The first step in attacking any Critical Reasoning question is to identify the premises and conclusions of the argument being presented. While Strengthen, Weaken, Assumption and Resolve the Paradox questions include a conclusion in the stimulus, Inference questions require you to select the conclusion (answer choice) that directly follows from the information presented in the stimulus.
A Critical Reasoning (CR) argument is usually structured into facts (also sometimes referred to as premises) and a conclusion. It is important that you are able to identify the parts of an argument. We have given you tips on identifying the conclusion in our post. 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 be called an assumption the writer makes in his/her argument. In other words, what did the writer have to believe to be true in order to reach the conclusion, as based on the premise(s)? There are many CR questions that require you to identify an assumption. It can get complex, but here are some tips to simplify matters.
Tips to Solve Critical Reasoning
1) Read the question stem first
This will allow you to quickly categorize the type of Critical Reasoning question (Strengthen, Weaken, Inference, etc.) and let you focus on identifying the premises in the stimulus. Questions such as, “Which of the following can be correctly inferred from the statements above?” and, “If the statements above are true, which of the following must also be true?” signify that you are dealing with an Inference question.
2) Speculate what you think the correct conclusion is
Sometimes this may be difficult to verbalize, but having an outline or framework of what the “must be true” answer should include will help to eliminate some answer choices.
3) Evaluate the answer choices using your speculated answer
You want to carefully read all 5 answer choices. As you read the answers, compare them to the answer, or the outline of the answer, you speculated. Some answers are obviously incorrect – either they are too narrow in scope, too extreme to always be true, or do not follow the criteria laid out in the stimulus. Eliminate these answers. For other answer choices that seem attractive, keep them as possibilities. Once you have read all of the answer choices, you can then compare your list of possible answers using the criteria that the correct answer must be always be true.
4) Become a Defense Lawyer
When comparing your list of possible answers, try to come up with plausible scenarios that would prove the answer being considered not true. Just because the stimulus says that “everyone sitting in the dentist’s office waiting room at 9:00 a.m. was a patient” does not necessarily mean that they were waiting for an appointment. Some could have already finished their appointment, and some could have been there dropping off another patient. Like a defense lawyer, you need to find every scenario in which an answer choice might not be true in order to eliminate it from your options.
5) Be aware of exaggerated or extreme answers
Because the correct answer must always be true, modifiers that exaggerate an element of the premise or make an extreme claim usually signify an incorrect answer. If the stimulus says, “Some of the widgets produced by Company X were defective,” an attractive, yet incorrect answer choice may exaggerate this statement with a modifier such as “most” by claiming, “Most of Company X’s widgets were found to be defective.” Furthermore, answers that include the terms “always”, “never”, “none” and the like are good indicators that the answer will not be true 100% of the time.
6) Be aware of answers that change the scope of the stimulus
On more difficult Inference questions (as if they were not difficult enough), the test makers will tempt you to select an answer choice that slightly changes an element of the facts laid out in the stimulus. For example, the stimulus might discuss the decrease in the violent crime rate in City A over a certain time period.
The attractive answer that follows all of the elements of having to be true 100% of the time, but is still incorrect might discuss the decrease in the murder rate of City A over that time period. While the answer would seem to fit the bill, the murder rate is not the same as the rate of violent crime – this changes the scope of the initial stimulus and we can, therefore, rule that answer out.
The correct inference or conclusion on Critical Reasoning Inference questions is very close to what is stated explicitly in the stimulus. Remember, the right answer choice on these question types must be true 100% of the time.
In this blog post, we have explained how to deal with Critical Reasoning. There are some points mentioned above to be kept in mind while solving this section. Do not forget to use them. We hope you liked our post. Please share your views in the comment section below.