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Critical Reasoning: Strengthening on GMAT





Here is a set of free short videos for stepwise preparation of Critical Reasoning: Strengthening on GMAT. For a more detailed treatment of the topic, you may want to opt for our GMAT online course or our GMAT test series of 15 mock tests.


How to Attempt Critical Reasoning- The "Missing-link" Approach



Many previous GMAT aspirants have reported that critical reasoning is an especially complex portion of the exam. The key to overcoming this complexity and tackling these questions is to approach them in a systematic manner. It is especially important to handle critical reasoning questions, systematically, as a failure to do so will not only lead to a lower score, in this section, but also take up much of your valuable time. Here, we will cover the best approach for you to take on the GMAT critical reasoning questions.

The Missing Link Approach


At Experts’ Global, we call this strategy the missing link approach. To understand this highly organized approach, you must begin by understanding the the nature of the GMAT critical reasoning passages. Each passage will include a "premise" and a "conclusion"; however, the “conclusion” will not logically follow the “premise”. They key to solving these questions is to identify the gap between the "premise" and "conclusion", which we call the “missing link”.

Although, you should note that there is no need for you to fill in the missing link. You only need to identify it, so that you can use it to identify the correct answer choice. Please go through the step-by-step guide, provided below, to understand this approach.

1. Read the question, before reading the passage. Doing so will allow you to understand exactly what type of question it is, strengthening, weakening, etc., and approach the passage, accordingly.

2. Read the passage very carefully and make a mind-map rather than taking note, to save time.

3. Identify the missing link by seeing where the gap in the passage's reasoning is. The missing link is whatever information is needed to connect the premise of the passage to its conclusion that is not provided.

4. Have an idea of what you are going to search for in the answer choices. This step is quite important.

5. Finally, use the "grid" to eliminate four answer choices. Remember, it is not about finding the one correct answer choice; it's about finding the best among the five answer choices. When you eliminate four answer choices, the one that is left is the correct answer choice.


Characteristics of a Strengthening Statement



Here, we will cover the characteristics of a strengthening statement, in the context of GMAT critical reasoning. This is a vital topic to master, if you are to tackle the GMAT critical reasoning questions. Identifying and working on the missing link is at the core of solving these questions and the strengthening statement is one of the primary factors that affects a missing link.

The Strengthening Statement


Every assumption made in support of an argument represents an inherent weakness in it. A strengthening statement should address this weakness by either eliminating it or or providing additional information that supports the conclusion. Through the following live examples, we will cover this concept, in detail.

Example 1 - Which of the following statements, if true, would most significantly strengthen the statement?
The GDP of Xitora has grown by 15% during the tenure of the current political party. Hence the political party has done a good job and deserves a second term.

The missing link in this passage is the link between the 15% GDP growth and the performance of the political party, and the conclusion is that the party has done a good job and should stay in power.

Now, please consider this answer choice:

- GDP growth is an important factor in deciding the performance of a political party.

This answer choice states that GDP is important in determining how well or poor a political party performed. In doing so, it fills the missing link between GDP growth and the performance of the party. Thus, this answer choice is a fine strengthening statement because it addresses an inherent weakness in the argument, the relevance of GDP growth to the party’s performance and suitability for staying in power.

Now, let us take up another example, using the same passage and missing link:

Example 2 - GDP growth is the most important factor in determining the performance of a political party.
Just like example 1, example 2 fills the missing link between the premise that the GDP has grown and the conclusion that this growth proves that the political party has done a good job and deserves a second term.

At this point, it is important to mention that you must avoid evaluating theanswer choices. The language of the questions includes the caveat, "if true", meaning that you must assume he information to be accurate. You must not concern yourself with the supposed factual accuracy of the questions. Rather, you should simply evaluate them on the basis of whether the answer choice forms a strong link between the premise and conclusion.

Finally, we will go through two more examples.

Example 3 - During the tenure of no previous government did the GDP grow by more than 10%.
Please do not think that this answer choice is irrelevant. By mentioning that the 15% GDP growth rate is the highest ever, this answer choice also strengthens the argument by bringing in the additional relevant information.

Example 4 - None of the other similar economies experienced a GDP growth rate that exceeded 12% in that same tenure.
At first glance, example 4 may seem like an extrapolator, which you may remember is a type of answer choice that is always incorrect in GMAT critical reasoning, a they suggest that something that happened over there should happen here. However, in this case, the answer choice is not an extrapolator. Before drawing the comparison between the GDP growths, the argument has drawn an analogy by suggesting similar economies. Thus, this answer choice is also strengthening the conclusion, by bringing in additional, relevant, information.


Difference Between "Strengthening Statement" and "Assumption"



As we have mentioned above, GMAT critical reasoning questions include an argument that consists of a premise and a conclusion. Within this argument, there will usually be a logical gap between the premise and conclusion , called the missing link. Identifying this missing link is the key to solving GMAT critical reasoning questions. Another aspect of the missing link that we have mentioned on this page is how “strengthening statements” and “assumptions” affect missing links. Here, we will cover the difference between these two elements, in greater detail.

Strengthening Statements and Assumptions


The defining trait of a strengthening statement is that it fills in the missing link by providing information that can bridge the gap between the premise and conclusion. The difference between an assumption and a strengthening statement is that the former serves the same function as the latter, but it must also necessarily be true. Therefore, we can say that assumptions are a subset of strengthening statements, and strengthening questions are easier versions of assumption questions. In summary, any statement that can fill the missing link is a strengthening statement, and if it must be true for the argument to hold, it is an assumption.

Please consider the following example, to understand this concept better.

Example 1 - Consider the following argument:
The GDP of Xitora has grown by 15% during the tenure of the current political party. Hence the political party has done a good job and deserves a second term.

The missing link in this passage is the link between the 15% GDP growth and the performance of the political party, and the conclusion is that the party has done a good job and should stay in power.

Now, consider the following answer choice:

- GDP growth is an important factor in deciding the performance of a political party.

This answer choice is an assumption. This statement bridges the gap between the premise and conclusion, by suggesting that GDP is an important factor in determining how well a political party performed. This answer choice is also an assumption, as it must be true for the argument to hold.

To further our understanding of this concept, we will now take up another example, with the same passage and the same reasoning but a different answer choice.

Example 2 - GDP growth is the most important factor in determining the performance of a political party.
Example 2 is only a strengthening statement, not an assumption. While it does fill the missing link very well, it need not be true for the argument to hold. To elaborate, even if GDP were the second most, third most, or even merely an important factor, the argument would still make sense.

By studying this example, you should be able to understand the distinction between strengthening statements and assumptions, quite well. So, make sure to do so as the sooner you understand this distinction, the easier your life on the GMAT critical reasoning will be.

Now, please consider one final example; once again, with the same passage and missing link.

Example 3 - During the tenure of no previous government did the GDP grow by more than 10%.
Again, this example is a good strengthening statement but not an assumption. The 5% gap indicates that this government improved upon the GDP growth. However, the statement does not have to be true for the argument to hold.



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