# Introduction to GMAT Critical Reasoning (with Practice Questions)

This post was updated in 2024 for the new GMAT.

## What is GMAT critical reasoning?

GMAT Critical Reasoning is one of the two question types found in the GMAT Verbal section. All CR questions contain a prompt (usually 100 words or fewer) that presents some sort of argument, which is followed by a question stem and 5 answer choices. The questions revolve around a logical analysis of the core argument and might involve strengthening it, weakening it, finding its underlying assumption, etc. GMAT Critical Reasoning tests your critical thinking and logic skills more than your reading skills.

Logical reasoning is also one of the most important skills in the business world. Whether to decide upon the best sales strategy, to understand what motivates your customers, or to navigate investor concerns, well presented, logical arguments are the bedrock of successful business management. An effective manager demonstrates skills in addressing the following: How would I strengthen or weaken this argument? What is the assumption of this argument? What further evidence would I need to evaluate this argument? In other words, a real-life manager needs to apply all the skills required for success on GMAT Critical Reasoning questions.

### The 8 Critical Reasoning Question Types

The eight broad categories of GMAT Critical Reasoning questions are:

1) weaken the argument/find the flaw in the argument
2) strengthen the argument
3) find the assumption
4) draw inference/conclusion
5) structure of the argument, including boldface structure questions and dialogue structure questions
7) evaluate the conclusion
8 ) complete the argument

Types #1-4 account for most GMAT CR questions. You can find out more about each one of these types in the linked blog articles.

## Top Tips for Improving in GMAT Critical Reasoning

### Tip #1 – Read the Question First!

Read the question stem before reading the argument. This will help you know which type of question you are going to have to answer. Then, you can read the argument with that question in mind.

### Tip # 2 – Know the Different Elements of an Argument

In reality, every argument has three key components:

• A premise(s), which are the facts or reasons that form the foundation of the argument.
• A conclusion, which is usually the message of the argument and is supported by the premise(s).
• An assumption, which is usually not stated in the argument but must be true for the conclusion to be valid. In other words, if the assumption is found to be false, the entire argument will fall apart.

If you have a mathematical bent of mind, think of these components through the following equation:

Premise + (Unstated) Assumption + (extra context/background info) = Conclusion

The two that are usually easier to identify are the conclusion and the premise. But! It’s important to note that more complex CR question types might not even have a stated conclusion or easily identifiable premise. However, when those elements are present, it is important to think about the underlying assumption that is holding the argument together. Your job is never to question the facts of the argument. You have to take anything stated as truth. Your job is to find the unstated assumption and question the gap between the facts and the conclusion. Ask yourself: What did the author need to be true in order to reach the conclusion?

To become good at solving CR questions, it is important to become good at analyzing the argument and identifying all these components of the argument. You can find more details regarding assumption questions here.

### Tip #3 – Know What You’re Looking For Beforehand

In all Critical Reasoning questions, the GMAT gives one correct answer and four tempting and potentially confusing statements for the other choices. Folks who read the argument & question and then wander aimlessly into the answer choices without any further thought are asking to be perplexed, and, chances are, they spend much longer than necessary on the questions.

Go into the question with an idea of what you seek. For types #1-3, the best thing to do is to find the assumption of the argument — reaffirming or undercutting the assumption of an argument is the most powerful way to strengthen or weaken it. Finding the assumption may also be helpful in finding the flaw of the argument (if the flaw is a faulty assumption).

For the other question types, you will be less able to predict what the answer will be; still, formulating the task in your own words will help you. In your own words, what is the structure of the argument? What is the paradox that needs to be resolved? What kind of information would be required to evaluate the conclusion? etc. The more clearly you understand what type of information or argument will satisfy the question, the more quickly you will find it.

### Tip #4: Read EXACTLY what is written

The majority of mistakes in the critical reasoning section often boil down to the same fundamental error that students make: misreading the argument, question stem, or one of the choices. Furthermore, the argument is limited to the topic presented. Any answer choice that alters or moves away from the topic of the argument is a trap.

