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As Hemingway did for lions on the Savannah, I have continued my hunt in GMAT Critical Reasoning problems for little mistakes in logic, the tiny tempting answer choices that could trap even the most rational of minds. I have also been consuming as much whiskey as he would have, so plese forgive any typps cos Im perty drnk rite now… Read more
Did you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.
Are you one of thousands who reads a critical reasoning argument and finds yourself completely lost? You’re not alone. To a much greater extent than the other GMAT sections, CR tests whether you think in the way the GMAT wants you to think. Let’s talk about what your mindset ought to be. Read more
Has GMAT Critical Reasoning been driving you crazy? Do you keep getting tangled up in arguments, agonizing back and forth between answers, or picking an answer confidently only to find that you fell straight into a trap? This article is here to save you. ☺️
It’s going to take some work, but if you follow these steps, you’ll see your CR performance improve significantly. Ready? Let’s do this! Read more
Here are a few benefit/drawback arguments: Read more
The GMAT Critical Reasoning question type “Explain a Discrepancy” has a very specific goal. If you know what your goal is, you’ll be much more likely to answer the question correctly. If you don’t, it can be very easy to get turned around and fall into a trap.
Try this problem from the free questions that come with the GMATPrep® software and then we’ll talk about how Discrepancy questions work! Read more
As dedicated readers of this blog may have guessed, this is a follow up to my earlier post When is it Time to Guess on Quant? Timing troubles are not, however, exclusive to the Quant section, so in this piece I’ll talk about some common scenarios that bedevil students on the Verbal section.
As with Quant, not all guesses are created equal. The earlier you decide to guess, the more likely that you will make a random guess. If, on the other hand, you’re far enough into the question that you’ve eliminated 2-3 answer choices, then you’ll be making an educated guess.
One immediate difference between guessing on Quant and Verbal is that guessing strategy is essentially identical for both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions. Each of the Verbal question types, on the other hand, has less in common. That being said, there are a lot of parallels in guessing strategy among the three types.
No matter the question, there are really three distinct stages at which it becomes a better idea to guess than to keep going. I’ll briefly describe each stage, then show how it connects to each of the Verbal question types.
Stage 1: No Clear Starting Point
As a general rule, if you haven’t really made progress on a question after 30 seconds or so, it’s usually a good idea to just make a random guess and save your energy for a question you’re more comfortable with.
Reading Comprehension Stage 1: I don’t know where in the passage to look.
The great thing about Reading Comprehension (or at least its saving grace) is that the correct answer has to have support in the passage. With the vast majority of RC questions, as long as you can find and reread the relevant portion of the passage, you can find an answer choice that will match what you read. In fact, you should be able to answer to come up with your own answer to most RC questions before you even look at the answer choices.
Many questions provide good clues as to where in the passage to look for the answer (seriously – a surprising amount of questions are very helpful in that regard). Things get much tougher when they don’t. So here’s your first big clue that it may be time to guess. If you’ve read the question, and you’ve skimmed through the passage looking for an answer, and you still don’t feel like you found what the question was asking about, it’s time to guess.
At this point, you could guess randomly, but I would recommend taking one quick pass through the answer choices. If any choice contradicts your understanding of the passage, eliminate it. After you’ve each answer once, pick from the remaining.
Sentence Correction Stage 1: I don’t understand the sentence and the underline is long.
On the Verbal section, you have to answer 41 questions in 75 minutes, which is less than 2 minutes per question. Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension are naturally time-consuming, so that time is going to have be saved largely on Sentence Correction. Remember that you only have an average of 1 minute and 20 seconds to answer these things.
If you’re struggling to even understand what the sentence is saying, then it will almost certainly take too long to properly analyze the answer choices, especially if the underline is long. No need to fight through the pain. Just take a quick scan through the answer choices and pick one that doesn’t sound immediately wrong.
Critical Reasoning Stage 1: I don’t understand what the argument is saying.
To my mind, good process on Critical Reasoning questions means being in control the whole way through the process. The worst situation to be in is one in which you’re hoping that the answer choices will help you make sense of the argument. Four out of the five answer choices are actively trying to trick you, and the GMAT has gotten pretty good at tricking people over the years. By the time you get to the answer choices, you need to understand the argument well enough to effectively evaluate each choice.
Consequently, if you’ve read the argument two or three times, and still can’t articulate to yourself the link between the premises and the conclusion, you shouldn’t waste time with the answer choices.
My 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:
• 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.