Free GMAT Course > Critical Reasoning > GMAT Reasoning Intro

The three parts of most Critical Reasoning arguments: Premise(s) + Assumption(s) = Conclusion


These are statements that support a conclusion. They are like evidence.

Indicator words:

  • Since…
  • Because..
  • Due to..
  • Studies have shown…
  • As indicated…
  • Given that..
  • This can be seen from..


While the conclusion and the premises are stated in the argument, assumptions are not. On the GMAT, it’s a crucial skill to be able to identify any assumptions, or gaps, between the evidence and the conclusion.

Indicator words:

Assumptions have no indicator words because they are unstated.


You may be asked to identify the conclusion, strengthen it, weaken it, identify why the reasoning in the argument is flawed, or find an answer choice with parallel reasoning to the argument to reach the conclusion.

Indicator words:

  • Therefore,..
  • Thus,..
  • Hence,..
  • So,..
  • Accordingly,..
  • For this reason,..

No one ever said the GMAT was an easy test; don’t expect the test writers to make it as simple as described above. Expect patterns such as Premise + Premise = Sub-Conclusion + Premise = Conclusion. We’ll be reviewing these complex structures later in the course.

Parts of a Critical Reasoning Question

The Passage

The first segment of the question contains an argument or just a series of facts. The premises in the Passage (also known as the Stimulus) on the GMAT are true. Don’t argue with them. So, in this example, you should assume that the price did increase sevenfold for the purposes of the question.

The postal service of Fairfield is badly mismanaged. Thirty years ago, first-class letter delivery cost only three cents. The price has increased sevenfold since then while the reliability and speed of the delivery have declined.

The Stem

The Stem (aka “the stimulus”) is sometimes in the form of a question and sometimes written as a statement. Be on the lookout for words like “EXCEPT”. What’s so important about the Stem is that it will give you a clue about the question category (giving you a huge insight into the question). We’ll spend most of the critical reasoning course reviewing these 20+ question categories.

Each of the following weakens the above conclusion EXCEPT:

The Answer Choices

There are always five possible choices. Your job is to figure out the one answer that satisfies the requirement in the “best” way. Often this is most efficiently done by finding something “wrong” with 4 out of the 5 answer choices. Other times, one answer will jump out as definitely “right.”

A. The volume of mail handled by the postal service has increased dramatically over the last thirty years.
B. Unprecedented increases in the cost of fuel for trucks and planes have put severe upward pressures on postal delivery costs.
C. Private delivery services usually charge more than the postal service does for comparable delivery services.
D. The average delivery time for a first-class letter three decades ago was slightly longer than it is today.
E. The average level of consumer prices overall has increased fourfold over the last thirty years.

Four-Step Method to Solving Critical Reasoning Questions

Step 1:
Understand the Stem

The GMAT commonly uses only about 20 or so question stem types. In this course we go through these question stem types so you can get a jump start on the question just by reading the stem.

Step 2:
Read the Question

Read carefully and efficiently! You can’t skim much. You’ll need to look carefully for important keywords to identify conclusions and premises.

Step 3:
Predict the Answer

Before you read the answer choices, it can be helpful to come up with your own answer to the question. Don’t try to predict the exact answer, but just get a general idea so you don’t blunder blindly into the answer choices.


If the question is far over your head, it’s time to consider making your best guess and moving on.

Step 4:
Evaluate the Choices

One or two of the answer choices will be absolute junk, so you can make it easier on you by eliminating a few from the start. Work as systematically as you can. Time is a factor, so don’t get into the habit of spending minutes debating your choices.

Double Check?

If you are prone to careless errors and have extra time, take a moment to double check your answer.

Time & Stress Management

Ladder of Difficulty

GMAT questions will adapt to your performance. Although it is tempting to assume questions will get easier or harder depending on your performance, this isn’t always the case. Try to be careful using this approach unless you are a very low or very high level student.

Question Types

Our Critical Reasoning course is organized by the major question types. We’ve broken them down into four major question categories:

  • Arguments
  • Assumptions
  • Matching Arguments
  • Modifying Arguments

Video Quiz

GMAT Critical Reasoning Introduction

Best viewed in landscape mode

1 question with a video explanation

100 seconds per question

Continue to Question (1)

Time Expired

Replay Video

Replay Video

Are you sure you want to refresh the question?


Choose the correct answer.

Press SELECT to start video.

Be sure to turn on your volume to hear the explanation.

What GMAT score would you get? Take a free diagnostic GMAT with videos and tutor support.