Gmat Critical Reasoning – How to improve

To many, Gmat critical reasoning is the hardest section to improve, especially with little time left to prepare.

Unlike quant and sentence correction, critical reasoning does not have a set of rules or syllabus you should learn. However, you can improve your performance if you are more process oriented.

You should:

  1. Understand the main structures of questions on the critical reading section.
  2. Follow a process. If you are process oriented you will succeed on the gmat.

Structures of questions

There are two main question structures on the critical reasoning section.

Gmat critical reasoning

If you develop a good process, you waste less time answering questions. In addition, you are less likely to make careless mistakes, especially when you are tired and under pressure. Remember that the verbal section is the last section on the Gmat and fatigue will quick in.

Gmat critical reasoning process

  1. If the stimulus is an argument, identify the conclusion. This is a crucial step. If you do not identify the conclusion you cannot determine the correct answer. This is the most important step. Do not omit this step.
  2. Read the question and understand exactly what is being asked. Are you required to strengthen or weaken the argument? Pay close attention and don’t look for the opposite of what is required.
  3. Read the answer choices and eliminate the ones that are out of scope.
  4. Review the answer choices and eliminate the ones that do not directly address the relationship between the premise and conclusion.
  5. If you have two answer choices left, pay attention to the little details. Choose the answer that creates the desired effect.

Consider an example from the Official Guide 2013 – Q67.

First, we classify the stimulus as an argument. Then, we follow the process:

  1. Identify the conclusion: The author claims that less fossil fuels are used in the operations of certain industries as a result of a partial switch to new technology.
  2. Read the question carefully: which statement strengthens the argument?
  3. Answer option (A): First, unless we know anything about the efficiency of the new technology, we cannot really know whether more or less fossil fuels are being used. Second, this does not directly address the relationship between “New technology / Lower fossil fuel use”.
    Answer option (B): How much energy required to manufacture the equipment is irrelevant. We care about the operations now.
  4. Answer option (C): This is what we expect, but it does not address the relationship “New technology / Lower fossil fuel use”. So this is out.
    Answer option (D): There is no new information that compares the amount of fossil fuel used by the new technology and the older technology. Only that fossil fuels are still the primary source of power. If anything, this slightly weakens the argument. So this option is out.
  5. We only have one answer choice left. This is an ideal situation which will not always occur. So lets analyze this choice:
    This answer choice directly addresses the relationship “New technology/Lower fossil fuel use” by stating that the new technology requires less fossil fuel than would have been by the old technology. Hence, the correct answer is (E).

Many gmat critical reasoning questions will not be so straightforward. Perhaps it seems straightforward now because we followed a process though. Difficult questions usually have two attractive answer choices left after you eliminate irrelevant ones. Of course, difficult is a relative term. The more you practice this strategy and pay attention to the little details, the more obvious the answers become. With enough preparation, you can reach a level in which every question will have one clear answer. The key is to be process oriented and focused.


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