Tough GMAT: Critical Reasoning Question of the Day!

From the evil geniuses at Manhattan GMAT, try this interesting CR question, the read the explanation below!

Scientists recently documented that influenza spreads around the world more efficiently in the modern era due to commercial air travel. Symptoms of a pandemic-level flu are severe enough that the ill would likely cancel or reschedule air travel, but an infected person can travel across the globe before the first signs appear. Further, if symptoms develop while someone is still on a plane, the infected person’s cough can spread the virus easily in the enclosed and closely packed environment.

Which of the following would best minimize the role air travel can play in the spread of influenza during a pandemic?

(A) installing air filtration systems in the planes to kill any flu virus particles flowing through the filters
(B) requiring air travelers to receive flu vaccinations far enough in advance of the trip to provide protection against the disease
(C) refusing to allow children, the elderly, or others who are especially vulnerable to flu to travel by air during a pandemic
(D) requiring all air travelers to wash their hands before boarding a plane
(E) conducting medical examinations during the boarding process to weed out passengers with flu symptoms


Conclusion: Influenza spreads more rapidly b/c of airplanes.

Evidence: Infected person can travel before symptoms appear & spread illness

Question Rephrase: How could air travel stop the spread of disease?

Prediction: If there was a way to make sure people who boarded were not ill, or if there was a way they couldn’t spread it once on the plane.

A – Yes, this stops the spread on the plane, but could still let the ill people fly
B – Yes, this stops the ill people from flying
C – No, this only stops certain ill people from flying
D – No, hand washing doesn’t prevent those already ill from flying
E – No, the passage states that people can travel before “first signs appear” so the examinations would likely be ineffective

Between A and B, my choice would be B since it prevents the ill from flying altogether and would therefore “best minimize.”

Remember that the correct answer is going to be the one based on the information from the passage. The passage only gave 2 pieces of evidence: (1) sick people travel before symptoms, and (2) sick people spread illness within the cabin.

Repeated vaccinations and whether a person would reschedule/cancel travel are two issues that are not mentioned and are entirely outside the scope of the passage. Be careful not to use outside information. Follow the logic of the passage.

Tough GMAT: Challenge Problem of the Day!

Try this question from Manhattan GMAT’s Critical Reasoning question bank!

Due to the increase in traffic accidents caused by deer in the state, the governor last year reintroduced a longer deer hunting season to encourage recreational hunting of the animals.The governor expected the longer hunting season to decrease the number of deer and therefore decrease the number of accidents. However, this year the number of accidents caused by deer has increased substantially since the reintroduction of the longer deer hunting season.

Which of the following if true, would best explain the increase in traffic accidents caused by deer?

(A). Many recreational hunters hunt only once or twice per hunting season, regardless of the length of the season.
(B). The deer in the state have become accustomed to living in close proximity to humans and are often easy prey for hunters as a result
(C). Most automobile accidents involving deer result from cars swerving to avoid deer, and leave the deer unharmed.
(D). The number of drivers in the state has been gradually increasing over the past several years
(E). A heavily used new highway was recently built directly through the state’s largest forest, which is the primary habitat of the state’s deer population.


This one is less of an argument and more of a straightforward premise, but we still will need to find the answer that best matches the reasoning behind the premise.

Conclusion: Longer deer season will decrease # of deer and # of accidents.

Evidence: Deer causing more accidents.

Assumption: Longer season = fewer deer overall

Question: Why are there more accidents?

Prediction: More deer, more drivers

A – This weakens the conclusion, but doesn’t answer the question.
B – Potentially, but kinda weak…deer wouldn’t necessarily come closer to cars just because they are used to people and the “easy prey” is irrelevant
C – Whether or not the deer are harmed doesn’t explain WHY there are more accidents
D – Potentially…This would explain why there are more accidents…but uses “gradually” which isn’t quite as strong…
E – Potentially…This would bring deer + drivers in closer proximity than D. Notice the strong language “heavily used”, “directly through”, and “primary.”

The correct answer is (E).

GMAT Critical Reasoning Question of the Day!

This Complete the Passage comes to you from the Official Guide!

Which of the following most logically completes the argument given below:

The irradiation of food kills bacteria and thus retards spoilage. However, it also lowers the nutritional value of many foods. For example, irradiation destroys a significant percentage of whatever vitamin B1 a food may contain. Proponents of irradiation is no worse in this respect than cooking. However, this fact is either beside the point, or else misleading, since ________________.

