GMAT Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning(CR)  is one of the most dreaded sections of the GMAT exam. But as many as 13 questions of the Verbal section of GMAT are drawn from this section. Hence you can ill afford to overlook this section.  Fortunately,  there is no need for you to do so. For some question types there are a handful of basics you need to know and for others there are none.

The most important but easy skill set you need to cultivate within yourself is the ability to remember conclusion and the underlying facts of a given argument by reading it once. Having said this, don’t expect yourself to do so from the day one of your preparation. This can happen only if you have consistently worked with  CR questions over a period of time.

Let us start the discussion of Critical Reasoning by delving upfront into the question,”What is an Argument?” In our day to day life a single statement made by a person can be taken as an argument by the listener of the statement but when it comes to GMAT a single statement can never be an argument. An argument of GMAT, in its simplest form, consists of a conclusion preceded by a few facts that form the basis of the conclusion. But you should not try to find a conclusion in every argument that you encounter in the CR section of GMAT. Presence or absence of a conclusion depends on the nature of the argument you are dealing with at any given point of time. Oftentimes, you will find two facts which are contradictory to each other and you are asked to resolve the contradiction.

But right now, we will limit our discussion to arguments which have the conclusion(s). Many a time it is easy to identify the conclusion of the argument on account of the fact that the conclusions are preceded by Indicator words such as Therefore, Hence, Thus, Consequently, Finally etc. This typically happens when the author chooses to end his argument with a conclusion. But there are times when the author chooses to place the conclusion at the very beginning. In such cases, He will try to justify his conclusion by putting forth reasons for the same. These reasons in turn will be preceded by words such as since, because, for that reason, for etc. These words in GMAT lingo are known as premise Indicators.

Now the questions that arise are what if an argument is devoid of any type of Conclusion and Premise Indicators ? and  How to recognize the conclusion and premise of such an argument? The premise and conclusion of such an argument can be recognized by utilizing a highly dependable (but not infallible) tool known as, “The Why test”. I will explain the application of this test with the help of an example. Look at the following argument.

A conservation group in the United States is trying to change the long-standing image of bats as frightening creatures. The group contends that bats are feared and persecuted solely because they are shy animals that are active only at night.

Now, Let us catch hold of the very first statement of this argument and put a “ Why” before it to find out its role in the argument.

Why a conservation group in the United States is trying to change the long-standing image of bats as frightening creatures?  Now tell me Can you answer this question by utilizing the information present in the argument?  The answer is a clear, “No”. So, the statement of the argument that we were working with is nothing else but a premise of the argument. Now we need to be a bit wiser here and we need to break the second statement into two parts. The first part will be Bats are feared and persecuted and the second part will be They are shy animals that are active only at night. Now let us conduct the why test for the first part by placing a why before it. So the resultant statement will be, “ Why Bats are feared and persecuted ?”?  Now tell me Can you answer this question by utilizing the information present in the argument?  The answer is a clear, “Yes”. So this is the conclusion of the argument.  I want to conclude this article not before highlighting the fact that

If the answer for, “ The Why test” is Yes. Then, the statement you are working with is the conclusion of the argument. And If the answer for, “ The Why test” is No. Then, the statement you are working with is the Premise of the argument.

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