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GMAT Critical Reasoning


A second question-type is Critical Reasoning. You'll be asked to understand, analyze and manipulate a text-based logical argument. Typical questions ask you to identify: an argument's conclusion and evidence, an assumption made by the author, an addition to the argument that would either strengthen it or weaken it, or even an additional statement that can be inferred from the argument. The level of English is advanced, so expect plenty of tough vocabulary, be it in the opening text (the "stimulus"), the assigned task (the "question stem") or the answer choices. The correct answer is the one that best fulfils the task presented in the question stem. Think of Critical Reasoning as the verbal analogue to Data Sufficiency. Both test your reasoning and judgment.

A sample critical reasoning question looks like this.

Some advisors to the American President urge that next year's Federal budget include sizable provision for foreign aid to the Asian countries worst hit by the economic crisis. A number of American senators, however, have vowed to vote down this measure saying a large influx of American funds will only encourage a rebirth of the corruption between Asian governments and big business that was, according to many economists, a primary cause of the crisis in these countries.

Which of the following most weakens the senators' argument?

A. The aid will economically and politically strengthen those worst hit by the crisis, laborers and the emerging middle classes, who are uniformly opposed to corruption between government and big business.

B. Some economists believe that corruption was but one of many causes of the Asian economic crisis.

C. Many international organizations have claimed there is an alarming risk of famine and political instability in the worst hit countries.

D. Much of the foreign aid sent to these countries in the 1970's was secretly funneled to corporations with close personal ties to the government to support large-scale business development.

E. The current high value of the dollar compared to the crisis countries' currencies will increase the relative value of American-provided foreign aid.

Tips: Read first, identify your boundaries second, and only then reason!

Remember our discussion of subject "boundaries" in the AWA section above? Both Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension constantly ask test-takers to locate and respect the boundaries set by a text. In a Critical Reasoning question, the very first boundary is the question stem itself:

Which of the following most weakens the senators' argument?

Well, what's the senators' argument? Since we want to weaken their argument, the correct answer choice must attach the senators' reasoning. Which answer choices discuss corruption? Cancel those that don't.

Neither C nor E.

Of the remaining choices, only one will weaken the senators' argument. The others must either strengthen it or remain neutral. Let's look at the first:

A. The aid will economically and politically strengthen those worst hit by the crisis, laborers and the emerging middle classes, who are uniformly opposed to corruption between government and big business.

If the aid helps people opposed to corruption, then the senators are wrong. You needn't go further. This is the right answer.




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