The Process for Tackling Any Critical Reasoning Problem on the GMAT

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.

I want to share a four-step Critical Reasoning (CR) process with you, a process that can be used on any CR problem.

Here is the overall process:

Step 1: Identify the question.
Step 2: Deconstruct the argument.
Step 3: State the goal.
Step 4: Work from wrong to right.

Those steps might sound obvious to some people and very vague to others. I will explain each in more detail, but I want to say first that each step is there for a very important reason, and each step has been split off from the others for a very important reason. You can find the full article on the Manhattan Prep blog, as well as additional articles that illustrate how to use this process with each of the various CR question types. Here are a few additional details for each step:

Step 1: Identify the question. Use the question stem to identify the question. Each question type has certain characteristics; learn them.

Step 2: Deconstruct the argument. Arguments can contain up to four main building blocks: premises, counter-premises, conclusions, and background. Every argument has premises, but that is the only component common to all. In addition, some arguments “contain” assumptions—that is, the assumptions are not written but can be implied based on the premises and conclusion.

Step 3: State the goal. Each question type asks us to do a certain kind of reasoning; we need to make sure we know what it is. Each question type also has common error categories; remind yourself what they are, and you will be less likely to fall for them!

Step 4: Work from wrong to right. This is just a fancy way of saying find and eliminate the wrong answers until only one answer is left. Your first focus is elimination; get rid of everything you know is wrong. Do not even ask yourself what might be the right answer until you have gone through all five answers once. Then compare any remaining, tempting answers.

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