presented in our Guides, as well as your own decision-making strategies based on your own strengths and weaknesses, and timing strategies.

In short, get ready to make a commitment. Think of studying for the GMAT as a university-level course: you’re going to spend hours every week for about 3 to 4 months to get ready for this test. With a solid plan, you’ll achieve your goals.

Visit our store and be the first to own the full set of our brand new Strategy Guides. Happy studying!



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Advanced Critical Reasoning, Part 3: Strike a P.O.S.E.


gmat-Advanced-Critical-ReasoningMy last two articles (part 1 and part 2) gave you some advanced tools to analyze deductive reasoning. Now it’s time to dive into the wonderful world of inductive reasoning, which appears much more often, especially in the following GMAT question types:

• Assumption
• Strengthen
• Weaken
• Evaluate
• Fill in the blank
• Identify the role
• Identify the overall reasoning
• Identify the conclusion
• Mimic the reasoning (sometimes)

According to Wikipedia:

“Inductive reasoning (as opposed to deductive reasoning) is reasoning in which the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is supposed to be certain, the truth of an inductive argument is supposed to be probable, based upon the evidence given.”

Therefore, in inductive arguments, conclusions are a matter of opinion, some more strongly supported than others.

Beyond the basics: P.O.S.E.

First, from class and your own study, you should be able to DECONSTRUCT arguments–in other words, identify the background, conclusion, premises, counterpoint, and counter premises of all inductive arguments. Our books cover that skill thoroughly if you need more work.

Next, you should learn to categorize each conclusion by type.

Fortunately, the GMAT uses only a few basic argument patterns, with similar assumptions and a limited number of ways to strengthen or weaken those assumptions. If you can spot and name those patterns, you’re well on your way to drastically improving your CR score.
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My last article discussed the difference between inductive and deductive arguments. Today’s article will focus mostly on the rules of deductive arguments. I promise to nerd out on inductive reasoning in later articles.

Here’s a quick quiz on the difference between inductive and deductive logic:

To review: In a deductively “valid” argument, if all the premises are true, the conclusion must also be true, with 100% certainty. Luckily, on the GMAT, we should usually act as if the premises of an argument are true, especially when the question specifies, “the statements above are true.”

Deductive reasoning shows up most often on inference (aka “draw a conclusion”) questions and “mimic the reasoning” questions, but it often appears on other types of questions, and even on reading comprehension!

On inference questions, the correct answer will usually be deductively valid (or very very strong, inductively). An incorrect answer will be deductively invalid, with some significant probability that it could be false.

What follows are most of the formal rules of deductive reasoning (from a stack of logic textbooks I have on my shelf), with examples from the GMAT. For shorthand, I’ll label the arguments with a “P” for premise and a “C” for conclusion:

P) premise
P) premise
C) conclusion

Remember: these are not the same kind of conclusions (opinions) you’ll see on strengthen and weaken questions. Deductive conclusions are deductively “valid” facts that you can derive with 100% certainty from given premises.

EASY STUFF: Simplification/conjunction (“and” statements)

This is kind of a “duh” conclusion, but here goes: If two things are linked with an “and,” then you know each of them exist. Conversely, if two things exist, you can link them with an “and.”


P) A and B
C) Therefore, A


P) A
P) B
C) Therefore, A and B

P) Bill is tall and was born in Texas.
P) Bill rides a motorcycle.
C) Therefore, Bill was born in Texas (simplification).
C) Therefore, at least one tall person named Bill was born in Texas and rides a motorcycle (conjunction).

CAUTION: Fallacies ahead!!

Don’t confuse “and” with “or.” (More about this later.) More importantly, don’t confuse “and” with causality, condition, or representativeness. Bill’s tallness probably has nothing to do with Texas, so keep an eye out for wrong answers that say, “Bill is tall because he was born in Texas” or “Most people from Texas ride motorcycles.”

MEDIUM STUFF: Disjunctive syllogism (“or” statements)

With “or” statements, if one thing is missing, the other must be true.

Valid conclusions:

P) A or B
P) not B (shorthand: ~B)
C) Therefore, A

P) We will go to the truck rally or to a Shakespeare play
P) We won’t go to the Shakespeare play.
C) Therefore, we will go to the truck rally.

CAUTION: Fallacies ahead!!

Unlike in the real world, “or” statements do not always imply mutual exclusivity, unless the argument explicitly says so. For example, in the above arguments, A and B might both be true; we might go to a play and go to the movies. Yes, really. A wrong answer might say “We went to a play, so we won’t go to the movies.” This error is called “affirming the disjunct.”


P) A or B
P) B
C) Not A

GMAT example:

To see this in action, check out your The Official Guide for GMAT Review 13th Edition, by GMAC®*, question 41. This argument opens with an implied “or” statement:

“Installing scrubbers in smokestacks and switching to cleaner-burning fuel are the two methods available to Northern Power…”

The author here incorrectly assumes that by using one method, Northern Power can’t use both methods at the same time. Question 51 does the same thing; discuss it in the comments below?