It is extremely important to take your time, stay engaged with the argument and read EXACTLY what is written without trying to paraphrase it. A single word can change the meaning of the conclusion or what piece of information can make that conclusion invalid. It might seem beneficial to simplify certain details or ignore certain modifiers that seem like ‘extra’ information for the argument, but that is what can get you into trouble. Reading carefully and noticing every modifier or any extra information in the passage is the best way to avoid mistakes.

### Tip #5: Look for Four Wrong Answers, Not the Correct One.

Almost all Critical Reasoning questions will have at least a couple of choices that are clearly incorrect. When struggling through the confusing options, your focus should be to first find those low fruits and eliminate them. In the first pass, only eliminate the option choices that you are completely sure are incorrect. You can always go through the options again and iteratively make eliminations to find four incorrect choices. This will also allow you to “narrow the field” and focus on the more difficult or confusing choices that require slightly more focus and attention. Once you have done that, the last remaining choice, no matter how confusing or how strange, has to be the correct answer.

## GMAT Critical Reading Practice Questions (with Explanations)

1. Megalimpet is a nationwide owner of office space. They have major office buildings in the downtowns of several cities in the 48 lower states, and rent this space to individual companies. Megalimpet office spaces vary from small office to large suites, and every space has custom-designed wall-to-wall carpeting. The carpet in several Megalimpet facilities needed replacing. The winning bid for the nationwide carpet replacement was submitted by Bathyderm Carpet Company (BCC). The bid contract involves all delivery costs, all installation, and any ongoing maintenance and upkeep while the carpet is under the three-year warranty. Both BCC executives and independent consultants they hired felt BCC would be able to perform all these services for far less than their bid price; these circumstances would allow BCC to reap a considerable profit.

Which of the following, if true, most calls in question the argument that BCC will make a large profit from this contract with Megalimpet?

From all the evidence given, it seems that BCC (and the independent consultants) have taken all costs into account, and the analysis reveals that they will reap a considerable profit. In order to call this into question, we have to come up with some major unanticipated cost that would not be something already considered in this analysis.

(D) is the credited answer. First of all, laser printers and photocopiers are very common devices in office spaces, so we good reason to think that many of Megalimpet’s tenants will use these. If the toner degrades the carpet, that’s a huge additional expense for BCC, because their contract includes “ongoing maintenance” — i.e. replacing any carpet that needs replacing. Finally, nothing in the argument stem gives us any indication that this problem was on anybody’s radar, so this well could be an unexpected or unanticipated expense for BCC. Therefore, it most calls into question the idea that BCC will make a huge profit.

(A) & (C) are all expenses that would have been very clear to BCC and to its independent consultants, and therefore all of these would have had to have been taken into account when the financial analysis of the bid was made. There is no reason any of these expenses would be unanticipated.

(B) speaks to BCC previous experience, which, if anything, would tend to suggest they know what they are talking about. If anything, this would tend to strengthen the argument, not weaken it.

(E) only compares BCC to the second lowest bid, but we have no idea about that company, what it did or did not take into account in their bid, and what their overall costs might be. There are too many unknowns for this piece of information, by itself, to have any substantial impact on the argument.

1. A minor league baseball franchise experienced a drop in attendance this week after they suffered three losses by margins of ten runs or more last week. Many spectators of those games wrote letters to the editors of the local sporting news, complaining of the poor play of the team in those three losses. Nevertheless, the front office of this baseball franchise maintains that the team’s poor play in those three losses has nothing to do with this week’s decline in attendance.

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the position held by the front office of the baseball franchise?

The statement by the front office of the baseball franchise seems, on the surface, not to take the basic facts into account. If we want to strengthen this position, there must be some alternate explanation for the drop in attendance.