(A) many of the proponents of irradiation are food distributors who gain from foods’ having a longer shelf life
(B) it is clear that killing bacteria that may be present on food is not the only effect that irradiation has
(C) cooking is usually the final step in preparing food for consumption, whereas irradiation serves to ensure a longer shelf life for perishable food
(D) certain kinds f cooking are, in fact, even more destructive of vitamin B1 than carefully controlled irradiation is
(E) for food that is both irradiated and cooked, the reduction of vitamin B1 associated with either process individually is compounded

Here’s how we can break this passage down:

Irradiation = less spoilage, but less nutrition
Irradiation destroys vitamins (but no worse than cooking)

The “no worse than cooking” argument is misleading BECAUSE…we need something that continues to show that irradiation IS worse than cooking (“misleading”), or something that shows the comparison is not valid (“beside the point”).

A – doesn’t relate to cooking
B – doesn’t relate to cooking
C – about cooking
D – about cooking
E – about cooking

It comes down to C, D, and E. So how are they different? C shows 1 fact about cooking and 1 pro for irradiation. D shows cooking can be worse than irradiation, which is the OPPOSITE of what we want. (E) shows the comparison is not valid b/c the argument doesn’t take into account that combining the processes may be worse.

Tough GMAT: Critical Reasoning Question of the Day

Sometimes CR questions ask us to make an inference or draw a conclusion based on the premise. These can be challenging since we’re not really taking apart an argument, and even though its hard to make a prediction you can still follow effective strategy.

The most important aspect of moviemaking is conveying a scene’s rhythm. Conveying rhythm depends less on the artistic quality of the individual photographic images than on how the shots go together and the order in which they highlight different aspects of the action taking place in front of the camera.

If the statements above are true, which of the following must be true on the basis of them?

(A) The artistic quality of the individual photographic image is unimportant in movie photography.
(B) Photographers known for the superb artistic quality of their photographs are seldom effective as moviemakers.
(C) Having the ability to produce photographs of superb artistic quality does not in itself guarantee having the ability to be a good moviemaker.
(D) Movie photographers who are good at their jobs rarely give serious thought to the artistic quality of the photographs they take.
(E) To convey a scene’s rhythm effectively, a moviemaker must highlight many different aspects of the action taking place.

Start by translating the content in the paragraph into bullet points:

— R. depends on order of shots, not artistic quality of images
— conveying rhythm is most imp.

Q: what conclusion could be drawn?

Prediction: Something based on the facts above.

A – too extreme — passage only says “depends less”
B – too extreme — nothing about them being mutually exclusive
C – Yes
D – not necessarily — this only pertains to “conveying rhythm”
E – Yes

Let’s compare C and E.

E at first seems like a restatement from the passage, but look how it slightly skews the info. Highlighting is not the filmmaker’s job. The “highlighting” is done by the order of the shots, not the filmmaker himself. C is true based on the info provided. Since the passage clearly states that artistic quality of the shots won’t equal rhythm, and rhythm is a v. imp aspect of moviemaking. The correct answer is (C).

Unusual CR Questions on the GMAT

Sometimes a GMAT Critical Reasoning problem won’t seem like an argument at all! In fact, it’ll be more like a data sufficiency question, a presentation of facts we then have to make some sense of. Let’s take a look at one of these Verbal oddities:

Fact: Asthma, a bronchial condition, is much less common ailment than hay fever, an allergic inflammation of the nasal passages.
Fact: Over 95 percent of people who have asthma also suffer from hay fever.

If the information given as facts above is true, which of the following must also be true?

A) Hay fever is a prerequisite for the development of asthma.
B) Asthma is a prerequisite for the development of hay fever.
C) Those who have neither hay fever nor asthma comprise less than 5 percent of the total population.
D) The number of people who have both of these ailments is greater than the number of people who have only one of them.
E)The percentage of people suffering from hay fever who also have asthma is lower than 95 percent

FACTS: Hay Fever is more common than Asthma; 95% of asthma sufferers have hay fever.

Let’s say 100 people suffer from Asthma. 95 of them also have hay fever. Since hay fever is more common, there must be more than 5% of people who suffer from hay fever only.

For (E), if this was true out of 100 people who have hay fever, 95% of those have asthma as well; 95 people have both, and only 5% would only have asthma. This contradicts our interpretation of the facts. We need MORE than 5% to suffer from hay fever only. (E) is the correct choice!