TOUGH STUFF: Fun with conditional statements

This is important! Keep a sharp eye out for statements that can be expressed conditionally and practice diagramming them. Look for key words such as “if,” “when,” “only,” and “require.”

I use the symbol “–>” to express an if/then relationship, and a “~” to express the word “not.” Use single letters or abbreviations to stand in for your elements.
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What Kind Of CR Question Is This? (part 3)


critical-reasoningWe’ve been on a CR kick lately! In the first two parts of this series, we talked about how to tackle Fill in the Blank and Complete the Passage questions. This time, I’ve got something different for you: a question that looks very familiar at first glance but turns a bit… well, weird.

Let’s try it before I say anything more. This GMATPrep© problem is from the two free exams that come with the GMATPrep software. Give yourself about 2 minutes (though it’s okay to stretch to 2.5 minutes on a CR as long as you are making progress.)

“On of the limiting factors in human physical performance is the amount of oxygen that is absorbed by muscles from the bloodstream. Accordingly, entrepreneurs have begun selling at gymnasiums and health clubs bottles of drinking water, labeled “SuperOXY,” that has extra oxygen dissolved in the water. Such water would be useless in improving physical performance, however, since the amount of oxygen in the blood of someone who is exercising is already more than the muscle cells can absorb.

Which of the following, if true, would serve the same function in the argument as the statement in boldface?

“(A) world-class athletes turn in record performances without such water
“(B) frequent physical exercise increases the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen
“(C) the only way to get oxygen into the bloodstream so that it can be absorbed by the muscles is through the lungs
“(D) lack of oxygen is not the only factor limiting human physical performance
“(E) the water lost in exercising can be replaced with ordinary tap water”

Step 1: Identify the Question

The boldface font is immediately obvious, of course. Boldface denotes a Describe the Role question.

The question stem does have one little idiosyncrasy, though: it asks what answer would serve the same function. Normally, Role questions ask what function the boldface statement plays in the argument. The question stem also contains “if true” wording, which we normally see on Strengthen, Weaken, or Discrepancy (paradox) questions.

Glance at the answers. Notice anything? This is not what Role answers typically look like! Usually they say something such as “The statement provides evidence supporting the author’s claim” or similar.

What’s going on here? Read the argument.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

Here’s what I thought and wrote while I did the problem. Your own thought process won’t be exactly the same as mine and, of course, your notes will probably look quite different, since we all have our own ways of abbreviating things. (Note: R = role; note that I put a question mark next to it because I wasn’t 100% sure what was actually going on).

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 5.03.55 PM

So back to that weird question stem. If this were just a straight Role question, then what would the answer be? The boldface statement is support for the conclusion; it’s a premise.

But what’s the goal for this question?

Step 3: State the Goal

The answers don’t describe the existing boldface statement. Rather, they contain new facts that we’re supposed to accept as true. Further, the question asked us to find an answer that “would serve the same function” as the original statement.

What function did the original statement serve? Aha! The original statement served as a premise to support the conclusion. So we need to find another statement that serves that same purpose.

Will it support the conclusion in exactly the same way? I’m really not sure. (Seriously! When I first saw this question, I didn’t know!) So I’m going to keep an open mind and look for anything that could support the conclusion in general.

Work from Wrong to Right

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 5.10.38 PM

The correct answer is (C).

Interesting. We just learned something new. Most Describe the Role (or Boldface) questions ask us to describe the role of the given statement. We might be asked, though, to demonstrate our knowledge of the role by finding a different, completely new statement that serves the same role as the original statement in the argument.

What do we have to do? We have to “decode” the original statement (in the above case, we had a premise supporting the conclusion) and then we have to find another statement that could also serve as a premise.

That new premise might be really different from the original premise. In this problem, the original premise focused on the oxygen already in our blood. The new premise, answer (C), provided a different piece of the puzzle: we have to take oxygen in through our lungs in order to get that oxygen into the bloodstream. Either piece of information serves to support the idea that OXY is useless, but each does so in different ways.

Take-aways for “Same Function As” Role Questions:

(1) The standard task on role questions is to describe the role of the statement given in the argument.

(2) You might see a variation on this standard task: you may be asked to find a new statement that plays the same role as the original.

(3) This new statement may discuss a different aspect of the argument. That’s perfectly all right as long as the statement overall plays the same role as the original boldface statement.

* GMATPrep® questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

How Would You Do On A Breaking Bad GMAT?


gmat breaking bad test

In honor of the final season of Breaking Bad, we decided to put together our ultimate Breaking Bad GMAT quiz. Those of you who fall in the overlapping section of the “Breaking Bad Fan” “GMAT student” Venn diagram should test your skills below… yo!

1. Data Sufficiency

Does x+4 = Walter White?

(1) x+4 is the danger
(2) x+4 is the one who knocks

A. Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) ALONE is not sufficient
B. Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) ALONE is not sufficient
C. BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient
D. EACH statement ALONE is sufficient
E. Statement (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data are needed

2. Discrete Quant

walter white's roof pizza
The front portion of Walter White’s Roof is a 7 ‘ by 15’ rectangle. If the diameter of a pizza is 22”, what is the approximate area of the shaded region of this diagram?

