By Clipper Ledgard
Most critical reasoning questions in the GMAT deal with arguments, a series of statements that lead to a conclusion. We use arguments to prove or rebut a claim; we want to persuade others that a statement, a plan, or a proposal is reasonable; we may also want to argue that a statement, a plan, or a proposal is unreasonable. In order to effectively argue for or against something, it must be very clear what our claim is. This clarity about the conclusion is also necessary to solve Critical Reasoning questions.
The most common question type in Critical Reasoning is a weaken question. In this type of argument, we must find a counter premise, that is, a premise that goes against the argument; therefore, it weakens the conclusion. However, how can we know whether the statement weakens the conclusion if we are not clear about what the conclusion is? Conversely, in support questions we must find a premise that goes for the argument: Applying the same reasoning as weaken question, we can ask how can we know whether the statement supports the conclusion without recognizing the conclusion?
We can reason similarly for other question types. We must clearly understand the conclusion in order to find the assumption or the flaw in the argument; likewise, we must know the conclusion to evaluate the validity of the argument. It is also essential to understand the conclusion in structure question types, such as reasoning and boldface questions.
Some Critical Reasoning questions, such as inference questions, may not have conclusions. In this case they are not arguments. Nevertheless, to solve these questions we must deduct something and, thus, conclude something.
The most common wrong choices in Critical Reasoning are Out of Scope and Irrelevant answers. For example, a Support Question may conclude that the most efficient medicine for an ailment is a new pill. An Out of Scope answer may show that the price of the pill is low or that it is easily available. These answers my support the use of the pill, but do not support the conclusion that the pill is the most efficient medicine.
Failing to identify the conclusion or misinterpreting it is one of the most common problems that GMAT students have. However, we can use some strategies to identify the conclusion: the THEREFORE test is one. Yet, to avoid misinterpretation, practicing and drilling is a must.