GMAT Critical Reasoning: Tips, Strategies, and Types of Questions


A Critical Reasoning (CR) argument in GMAT is usually structured into facts and a conclusion. It is very important that you are able to identify the different parts of an argument. We have already given you GMAT critical reasoning tips below in the article.

You have 65 minutes to kill the Verbal section of the GMAT and that means you have roughly 100 seconds for each of the 36 questions. It is easy to overshoot this limit in the Critical Reasoning (CR) part; so here’s how you can work towards mastering them… even if your exam is just days away.

Your job is never to question the facts of the argument. You can question the gap between the facts and the conclusion. This gap can also be called an assumption the writer makes in his argument. In simple words, what did the writer have to believe to be true in order to reach the conclusion, based on the premises? There are many Critical Reasoning (CR) questions that require you to identify an assumption.


5 Common Type Of Questions Asked In GMAT Critical Reasoning

Type 1: Strengthen the Argument which asks the candidate to choose the statement or piece of evidence that would support, bolster, or add to the argument in the given passage
Type 2: Weaken the Argument/ Find the Flaw which asks the candidate to either select the fact or piece of evidence that would most effectively undermine the given argument or to find the logical flaw in the given argument’s reasoning
Type 3: Find the Assumption which asks the candidate to select the answer choice with the information that must be true (the ‘assumption’) in order for the given argument to be accurate.
Type 4: Inference which asks the candidate to make inferences – draw logical conclusions – based on the evidence in the given passage.
Type 5: Paradox which asks the candidate to choose the answer that explains the paradox in the given argument.


Top 8 Experts Tips On GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

The Critical Reasoning (CR) section of the GMAT is often a reason to worry for students. Students often have queries like – “how to improve GMAT critical reasoning?”, “how to prepare for critical reasoning GMAT?”, “how to ace critical reasoning in GMAT?”. A CR argument is usually structured into facts, which are referred to as a premise, and a conclusion. While practicing CR questions, the candidate must be able to identify the parts of the argument. It can get difficult, but below are some useful GMAT critical reasoning tips and tricks to simplify matters.

Here are some tips that can help you ace the CR questions on the GMAT exam:


1. Go Through the Question Before You Read the Argument

When you read the question, you must start thinking about the category or the type (mentioned above) that the CR question falls under. This will help you figure out exactly what must you be looking for in your answer choices. It is important that the candidate reads the question to find the assumption of the argument if the CR question is of Type 1, 2, or 3.


2. Think Carefully About What is Being Asked

Once you read the question, try to break down and understand what are you being asked. Are you being asked to draw a conclusion based on a given set of information or do you have to reconcile two contradictory statements? This will determine how must you deal with the answer choices.


3. When in Doubt, Do Not Pick the Most Extreme Answer

In all CR questions, GMAT gives one correct answer and four other tempting and potentially confusing statements. The extreme or absolute choices given are clearly a red flag, hence do not choose them. Avoid answer choices that contain words like only, never, best, worst, all, or none; they are most of the time incorrect.


4. Do Not Choose Any Not Relevant Information in the Passage

Everything that you need to know to answer the question is given in the passage. There is no reason to choose something that isn’t given in the passage. If the answer is off-topic or addresses a tangential issue, then that might be a red flag.


5. Your Quality & Speed

Here’s the ascending order of the time a typical examinee spends on the three categories in the Verbal Section:

Sentence Correction < Critical Reasoning < Comprehension

As you practice with this breakdown in mind, your key focus should be to improve your speed and the quality of your attention.
For quality, try timing yourself for an entire 65-minute practice session instead of only CRs (this also works on your mind’s agility when up against CRs).
For speed, try timing yourself against a bulk of CR questions to check where your average stands (instead of hitting them individually).


6. Question First, Argument Next, Options Last

Always read the question first when attempting a GMAT test’s CR questions. It is the fastest method to understand the premise, and makes the argument appear less daunting. You must then read the argument, which is the first paragraph holding all the details. And then lastly, you read the answer options.

Caution: Do not read the answer options as if they were a part of the ‘Question’.
Answer options are to be avoided until the very end. Many examinees read the answers right after the question (which is typically a single sentence) and end up wasting time and sacrificing their GMAT scores. So control yourself and jump to the top right after you’ve read the question.


7. Isolate ‘Keys’

Being tasked with GMAT critical reasoning will irk you until you learn to isolate the keys within the argument of a CR question. ‘Keys’ (Premises/Assumptions/Conclusions) are like ‘clues’ that you use to dissect a CR question and identify its type. Here’s how you master them:

  • For Premises, detect its foundational logic to familiarize with the subject.
  • For Assumptions, look for the conclusion it leads to.
  • For Conclusions, look for a premise that it might support.


8. Think Inside the Box

Avoid answer choices that are not directly evidenced in the question. You are not allowed to imagine and hypothesize. CR questions contain every detail essential for you to know the right answer. If an option appears to take you on a tangent, dial up your inner skeptic and move on.


GMAT Critical Reasoning: What’s Pulling You Back From Achieving a High Level of Accuracy?

