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CAT /GMAT Critical Reasoning

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You usually associate the word ‘critical’ with fault finding. However, it also means ‘characterized by careful evaluation and judgment’. Reasoning means ‘thinking that is coherent and logical’. When combined, it means to arrive at an interpretation after thinking logically.

What is the connection between Aristotle and John Venn?
The former is the founder of the type of logic called Syllogisms and the latter is the originator of the set theory.

1. Premise
2. Assumption
3. Conclusion
4. Inference
A PREMISE is that which forms the basis of an argument. It is explicitly stated in the sentence/passage. There can exist more than one premise. A series of premises will lead to a conclusion.

AN ASSUMPTION is an unstated premise. Hence, it is always implied. A valid assumption is that which takes you to the conclusion. A flawed assumption is one that is a weak cause for the resultant effect (conclusion) or one that hinges on a false analogy or non-representative statistic.

A CONCLUSION is the resting point of the argument. It is something that is explicitly stated in the passage. The common pointers to a conclusion are- hence, so, thus, therefore etc.

AN INFERENCE is the conclusion implied in the passage. It is that which you deduce one step away, not ten steps away from the passage.

Let us take an example:

The natural world- including our water and air â€"is our most vital and essential legacy. Therefore, it must be protected from those who despoil it for short-term profit. The first sentence is the premise and the last sentence is the conclusion. Assumption: Greedy humans unhesitatingly destroy the non â€" defensive natural world. Inference: The destruction of the natural world means diminishing our important inheritance.

Structure of a CR passage and the questions that follow it Let us note the length and structure of a typical CR passage. It consists of 50-80 words, carefully worded, with no redundancies. It is accompanied questions which are generally of the following types:
  • What is the assumption in the above paragraph?
    This is a favorite with examiners. When you are asked to pinpoint the assumption in a passage, underline the conclusion and then look for the implied premise that would lead you to the conclusion.
  • Supply the conclusion/identify the conclusion.
    In ‘supply the conclusion’ type, a series of premises will be presented before you. You have to locate the logical conclusion from among the given options. Nothing is implied here!
  • Strengthen the argument.
    Whenever the word ‘argument’ is used, it means the conclusion. So, strengthening the argument will imply choosing an option that supports or bolsters the conclusion.
  • Weaken the argument.
    Whenever you are asked to weaken an argument, it means going against or attacking the validity of the conclusion.
  • Which of the statements has similar reasoning?
    In parallel reasoning, the options copy the mode or reasoning employed in the question.
  • 'IF TRUE' type
    ‘If true’ means you have to temporarily consider the options as true.
  • 'What is the inference’ type
    This type of question will test your ability to deduce the conclusion implied from the data given to you.
Let us take a few examples:

Example 1:
“With the rapid invasion of our lives by the electronic media, sound engineering as a profession has an infinite scope and offers an aspirant several avenues of employment.â€

An assumption which is made in this statement is â€" the rapid advancements in the electronic media has been influential in bringing forth sound engineering as an employment option.

Example 2:
Night Shyamalan’s second movie Unbreakable which again features Bruce Willis , is slated to hit the theatres on Friday. Judging by the immense success of his first movie, The sixth Sense, which has a sterling performance by Bruce Willis, this movie is expected to do well at the box office. Which of the following weakens the argument in the passage?
  1. The Sixth Sense did not win an Academy Award in spite of its success.
  2. The Sixth Sense though a success was not appreciated by all sections of the society.
  3. Bruce Willis has had six flops in a row after The Sixth Sense.
  4. Shyamalan has been asked to write the script for Spielberg’s forthcoming movie.
  1. Read the passage carefully taking in the facts and the conclusions based on the facts. For example the facts in this passage are:
    • Night Shyamalan is directing his second movie Unbreakable after the immense success of his first movie The Sixth Sense
    • Bruce Willis has acted in both the movies.
  2. Look for the conclusion in the passage (note: there may be more than one conclusion). The conclusion in this passage is
    • Unbreakable is expected to do well at the box office.
  3. Look out for the assumptions that are taken into consideration to arrive at the conclusion. The assumptions made here are :
    • The success of Unbreakable is primarily being based on the huge success of Night Shyamalan’s First movie The Sixth Sense
    • The success of Unbreakable is being based on the excellent performance of Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense

