Critical Reasoning Strategies
- October 18, 2016
- Posted by: gmatdudes
- Category: Strategies and Tips
By Elias Latour
What’s the best strategy to solve a GMAT Critical Reasoning question? In this brief article, I will highlight the most efficient method to solve a difficult question. First, try to solve the following question(you have 2 minutes):
Zimbarb University once had one of the most beautiful campuses around. Recently, however, our campus is often covered in trash. We plan to reduce the amount of trash on campus by putting new trash cans everywhere we have seen a lot of trash.
Which of the following, if true, most strongly suggests that the plan will fail to reach its goal?
- A. More trash cans will be expensive.
- B. Providing students with recycling bins will aid the environment.
- C. Hiring someone to clean up the trash will be more effective.
- D. The senior quad, which has the least amount of trash, also has the greatest number of trash cans.
- E. Most of the trash thrown on the ground is done by newer students who are angry at the administration’s current admissions policy.
This argument contains many of the traps often put into questions to make the problem more difficult. By approaching it in a systematic way, we can reduce the chances that we will fall into one of these traps.
Our first step is to always read the question first. There are three main reasons for doing so. First, if we have a specific task in mind, we will stay focused on what we are reading. Many non-native speakers of English have difficulty staying focused on texts written in English. Second, the question stem tells us exactly what we need to do with the text in question. If, for example, the question asks us to draw an inference, we know that it is a waste of time to look for a conclusion. Finally, the question itself often tells us what the conclusion of the argument is or gives us valuable hints. If, for example, the question says, “Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the scientist’s hypothesis?” then we know that the conclusion of the argument is the scientist’s hypothesis.
Our question contains the phrase: the plan will fail. Thus, it will not be necessary to go looking for a conclusion in the text in question. Our task is to identify the objective of the plan and the plan itself. The objective is usually given first, followed by the word by, and then the plan. In this case the stimulus says, “…reduce the amount of trash on campus by putting new trash cans everywhere we have seen a lot of trash.” We must select the answer choice that most strongly suggests that the plan will fail.
Our answer choices contain many of the common wrong answers that test writers include to lead us astray. The first choice mentions money. If the plan is expensive, will it fail? No. The second mentions morality. If recycling is better for the environment, will our plan fail? No. The third choice is the better plan. If a better plan exists, will our plan fail? No. The fourth choice is the opposite answer. If this option is true, then our plan is more likely to succeed than fail. Finally, we have the best answer. Our plan assumes that students generally want to keep the campus clean but cannot do so because of a lack of available trash cans. The last answer directly attacks this assumption and is the best way to weaken the argument.
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Have a wonderful day!