Part of strengthening the franchise’s position would be weakening the original position: namely, that the team’s poor play explains the drop in attendance.

(C) is the credited answer. If other minor league teams also experience a drop this week, there must be something global in this market affecting all teams. We don’t know what this factor is, but it’s something that touches all teams, not just those that played bad last week. This provides a cogent alternative explanation, even though we don’t know the specific nature of the factor causing the drop in attendance.

Both (A) & (D) strengthen the original position, namely, that the team’s poor play explains the drop in attendance. In order to strengthen the baseball franchise’s position, we have to weaken this original position.

Choice (B) essentially accuses the baseball franchise of lying, or at least bluffing, which hardly strengthens their position.

Choice (E) simply adds to the paradox: if the closest MLB team is far away and folks typically don’t go there, then there would be more demand for the local minor league baseball. Given that demands, a drop in attendance doesn’t make as much sense. This choice adds to the confusing without explaining anything.

1. In a few recent cases, some teenagers with advanced programming abilities used a new programming language, FANTOD, to hack into ETS and change their own SAT scores. All of the teenagers convicted of this crime were highly skilled in programming FANTOD. In light of these cases, some colleges have discounted the official SAT scores of applicants with a knowledge of FANTOD, and have required them to take special admission tests in supervised conditions on their own campuses.

Which of following conclusions can most properly be drawn from the information above?

The evidence says: all the ETS hackers were FANTOD programmers. What the colleges seem to be assuming is the converse: all FANTOD programmers are hackers. Of course, there is no direct evidence for this converse. Presumably there are some students who learn FANTOD in good faith and who are not hackers, but because of the assumption the colleges are making, these students are faced with extra challenges, such as having their justly achieved SAT scores disregarded and being forced to take additional admission tests.

(C) is the credited answer. Since there is no evidence for the converse statement, we have reason to believe there are FANTOD programmers who are entirely innocent of any hacking, yet those very students will have their perfectly valid SAT scores dismissed and will have to take a new test to achieve admission: this certainly would not be fun, would not be fair, and could place them at a disadvantage with respect to all the non-programming students who could just take the ordinary SATs and be done with all testing.

(A) assumes too much based on the information provided in the prompt. Specifically, we only know about a specific group of those with FANTOD knowledge: those who used it to hack into ETS. Therefore, we cannot make any airtight conclusions about “most people”. It is very possible that most people who know FANTOD use it for purposes other than hacking.

(B) might be true, but it’s much too broad. This is about the much larger issue of what is the best way for colleges to determine who should be admitted. This entire argument is focused quite specifically on the FANTOD programmers and the issues associated with them.

We have absolutely no evidence for (D). All we know is that, whatever scores those hackers achieved on the real SAT, they falsified the records to make them higher. We don’t know if those scores were already high, and we certainly can draw no conclusion about all the students who know how to program in FANTOD who are not hackers. In fact, one might suspect the opposite, that folks bright enough to figure out this sophisticated programming language might be more intelligent and more successful on average, but even that we strictly can’t assume. Therefore, we can’t draw a clear conclusion about this.

(E) is a tricky one. We are told that some colleges took a certain set of special measures. We are given no information on what the other colleges did. Did they take another set of special measures? Did they not address the issue at all? We don’t know. Therefore, we can’t draw a clear conclusion along these lines.

1. In the twentieth century, the visual arts have embarked on major experimentation, from cubism to expressionism. While tastes always vary, there are certainly some people who find beautiful objects of each of the art movements of the first half of the twentieth century. In the latter half of the twentieth century, though, most works are so abstract or shocking that neither the critic nor the general public uses the word “beautiful” to describe them: indeed, sometimes late twentieth-century artists have, as one of their expressed goals, the creation of a work that no one could find beautiful. Whatever these artists are creating may be intellectually engaging at some level, but it is no longer art.

Which of the following is an assumption that supports drawing the conclusion above from the reasons given for that conclusion?

The argument makes a number of factual statements. Art in the first half of the 20th century are, or could be considered, beautiful. Works by artists in the latter half of the 20th century are not supposed to be beautiful, and even, are supposed to be devoid of beauty. Then the argument draws a bold powerful conclusion: therefore, they are not art! The assumption seems to be something that links beauty to whether something qualifies as art. We definitely need an answer to speak to the question: what does, or doesn’t, qualify as art?

(C) is credited answer. If something needs to be beautiful, or potentially beautiful, to qualify as art, then this would explain that works that “no one could find beautiful” would fall outside the author’s definition of art.

The other answers are all quite tempting, because we could imagine an art professor or someone in an art class arguing for any one of them.

(A) is irrelevant. Critics & the general public might have different appraisals, but what one or the other thinks does not, in and of itself, seem to determine whether something is art.

(B) is also irrelevant: who determines the meaning is a separate question from whether the work qualifies at art in the first place. (BTW, exceedingly few modern critics would accept the interpretive idea contained in choice .)

(D) is undeniably true, but not relevant: again: it provides no standard by which we could say the former objects are art and the latter objects aren’t.

(E) is a far-flung idea, unrelated to the discussion. The passage doesn’t address the issue of whether any works of art are intellectually engaging.

1. The National Farm Administration (NFA) has been concerned over the last decade with the struggles of barley growers.

Plan: In an effort to support these barley growers, two years ago, the NFA began a program of sending them, each autumn, a free special mix of fertilizer and enzymes designed to multiply barley yield, to be applied the following spring during first growth. This mix had been stunningly successful in multiplying the yield of barley in laboratory conditions.

Results: Most barley growers reported little change in their economic status over this two year period.

Further information: All barley growers received the shipments, and all used them. Weather conditions have been fair to optimal for barley growth over the past two years.

In light of the further information, which of the following, if true, does most to explain the result that followed the implementation of the plan?

1. When, on a particular shopping trip, a consumer purchases an item which he previously had no intention of purchasing, this sale is called an “impulse purchase.” The objects of impulse purchases are occasionally essential items (i.e. items that satisfy basic subsistence needs), but much more frequently are luxury or non-essential items. Researchers have determined that, at the end of a shopping trip, a consumer is much more excited if she has bought a luxury item on an impulse purchase, than if she had made no impulse purchases.

If the information above is true, and if the researchers’ investigation was properly conducted, then which of the following must also be true?

The credited answer is choice (D). If the researcher was able to conclude anything about how an impulse purchase made someone feel, then the researcher first had to know that it was an impulse purchase, that is, that the purchase was not planned. If the researcher had no way to determine whether a purchase was planned or unplanned, then the researcher would have no way of determining which purchases were impulse purchases.

We know the consumer find the impulse purchase of a luxury item more exciting than the planned purchases. We don’t necessarily know how exciting the impulse purchase of an essential need is—maybe it’s less exciting than the impulse purchase of a luxury item, or maybe it’s just as exciting. We suspect from real life that this may be true, but we cannot determine this from information in the prompt, so it can’t be the answer to a “must be true question.” Thus, choice (A) is incorrect.

We only know about the excitement brought about by an impulse purchase of a luxury item, but we have no information about what happens if a purchase is planned but not made. Choice (B) inappropriate extends the pattern into situations the prompt doesn’t cover at all. Choice (B) is incorrect.

We know that the impulse purchase of a luxury item is exciting, but we don’t know whether this is sufficient inducement for a person seeking excitement to make this kind of purchase frequently. The expense, for example, might be a mitigating factor. We can conclude nothing for certain about this, so choice (C) is incorrect.

This is a tempting one—we certainly might suspect that the luxury items of higher price would be bought as impulse purchases less frequently. We might suspect this, but notice that the prompt says nothing about high price vs. low price items. This answer choice invites us to bring in irrelevant outside knowledge, so, like (A), it can’t be the answer to a “must be true question.” Choice (E) is incorrect.

1. Over the past ten years, the population of Dismaston has grown five times as large as it was. During this time, the average income in the city has risen substantially, and a tremendous amount of capital has flowed into city. An independent audit found that, somewhat surprisingly, the number of violent felonies reported per year is now lower than it was ten years ago.

Each of the following statements below, if true, would explain the somewhat surprising finding EXCEPT:

This is an EXCEPT question. Four of the answer will be perfectly valid explanations, and these will be incorrect. One of the answers will not be good explanation—either it will be irrelevant, or it may even suggest a rise instead of a decline; this oddball choice will be the correct answer.

The credited answer is (B). The new filing system, in essence, never misses the report of a violent crime. This at least implies that perhaps the previous filing system missed some violent crimes on occasion—for whatever reason, some violent crimes that took place slipped through the cracks and failed to be reported. Well, if we were not reporting everything before, and are reporting everything now, if anything this might suggest an increase in the number of reported violent crimes. It most certainly would not, by itself, explain a decrease. This is not in any way a good explanation, so this the correct answer.

We know, over the past decade, “the average income in the city has risen substantially” and “a tremendous amount of capital has flowed into city,” both of which indicate conditions of prosperity. Therefore, according to choice (A), white-collar crimes would increase, and street-crimes would decrease, with a concomitant drop in violent crimes. Choice (A) is a valid explanation, so it’s an incorrect answer.

If the state kept convicts in jail longer, that would mean fewer of them would be back out on the streets committing felonies, most of which are violent. Therefore, it would lead to a drop in the number of violent crimes. Choice (C) is a valid explanation, so it’s an incorrect answer.

Better police and better crime detection means more arrests and fewer violent crimes. Therefore, it would lead to a drop in the number of violent crimes. Choice (D) is a valid explanation, so it’s an incorrect answer.

Better lighting at night and security cameras have some effect in reducing crime. Choice (E) is a valid explanation, so it’s an incorrect answer.

1. Archeologists have discovered three sites showing conclusive evidence for the mastery of fire in Tanzania, from a period slightly after the time that Homo habilis was present in Africa. These sites clearly were founded by Homo erectus, the descendent species of Homo habilis that migrated north, out of Africa and into Asia. Homo erectus was known to have mastered fire, from ample evidence at sites in Asia. There is no reason to attribute mastery of fire to Homo ergaster, the descendent species of Homo habilis that remained in Africa.

Which of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?

Remains of prehistoric fire were found in Tanzania. The author says that Homo erectus made these fires, and that there’s no reason to assume Homo ergaster did. What is a necessary assumption?

The credited answer is choice (A). Homo erectus had to be as far south as Tanzania—if they were not, there would be no way they could have made those fires there, which would seem to indicate that Homo ergaster made them after all. Negating this statement devastates the argument, which is a confirmation that we have an assumption.

Whatever might have caused Homo erectus to master fire doesn’t clarify who made those fires in Tanzania: Homo erectus or Homo ergaster? Choice (B) is not correct.

Suppose Homo ergaster would have derived as much benefit from the master of fire as did the Homo erectus, or even more benefit. That fact, by itself, would imply nothing about which one of these species created those fires in Tanzania. Denying this doesn’t change the validity of the argument. Choice (C) is not correct.

Choice (D) is intriguing, because it may be true. Both Homo erectus and Homo ergaster evolved from Homo habilis, so it’s quite likely that the Homo habilis was the sole source of cultural knowledge for either of these species. BUT, we know that Homo erectus, presumably without the benefit of cultural knowledge about fire, was able to master fire. If Homo erectus did that, why couldn’t Homo ergaster? In other words, the limits of the cultural knowledge inherited does not necessarily set limits on what these human species could achieve. Therefore, we can draw no conclusion with respect to this argument. Choice (D) is not correct.