Critical thinking is important to succeed in any sphere of one’s life and now that you have already started preparing for the GMAT, you must have realized how critical it is to do well on the GMAT. The Critical Reasoning questions, which comprise approximately one-fourth of the questions asked in the GMAT Verbal section, test your ability to evaluate arguments and think critically. The topic and question category is quite technical and having a clear understanding of the basic components of arguments can help you nail such questions.

Well, it is easier said than done! Despite a plethora of study material/books available in the market, many students are unable to achieve a very high level of accuracy in answering Critical Reasoning questions. The reason is that this concept is not about absorbing just the theory, but also demands thorough analysis. If you face trouble in answering GMAT Critical Reasoning questions, there could be many reasons for that such as:

  • You could be faltering at the question identification stage
  • You could be lacking in clearly understanding the various parts of an argument
  • You may be getting trapped by the tempting options

If the above is the case, you need to first identify your problem area and then work towards arriving at a solution. Working on a solution will become easier if you understand the main problem. In this blog, listed are the first two common steps/stages where you could be going wrong. Pick your problem area and start working on it.


Common Steps and Stages

Getting the Question Right

Question identification is the basic step in critical reasoning questions and if this first step goes wrong, the entire process falls flat. Could you give me the right answer if you didn’t understand my question? Lack of clarity on questions leads to vague, irrelevant, and tangential responses.

Likewise in GMAT Critical Reasoning, it is quite common for students to confuse or misinterpret question types. Inference questions such as ‘Which of the following conclusions is best supported by the information above’ are interpreted or rather misinterpreted as strengthening questions by many students. So if the question identification is your problem area, gear up and get a good understanding of the task(s) involved in each question type.

Having a Good Understanding of the Case or the Argument

Many students do not have a clear understanding of the parts of the argument and are unable to identify the role of each sentence in the argument. There is a normal tendency to go by definitions without having a practical understanding of how different parts are related to each other. There needs to be absolute clarity on how the conclusion and premise are related to each other and how the assumption is linked to these two.

Assumption identification is one task that is challenging for most students and it can be easily overcome by a thorough understanding of the Critical Reasoning arguments. Students are aware that some common flaws such as causal, planning, etc. are frequently used in the case of the GMAT Critical Reasoning arguments but without a clear understanding of the right triggers to identify, they may not be able to spot them. Understanding different parts of the argument are the core of critical reasoning and needs to be mastered. You can seek help from expert GMAT trainers/mentors to have a clear understanding of them.

Not Underestimating the Power of Prediction

Even if you have a clear understanding of the Critical Reasoning questions and parts of the argument, there is another step you need to work on to master this topic. Remember, questions or arguments do not work in isolation and you need to tie them together and pre-think what the possible answer could be.

So, if it is a weakening question and involves a planning flaw, you are looking for an option that attacks the plan. When you know what you want, you are less likely to fall into the trap of tempting choices in answer options. Therefore, understand the power of prediction and practice it well. If you have clarity on question types and parts of the argument, this shouldn’t pose a major challenge.

Screening Answer Options

If you have got all the above steps right and still end up getting questions wrong in the case of Critical Reasoning argument questions, you may need to work on answer options analysis. Students are so fixated on picking the right answer that they at times do not even consider all answer options properly. Always connect each answer option to the answer that you predicted and then decide whether it should be kept or rejected. Always attach a reason to every option you eliminate. Random selection or elimination would hamper your accuracy.

Now that you know the common problem areas in GMAT Critical Reasoning, do some analysis and find out which one is pulling you back from achieving a high level of accuracy. Other than identifying the problem and working on solutions, make sure you practice regularly and take timed tests. After all, GMAT is not just a test of some topics but also a test of your test-taking skills.

We have discussed the common stages and the associated tips for GMAT critical reasoning that can enable you to achieve a high level of accuracy.


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How can I prepare for GMAT critical reasoning?

To prepare for GMAT Critical Reasoning, you should study and practice critical reasoning skills, review GMAT practice tests, and work through GMAT prep materials. You can also consider taking courses or hiring a tutor to help you with your preparation.

How important is the GMAT Critical Reasoning section for business school admissions?

The GMAT Critical Reasoning section is an important part of the GMAT and is often used by business schools as a way to assess a candidate’s analytical and reasoning skills. While it is just one of several components that admissions committees consider, a strong performance on the GMAT Critical Reasoning section can be a positive factor in a candidate’s application.

How much time do I have to complete the GMAT Critical Reasoning Section?

The GMAT Critical Reasoning section is timed and you will have 65 minutes to complete a total 36 questions. It is important to manage your time wisely and pace yourself throughout the section to ensure that you have enough time to answer all the questions.

What are some tips for tackling GMAT Critical Reasoning questions?

Some tips for tackling GMAT Critical Reasoning questions include reading the question carefully, analyzing the argument thoroughly, identifying the conclusion, evaluating the evidence and assumptions, and selecting the answer choice that best supports or weakens the argument.

What type of questions can I expect in GMAT Critical reasoning?

GMAT Critical Reasoning questions may take different forms but they typically involve analyzing arguments, identifying assumptions, finding flaws in reasoning, strengthening or weakening arguments, and making inferences.

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