GMAT CR: “Strengthen” Question of the Day!

Try this practice Critical Reasoning question from Kaplan!

Recent surveys show that many people who have left medical school before graduating suffer from depression. Clearly, depression is likely to cause withdrawal from medical school.

Which of the following if true would most strengthen the conclusion above?

A.) Many Medical schools provide psychological counseling for their students
B.) About half of those who leave medical school report feeling depressed after they make the decision to leave.
C.) Depression is very common among management consultants who have a similar difficult work schedule to those of many young doctors.
D.) Medical students who have sought depression counseling due to family problems leave at a higher rate than the national average
E.) Career change has been shown to be a strong contributing factor in the onset of depression.

Here’s how I broke down this argument:

Conclusion – Depression causes withdrawal from school.

Evidence – Surveys show students who did not graduate have depression.

Assumption – That depression is the cause NOT a symptom; that the surveys are accurate, etc.

Question Rephrase: What makes the conclusion stronger?

Prediction: If there is proof the students were depressed BEFORE they left school. The correct answer must support depression as the cause.

(A) – Whether or not schools provide counseling is irrelevant.

(B) – This WEAKENS the argument, showing depression as a potential symptom.

(C) – Management consultants is without the scope of the argument.

(D) – This SUPPORTS the idea that the depression came BEFORE they left school. If more students who sought depression counseling leave, then they are probably leaving because of their depression. Therefore our author is correct to say that depression causes withdrawal from school.

(E) – This WEAKENS the argument. If the students are depressed because they left school, then the depression is a symptom and not a cause.

Takeaway: The trick is to relate the answer choices back to the Conclusion. Simply being a logical inference is not enough with CR.

Learnist: How to Beat GMAT Critical Reasoning (even if you can’t tell Correlation from Causation)

LearnistThere are 41 questions on the GMAT Verbal section, and about a dozen of them will be Critical Reasoning problems: paragraphs that require you to dissect arguments and understand logic. Here’s how to conquer them with minimal fuss!

Step 1 – Cover the Basic by Going to the Source

The best place to start getting familiar with what “Critical Reasoning” looks like is on the official testmaker’s website:

According to GMAC, the CR questions measure your ability to reason effectively in three areas:

  • Argument construction:  Questions of this type may ask you to recognize the basic structure of an argument, properly drawn conclusions, underlying assumptions, well-supported explanatory hypotheses, or parallels between structurally similar arguments.
  • Argument evaluation:  Questions of this type may ask you to analyze a given argument, recognize factors that would strengthen or weaken an argument, reasoning errors committed in making an argument, or aspects of the methods by which an argument proceeds.
  • Formulating and evaluating a plan of action:  Questions of this type may ask you to recognize the relative appropriateness, effectiveness, or efficiency of different plans of action; factors that would strengthen or weaken a proposed plan of action; or assumptions underlying a proposed plan of action.

Next, purchase the Official Guide on Amazon!

Step 2 – Learn what an “Argument” is (according to the GMAT, that is!)

Arguments have a tendency to follow predictable patterns of organization and are always comprised of a conclusion, premise (or evidence), and assumptions.

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?

Check out Steps 3-7 on this Learnboard to learn more about How to Beat GMAT Critical Reasoning!

GMAT CR: “Weaken” Problem of the Day!

Try your hand at a weaken question, and keep your CR skills strong with this problem of the day!

Are you still reading the other newspaper in town? Did you know that the Daily Bugle is owned by an out-of-town business syndicate that couldn’t care less about the people of Gotham City? Read the Daily Clarion, the only real voice of the people of Gotham City!

Which of the following most directly refutes the argument raised in the advertisement above?

(A) Over half of the advertising revenues of the Daily Clarion come from firms whose headquarters are located outside of Gotham City.
(B) The Daily Clarion usually devotes more of its pages to out-of-town news than does the Daily Bugle.
(C) Nearly 40 percent of the readers of the Daily Clarion reside outside the limits of Gotham City.
(D) The editor-in-chief and all the other members of the editorial staff of the Daily Bugle have lived and worked in Gotham City for ten years or more.
(E) The Daily Bugle has been published in Gotham City for a longer time than has the Daily Clarion.

Let’s break down this argument!

