GMAT CR: Why You Always Should Read the Passage First

Just like for GMAT Reading Comprehension, correctly answering the questions for Critical Reasoning will require you to understand the passage fully. You’ll need to break it down, finding the conclusion, evidence, and assumptions for the argument. If you read the Q first, then go back to the passage and break it down, chances are you’ll have to re-read the Q to remember what it was specifically asking anyway. Better just to do the passage first, then the passage. That way you waste no time, and focus your attention where it should be — on the passage.

Try this practice question on your own!

For the last five years, the XYZ Courier Company has made regular delivery trips between Town A and Town B. The average time taken by the company’s drivers to drive the round trip between the two towns, excluding the time taken for loading, unloading, and delivery, over that period has been 80 minutes. John, a driver for XYZ, needs to make a personal trip between the two towns; he figures that he should allow approximately 80 minutes for the round trip.

Which of the following, if true, does not call John’s conclusion into question?

A) The route between Town A and Town B has been plagued by increasing congestion over the last five years, as the area’s population has doubled during that time.
B) Most of XYZ’s courier vehicles are heavy trucks, for which speed limits are lower than for passenger vehicles.
C) Many of the packages carried by XYZ between Town A and Town B are large, high-security packages, for which the processes of loading, unloading, and delivery can take up to half the length of the trip itself.
D) John will make his personal trip at an hour when XYZ does not make delivery trips.
E) Before a freeway was built between Town A and Town B two years ago, the only routes between the two towns were state highways with multiple traffic lights and reduced-speed downtown zones.

Here’s how we can break down this passage:

Conclusion: John should allow 80 min. for round trip.

Evidence: XYZ drivers average 80 min round trip (not including loading, unloading, or delivery)

Assumptions: There is no difference in the time in John’s car versus an XYX car. John won’t be loading, unloading or making deliveries.

Question Rephrase: What does NOT hurt the conclusion?

Prediction: Eliminating choices that WOULD hurt the conclusion – show that 80 min. would not be a good estimate.

A – Incorrect. If there is increasing traffic, it could slow John down.
B – Incorrect. This would mean John would probably be able to go faster.
C – Correct. While this fact seems irrelevant to John’s trip, it does NOT call into question the idea that John should allot 80 min. for his trip.
D – Incorrect. If there are fewer cars on the road, he’d probably be able to go faster.
E – Incorrect. If the 80 min. average was for all 5 years, but 2 years ago a highway was built, then John could probably go faster than the 80 min.

All of the choices except C would affect the time it takes John to travel; therefore (C) is correct.


How Drawing a Picture Can Help you Get More GMAT CR Correct!

Take a look at this Critical Reasoning question from 1000 CR:

Archaeologists seeking the location of a legendary siege and destruction of a city are excavating in several possible places, including a middle and a lower layer of a large mound. The bottom of the middle layer contains some pieces of pottery of type 3, known to be from a later period than the time of the destruction of the city, but the lower layer does not.

The force of the evidence cited above is most seriously weakened if which of the following is true?

(A) Gerbils, small animals long native to the area, dig large burrows into which objects can fall when the burrows collapse.
(B) Pottery of types 1 and 2, found in the lower level, was used in the cities from which, according to the legend, the besieging forces came.
(C) Several pieces of stone from a lower-layer wall have been found incorporated into the remains of a building in the middle layer.
(D) Both the middle and the lower layer show evidence of large-scale destruction of habitations by fire.
(E) Bronze ax heads of a type used at the time of the siege were found in the lower level of excavation.

This one is interesting since we are not provided with a conclusion, so we have to draw one based on the evidence.

Evidence: Bottom of middle layer contains pottery 3. Pottery 3 is made AFTER the destruction.

I’m going to draw a picture, because drawing is fun, and totally under-rated when it comes to GMAT Critical Reasoning. 🙂

We can infer that usually the deeper the level = the older the time period. Since as we move forward in time, we generally build up on things.

So, the city was probably destroyed around the lower layer, or in the middle layer but beneath where the pottery was found.

Question: What casts doubt on the Type 3 pottery in the middle layer/destruction of city inference?

Prediction: If the pottery was moved around — if the location doesn’t represent the time period accurately.

