GMAT Critical Reasoning: How to Make Predictions
January 13, 2014
If you still need to be convinced about the value of making predictions on the GMAT, then read this: Beating GMAT Verbal by Making Predictions. Now that we are all on board, let’s learn how to do it…
When a Critical Reasoning (CR) question pops up on the screen, adept test takers know to read the actual question first. The Question is always found in the middle between the Stimulus and the Answer Choices. By reading the question first and, thus, depending solely on the type of CR question posed, the test taker knows how to most efficiently and effectively untangle the stimulus above.
There are many different types of CR questions, but most of them will fall under the category we at Kaplan like to call the Argument Family. The members of the Argument Family are Assumption, Strengthen, Weaken, Flaw, and Evaluation. The correct answer to every question posed via each of these question types revolves around the test taker’s ability to derive the assumptions made in a presented argument.
Any argument will contain three essential parts: a Conclusion, Evidence, and Assumptions. The GMAT will always give you the Conclusion and Evidence. You will never be given the Assumptions. Yet, regarding those assumptions, well, see above.
Let’s breakdown an argument and find this equation: E + A ==> C. Question first, though, right?
GMAT Critical Reasoning Practice Question:
The nutritionists’ argument assumes which of the following?
That big keyword “assumes” lets us know this is an Assumption question and that the stimulus will be an argument. Hence, we know now that we are looking for the Conclusion and Evidence so we can figure out the Assumption. We also note that it is the nutritionists’ argument we are concerned with. It is possible that we might see two points of view in the stimulus and the question tells us which of those we are interested in.
Burger Land, a nationwide fast-food chain, recently announced a special promotion dramatically reducing the price of its most popular burger, the Big and Beefy. This development has provoked a strong response by the nation’s nutritionists. Citing the extremely high levels of cholesterol in the Big and Beefy, they predict that the price reduction will have a negative impact on the health of our citizens.
Well, we don’t have to contend with multiple opinions. Great. The nutritionists’ conclusion is signaled by the words ‘they predict…’ We can paraphrase this conclusion to say something like “a cheaper burger will make people more unhealthy.”
There is little filler in a GMAT argument. What is not the Conclusion will be the Evidence. Here, the pieces of evidence are: (1) Promo – the BnB is cheaper, (2) nutritionists are incited, and (3) BnB has lots of cholesterol.
Assumptions are unstated beliefs the author must hold to be true in order for ‘that’ conclusion to follow from ‘this’ evidence. Assumptions are gap-bridgers. They will most often be found between the Evidence and Conclusion, but you can even find them between pieces of Evidence. Here, we have two clear assumptions, one of which is obviously the primary: (1) since the BnB is cheap some will eat it instead of eating something healthier, and (2) they type of cholesterol in the BnB is the bad kind. Clearly, (2) is an assumption held by the author, but (1) is The Big One.
In Assumption questions, by identifying the author’s central assumption we have effectively made our prediction. However, it is good practice to delineate the prediction step in your mind and when working through CR questions. It is also important to note that we are not trying to develop a word-for-word recreation of the correct answer. Rather, a prediction identifies the function of the correct answer. Here, the correct answer will say something about folks choosing to consume the BnB instead of something healthier due to the price drop. We can’t know the exact wording of the answer choice, but we can certainly know what it will do.
- (A) Some consumers induced by the price reduction to purchase the Big and Beefy would otherwise have consumed food lower in cholesterol than the Big and Beefy. Bingo. We’ve got our match. Your decision to read the remaining answer choices is dependent on two factors: (1) How confident you feel about the original prediction made, and (2) how closely the answer choice matches that prediction. In this case, we felt great about our prediction and this is a clear match. Why waste time reading wrong answer choices? Well, to learn why they are wrong, I suppose…
- (B) Reducing fat consumption is the most important factor in improving one’s diet. Perhaps the nutritionists think this, perhaps not. Either way, this is entirely outside the scope of this argument. Fat and cholesterol are not the same and the GMAT forces test takers to make their own assumptions about the linkage between them if they choose this wrong answer.
- (C) Burger Land could not have increased sales of the Big and Beefy by reducing its cholesterol content and appealing to health-conscious consumers. Why do we care about the conditions that would increase BnB sales? We don’t. And the nutritionists certainly don’t. Wrong answer.
- (D) Other fast-food companies will not respond to Burger Land’s announcement by reducing the price of their own high-cholesterol burgers. Good to know, but how again is this related to the nutritionists argument? Oh yeah, it’s not. This out of scope answer almost reads like a 180 in that if the statement made in (D) were true then it might have a weakening affect on the original argument. It’s not a 180, though, because the question does not ask us to strengthen the argument. Wrong answer.
- (E) Lost revenue due to the price reduction in the Big and Beefy will be offset by an increase in the number of burgers sold. Fantastic. So glad neither we nor the nation’s nutritionists have to worry about Burger Land’s balance sheet. Wrong answer!
This is just one example of a fairly straight-forward Assumption question. Fortunately, the concept illustrated here is true of every Argument Family question regardless of type or difficulty level. If you can make good predictions, then you can beat the GMAT Verbal section.
In upcoming posts, I’ll deconstruct Reading Comprehension and Sentence Correction questions. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out in the comments.