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    Critical Reasoning
  I: CR Introduction
  II: Argument Structure
     
     2. Rewording and Evaluating  
     3. Finding the Right Answer  
  III: Reasoning Skills
  IV: Question Types
  V: Advanced Question Types
  VI: Sample Questions
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II. Argument Structure
 
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Is the text an argument? In this case, an argument doesn't mean a dispute or controversy. It is an attempt to prove one thing by citing something else. It is an attempt to show that something is true, or probably true, by presenting some reason or evidence that supports it.

You see arguments everyday in advertisements, in which companies are making arguments to persuade you to buy their product. For example:

A GMAT course will teach you how to attack the common GMAT question types so that you can beat the GMAT. You should therefore buy a GMAT course.

In many of the Critical Reasoning questions, there will be a gap between the premise and the conclusion – the assumptions.

Premise(s) + Assumptions = Conclusions (inferences)

Target: Assumptions
On many critical reasoning questions, the question will turn on assumptions. Premises (evidence) on the GMAT will never be false. So you don't have to worry about that. The conclusion is often stated, so the whole game usually revolves around evaluating the assumptions.

 
Let's look at this argument to buy a GMAT course.

A GMAT course will teach you how to attack the common GMAT question types so that you can beat the GMAT. You should therefore buy a GMAT course.

Premise: A GMAT course can teach you how to attack the common GMAT question types in order to improve your score.
Conclusion: You should therefore buy a GMAT course.

There are some "assumptions" or "gaps" in this statement:

  1. A GMAT course can teach you common question types, but not all question types. A GMAT course can try to prepare you, but obviously a course can't prepare you for every question that appears on the GMAT.
  2. The GMAT comes up with new questions all the time, so it is possible that you can come across a question that no one has seen before.
  3. A GMAT course may have the content, but will you have the willpower to use it?


     

    Valid vs. True
    The GMAT is looking for valid arguments, not necessarily true ones. A valid argument follows from its premises.

    An ostrich is a bird.
    All birds fly.
    Conclusion: an ostrich can fly.

    The above argument is valid, but not true. Try not to argue or bring in external knowledge to the GMAT. You are just looking for valid arguments based on the information that they have given you.

    Why are flying ostriches so important to skilled critical thinking?


    In this chapter we regularly discuss absurd things. This isn't entirely for humorous effect. Skilled critical thinkers often employ the argument ad absurdum, which means taking a logical argument and stretching it to its breaking point to determine its validity. In this case, we use flying ostriches to show that arguments may be true but not valid.


     

Review of Arguments in Critical Reasoning

Video Courtesy of Kaplan GMAT

I. CR Introduction

II-1. The Assumption Hunt