GMAT: Target Test Prep Must Know (Critical Reasoning)

1.5 The Conclusion

The conclusion of the argument is the sentence that states the argument's point of view. An author's conclusion is always a statement of opinion. In other words, whenever an author sets forth a conclusion, she's presenting what she believes to be true.Conclusions come in the form of ideas, viewpoints, recommendations, suggestions, and plans of actions, to name a few.

1.5 Common Conclusion Keywords


1.6 Evidence or Premises

Evidence or premises are facts (never opinions) that support the conclusion and are used to build the argument.i.e. statistics, observations, results of scientific studies, etc.

1.7 Background Information

An author presents us with background information to "get us up to speed" on anything we may need to know in order to effectively understand the argument.

1.8 Assumptions

An assumption is an unstated piece of information that must be true if the logic of the argument is to work.

1.9 Some Essential Words to Understand

A few" = not many, but more than one"Several" = three or more but not many"Some" = more than one, but possibly all"Many" = a larger number of - "many" is a version of "some"- "many" is not necessarily "most""Most" = more than 50 percent"A majority" = more than 50 percent"A minority" = less than 50 percent"Solely" = "only" (i.e. "John is solely responsible." = "Only John is responsible.")"At least one" = one or more "Exclusively" = "only" (i.e. "Bats are exclusively nocturnal." = "Bats are only nocturnal.")"Uniquely" = in a way connected to one person or thing (i.e. "The facility is uniquely equipped to recycle such materials." = "Only that facility is uniquely equipped in that way to recycle such materials.")"Always" = all (i.e. "Radiation leaks are always dangerous." = "All radiation leaks are dangerous." ; "Martha is always late." = "On all occasions, Martha is late.")

2.6.2 Assumption Correct Answer Type 2: States An Assumption That Must Be True In Order for A Cause-And-Effect Conclusion to Be Correct

When an author makes a cause-and-effect claim, she assumes that her cause-and-effect claim is correct; she assumes that there could not be an alternative explanation for the observed events.

2.6.6 Assumption Correct Answer Type 6: Highlights An Assumption That A Change Occurring Over Time Does Not Render The Conclusion Valid

When an author uses data from one time period to support a conclusion about a different time period, she assumes that the data can actually be used to support her conclusion. That is, she assumes that things have not changed or will not change over time in a way that would invalidate her conclusion.

2.9 The Negation Technique

Because an assumption is a piece of missing information that MUST BE true for the logic of an argument to work, if we were to find an assumption upon which an argument depends to be false, the argument could no longer work.If we want to tell whether something is necessary, then try getting rid of it. If the argument falls apart in its absence, that thing was necessary for the argument to be sound.

2.9 The Negation Technique: Four-Step Approach

1. Break down the Argument2. Write down the negation of each answer, i.e.:- Negate the main verb (i.e. x causes y --> x does not cause y)- Negate a quantity word (i.e. all apples are red --> not all apples are red)- Get rid of a "not" (i.e. x is not required --> x is required)- Simply put "it is not the case that" before the statement)3. Eliminate choices that do not hurt the conclusion when negated4. Choose the answer that most specifically hurts the Argument

2.11.5 Assumption Incorrect Answer Type 5: Mentions A Better, Or Alternative, Plan

Concluding that a plan will work does not require assuming that here is not a better or alternative plan. A plan does not have to be the best possible plan or only possible plan in order for it to work.

3.4 Strategy for Weaken the Argument Questions

1. Carefully read and understand the passage.2. Read the question stem and identify what it is asking you to do3. Go back to the passage and determine exactly what the conclusion of the argument is.4. Identify how the conclusion is supported.5. Go through the answer choices one by one, seeking to remove "strengtheners" and choices that do not affect the argument- usually in a Weaken question, there are only two reasonably "good" answer choices (other either strengthen, or have no impact to the argument).6. Choose the answer choice with the clearest weakening impact.

3.5 Weaken Does Not Mean Destroy

Often, the correct answer to a Weaken the Argument question will not totally destroy the argument but instead weaken it in a subtle yet important way.Casting even a small amount of doubt onto an argument's conclusion is enough to weaken it.To weaken an argument, all we must do is cast a reasonable amount of doubt that the argument is sound.

3.6 New Topics in Weaken Question Answer Choices

In answering a Weaken the Argument question, do not discount an answer choice just because it brings up a new topic.Test-takers using that strategy often eliminate the correct answer first! Because the correct answer is often the one that looks most different from the information that makes up the argument.

