Check GMAT Club Decision Tracker for the Latest School Decision Releases

It is currently 28 May 2017, 14:48


GMAT Club Daily Prep

Thank you for using the timer - this advanced tool can estimate your performance and suggest more practice questions. We have subscribed you to Daily Prep Questions via email.

for You

we will pick new questions that match your level based on your Timer History

Your Progress

every week, we’ll send you an estimated GMAT score based on your performance


we will pick new questions that match your level based on your Timer History

Not interested in getting valuable practice questions and articles delivered to your email? No problem, unsubscribe here.


Request Expert Reply

Confirm Cancel

Events & Promotions

Events & Promotions in June
Open Detailed Calendar

GMAT Critical Reasoning: Weaken Questions

  new topic post reply Question banks Downloads My Bookmarks Reviews Important topics  
Author Message

Hide Tags

9 KUDOS received
User avatar
Status: 1,750 Q's attempted and counting
Affiliations: University of Florida
Joined: 09 Jul 2013
Posts: 512
Location: United States (FL)
Schools: UFL (A)
GMAT 1: 600 Q45 V29
GMAT 2: 590 Q35 V35
GMAT 3: 570 Q42 V28
GMAT 4: 610 Q44 V30
GPA: 3.45
WE: Accounting (Accounting)
Followers: 26

Kudos [?]: 828 [9] , given: 630

GMAT Critical Reasoning: Weaken Questions [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 01 Nov 2013, 12:36
This post received
This post was



Question Stats:

80% (01:03) correct 20% (00:16) wrong based on 9 sessions

HideShow timer Statistics

GMAT Critical Reasoning: Weaken Questions

Written by Kelly Granson.

Weaken questions are the most frequently occurring problem type on the GMAT Critical Reasoning section. They usually ask you to do a fairly simple thing: find an answer that will undermine the argument offered in the question stem. Weakening an argument is, however, not as straightforward as it may seem. The key to cracking the Weaken question is a very clear understanding of what exactly it is that we want to challenge when casting doubt on an argument. That is the focus of this article. You will learn how Weaken questions usually look, what information you should look for in the right choice, and what answers to avoid.

How to recognize a weaken question

A Weaken question can ask you to undermine, challenge, or cast doubt on the validity of an argument. In its most basic form, it will sound like this:

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

Sometimes, however, problems of this type might be formulated more obscurely. Consider the following questions:

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the view that the company's new incentive program will not be successful?

Which of the following, if true, could be of the most use to the opponents of the new government policy?

These last two examples are both more specific and potentially more confusing. Despite positive-sounding language (most strongly supports, could be of the most use), they are still essentially Weaken questions, asking you to challenge the validity of a certain plan or policy.

How to analyze an argument

At the core of each typical Weaken question lies an argument; the author draws a conclusion based on stated premises. Weakening such an argument requires demonstrating that the author has failed to account for some circumstance or possibility that might alter the conclusion. Your goal is to follow the author's logic and separate facts from opinion. Having done that, you usually will be able to identify conditions not stated in the argument that would have to be true for the conclusion to be valid. Ideally, isolating the conclusion from the premises should yield a couple of such assumptions. Consider the following argument:

A recent study has shown that, all other characteristics being equal, bilingual persons memorize more quickly and retain information longer than those who speak only one language. Clearly, learning several languages can be used as a way to improve memory.

The premise here is that a person who speaks two languages has a better memory than those who speak only one. On this basis, the author concludes that learning several (more than two) languages can improve memory. You would accept this conclusion only if you, like the author, assumed that good memory is the result of learning two languages and not the cause, and that learning several languages has the same effect as learning only two does.

An answer choice that tends to deny these assumptions will cast doubt on the argument's conclusion. The correct answer choice will most likely introduce a new circumstance that makes the conclusion less likely to be valid. It is perfectly acceptable for Weaken answers to contain new information that was not included in the argument. The important thing is that this new piece of evidence should show that one or more of the author's key assumptions might not be true. Let's look at some possible Weaken answer choices for the above argument:

Which of the following most seriously weakens the conclusion above?

