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Critical Reasoning: Weakening on GMAT

Here is a set of free short videos for stepwise preparation of Critical Reasoning: Weakening 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

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.

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 Weakening Statement

Characteristics of a Weakening Statement

Here, we will cover the characteristics of a strengthening statement, in the context of GMAT critical reasoning. Understanding the weakening statement is vital to performing well on the GMAT critical reasoning section, for much the same reasons as why understanding the strengthening statements is important.

The Weakening Statement

As mentioned in the section on strengthening statements, very assumption made in support of an argument represents an inherent weakness in it. To be a weakening statement, an answer choice must attack this weakness by either invalidating the argument or providing additional information that weakens the conclusion. Through the following live examples, we will cover this concept, in detail.

Weakening Versus Strengthening

In the context of GMAT critical reasoning, weakening and strengthening have opposite objective but similar concepts. In fact, weakening statements are often seen as an easier equivalent to strengthening statements, as it is much easier to attack flaws in an argument than build it up.. Please go through the following live examples, to understand this concept.

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.

- GDP growth is not an important factor in deciding the performance of a political party.

This conclusion is builtupon the idea that the GDP growth has been good. Thus, by suggesting that GDP growth is irrelevant to judging the performance of a political party, and it suitability for maintaining power, this answer choice undermines the argument.

Let us take up a few more examples, using the same passage and missing link:

Example 2 - During the tenure of no previous government, the GDP grew by less than 18%.
By suggesting that all previous governments achieved a GDP growth that was at least 3% higher than the one achieved by the current one, this answer choice introduces relevant information that weakens the conclusion. Thus, it is a fine weakening statement,

Example 3 - The government did not play an important role in achieving the GDP.
Example 3 attacks the causal link between the current political party in power and the GDP growth. In doing so, it undermines the argument by suggesting that the GDP growth cannot be used to judge the party in power’s performance and suitability for staying in power, making it a fine example of a weakening statement.

Example 4 - None of the other economies witnessed a growth of less than 20% in GDP, during the same tenure.
This answer choice first draws an analogy by suggesting similar economies. Without such an analogy, answer choices like this are typically considered incorrect on the GMAT. However, creating an analogy by suggesting that other economies are similar and then stating that every other economy's GDP has grown by at least 5% more is an excellent way of introducing new information to weaken the conclusion.

Example 5 - 15% GDP growth is the lowest in 100 years for Xitora.
This answer choice also brings in additional relevant information that weakens the argument.

In the same way, there can be any number of potential answer choices for a weakening question. As mentioned earlier, it is easier to weaken an argument than to strengthen it.

Now, we will take up one final example, once again with the same passage and missing link.

Example 6 - The GDP did not grow by 15%.
Example 6 is a bad answer choice, as it directly contradicts information presented in the passage, itself. Remember, any answer choice must only affect the logical reasoning presented in the passage, not the information. A passage must be weakened by attacking the connection between the premise and the conclusion; trying to refute the facts presented in not the correct way.

Difference Between "Strengthening Statement" and "Assumption"

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.