The entire process not take you long, though on paper it appears to be so. However, it prepares you to tackle any question that is asked of you Look at the question now -“Which of the following weakens the given condition?â€
Let us now look at the options one by one.
  • [1], does not weaken the conclusion as we are not concerned whether The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable win Academy Awards or not , as a movie may be a disaster at the box office and yet win an Academy Award.
  • [2], Here again we are not concerned whether it appealed to every section of the society or not but how well it has done at the box office.
  • [3], If Bruce Willis has had six flops in a row, movie-goers will be wary of watching another Movie which stars the same actor. Therefore [3] weakens the conclusion.
  • [4], If Night Shyamalan is writing a script for Spielberg’s movie, Shyamalan’s movie will get a further fillip, for Spielberg is an ace director, this therefore strengthens the conclusion rather than weakening it.
Example 3:
Sindhudurg is serene beach resort some 400 kilometres off Mumbai. There is no direct transportation to Sindhudurg. The nearest railway station to sindhudurg is a 3 hour bumpy ride in an auto rickshaw or a tempo. You can stay in the shanties which provide minimal amenities, however the experience of peace and bliss will make you go back to the place, The welcome Group of hotels is planning to build a couple of resorts along the beach with regular bus services to the nearest railway station. They are advertising it as “Come experience the bliss of paradise in sindhudurg, Heaven on Earthâ€. Sindhudurg will soon cease to be the perfect haven as tourists and vacationers start pouring in making it just another beach resort. Which of the following is an assumption made in the passage?
  1. Sindhudurg may soon become just another vacation spot with droves of tourists visiting the place.
  2. Sindhudurg has so far not gained publicly for lack of proper transportation.
  3. The Welcome Group of hotels will attract enough tourists to make sindhudurg a crowded place.
  4. The Welcome Group of hotels is going to rob the livelihood of the owners of the shanties.
  1. The facts in this passage are:
    • Sindhudurg is a serene beach resort some distance away from Mumbai.
    • The transportation and the lodging facilities in sindhudurg are minimal.
    • The Welcome Group of hotels is giving Sindhudurg some publicity by opening a chain of hotels there.
  2. The conclusion that is drawn from the passage is :
    • Sindhudurg will soon become like any other crowded beach resort with the publicity it is getting by the Welcome Group of Hotels.
  3. Now read the question that is asked of you â€" “Which of the following is an assumption in the passage?â€
Note that usually the assumption is something on which the conclusion is based. Now look at the options one by one:
  1. [1] is but a restatement of the conclusion that is drawn and therefore cannot be an assumption.
  2. [2], Note that nowhere it is suggested that it is the lack of transportation that has been the primary factor behind Sindhudurg not being frequented by visitors.
  3. [3], is the correct answer. The conclusion is drawn on the basis of the assumption that once the Welcome Group opens a chain in Sindhudurg and gives publicity to the place, it will fetch enough visitors to make the place just another crowded beach.
  4. [4], is just a red herring to distract you, at no point does the drift of the passage suggest anything about the shanty owners losing their livelihood.

Ask The Experts

  1. CRYOGEN saidFri, 27 Mar 2009 18:20:11 -0000 ( Link )

    Thanks for info..Listing down the premises, assumption/s can be clearly known..this way close options can be eliminated.

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  2. vijendra11 saidSun, 03 May 2009 04:15:30 -0000 ( Link )

    A very good illustration of critical readoning ith good suportive example. If some one solve some more example then it will be easy task of CR

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  3. Sureshbala saidWed, 06 May 2009 08:17:50 -0000 ( Link )

    Dear Vijendra11,

    Here are the links to the other resources on Critical Reasoning

    CR Lessons

    CR Tests

    In addition to this also go through the discussions in the *GMAT prep community where some really good CR question were discussed.

    Hope this helps…

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