A. None of the bilingual participants in the study possessed particularly good memory before starting to learn a second language.

B. A study of those knowing several languages has shown that their memories are no better than those of monolingual persons.

C. Monolingual speakers usually score better on tests of spatial reasoning.

D. Most of the study's participants who speak only one language have never tried to master another language.

E. Another study has revealed that the memory of those knowing several languages is only slightly better than that of bilingual persons.

In this case, Choice B casts the most serious doubt on the argument's conclusion because it attacks the second assumption, that if knowing two languages helps improve memory so does knowing more than two languages.

What answers to avoid

You can help yourself identify the correct answer choice if you eliminate the ones you know are wrong. In order to avoid these wrong choices, you should look for three things: (1) contradictions, (2) irrelevancies, and (3) strengtheners.

First, eliminate any choices that contradict the premises. GMAT expects you to act as if the premises are true, so a correct Weaken answer will usually leave the original facts of the argument untouched, though it may introduce new ones, showing how the conclusion might be false even if the premises are true.

Second, discard irrelevant choices. Many answer choices will address topics tangential to an argument without undermining the author's assumptions. Choice C above is a classic example of an irrelevancy: spatial reasoning has nothing to do with memory. Particularly in questions that ask you to explain why a plan might be unsuccessful, wrong options often contain general, irrelevant, criticism of the plan. What you need, however, is to figure out specifically why the author expects the plan to succeed and attack precisely that assumption.

Finally, answer choices may act in the wrong direction, having an effect opposite to what you want and strengthening the argument's conclusion. In the argument above, Choice A goes in the wrong direction. Such choices can be even more tempting than those containing irrelevant information, since they do seem to affect the conclusion. The way to avoid them is to keep in mind what kind of effect your choice must achieve.

When test-takers get Weaken questions wrong, it is usually because of failure to recognize them, addressing the wrong part of the argument, or not seeing the author's assumption. If you learn to recognize Weaken questions, analyze the arguments carefully, and figure out the assumptions that connect premises and conclusions, Weaken questions will not be an insurmountable challenge.
Request Expert Reply
If you have any questions
you can ask an expert
GMAT Club Legend
GMAT Club Legend
User avatar
Joined: 01 Oct 2013
Posts: 10310
Followers: 1000

Kudos [?]: 225 [0], given: 0

Premium Member
Re: GMAT Critical Reasoning: Weaken Questions [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 12 Jun 2015, 15:27
Hello from the GMAT Club VerbalBot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

Want to see all other topics I dig out? Follow me (click follow button on profile). You will receive a summary of all topics I bump in your profile area as well as via email.
Re: GMAT Critical Reasoning: Weaken Questions   [#permalink] 12 Jun 2015, 15:27
    Similar topics Author Replies Last post
6 Experts publish their posts in the topic GMAT/Critical Reasoning-600-700 level question adityapareshshah 6 20 Jan 2017, 11:26
10 Experts publish their posts in the topic Critical Reasoning Revision: Weaken an Argument souvik101990 1 01 May 2017, 10:03
2 Tackling a GMATPrep Critical Reasoning Weaken Problem- daagh 3 05 Nov 2013, 00:00
11 Causality in Critical Reasoning Questions vix 6 01 Jan 2016, 05:05
49 Experts publish their posts in the topic Critical Reasoning Weakening Arguments kissthegmat 8 24 Feb 2016, 09:34
Display posts from previous: Sort by

GMAT Critical Reasoning: Weaken Questions

  new topic post reply Question banks Downloads My Bookmarks Reviews Important topics  

GMAT Club MBA Forum Home| About| Terms and Conditions| GMAT Club Rules| Contact| Sitemap

Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group and phpBB SEO

Kindly note that the GMAT® test is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admission Council®, and this site has neither been reviewed nor endorsed by GMAC®.