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Understand the range of CR Question types you might see on the GMAT
Learn to identify the type of question based on how the question stem is worded
Increase speed and efficiency by quickly identifying the question type and the corresponding framework strategy associated with that question type
GMAT Pill Analyzed Critical Reasoning Question Types in The Official Guide (OG13)…
Of the 124 available CR questions from the Official Guide 13th edition (excluding questions from the diagnostic section), GMAT Pill has identified 79 of the 124 questions (52%) that test you on how to strengthen an argument.
At GMAT Pill, we noticed that “strengthens” questions tested the same types of logic over and over and that they all fall under a core set of five frameworks. That means, if you learn the relevant 5 frameworks for “strengthens” questions, you’ll have learned the strategies to answer more than half of the CR questions on the GMAT.
We also noticed that “strengthens” questions tended to be worded in a similar way. The question stems tended to repeat so we categorized “strengthens” questions into 3 subcategories:
The “helps explain” question stem is typically worded as: “Which of the following most helps explain the discrepancy observed above?”
The “assumption / argument depends” question stem is typically worded as: “Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?”
These two question stems are variations off of a “strengthens” question and come up quite frequently in the OG13. As a result, we created separate categories for them. All other “strengthens” questions fall under the “general strengthens” category.
These are the official guide questions with the “general strengthens” concept in action.
“does most to justify the expectation that…” “[argument], since _____” “most strongly supports the argument…” “most strongly supports the hypothesis that …” “provides the strongest grounds that…” “…provides the best reason for the expectation that [argument]...” “…would provide most support for the prediction that…” “conclusion would be more reasonably drawn if which of the following were true”
“[Assumption] on which argument depends” “[conclusion] drawn is based on the [assumption] that…” “..argument relies on which of the following assumptions..” “which of the following is required for X to occur” “…assumes that…” “…an assumption that supports drawing the conclusion above” “… depends on which one of the following assumptions…” “assumption made in drawing the conclusion above” “…based on the assumption that…" “…argument must be true assuming that ____” “conclusion is properly drawn if which of the following is assumed"
“Argument is flawed because…” “…does not support…” “…most seriously weakens...” “…most vulnerable to criticism…” “…basis for arguing against…” “…would cast serious doubt…” “…undermines the argument” “…counters the objection…”
“The answer to which of the following would be most useful for evaluating the reasoning provided?” “For which of the following would it be most useful to establish in evaluating the argument” “…which of the following must be studied in order to evaluate the argument” “For purposes of evaluating the argument, it would be most useful to establish which of the following?” “…which would be most useful to know in determining whether…” “…which would be most important to determine in order to evaluate the argument?”
“if … then [inferred statement] must also be true” “…can most properly be drawn from the information...” “…can logically be expected to…” “If the statements above are true, which of the following must be true” “If the facts stated in the passage above are true, then…” “Which of the following conclusions is best supported by the passage?” “The statements, if true, best support which of the following as a conclusion?” “which of the following, if it occurred, would constitute X described above?” “…the statements above, if true, best support which of the following assertions?” “The considerations given best serve as part of an argument that …”
Something is bolded or question asks about structure “…the [bolded portion plays / two-boldfaced portions play] which of the following roles…” “…develops the argument by…” “Person A responds to Person B by…” “…describes the role played by the bolded portion…”
On your GMAT, you’ll only see around 14 or so CR questions out of the 41 verbal questions. As such, it’s possible you might not get a question in each of the categories defined above. You may do a practice test at home, then take the real GMAT and suddenly discover that the questions were not familiar to you. You may have gotten a question type that you didn’t see in your practice test.
So it’s no guarantee that you’ll see all 7 CR question types on the GMAT exam that YOU take. But you should definitely be prepared to tackle all of these types of CR questions by test day.
And here are the GMATPill Framework Strategies to attack these "Strengthens" questions:
Strategy for "Strengthens": General Visualization Strategy for "Strengthens": Framework #1: Before/After Strategy for "Strengthens": Framework #2: Linked Chains Strategy for "Strengthens": Framework #3: Expectation vs Actuality Strategy for "Strengthens": Framework #4: Negation (Regular and Exclusive) Strategy for "Strengthens": Framework #5: Sample Generalization
Note here that there are 3 subcategories to “strengthens” questions.
General Strengthens: Utilizes any of Frameworks #1-5 + General Visualization Helps Explain: Utilizes Framework #3 Assumption / Argument Depends: Utilizes Frameworks #1, 2, 4, 5 + General Visualization
The remaining 48% of CR questions are covered by Frameworks #6-10
The corresponding framework for the remaining CR question types are more simple to remember. “Weakens” questions use the “weakens” framework; “evaluate” questions use the “evaluate” framework; “inference” use the “inference” framework; and “bold-faced” questions use the “bold-faced” framework. The last one, Framework #10 Circular Reasoning, is more of a miscellaneous framework which actually is a form of “strengthens” but is very rare to see on the GMAT.
While we won’t go into detail about these 10 Core CR Frameworks, it’s good to see that there is some organization and structure towards the approach to CR questions. That’s key. When you prepare, it’s more important to understand the general concepts of what is being tested, rather than the specifics of a question. Otherwise, if you simply modify the question a little bit (something the GMAT folks do), you’ll be stumped. Something you answered correctly before suddenly becomes foreign to you and you get it wrong. You want to avoid that by focusing your studies on the core logic that is being tested. Master the core and you’ll be on your way to mastering the GMAT.