3.7.1 Weakening Answer Type 1: Exposes a False Dichotomy By Offering a Third Alternative

Don't get caught in an either/or mindset. If the conclusion in a weaken question is based on a choice between two alternatives, the correct answer to the question could weaken the argument by indicating that a third alternative exists.

3.7.2 Weakening Answer Type 2: An Answer That Calls into Question A Cause-And-Effect Conclusion

To weaken such reasoning, we can provide the following types of alternative reasons for the existence of correlation:1. A casual relationship exists but it is the reverse of what is stated in the argument (X causes Y rather than Y causes X)2. A third factor causes both the given factors in the argument, but there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the two variables (Z causes both X and Y).3. The correlation could be a mere coincidence, and there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the variables

3.7.3 Weakening Answer Type 3: Shows That a Generalization That Supports an Argument is Faulty

In order for a conclusion based on characteristics of a sample to be well supported, we must have a "representative sample." In other words, the sample must have characteristics that are the same as (or similar enough to) the characteristics of the overall population.If the sample is not representative of the population, then observations made about the sample may not be applicable to the population.

3.7.6 Weakening Answer Type 6: Brings Up New Information That Indicates That a Plan Won't Work

The answers indicating that plans will not achieve the desired or expected results tend to fall into the following categories:1. The plan addresses one factor in a situation, but the correct answer indicates that there is another factor that the plan does not address.2. The correct answer indicates that the method that the plan uses to solve a problem makes the problem worse in another way.3. The argument concludes that the plan will work because a similar plan has worked before, but the correct answer shows that the plan will not work because the current situation is different from the situation existing when the plan was used previously.4. The correct answer shows that the logic underlying the expectation that the plan will work misses a key aspect of a how a situation works.

4.6 Provide A Premise to Support Or Add Support For the Conclusion

An effective way for an answer choice to strengthen the argument is to provide a premise, which will either provide the only support for the conclusion or provide further support for the conclusion alongside existing premises.It is not necessary for the premise provided by the correct answer to prove that the conclusion is definitely correct; rather the support provided by the answer choice just has to make the conclusion most likely to be true.

4.9 Rule Out An Alternate Cause of an Effect

Whenever an author makes a cause-and-effect claim, he assumes that there cannot be an alternative explanation for the effect observed. In other words, he assumes that his cause-and-effect claim is completely true.When an argument uses cause-and-effect reasoning, by eliminating even one credible alternative cause for the observed effect, we can strengthen the support for the conclusion.

4.16 Strengthen Incorrect Choice Type 4: Explains a Part of the Stimulus

The premises in Critical Reasoning arguments are considered factual. In other words, the premises are facts. Since there is no way to strengthen a fact, there is no way to strengthen a premise.When answering a Strengthen question, we must make sure that we don't get tricked into choosing a choice that explains part of the passage rather than supports the conclusion of the argument.

5.3 Important Resolve the Paradox Keywords

In Resolve the Paradox questions, EVERY word matters.Watch out for these words that indicate contrast:- Yet- But- Paradoxically- Unusually- However- Despite- Unlike- Even though- Though- Although- Instead- Rather- Surprisingly

4.7 Strategy for Answering Resolve the Paradox Questions

1. Carefully Read and Completely Understand the Passage2. Identify the Question Type/What You Have to do in order to answer the question3. Bullet-point the Paradoxical facts4. Rephrase the Paradox as a Question- How can it be the case that (Fact 1), even though (Fact 2)?5. Analyze the Answer Choices- For each choice, ask yourself: does this choice explain how it can be the case that Fact 1 is true even though Fact 2 is true?

5.8.1 Paradox Incorrect Choice Type 1: A Choice That Explains the Wrong Thing

Beware of choices that explain things other than how the two facts that make up the paradox can coexist.An answer to a Paradox question will be correct only if it explains how the two facts can be true simultaneously.

5.8.3 Paradox Incorrect Choice Type 3: A Choice That Makes the Situation More Paradoxical

When answering a Paradox question, be careful not to choose an answer that actually augments, rather than resolves, the paradox.

5.8.2 Paradox Incorrect Choice Type 4: An Option That Seems to Contradict One of the Two Facts

We never resolve the paradox by challenging one of the facts stated in the stimulus. We accept the facts stated in the passage as true, and then our job is to figure out a way to allow the two facts to coexist.

5.8.3 Paradox Incorrect Choice Type 5: A Answer That Introduces Completely Irrelevant Information

To avoid choosing a Paradox question answer that introduces completely irrelevant information, carefully consider whether the way in which you are connecting a choice to the paradox really makes sense in light of what has been presented in the stimulus and in light of what goes on in the real world.

