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Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning (CR) is ability to reason clearly to evaluate and judge arguments. You are using this skill a lot during your everyday life while reading newspapers or watching movies. When you think that the movie is pushing the limit of the Reasonable or the news sounds less reasonable than the movie that was pushing the limit, you are using your Critical Reasoning skills to produce these conclusions. The argument you meet can be anything from a classical argument to an advertisement or a dialog. Critical Reasoning questions will ask you to manipulate the argument to weaken/strengthen it, find the conclusion, assumption, explanation, do an inference or supplement a statement, etc. Whatever it is that you have to do, you will need 2 things to succeed: know the basic structure of arguments and clearly understand the argument.
In general, most of them, arguments consist of evidence, usually 2 pieces, a conclusion - the main point of an argument, and an assumption - the bridge between the evidence and conclusion. The majority of the arguments you encounter on the test will be 3 step arguments:
Evidence 1 + Evidence 2 = Conclusion.
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Example 1

Last week Mike was detained for shoplifting at a groceries store near his house, but he has been a Christian for 10 years, therefore, the police must have been wrong accusing him in stealing.



Note : There are two pieces of evidence: ‘Mike was accused of stealing’ and that ‘he is a Christian’. The conclusion is that ‘the police are wrong’. Therefore, our huge assumption here is that ‘a Christian could not have stolen anything.’


Example 2

There are a lot of mosquitoes outside today, please do not turn on the light in the room because a lot of them will fly in.



Note : Here the evidences are ‘there are a lot of mosquitoes outside today’ and ‘do not turn on the light’. The conclusion is that ‘Many will fly in’ and the assumption is ‘mosquitoes will approach the light.’


There is no set scheme for structure in CR, but since the majority of the arguments are only a few sentences long, the conclusion usually comes in the first or the last sentence. However, some of the arguments encountered will not have a conclusion at all or will have just an implied one.

Strategy to Crack Critical Reasoning Questions

This strategy is not the easiest way to do CR (the easiest would be read-and-answer), but it lets you get the most questions right spending less time per correct answer.
  1. Read the questions first; this is needed so that you would know what to look for and what to do: find an assumption, strengthen/weaken, infer something or else; do not worry about the details in the question, read for keywords, such as strengthen, deny, or explain. [Use symbols for convenience, e.g. + for strengthen or – for weaken].
  2. Read the passage very attentively because in contrast to Reading Comprehension, there is very little text here and mostly everything is important; try to read only once. Reread if required.
    As you read, look for the problem in the passage (evaluate how convincing it is)
  3. Paraphrase (reword) the passage. It is a very important step because when you do a paraphrase, you check whether you understood the passage and at the same time you extract the skeleton of the argument, making it easier to identify the conclusion and the assumption. Very often, the paraphrase of the passage will be pretty close to the conclusion. It is not surprising, since the conclusion is the main point and evidence just supports it.) Your paraphrase should be as close to the text and as simple as possible so that you would understand it easily and at the same time could fully trust it. Do not make it too general nor too detail oriented. When you do a paraphrase, do it in three steps: Evidence1, Evidence2, and Conclusion; put “therefore” word before you start your conclusion, this will help you to set it off.
  4. Read the question again (now with more understanding of what is being asked; reading the question 2 times, it will also help you to make sure your answer exactly what is stated and that you understand the question.)
  5. Answer before reading the answer choices. There are two reasons for this :
    1. if you can think of the correct answer or at least the general direction that the answer choice needs to be, you will identify it among the wrong choices much faster, thus spend less time reading the answers, which usually take 30 seconds to cover.
    2. Often students are seduced by the author’s wording. One reads a few words that were used in the passage and the brain identifies this choice with the passage, thus making it seem more right that it needs to be. The more problems you practice with, the more chance is you will guess the right answer even before reading it.
  6. Go through the answers, first time scan them for YOUR answer choice (usually you will guess correctly in 60-70% of cases), if you did not find it, reread them more attentively.
  7. Draw a grid to eliminate the wrong answers easier. Use  for a sure answer,  for a definitely wrong answer choice, and “?” for an answer that may be right or questionable. This will help to concentrate only on a few answer choices and will prevent you from reading same answers several times if you get confused or keep having troubles locating the right answer.

Types of Critical Reasoning Questions

Critical reasoning questions will ask you to:
  1. Identify the inference / Must be true question
  2. Identify the assumption.
  3. Strengthen an argument.
  4. Weaken an argument.
  5. Select the best conclusion / Main Point
  6. Identify the paradox
  7. Evaluation/ Reasoning
  8. Identify a parallel argument/Structure.

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