A. 13,600 inches sq.
B. 14,740 inches sq.
C. 15,120 inches sq.
D. 15,500 inches sq.
E. 16,640 inches sq.

3. Critical Reasoning

Today, Walter White will cook 100 pounds of methamphetamine.

This argument is flawed primarily because:

A. Cooking methamphetamine presents a moral dilemma for Walter White.
B. Walter White has to prioritize the needs of his wife and children and be a better father.
C. Walter has already paid for his cancer treatment and no longer needs to cook methamphetamine.
D. There is a fly in the laboratory.
E. He was told not to cook that day and is obeying his instructions.

4. Critical Reasoning

Hank’s collection of rocks includes over 400 different items. Hank’s rock collection is clearly the most impressive in New Mexico.

This argument is flawed primarily because:

A. Rock collections are not judged by the total number of rocks but by the rarity of each item included.
B. Rock collections are not impressive to anyone.
C. Hank’s rock collection is a metaphor and therefore cannot be judged against other rock collections.
D. Hank’s wife stole most of the rocks and it is therefore ineligible for any superlatives.
E. They aren’t rocks, they are minerals.

5. Discrete Quant

Walter Junior eats 3 eggs for breakfast every morning. Given that Walter Junior never misses breakfast, how many eggs does Walter Junior consume in March?

A. 60
B. 74
C. 82
D. 93
E. 107


Answers are after the jump…

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Analyzing a Critical Reasoning Boldface Question


gmat critical reasoning boldfaceRecently, we published the Master Resource List for Critical Reasoning, but I had to link to an older version of a Boldface explanation because I hadn’t yet written an article using the new process. I’m remedying that gap now. (Note: technically, these are called Describe the Role questions.)

Try this problem out! Give yourself about 2 minutes (though it’s okay to stretch to 2.5 minutes on a long one like this as long as you are making progress.)

Consumer advocate: It is generally true, at least in this state, that lawyers who advertise a specific service charge less for that service than lawyers who do not advertise. It is also true that each time restrictions on the advertising of legal services have been eliminated, the number of lawyers advertising their services has increased and legal costs to consumers have declined in consequence. However, eliminating the state requirement that legal advertisements must specify fees for specific services would almost certainly increase rather than further reduce consumers’ legal costs. Lawyers would no longer have an incentive to lower their fees when they begin advertising and if no longer required to specify fee arrangements, many lawyers who now advertise would increase their fees.

In the consumer advocate’s argument, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

(A) The first is a generalization that the consumer advocate accepts as true; the second is presented as a consequence that follows from the truth of that generalization.

(B) The first is a pattern of cause and effect that the consumer advocate argues will be repeated in the case at issue; the second acknowledges a circumstance in which that pattern would not hold.

(C) The first is a pattern of cause and effect that the consumer advocate predicts will not hold in the case at issue; the second offers a consideration in support of that prediction.

(D) The first is evidence that the consumer advocate offers in support of a certain prediction; the second is that prediction.

(E) The first acknowledges a consideration that weighs against the main position that the consumer advocate defends; the second is that position.

Step 1: Identify the Question

The argument itself contains the most common clue for a Describe the Role question: boldface font in the text. This clue doesn’t always exist but it is usually there. The question stem also signals the type by asking for the role played by the two portions in boldface.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

All right, this is a Role question. The argument will contain a conclusion, and the boldface portions will relate to the conclusion in one of three broad ways:

  1. The boldface text could be the conclusion.
  2. The boldface text could support the conclusion.
  3. The boldface text could be anything else (including neutral background), though most commonly it will be either  counter-premise or a counter-conclusion.

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The Master Resource List for Critical Reasoning


gmat critical reasoningWhich CR question type drives you crazy? Boldface? Find the Assumption? Inference?

I’ve put together what I’m calling the Master Resource List for this question type. A couple of disclaimers. First, this list includes only free resources, no paid ones. There are a lot of good resources out there that cost some money”they’re just not on this list!

Second, this list is limited to my own articles. I’m not trying to claim that only my articles are good enough to make such a list”far from it. I’m most familiar with my own articles, so that’s what I’m using. (And, okay, I will admit that I think the ManhattanGMAT CR process is the best one out there. But I’m biased. : ) )

The CR Process

Before you dive into individual question types, it’s critical to know the overall CR process. A few key notes:

  • There 4 major and 5 minor question sub-types* and each one has its own particular technique details.
  • Your job is to learn the overall process / strategy for CR as well as the techniques specific to each question sub-type.

* Every now and then, a question pops up that doesn’t quite fit one of the 9 main categories. There are exceptions to every rule in the universe.

In order to master CR, you should be able to answer the following questions about each question type:

  1. How do I recognize this question type?
  2. What kind of information should I expect to find in the argument, based on this question type? What kind of information is going to be the most important?
  3. What is the goal for this question type? What characteristics must the correct answer have?
  4. What kinds of traps will be set for me? What are the common wrong answer types for this question type?