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Understanding GMAT Critical Reasoning Strategies

The Verbal Reasoning Section of the GMAT consists of 3 question types: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. In this article, we’ll be discussing the methodology necessary to address critical reasoning questions. Generally speaking, these kinds of questions are formatted as a set of facts followed by a conclusion. Designed to measure your logical thinking ability, CR questions require that you assess an argument’s premises to either strengthen or weaken it. To help you master this process, we’ll cover the following foundational elements:

  • How to identify critical reasoning questions
  • Strategic implications of critical reasoning questions
  • Outline of the critical reasoning process

How to Identify Problem Solving Questions

In order to identify critical reasoning questions, most of the best GMAT tutors will tell you to pay attention to frequency and format. More specifically, critical reasoning questions reflect the following criteria:

  • Assumed to be the least frequent verbal question type, usually 9-13 critical reasoning questions per verbal section
  • Standalone scenario of facts to evaluate in a paragraph prompt
  • Single question task pertaining to what must be based on the explicit statements of fact provided by the prompt
  • Five choices presented to cross check against the statements of fact as either absolutely certain or absolutely impossible
  • Standalone scenario of facts supporting a subjective conclusion to evaluate in a paragraph prompt
  • Many possible question tasks involving evaluation of conclusion and its inherent assumption(s)
  • Five choices to consider as true to determine a definitive impact on argument as required by the specific question task

Strategic Implications

After identifying a critical reasoning question, we recommend that you adhere to the following strategic measures:

  • Approximately 2:00 per question average for verbal | Approximately 3:00 per question for integrated reasoning
  • Maximum 3:00 for verbal | Maximum 4:00 for integrated reasoning
  • Minimize to a single reread before eliminating and guessing to save time
  • Primary type to skip proactively if you are behind pace in the verbal or IR sections

Sample Inference Critical Reasoning

Here’s an example of a critical reasoning problem:

Several brown foxes have been seen outside of Haye’s chicken farm. Dogs have been proven by farmers to deter foxes from stealing chickens.

Which of the following is best supported by the statements above?

  1. Every farmer should have a dog.
  2. Dogs hate foxes.
  3. Haye’s chickens could benefit from a dog on site.
  4. All foxes steal chickens.
  5. Haye would make more money by raising cattle instead of chickens.

Summary of How to Solve GMAT Critical Reasoning Problems

Take a moment to try and solve the problem above by moving through following steps:

  1. ID Question Task
    1. Skip the prompt and read the question to determine your task & question category: argument (conclusion) or inference (no conclusion)
  2. Read Prompts and Take Notes
    1. Argument Task - Read the prompt and note exact conclusion(s)
    2. Inference Task - Read the prompt and shorthand note statements of fact
  3. Prediction (Argument-Only)
    1. Broadly predict what answer will best address the argument question task - i.e. strengthen, weaken, identify flaw, identify assumption, evaluate, justify, etc.
  4. Process of Elimination
    1. Identify common wrong argument answers
      1. Reverse Impact
      2. Vague Impact
      3. Added Info Needed to Determine Impact
      4. No Impact (as True or False)
    2. Identify common wrong inference answers:
      1. Reversal of Information
      2. Extreme Inference
      3. Possible, but Not Certain

The correct answer is D.

If you adhered to the process outlined above and got the correct answer, you’re well on your way to mastering the critical reasoning questions on the GMAT. Be sure to check out our articles on other kinds of GMAT questions as well! If you are considering a GMAT tutor to help you develop a customized study plan, MyGuru can help.