A – decent choice, shows pottery could’ve been moved
B – doesn’t comment on Type 3 pottery
C – this implies at some point the middle-layer people used the wall below them to build up — but doesn’t show that the pottery could have moved down or up
D – Fire is totally irrelevant
E – “at the time of the siege” is vague — and this doesn’t relate at all to the pottery evidence

The correct answer is (A).

GMAT CR: “Resolve the Argument” Practice Question

In September of last year, the number of people attending movies in theatres dropped precipitously. During the next few weeks after this initial drop the number of film-goers remained well below what had been the weekly average for the preceding year. However, the total number of film-goers for the entire year was not appreciably different from the preceding year’s volume.

Which of the following , if true, resolves the apparent contradiction presented in the passage above ?

A) People under the age of 25 usually attend films in groups,rather than singly.
B) The gross income from box office receipts reamined about the same as it had been the preceding year.
C) For some portion of last year , the number of people attending movies in theaters was higher than it had been during the previous year .
D) The number of people attending movies in theaters rises and falls in predictable cycles .
E) The quality of films released in September and October of last year was particularly poor.


– In Sept, # of attendees dropped
– In Oct, # of attendees stayed below previous year’s weekly avg
– TOTAL number of filmgoers was not different from previous year

Question: How come?

Prediction: The months outside of Sept/Oct made up for the drop & allowed the year to remain consistent

A – irrelevant
B – irrelevant, we’re talking filmgoers not $$
C – boom, matches our prediction!
D – potentially, but more vague than C
E – irrelevant, we’re talking # of people not quality

Clearly it comes down to C and D. C is my choice since it most closely matches our prediction.

Learnist: GMAT Critical Reasoning Overview

The Verbal section of the GMAT consists of 41 questions that you must complete in 75 minutes. Critical Reasoning is one of three Verbal question types you’ll see on Test Day!

In this video, Abi from GMAXOnline reviews the basic format of CR questions, discusses what an argument is, and the parts of the argument: premises, conclusions, assumptions, inferences. She also covers some of the common keywords to look out for on this question type!

As you can see in this video, there are more than half a dozen question-types. Always determine what type of CR question it is by reading the question stem first. This 3-step method is a general guideline for all the CR question types.

This is a “weaken” questions as shown by the phrase “would most weaken.” Weakening questions are one of the most common CR question-types.

Check out more practice Critical Reasoning questions on Learnist!

GMAT Problem of the Day: Drawing Conclusions on CR

This harder critical reasoning question requires us to draw our own conclusion based on information provided in the question-stem. Set a timer for 2 minutes, then dive in! Scroll down to check your work against my explanation!

At Legal Services, LLC last year, the average annual salary for attorneys was $75,000, while the average salary for paralegals was $50,000. The average annual salary for all Legal Services, LLC employees was $45,000.

If the information above is correct, which one of the following conclusions can properly be drawn on the basis of it?

A) There were twice as many attorneys at Legal Services, LLC as there were paralegals last year.
B) There were more paralegals than attorneys at Legal Services, LLC last year.
C) There were two attorneys and three paralegals at Legal Services, LLC last year.
D) There was at least one Legal Services, LLC employee who earned less than the average paralegal earned last year.
E) At least one paralegal made less than $50,000 last year.

Here’s how I broke it down:

Conclusion: Avg. annual salary for ALL employees was $45,000

Evidence: avg sal attorneys is $75,000, and avg. sal paralegals is $50,000

Assumptions: Average = Total Sum / # of terms, so the average of the attorneys and the paralegals together would be $60,000. Since the average salary is less than that, then there must be significant # of employees who are making less than $45,000.

Question Rephrase: What is TRUE based on the evidence?

Prediction: There must be some more poorly-paid employees.

The answer is (D).

(B) is incorrect because it does not HAVE to be true that there were more paralegals than attorneys. There could be the exact same number of paralegals as attorneys. What is weighting the average down to $45,000 is the fact that there is an unaccounted for number of employees making LESS than what the paralegals make.

GMAT CR: “Weaken” Question of the Day!

Try out this medium-level “weaken” question from GMAT Hacks!

Industry analysts feel that Bluecorp paid far too much to acquire rival fi…rm Strickland. While doing so limited competition they face in the marketplace, this approach cannot be pro…table in the long
run. Once two rival fi…rms merge in order to increase pro…ts, the higher prices would only provide other competitors an opportunity to enter the …field at a lower price, cutting into Bluecorp’s pro…fits
and making the acquisition of Strickland an expensive mistake.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the

(A) In some countries it is legal for two companies to merge
even if the resulting entity would nearly monopolize the

(B) The combination of Bluecorp and Strickland creates an
entity whose size allows it to produce items at a far lower
cost than could any smaller enterprise.

