GRE Critical Reasoning Question: The Logic of “Except”

EXCEPT questions can be very time consuming. The key is not to get too hung up on one answer choice. Instead, eliminate the ones that are obviously wrong. On the ones in which you are unsure on, come back to them later. Sometimes, there will only be a couple of answer choices left. Then you can focus on each one, choosing the one that works best.

Practice Question

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The number of mountain lion sightings in the Rockridge Mountain Park, a popular park in Redwood Country, reaches it peak in the months of April and May. All of the following could account for the increased number of mountain lion sightings EXCEPT

  1. During April and May, which feature the best hiking weather of the year, more people visit the park than during any other time of year.
  2. Throughout the year, local newspapers report any mountain lion sightings, and most reports come during the months of April and May.
  3. The red-tailed deer, the mountain lion’s primary food source, is most abundant during these months and tends to favor hiking trails.
  4. The trail conditions are best for mountain bikers, who, because they make less noise than hikers, are more likely to startle mountain lions.
  5. Creek beds high in the mountains tend to dry up in spring, so mountain lions often descend into the lower elevations, where hikers are more common.


We are looking for an answer choice that could explain why people are most likely to see mountain lions in April and May.

  1. This answer choice provides a good reason: the weather is better so more people are hiking in the mountains. If more people are hiking, then there will be more people to possibly spot the animal.
  2. This answer choice simply restates the premise, which says that mountain lions are most common in April and May. It DOES NOT provide an explanation that could account for why most mountain lion sightings happen during these months. Therefore (B) is the answer.
  3. If the red-tailed deer is feeding near where there are hikers, mountain lions are likely to be near by.
  4. Mountain bikers are more likely to spot mountain lions. Most mountain bikers enter the park in April and May, a fact which explains the increase sightings.
  5. Mountain lions are usually at higher elevations where hikers are less common. During this time of year, mountain lions, in order to find water, come to where hikers are more common. Thus (E) provides a reason for increased sightings.

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9 Responses to GRE Critical Reasoning Question: The Logic of “Except”

  1. pranav August 25, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Hi chris,
    Though i understand why B would be the choice ,im a little confused as to why A is wrong. question requires to state reasons for more lion sightings ,but A only mentions that more people are trekking .It can also mean that lion sightings are the same but no. of ppl sighting it at the same time is more than usual..??.. plz clarify
    P.S. like ur posts very much..keep up the good work bro.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

      Hi Pranav,

      So (A) implies that there are more hikers. The more people are in the park, the more the likely the total number of sightings will increase. It’s not that the individual is more likely to spot a mountain lion. Imagine, 20 people hike there each day in winter. If that number increases to 200 in April in May, then you have 10x the number of eyeballs, and a much greater chance that mountain lions will be spotted.

      Hope that helps!

      • pranav August 26, 2014 at 4:37 am #

        Yes i got it…Thank you

  2. Sourabh July 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Hi ,
    I had been following your blog for past few days, & saw that u explained the paradox (critical reasoning) quite well. So, can u please post tricks to solve boldface questions. I would be really thankful to you..!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

      Hi Sourabh,

      Yes, I will post a bold-faced Critical Reasoning post soon!

  3. Maxgrick April 26, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Dear Chris

    I have been following your blog, and your strategies have helped me prepare without the need for any specialized coaching. My GRE score during mocks have improved drastically following your blog. But, I have observed that my score in verbal plunges if I come across Boldface questions. Could you please post a few important points and strategies (for e.g. how to spot premise, primary conclusion, anti conclusion etc.) along with relevant examples.
    Thanking you for your time and effort in this matter.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris April 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

      Hi Maxgrick,

      It’s always great to hear how helpful the blog is – that you didn’t need any outside coaching really meshes well with the Magoosh, do-it-yourself, way of learning.

      As for Critical Reasoning bold-faced questions, I’m currently writing a suite of CR posts. One of these will definitely be bold-faced, so stay tuned!

  4. vaisnavi April 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Suggest some effective tactics for handling critical reasoning section. This is my weakest point, usually getting stumped up in dual answer choices.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris April 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      A Critical Reasoning post is coming soon!

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