All About Critical Reasoning Questions on the GMAT (Part 1)

With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

Which type of Critical Reasoning (CR) question drives you crazy? Boldface? Find the Assumption? Inference?

The Critical Reasoning Process

Before you dive into individual question types, knowing the overall CR process is critical. Here are a few key notes:

  • There are four major* and five minor question subtypes, and each one has its own particular technique details. We will talk about the four major types in this post; check back next week for more information on the five minor types.
  • Your job is to learn the overall process/strategy for CR as well as the techniques specific to each question subtype.

*Note: Major types show up more frequently than minor types.

To master CR, you should be able to answer the following questions about each question type:

  1. How do I recognize this question type?
  2. What kind of information should I expect to find in the argument, based on this question type? What kind of information is going to be the most important?
  3. What is the goal for this question type? What characteristics must the correct answer have?
  4. What kinds of traps will be set for me? What are the common wrong answer types for this question type?

The Assumption Family

Assumption Family questions always involve a conclusion. This group consists of five subtypes overall. Here are the three major ones in this category:

Find the Assumption: What does the other assume is true when drawing the conclusion? Want to try another?

Strengthen the Conclusion: What new information would help to make the conclusion a little more likely to be true?

Weaken the Conclusion: What new information would help to make the conclusion a little less likely to be true?

The Evidence Family

Evidence Family questions really do not have conclusions (never “big” conclusions, like the Assumption arguments, and usually no conclusions at all).

This group consists of two subtypes overall, but only Inference questions are a major type:

Inference: Given the information in the argument, which answer choice must be true?

Spend some time mastering those four major types, as well as the overall CR process.

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