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Critical Reasoning: Know Thy Question

The questions that follow an argument can ask you to:

  1. Find out the Assumption/ Flaw
  2. Strengthen/ Weaken the argument
  3. Find out the Inference
  4. Complete the argument
  5. Find out the conclusion (If not given)

Let us understand them in detail.

1. ASSUMPTION/ FLAW

Assumption is that thing which the author assumes it to be true, and hence may be seen as the 'gap' in argument.  There can be more than one assumption in an argument. The conclusion of the argument would be more properly drawn if it establishes that assumption. Hence, assumption is also a flaw in the argument. Clearly,

  • