Doing GMAT Critical Reasoning Quickly

Many students find GMAT CR challenging.  In addition to learning the individual strategies, there is also the challenging of processing these questions efficiently and not allowing each one to develop into a tremendous time sink.  How does one increase one’s overall speed on GMAT Critical Reasoning?


Critical thinking

One reason the GMAT asks Critical Reasoning questions is to test your capacity for critical thinking.  Think about the kind of person with an MBA, a person in some kind of responsible management position in the modern business world.  Think about what a disastrous job this person would do if he were gullible, believing everything he saw or heard without any doubt!  The very best way to lose money in the business world is to believe absolutely everything everyone tells you!

Critical thinking is a complex idea with several definitions, but certainly it involves an element of criticism or questioning or skepticism toward any piece of information that comes toward you.  You may give more credence to a piece of information directly from a respected source, but your skepticism rises if the source is unclear or unknown.  Your default response to any new piece of information is to ask yourself, “Could this be true? Is this reasonable, given everything else I know about this topic?”

Critical thinking also involves thinking about motives about different people in different situation.  Doctors and policemen, for example, are paid professionals who regularly provide help, so if they ask for something or tell you to do something, it is much more likely to be something in your self-interest.  An advertisement selling a product has a very particular economic motivation, so what the advertiser says may or may not have anything to do with your self-interest.

Get into the habit of thinking about information and people’s motivations every day.  Practicing this mindset every day will help you gain speed on the GMAT CR.



I mentioned advertising in the last section.  We live in a world in which advertising is omnipresent, and most people passively ignore it.  Of course, this is exactly what advertisers want, so that you absorb the message subliminally and it works on you unconsciously.  I am going to recommend: for GMAT CR practice, pay attention to advertising.  In particular, use critical thinking to analyze ads.

Fundamentally, every advertisement is an argument, usually an argument that you should part with your money in some way.  Think about all questions that the GMAT asks about CR arguments.  How would we strengthen the argument? How would we weaken the argument?  What’s the assumption of the argument?  What further information would allow us to evaluate the argument?  All of these are questions you can ask about any advertisement.  The advantage of thinking about ads this way is that you can get GMAT CR practice virtually every moment of your day.

Many ads are based primarily on emotional impact and, in fact, have huge logical holes.  Seeing through the emotional pizzazz and apprehending the logical flaws is an excellent critical thinking exercise, and if you get gain speed at this, again, it will help you do GMAT CR faster as well.



A blanket way to improve all GMAT Verbal performance is to develop a habit of reading.  Sophisticated news sources will contain arguments.  Folks in the business world often have arguments to make and politicians never stop making arguments.  Read articles about business and politics and apply the same analysis to every argument you find.  Many times, the author of the article also has a subtle and understated argument of his own to make: discerning this argument is a more advanced challenge.

This sort of reading is also helpful because it will give you instincts for the priorities of the real world.  The real-world feel of the GMAT CR is little appreciated.  The GMAT writes CR arguments that reflect the motivations and priorities of folks dealing with real-world situations.  Having good instinct for the modern business world is yet another perspective that can help folks move through GMAT CR questions faster.



None of these strategies are easy.  Then again, none of the habits of excellence are easy, and in fact, anyone who appreciates the full challenge of excellence understands the thorough commitment it entails.  If you have further thoughts about what might help folks do the GMAT CR more efficiently, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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  • Mike MᶜGarry

    Mike served as a GMAT Expert at Magoosh, helping create hundreds of lesson videos and practice questions to help guide GMAT students to success. He was also featured as "member of the month" for over two years at GMAT Club. Mike holds an A.B. in Physics (graduating magna cum laude) and an M.T.S. in Religions of the World, both from Harvard. Beyond standardized testing, Mike has over 20 years of both private and public high school teaching experience specializing in math and physics. In his free time, Mike likes smashing foosballs into orbit, and despite having no obvious cranial deficiency, he insists on rooting for the NY Mets. Learn more about the GMAT through Mike's Youtube video explanations and resources like What is a Good GMAT Score? and the GMAT Diagnostic Test.