I have found moderate success with the 3+2 rule while tackling critical reasoning questions. I knock off the 3 options that are "fluff" and focus on the 2 that relate to the question. However, it is after that I have a problem. I am finding it difficult to differentitate the two. Both are equally likely to be the answer and more often than not I get them wrong.
Please can some help with a technique on how to zero in on one option out of two?
Fantastic question – this is exactly what most of my students struggle with on CR.
I also agree that at least most (though certainly not all!) CR questions have 3 choices that can more easily be eliminated than the rest, leaving us with one correct answer, and of course, the dreaded "most convincing wrong answer"! So, what is one to do??
I have two main pieces of advice.I) Stay focussed on moving from Wrong to Right.
Now, I don't mean that CR must be strictly
a process of elimination on every problem, the way SC is. But generally speaking, it is easier to find a flaw in the wrong answer than it is to fully "justify" the right answer. It's a little counterintuitive, but this problem actually arises because we're all very good
at justifying arguments to ourselves. But then we end up mounting a reasonable justification for both of the remaining answers!
Don't let yourself go in circles like that. Focus on the remaining choices with a skeptical eye. Look for the one that has the bigger flaw. That's always going to be easier than trying to argue for both sides and then deciding.II) Learn focussed techniques for each different question type.
You've posed such a great question that I think I will write up a much longer post and elaborate on both of my points here. But for now, let me give you just one example of point (II). Say you're trying to Find the Assumption
and you are left with two possible answer choices. Think about what role an assumption should play – it should be necessary
to make the argument work! So, if you take the opposite or negation
of the assumption it should destroy
All kids like ice cream, therefore Joey likes ice cream.
I know, not a great argument, but hang with my because I'm making a point
. We're trying to conclude that "Joey likes ice cream" using only the premise that "all kids like ice cream". Of course there's a major Assumption
here – we have to assume that "Joey is a kid".
Now, take the negation
of that assumption: "Joey is not
a kid." What happens to our argument? We have no argument! It's been totally invalidated.
So, if you're down to two choices on a Find the Assumption
question you can always put them through the Negation Test
. Take the opposite of each choice, and the opposite of the correct choice should severely damage the argument.
As I said, you've got to develop these little "outs" for every different CR question type. I'll try to post a more detailed response sometime tomorrow that outlines some of those other techniques!
Mark Sullivan | Manhattan GMAT Instructor | Seattle, WA
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