If Choice (E) were true, it would support the argument, but a supporting statement is not necessarily an assumption. We have to use the Negation Test. Suppose Homo ergaster was all over in Tanzania, before & during & after the time that those fires were created. Would that prove Homo ergaster started those fires? Not necessarily. It could still be true that both Homo ergaster and Homo erectus occupied that region, that only the latter had mastered fire, and therefore, that the later had to start those fires in Tanzania. Thus, we can deny choice and it doesn’t necessarily contradict the argument. Therefore, it is not an assumption. Choice (E) is not correct.

1. Five years ago, the town of Bayside, in the Katonic River Valley, had catastrophic flooding one spring, and consequently, most insurers now refuse to write flood insurance for houses in Bayside. The town of Dryadia, in the Phemptic River Valley, is much like Bayside in its proximity to a similar river at an almost identical point in the river valley. We can conclude that the only reason the same insurers do not write flood insurance for houses in Dryadia either is its similarity to Bayside in terms of where it is situated in the river valley.

Which of the following, if true, would most seriously undermine the argument?

The credited answer is choice (D). If the town of Dryadia really does flood, then that’s the reason insurers won’t write flood insurance for it! Therefore, the “only reason” cannot be “its similarity to Bayside in terms of where it is situated in the river valley.” Choice (D), if true, obliterates the argument, so this is the best answer.

The argument say that “most insurers” don’t write flood insurance in either town, but if most don’t, this implies that some do. Therefore, choice (A) is actually expected from the argument and does not challenge it at all. Choice (A) is incorrect.

Choice (B) would not be surprising and could be perfectly consistent with the argument. We know Bayside had “catastrophic flooding“, but we don’t know for a fact that every single house was flooded—maybe or maybe not. If some houses were not flooded, it sounds as if the insurers don’t write flood insurance for any house in Bayside, so even those houses that never flooded could not buy flood insurance. Therefore, this would validate (B) without threatening the argument in any way. Choice (B) is incorrect.

Choice (C) is irrelevant. Even if no resident in absolutely any other town up and down the Katonic River Valley can buy flood insurance, that doesn’t necessarily shed light on why folks in a town in a completely different river valley can’t buy insurance. Choice (C) is incorrect.

Choice (E) is too general and vague. Yes, perhaps there are many ways a house can be flooded, and correspondingly, perhaps there are many reasons why an insurer would deny any particular house flood insurance. Even if this is true, it doesn’t shed any light on exactly why the folks in Dryadia have trouble getting flood insurance. Choice (E) is suggestive, but it doesn’t actually tell us anything. Choice (E) is incorrect.

## Where to Find More GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

While 10 Critical Reasoning questions are a great start to your practice, they’re definitely not all you should do before test day! Here are a few resources you can go through to get even more practice with different CR question types before test day.

Critical Reasoning questions challenge your thinking skills and ability to critically analyze arguments. They need great attention to detail and are immune to most shortcuts or gimmicks. Follow the above discussed tips to understand what is tested in these questions and master the GMAT CR.

Looking to put your Verbal skills to the test? Check out the FREE Magoosh GMAT practice test with with accurate score prediction and subject-by-subject performance breakdown! Take just the Verbal section for 45 minutes or the whole assessment test for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Happy studying!”

## Author

• Ayush is a Test Prep Expert and Application Coach actively involved in the Test Prep and Application Consulting space for several years now. He is a GMAT 99 Percentiler and has extensive experience in delivering private tutoring sessions for GMAT, GRE, and SAT exams. Ayush has a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and an MBA in Strategy from the Indian School of Business. He is an ardent ManUnited fan and when he is not helping students understand that tricky GMAT question or write that dreaded Why MBA answer, he would be likely cheering for his team at Old Trafford (GGMU). To connect with him, feel free to reach out to him via LinkedIn or his website Test Prep Buddy.