GMAT Critical Reasoning

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. From what I have explored till now, there is comparatively less variation in terms of concepts vs sentence correction. But sentence correction is more objective than critical reasoning.

The exam tests for broadly 3 different areas:

  • Argument Construction: What are they? What goes into making an argument?
  • Argument Evaluation: Understand the role behind different components of the argument and the reasoning used?
  • Evaluation of Plan: How does the new information change the plan in terms of strengthening, weakening etc.

GMAT Critical Reasoning Question Types

There are broadly 8 types of questions and each one of the questions will be asking you to do something related to the below types:

  • Inference:
  • Assumption:
  • Evaluate:
  • Strengthen:
  • Weaken:
  • Resolve the Paradox:
  • Flaw:
  • Boldface:

Premise & Conclusion

The premise is the piece of information or facts used before arriving at a conclusion. On the other hand, the conclusion is a logical deduction from the paragraph. So, every argument has a conclusion that tells the main idea behind the paragraph. An argument is basically a combination of facts and a conclusion. On the other hand, premise aka facts leads to a conclusion.

Premise -> Conclusion

Key markers can help determine the premise and conclusion and some of these are present in the below image.

GMAT Critical Reasoning. Trigger words for premise and conclusion

Counter Premise & Intermediate Conclusion

Similar to the premise, we might have facts pertaining to the conclusion that unlike the premise don’t aid in the conclusion but on the other hand present facts which might be in the opposite view. A statement can contain both the premise and the counter premise as well.

The counter premise can start with words such as although, however, but etc.

Besides the main conclusion, the paragraph can also contain intermediate conclusions. A statement can have only a single main conclusion. Thereby, any conclusion other than the main conclusion comes under intermediate conclusions.

Scope of Argument

Most GMAT critical reasoning section questions will be around strengthening, weakening or identifying gaps in the argument. This set of questions will need know-how on what can or cannot be doubted within an argument.

  • Premise/Counter Premise: These are facts and cannot be doubted.
  • Intermediate Conclusion/Conclusion: These components in the statement can be doubted. Since the conclusion and the intermediate conclusion are based on the reasoning from the premise. The third party’s opinions, referenced by an entity other than the author can be doubted.

In short, facts cannot be doubted but opinions based on reasoning etc can be. While the facts are true, the ability to draw wrong conclusions cannot be ruled out. Also, the author of the argument is the one who states the conclusion and any conclusions other than by the author cannot be the main conclusion of the paragraph.

The scope of an argument is the point or the circle up to which the argument can affect the conclusion. Only options within the scope of the argument are valid.


Assumption forms the basis for the majority of questions, directly or indirectly within the critical reasoning section. It is the information that is not explicitly mentioned within the statement aka stimulus of the question but needs to be valid for the final conclusion to be true.

Causal/Except Questions

Causal arguments go as X affecting Y. These are the implicit assumptions behind any kind of causal argument:

  • X, the cause occurs before the effect.
  • The reverse is not true
  • Only X causes the effect not anything else.

Invalidation of anything of the above weakens the causal argument. Similarly except questions are similar to other question types. The question is framed as: Correct choice will be a choice that is anything except an inference.

To be continued …