6.4.3 Find a Third Variable That Causes Both of the Observed Events

We can weaken a cause-and-effect argument by showing that there is a common cause for the two variables in question, rather than a direct cause-and-effect link between the two variables in question.

6.4.4 Show That The Effect Does Not Occur When The Supposed Event Occurs

When dealing with a cause-and-effect argument, showing that the supposed cause occurs without the effect's occurring will weaken the argument. After all, if there is a cause-and-effect relationship at play, when we see the cause, we should also see the effect.

6.4.5 Show That The Effect Occurs Even When The Supposed Cause Does Not Occur

We can weaken the support for such a conclusion by showing that the effect happens even when the supposed cause does not.

6.5.3 Strengthening A Cause-And-Effect Argument By Showing That, When the Cause Is Not Present, the Effect Does Not Occur

An argument with a cause-and-effect conclusion can be strengthened by an answer choice that shows that, when the cause is not present, the effect does not occur.

7.1 Introduction to Inference Questions

The correct answer to an Inference question is a conclusion that is fully supported by the facts given, and thus, must be true.If, given the facts presented in the stimulus, an answer could be true sometimes but not true at other times, that option is not the correct answer to an Inference question.Correctly answering an Inference question requires noting exactly what the statements in the stimulus say and do not say.

7.2 Basic Guidelines for Correctly Answering Inference Questions (Never Bring in Outside information or Knowledge)

Do not bring in any outside information. Do not fall for answer options that state facts that are true in the real world but are not inferences supported by the facts provided in the stimulus.

7.2 Basic Guidelines for Correctly Answering Inference Questions (An Inference Need Not Summarize the Passage or Provide a Main Conclusion to an Argument)

Given an argument, an inference is simply any conclusion that can be properly drawn from the set of facts that make up that argument.

7.4 Inference Question Strategy

1. Carefully Read and Completely Understand the Passage: Misreading a single word in the stimulus can significantly change the implications of what is said. Thus, we MUST pay extremely close attention as we read as not to misinterpret what is being expressed.2. Identify the question type (what type of information is the question asking for)?3. Carefully Analyze the Facts- Read each sentence slowly, and then define the effect of each sentence, using symbols and abbreviations on your dry erase pad- Don't over generalize and miss key words such as every, only, none, few, a lot, etc- Inference question stimuli typically don't contain conclusions. Don't spend your time searching for them.4. Eliminate "Sometimes True," "Could Be True," and "Definitely Not True" Options- If something MUST BE TRUE, then it must be true under ALL circumstances- Something that is possibly true (but likewise possibly false) cannot be the correct answer to an Inference question.- The fact that an answer choice does not conflict with the information in the passage does not make it correct5. Select the Choice That MUST Be True

7.5.2 An Answer That Presents Information From the Stimulus in a Distorted Fashion

Look out for answers that present information from the original argument in a distorted fashion. It only takes a small change to render incorrect an otherwise correct answer. Remember, "almost correct" is "completely wrong."Tip: the correct answer will sometimes use DIFFERENT words to discuss the SAME ideas that are in the passage. Trap answers, in the other hand, will us the SAME words to discuss ideas that are DIFFERENT from those in the stimulus.

7.5.3 An Answer That Is Out of Proportion to the Information That is Presented in the Stimulus (Key Terms to Know)

Some" = one or more"Most" = more than half"Not guaranteed" = a probability of less than 100 percent"Unlikely" = a probability of less than 50 percent"Sufficient" = enough"Necessary" = required

7.5.3 An Answer That Is Out of Proportion to the Information That is Presented in the Stimulus (Changes in tense)

When answering Inference questions, pay close attention to changes in tense, which will often make the answer out of proportion to the information in the original paragraph.

7.6.1 Answers That Are Conclusions Based on the Entirety Of What is Said in the Passage

In some cases, the correct answers to Inference questions are supported by the entirety of what is said in the passages.Often, what is conveyed by the statements in the passage in an Inference question adds up logically to a conclusion, which can be proven to be tru only if information from most or all of the statements in the passage is used.

7.6.4 Answers That Are Supported By Mathematical Information Located in Small Portions Of Passages

When looking for the correct answer to an Inference question involving numerical information, be sure to be open to choosing any choice, not just the ones that seem to be based on all the information presented by the passage.

7.7 "Except" Inference Questions

In EXCEPT or NOT Inference questions, the correct answer will be the one that must be false or could be true. The four incorrect answers all must be true.