(C) In addition to eliminating competition, Bluecorp’s
acquisition gives it a much more substantial presence
in urban areas.

(D) As a result of the acquisition, the new corporate entity
will create two smaller entities to operate as independent
suppliers to Bluecorp.

(E) When two large companies in the same …field combine,
entrepreneurs tend to shy away from the fi…eld due to the
single entity’s perceived dominance.

-Conclusion: Bluecorp acquiring Strickland = NOT profitable long-term
(author concedes it DID limit competition)

-Evidence: Higher prices gives competitors opportunity

-Assumption: That the merger = higher prices

The question asks which answer choice would “weaken” the argument, so my prediction is something that shows the merger resulting in LOWER prices for Bluecorp.

Let’s look at the choices:

(A) The legality of the merger is irrelevant to the argument
(B) This correctly weakens the argument! “Lower cost” correctly refutes the “higher prices” in the assumption.
(C) Bluecorp’s presence in urban areas is irrelevant to the argument.
(D) Independent suppliers are irrelevant to the argument.
(E) The focus here is on the entrepreneurs “shying away” – it doesn’t weaken the argument, which focuses on the merger = higher prices.

The correct answer is (B).

Tough GMAT: “Strengthen” CR Question of the Day!

Try this challenging Critical Reasoning question from Kaplan LSAT!

Editorial: When legislators discovered that some public service is not being adequately provided, their most common response is to boost the funding for that public service. Because of this, the least efficiently run government bureaucracies are the ones that most commonly receive an increase in funds.

The statements in the editorial, if true, most strongly support which one of the following?

(A) The least efficiently run government bureaucracies are the bureaucracies that legislators most commonly discover to be failing to provide some public service adequately.

(B) When legislators discover that a public service is not being adequately provided, they never respond to the problem by reducing the funding of the government bureaucracy providing that service.

(C) Throughout the time a government bureaucracy is run inefficiently, legislators repeatedly boost the funding for the public service that this bureaucracy provides.

(D) If legislators boost funding for a public service, the government bureaucracy providing that service will commonly become less efficient as a result.

(E)The most inefficiently run government bureaucracy receives the most funding of any government bureaucracy.

Here’s how I’d analyze this passage (it’s okay if your notes are slightly different!):

CONCLUSION: Less efficient agencies get MORE funds.

EVIDENCE: Legislators give more $$ to public services that aren’t functioning.

ASSUMPTIONS: Public services are run by bureaucracies; bureaucracies are getting the funds directly.

QUESTION REPHRASE: What would SUPPORT the conclusion?

PREDICTION: Something showing continued inefficiency.

The correct answer is (A). It is the clearest restatement of the passage. Notice how (E) uses some pretty extreme language (“most”…”the most”…”of any”…). On that basis, it can be eliminated.

GMAT CR: “Strengthen” Question of the Day

Try this Critical Reasoning “strengthen” question from the GMAT Official Guide 12th Edition on your own! Then scroll down for an answer and explanation!

The pharmaceutical industry argues that because new drugs will not be developed unless heavy development costs can be recouped in later sales, the current 20 years of protection provided by patents should be extended in the case of newly developed drugs. However, in other industries new-product development continues despite high development costs, a fact that indicates that the extension is unnecessary.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the pharmaceutical industry’s argument against the challenge made above?

(A) No industries other than the pharmaceutical industry have asked for an extension of the 20-year limit on patent protection.
(B) Clinical trials of new drugs, which occur after the patent is granted and before the new drug can be marketed, often now take as long as 10 years to complete.
(C) There are several industries in which the ratio of research and development costs to revenues is higher than it is in the pharmaceutical industry.
(D) An existing patent for a drug does not legally prevent pharmaceutical companies from bringing to market alternative drugs, provided they are sufficiently dissimilar to the patented drug.
(E) Much recent industrial innovation has occurred in products-for example, in the computer and electronics industries-for which patent protection is often very ineffective.

Let’s look at our analysis!