Conclusion: Daily Clarion = real voice of the people

Evidence: Daily Bugle is owned by a syndicate

Assumptions: (1) that the syndicate not caring about the people = not a real voice, and (2) somehow that the Daily Bugle being not a real voice automatically means the Daily Clarion IS the real voice

The question asks which REFUTES the argument, so we need a choice that WEAKENS the Daily Clarion. Meaning the Clarion is NOT the real voice, or that the Daily Bugle is still the “real voice” even though it is syndicate-owned.

(A) This just refers to advertising, not ownership. Incorrect.
(B) This DOES weaken because it shows the Daily Clarion isn’t covering the local news as much, but remember the argument’s FOCUS is on the Daily Bugle’s inadequacy (go back to our assumptions!) Incorrect.
(C) The readers are irrelevant – we want to focus on what’s being covered/published. Incorrect.
(D) This DOES weaken because it shows the Daily Bugle staff live in Gotham and are therefore “of the people.” Correct!
(E) The time published is irrelevant.

Between (B) and (D), I returned to our assumptions. We can see that (D) is the strongest refutation, and the correct answer.

GMAT CR: Resolve the Argument practice question

This problem is from the GMAC paper tests. Try it on your own, then scroll down for my explanation!

A requirement of traditional pension plans is that an employee work for a company a number of years before gaining full rights to benefits from the company’s plan on retirement. Companies used this requirement to help them retain employees, but recent regulations have substantially reduced the number of years of work a company can require. Nevertheless, companies have not experienced any significant loss of employees.

Which of the following, if true, helps to explain why companies are not experiencing problems in retaining employees?

(A) As the number of years an employee has worked for a company increases, the rate at which the company contributes to the employee’s pension benefits increases.
(B) Potential employees prefer to work for companies that offer them pension plans rather than for those that do not.
(C) Most companies that do not offer traditional pension plans offer plans in which their employees enjoy rights to retirement benefits as soon as they enter employment.
(D) An employee is more willing to leave an employer after gaining full rights to pension benefits than before gaining such rights.
(E) Employers have always been reluctant to lose highly trained employees.

Let’s take apart the argument here:

Conclusion: Companies have not experienced significant loss

Evidence: None given

Assumptions: There is another reason the company hasn’t lost employees, despite the new regulations that reduce the # of years required for a pension

Since no evidence is given, we can predict that there is one of two reasons for the lack of employee loss:

Either there is another reason the employees are staying OR the requirement of years is not in fact as strong an incentive on employee continuation as previously thought.

(A) is correct because it shows why the employees wouldn’t care if the pension plan changed. It’s much better in the long term to have a rate that is constantly shifting higher from year-to-year under the new regulations, than to get a set amount after a set number of years. This choice means more money for the employees.

Learnist: How to Rock the “Bolded Statement” Questions on the GMAT

GMAT “Bolded Statement” (or “Boldface”) questions ask about the structure of a GMAT Critical Reasoning passage. Since they’re rare (and fairly confusing), many students struggle with them.

GMAT Arguments have a tendency to follow predictable patterns of organization and are always comprised of a conclusion, premise (or evidence), and assumptions. This is one of the core fundamentals in Critical Reasoning!

If what I just wrote makes no sense to you, you’ll definitely want to thoroughly review this Learnboard on Argument Structure before proceeding.

According to this article, here’s some sample bolded statement question stems:

  • In the argument given, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?
  • The first boldface statement has what relationship to the second boldface statement?

Most of the bolded statement questions will follow one of these two lines: either asking about the “roles” of each boldface OR about their relationship to one another.

But remember that the REAL question behind the question will always be this: what function does each bolded statement perform within the argument?

To successfully decipher the given options, you’ll want to categorize each part of the passage and each answer choice with a predetermined, specific set of symbols. Make use of that yellow scratch pad! Here’s the symbols I like to use:

MC = Main Conclusion (the author’s argument or position)

OC = Opposing Conclusion (an argument in opposition to the main conclusion)

F = Fact (basic given information, backstory, premise, etc.)

A = Stated Assumption (think of this as part of the passage that “links” given facts/evidence to stated conclusions)

E (+) MC = Evidence Supporting Main Conclusion (this is what the author cites to support his conclusion)

E (+) OC = Evidence Supporting Opposing Conclusion (this is evidence that is cited in support of the opposing conclusion; it undermines the author’s conclusion and can also be expressed as E (-) MC).

Try out two free practice questions with full explanations on this board: How to Rock the “Bolded Statement” Questions !