GMAT Assumption Questions

Apparently, GMAT critical reasoning accounts for ~30% of questions on the GMAT Exam Verbal Section. So, expect anywhere between 10-12 questions pertaining to critical reasoning. The GMAT assumption questions are a significant part of the critical reasoning section. It helps indirectly answer strengthen, weaken and evaluate questions. GMAT assumption questions blog tries to demystify this specific concept.

Assumption Meaning

An argument is a combination of facts and a conclusion. The assumption is the piece of information that’s not necessarily mentioned within the question paragraph/statements but must be true for the conclusion.

e.g. The government of Delhi has imposed strict mask-wearing requirements. The covid’s spread is expected to fall drastically.

Here, the author is able to conclude that wearing masks will help reduce covid spread drastically. The assumption made here is that wearing masks reduces covid spread. Because most of the spread happens from person to person. This assumption is the missing link between the premise and the conclusion.

The assumption is the missing piece of information for the conclusion to be true. Moreover, we can even have multiple assumptions leading up to the conclusion.

Tackling GMAT Assumption Questions

Given that, we know the definition for the assumption, we will get to the problem-solving part of assumption questions. There are broadly 3 steps to getting to an assumption problem.

  • Identifying the right premise and conclusion: This is necessary since we will need to figure out the missing link between the two. A wrong conclusion will result in choosing a wrong statement as an assumption.
  • New Information: The assumption must be the missing information thereby should be new or additional information to that in the question.
  • Scope of argument: Post the identification of the conclusion, the right answer should lie within the scope of the argument. Furthermore, it should affect the conclusion as well.
  • Affects the argument: The assumption must be true for the conclusion, new information and within the scope of the argument.

Question Types

Post-reading the paragraph/question, it is recommended to get some basic pre-thinking done before getting to the answer choices. This pre-emptive intuition helps narrow down the right choice better. More so, there are broadly four types of questions:

  • Goal-Based: These can be solved by keeping the following points in mind
    • What happened during the planning stage and execution?
    • The connection between the two?
  • Causal: The following points are key to remember
    • X caused Y
    • Nothing else affected the cause
    • The reverse causal is not true
  • Quant Questions: Critical reasoning questions here are around
    • Profitability: Profit = (Selling Price – Cost)*Units. Furthermore, the cost can further be split into a fixed and variable cost.
    • Percentages: The primary factor in the questions is if the base matters or not.

The GMAT Assumption questions have these further categories of questions around strengthen, weaken and evaluate.

Strengthen

The right answer choice that strengthens the argument will have new information and support/aid the overall conclusion of the argument.

The assumption still needs to meet the 3 basic requirements of having new information, affecting the conclusion in a positive way and being in the scope of the argument.

The main difference between a generic assumption and a strengthener is that a strengthener strengthens the conclusion but is not absolutely necessary for the conclusion to exist. This is not the case for the assumptions discussed above.

Weaken

The weakener is a type of answer choice that does not necessarily negate or oppose the conclusion completely but does cast doubt on it.

The assumption still needs to meet the 3 basic requirements of having new information, affecting the conclusion in a negative way and being in the scope of the argument.

These questions will use terms such as an attack, refute, challenges, argue against, challenge, damage and counter. All such questions are weakener questions.

Evaluate

By default, evaluate questions pertain to making a calculation or a judgement about the quality, importance, quantity or performance of something. Evaluate questions asks one to evaluate the argument.

e.g. One should invest in high growth stocks to make a lot of money. One needs to evaluate the argument to make the call about this advice or assertion.

  • Is past history of high growth an indication of future growth.
  • Will the future trend of high growth continue?
  • Has the person advicing, done the same?

The answer choices will either increase or decrease the validity of the argument. The approach to solving these questions follows the same pattern as the other questions.

  • Identify the premise and conclusion.
  • Use prethinking to understand the filling assumption.
  • Eliminate the answer choices out of scope, of limited scope etc.

These questions typically use the terms like which answer most contributes, most important, most useful etc in the wordings of the questions. Even terms like judge, assess are all good indicators of evaluation questions

The final way to choose between the eliminated answers is to use the test of extremes.

Paradox

The paradox questions or paragraph has two contradictory points within the passage. This makes them seem off or an impossible situation to have since, how can one have two contradictory points. This is where the questions, try to gauge an output, where the goal is to resolve the paradox.

e.g. It’s curious that drinking a lot of water can make someone more thirsty. The paradox is how can drinking water make someone more thirsty instead of quenching it.

The right answer will not disapprove, one side of the argument but rather will allow both aspects of the argument to coexist. The right explanation will resolve the paradox.

For e.g. In order to increase the yield of the crops, farmers used genetically modified seeds and could not increase the yield of the crops.

Wrong answers would be

  • Out of scope: The cost of genetically modified seeds is higher than normal seeds. New information that does not solve the paradox.
  • Opposite: The earlier version of the seeds had yielded double the crop production.

To be continued …