GMAT Tip: Critical Reasoning

GMAT Tip: Critical Reasoning
A GMAT tip from Magoosh's Mike McGarry explains how to tackle the GMAT's "critical reasoning" questions quickly and efficiently
Photograph by Brian Finke/Gallery Stock

The GMAT Tip of the Week is a weekly column that includes advice on taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, which is required for admission to most business schools. Every week an instructor from a top test-prep company will share suggestions for improving your GMAT score. This week’s tip comes from Mike McGarry, lead GMAT content creator at Magoosh.

To dispatch the GMAT’s critical reasoning questions with lightning efficiency, the first step is to attack the question in reverse: Even though the question follows the argument, read the question first. Know which type of question you are going to have to answer and then read the argument with that question in mind. The eight broad types of GMAT critical reasoning questions are:

1) Find the assumption

2) Strengthen the argument

3) Weaken the argument

4) Draw inference/conclusion

5) Identify the flaw in the argument

6) Identify the structure of the argument

7) Evaluate the conclusion

8) Find the paradox

Each critical reasoning question (the first four types account for about 75 percent) gives one correct answer and four tempting—and potentially perplexing—statements for the other choices. Folks who read the argument and question and then jump aimlessly into the answer choices without further thought are asking to be confused. Chances are, they’ll spend much longer than necessary on many of the questions.

Go into the question with an idea of what you seek. For types one to three, the best thing to do is find the assumption of the argument; reaffirming or undercutting the assumption of an argument is the most powerful way to strengthen or weaken it. Finding the assumption may also be helpful in finding the flaw of the argument (if the flaw is a faulty assumption).

For the other question types,  formulating the task in your own words will help you. In your own words, what is the structure of the argument? What is the paradox that needs to be resolved? What kind of information would be required to evaluate the conclusion? The clearer you can be on what type of information or argument will satisfy the question, the quicker you will be in finding it.

Master these strategies and you will find you can handle GMAT critical reasoning questions much faster and more accurately.

Mike McGarry scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT. He is an expert in standardized test preparation, and has been a teacher for over 20 years. McGarry earned both a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in comparative religion from Harvard University.

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