GMAT Tip: Avoiding a Common Critical Reasoning Trap

This tip on improving your GMAT score was provided by Brian Galvin at Veritas Prep.

So let’s say your goal is to become better at the GMAT’s critical reasoning questions, so you plan to study LSAT logical reasoning questions to get there. Would the following statement weaken your plan?

(A) The best way to improve critical reasoning is to become an expert on plan/strategy questions.

The answer is “no,” and although that premise is probably flawed, too, it’s important to become adept at those plan/strategy questions. So we’ll use this question as our platform for doing so. If you answered “yes,” you committed the most common mistake that people make on plan/strategy questions:

The existence of a better plan does not weaken the plan.

Plan/strategy questions that ask you to find flaws in a plan like to use this kind of answer as a trap. But they almost always phrase the question in a way such as:

“Which of the following best exemplifies a flaw in the congressman’s plan?”


“Which of the following supplies a reason to believe that the plan will not meet its objective?”

These questions are precise—they want you to find a reason that the current plan will not achieve its goal. Whether a better plan exists or not is irrelevant—the only way to expose a flaw in this particular plan is to show a reason why it will not work. For our initial “question,” the following could be a correct answer:

(B) Most LSAT logical reasoning questions rely on a knowledge of formal logic, which is counterproductive to most GMAT critical reasoning questions.

This answer would show a flaw in your plan—studying LSAT questions might actually work against your goal of a higher GMAT score. Why is this one preferable to the original? Because it stays within this plan and shows that this plan may not work.

So be careful with plan/strategy questions. While your natural inclination to pick the best plan is certainly valid in life, these questions force you to deal with the existing plan. Remember: The existence of a better plan does not weaken the current plan on critical reasoning questions.

Brian Galvin has studied the GMAT full time since 2006 as the director of academic programs for Veritas Prep. He received a Masters in Education from the University of Michigan and is the proud owner of a 99th percentile GMAT score.

For more GMAT advice from Veritas Prep, watch “GMAT Tip: Avoid the Most Common Trap Answer in Critical Reasoning”

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