How to Move your GMAT Verbal Score 40+ Points…In 2 Weeks!

Have you already gone through the Verbal questions in GMAC’s Official Guide, reviewed the MGMAT Sentence Correction book, and covered the Powerscore CR book? Feeling a GMAT Verbal plateau and not sure what to do next? Here’s some solid tips to move your GMAT Verbal score an extra 40 points in just under 2 weeks!

Beef up the grammar skills. You can ignore most of the challenging vocabulary on sentence corrections as long as you identify what part of speech each word is, and how it functions within the sentence. To do this, you’ll need to spend some time with a solid English grammar review book. I recommend pairing a heavy-duty review book, like the Oxford Guide or those published by McGraw-Hill or Longman, with a “fun” book like Writer’s Express or English Grammar for Dummies.

Read and listen to high-quality English publications. My recommendations include The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or any scholarly journal that you find interesting. Listen to NPR or audio books of English-language classics. Set a regular schedule for your reading and stick to it. Even twenty minutes a day will help you conquer Reading Comprehension.

Seek out Advanced CR for harder vocab words. Once you’ve practiced identifying the conclusion, evidence, and assumptions and are confident with the Critical Reasoning question types on the GMAT, consider buying an LSAT practice guide like the LSAT LR Bible. The LSAT has significantly more challenging CR questions and the format is the same as those found on the GMAT. Don’t neglect your GMAT practice, but if you can master the LSAT CR, then the GMAT questions will start to feel easier.

Go more slowly with Word Problems. Practice translating these questions from English keywords to Math equations. Be patient at first – these questions may be especially frustrating vocab-wise. Luckily, the common phrases such as “less than,” “is the same as,” and “product of” are easily memorized.

CRITICAL REASONING TIPS

Identify the Conclusion, Evidence & Assumption(s). This should be your first step for all of the Critical Reasoning question types. The conclusion and the evidence will be explicitly stated in the passage, while the assumptions will require you to sit and consider the author’s point of view. What needs to be true in order for the conclusion to be correct based on the given evidence?

Find the purpose of each sentence. Sometimes CR questions will ask what the function is of a part of the argument. You may see questions that ask “which role” a sentence plays. Try to place it into one category: conclusion ,or evidence? If the sentence was removed from the paragraph, what would be lacking?

Know the overall flow. Arguments have a tendency to follow one of two shapes: a triangle or an inverted triangle. Does the author start by making a specific conclusion and then provide more general evidence, or does he begin with observations and then get to a thesis? Use variables to describe the structure. “Y leads to X which leads to Z” is different from “Y turns into Z unless Y is prevented.” Be on the lookout for “If X, then Y” relationship.

Paraphrase the argument. Dumb down the complexity of the argument as you read, as if you were explaining it to a child. You may want to write down a few short notes to help you. The idea is to ignore the petty details and see through to the author’s main point and to the evidence he provides to support his point.

Choose a verb. Questions about argument structure often ask about the “methods” an author uses. You already know the flow of the overall argument, now give it an overall purpose and label as an infinitive verb. Common verbs:

to explain
to dismiss
to theorize
to strengthen
to demonstrate
to revise
to assert
to suggest
to interpret
to reconcile
to challenge
to predict

Look for transitions. Transition words and phrases are like signposts pointing your way through the logic of the argument. They tell you what is coming next. “Specifically…” means a more detailed example will follow. “Thus,” means a summation is to be expected. “While this may be true…” is a phrase that shows a concession is about to be made. Keep a study sheet of transition words and divide them into categories: Examples, Adding, Contrasting, Emphasis, Resulting In, etc. It’s an ongoing process to familiarize yourself with these, but a worthwhile one.

Determine what is missing for Complete the Passage Questions. What does the blank represent? Often it will be either a restatement of the conclusion, or another supporting piece of evidence, but it could also be an action advocating by the author, or an example of the author’s argument applied to the real world.

Make a prediction (and write it down)! This is the most important strategy for CR. You’ve got to trust that you understand the argument enough to know what should be the correct answer. Don’t worry about making it perfect – just get something down on paper! If you think of your prediction but don’t write it down, you risk forgetting it or twisting it to fit the answer choices.

Eliminate out-of-scope answers. While the correct answer may not perfectly match your prediction, the simple fact that you took the time to think critically while you came up with a prediction will help you understand the author’s focus and the flow of his argument. Eliminate answer choices that would NOT follow the gist of the paragraph. Especially look for those that are outside the scope of the author’s focus, a favorite CR wrong answer type!

Try the Negation Technique. An assumption is something that needs to be true and is required in order for the Evidence to lead to the Conclusion. If we negate the answer choices then the correct choice will weaken the argument the most. This is an excellent strategy to try for Assumption questions.

Questions? Feel free to reach out at gmatrockstar[at]gmail.com! I look forward to helping you on your GMAT journey!

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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.

GMAT CR: “Strengthen” Question of the Day!

A broken shard of glass found in the laboratory of the famed physicist Alhazen has a polished surface that separates out the green and blue spectrums of white light, a key characteristic of a dispersive prism, which separates white light into all its constituent spectral components. Scientific historians, based on this finding, are revising their histories in order to give Alhazen, the “father of modern optics,” credit for the discovery of the dispersive prism, which was thought to have been discovered many years later.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the historians’ decision to revise the history of optics?

A. Dispersive prisms were the only type of prism that was theorized about in the scientific era in which Alhazen lived.

B. The piece of glass from which the shard broke, if unbroken, would have been just large enough to separate out the entire spectrum of white light into its spectral components.

C. The piece of glass was a combination of flint glass, which was known to have been used by Alhazen to craft lenses in his laboratory, and crown glass, another popular type of glass throughout history.

D. Dispersive prisms are the simplest and most common objects that are able to divide white light into its constituent spectral components.

E. Several glass objects that are known to have some properties of a dispersive prism have been found to be older than the glass piece in Alhazen’s laboratory.

Explanation:

Conclusion: Historians give A credit for prism.

Evidence: Glass found that has characteristic of prism.

Assumption: Glass not there by accident; glass definitely means A “discovered” prism.

Question: What STRENGTHENS?

Prediction: Anything that links this glass to the prism, removes coincidence.

A – Other prisms out of scope.
B – This connects the glass to the prism.
C – The type of glass is irrelevant.
D – This is just a fact about the prism.
E – This would weaken, since it makes the glass/prism link less strong.

The answer is (B).

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
argument?

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

(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).