Critical Reasoning Basics

Critical Reasoning questions are designed to test one’s logic and reasoning skills. The questions will be based on a given “Argument” (An argument, as used on the GMAT, is a presentation of facts and opinions in order to support a position) The arguments can come from various walks of life (sociology, philosophy, science, etc) No familiarity with the content is tested or is required, but reading the Editorials of good newspaper will help. With that let’s start GMATing the CR!

THE JOB OF A CRITIC

  1. Familiarize yourself with the concepts tested. Make yourself aware of all the question stems.
  2. One very good way to learn about the logical patterns is to go through the AWA guide. Download it and go through the list of fallacies. It’s very very helpful. It opened my eyes to new fallacies which earlier went past by unnoticed. I have a similar list in a much easier format.
  3. Be on a lookout for assumptions & evidences on which the author relies for his conclusion. Don’t just buy his words; ask him, “hey mister!! How could you say that??”
  4. Substitute long confusing proper nouns or subject phrases for good old X’s and Y’s. It’s better to counter the questions this way.
  5. Always always make sure you have understood the explanation and content along with the logic behind. Kaplan Verbal Workbook has excellent CR. And so does Kaplan 800.

THE JARGON

I often see people starting off their CR preparation without actually knowing what are the terms used in the question. That is BAD!! Here is a compilation collected from the web which will enlighten you guys, so that you have a better understanding of what’s being asked. Cheers!

PREMISE

This is usually a required statement to arrive at a conclusion. Evidence and facts want to prove something to you whereas premises are there to logically lead you to a conclusion. The best example of premises is the ones included in syllogisms. For instance, you can say that(premise 1) when it rains, you go outside. Then, it rains(premise 2). You have to be outside(conclusion).Assumption: Unstated information which will link the argument to a logical conclusion. Without this, the argument falls apart.

CONCLUSION

An opinion/assertion/contention that the author wants to prove, using premises and assumptions. The strength of the conclusion/assertion depends on the validity of the premise.

INFERENCE

Something that might not be explicitly stated or proved. For instance, you may say that 95% of GMAT test-takers have over 340. We can reasonably infer that Anthony will get more than 340 on his GMAT based on the fact given. I think the main difference b/w an inference and a conclusion is that the former might not be the final line of an argument. For instance, there could be facts/evidence given, an inference in b/w, and then the conclusion. An inference can be an intermediate step before the conclusion which will sum up the whole passage. Also, a conclusion seems to be stronger because it is based on stronger facts/evidence. As in my previous example, we can reasonably infer that Anthony got 340+ on his GMAT but we cannot conclude that he got 340+. See the nuance?

PRINCIPLE

Something fundamental that we do not question. This would be somewhat stronger than a fact because it is not specific to a limited number of cases but instead, apply to a broader range of scenarios(and often deeper in meaning). For instance, you will not talk about the principle that crime is increasing in large cities. Instead, it is a fact which applies to large cities. However, you will talk about the principles of Physics or the fundamental principles of Human Rights. I believe principles convey a stronger connotation than mere facts.

FACT

Something taken as true at face value (stats, historical events)

EVIDENCE

What is used to support a conclusion (examples, stats, historical events). Although these may include facts, it is usually stronger than facts because they are direct elements needed for the conclusion to stand whereas facts are not necessary for the latter to stand

PRE-EVIDENCE

This is a bit of a stretch. It will not often be on the test but it seems very similar to “background” information as described below.

BACKGROUND

Elements needed to put the evidence into context but which, as stand alone pieces of information, might not constitute what is called an evidence necessary to arrive at a conclusion. For instance, blood tests performed on one thousand persons may reveal that 35% of those persons were HIV infected. However, the background information could be that the test was performed in more under informed regions of the world where AIDS knowledge is at a minimum. As you can see, the fact that the test was performed in more under informed regions is not in and of itself an evidence because it does not allow us to come to a conclusion. Instead, the 35% stats, as a stand-alone piece of info, is what will lead us to the conclusion we want. However, the background info is also crucial and cannot be omitted; it is required background info.

CONSIDERATION

Something which was taken into account or given some thought before arriving to the conclusion

STRATEGIES

  1. Read critically. Active reading is important, i.e., classifying information as premise, evidence, conclusion and so on. There is very little text and it demands extra caution.
  2. Rephrase the argument in your own simple words, even substituting phrases and proper nouns for X’s and Y’s. And try to classify the information as evidence and conclusion.
  3. Make sure you understand the content rephrasing it in your native language if it helps. A good understanding of content helps.
  4. Try to answer the question without looking at the options. This technique will not work always, but when it will, you will easily save a lot of time. If it fails, go through each option carefully.
  5. Eliminate bizarre choices which may be very subjective or very general. In sum, avoid extreme options.
  6. Never go back to an option which you already eliminated. In order to avoid this mistake, you should take the help of the grid.

Books I used for cracking Verbal

I recommend you getting the books right away. One good reason is motivation. New books help you stay motivated. I am not a big fan of xerox copies. They don’t smell good. The smell of a new book excites me and gives me another reason to start early with a zest. I get all my stuff from Amazon. (Yes it even ships books to India!) You get good deals and you can club your books to get in one shipment. Don’t think too much. I can vouch for the quality and effectiveness of the books I am recommending. Happy GMATing!!!

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