Conclusion: The extension is unnecessary (the 20yr protection doesn’t need to be continued)

Evidence: New-product development continues despite high dev costs in other industries

Assumptions: That there isn’t some reason the pharmaceutical industry is diff. from other industries

The question asks which would support the pharmaceutical industry’s argument. In other words, what would WEAKEN our author’s argument. My prediction is something that shows the pharmaceutical industry is diff. from other industries, and that somehow the trends of other new-product development doesn’t apply to it.

Now let’s review the answer choices:

(A) What other industries have done is irrelevant.
(B) The length of time involving clinical trials would show what sets the pharmaceutical industry apart. Correct!
(C) This would seem to actually support the argument.
(D) Irrelevant to the argument.
(E) This choice does not show why the pharmaceutical industry NEEDS the extension – it just comments that for other industries, patents are ineffective. In a way, this seems to be the opposite of what we are looking for – the assumption being if these other industries don’t need a patent, then the pharmaceutical industry might not need one.

The tricky thing about this question is differentiating between the AUTHOR’s argument and the PHARMACEUTICAL’s argument. The correct answer is (B).

Tough GMAT: CR Question of the Day!

This question is actually from an LSAT practice test (Prep Test 29, Section 4), and though not all the LSAT CR are applicable to GMAT CR, this Assumption one makes a good challenge! Set a timer for 2 minutes, try it on your own, then scroll down for the explanation!

Conservationist: The population of a certain wildflower is so small that the species is headed for extinction. However, this wildflower can cross-pollinate with a closely related domesticated daisy, producing viable seeds. Such cross-pollination could result in a significant population of wildflower-daisy hybrids. The daisy should therefore be introduced into the wildflower’s range, since although the hybrid would differ markedly from the wildflower, hybridization is the only means of preventing total loss of the wildflower in its range.

Which one of the following is an assumption on which the conservationist’s reasoning depends?

(A) The wildflower currently reproduces only by forming seeds.
(B) The domesticated daisy was bred from wild plants that once grew in the wildflower’s range.
(C) Increasing the population of the wildflower will also expand its range.
(D) Wildflower-daisy hybrids will be able to reproduce.
(E) The domesticated daisy will cross-pollinate with any daisy like plant.

Conclusion: Daisy should be introduced to wildflower’s range. Hybrid is ONLY means to prevent “total loss” of wildflower.

Evidence: Wildflower headed for extinction. Can produce seeds with daisy & “could” make hybrids.

Assumptions: Wildflower-daisy hybrids won’t be extinct as well? Wildflower can’t cross-pollinate with others? Cross-pollination will work to save wildflower?

Question Rephrase: What needs to be true for the conclusion to be true?

Prediction: Something to add credence to the “only means” and “total loss.”

(A) If the wildflower reproduces only by forming seeds, then it strengthens the author’s claim that hybridization is the “only means.”

(B) If the daisy descends from the wildflower, then it’s range would not be a “total loss.”

(C) The relationship between “population” and “range” is not the focus of the argument.

(D) If they can reproduce, then the wildflower would live on.

(E) We need to focus on the wildflower.

This is a challenging question, since both (A) and (D) seem to strengthen the argument. So what “needs” to be true? When (D) is negated (“hybrids NOT able to reproduce”), then the conclusion (“hybrids result in significant population”) will NOT hold. Thus, (D) is vital, and the correct answer.

Learnist: Introduction to “Flaw” Questions on the GMAT

Flaw questions on the GMAT follow predictable patterns: the flaw usually lies in how the evidence is being interpreted, or how the evidence was obtained. No one ever said the GMAT wasn’t flawed. 🙂

This video introduces you to two of the most common logical flaws you’ll see on the GMAT: “If not P, then not Q” (double-negation) and “If Q, then P” (reverse). Be on the lookout for these in the incorrect answers of Flaw questions!

This lengthy MGMAT article covers 4 types of flaws to look out for on GMAT CR: – Confusing Percents & Numbers – Causation – Out of Scope (“Limiting” words) – Evidence/Conclusion misalign

In this sample question, we’ve got an issue with the evidence/conclusion not being focused on the same thing. The conclusion is far too general, trying to apply one instance towards an overarching rule. Notice how their focus is just not the same — we could also interpret this as being “out of scope.”

Even on a CR question, you might see a little Math! This article focuses in detail on what to do when numbers appear in Flaw questions. The important point: keep in mind that a smaller percentage of a larger number can be greater than a larger percentage of a small number.

Check out more video explanations and practice “Flaw” questions on Learnist!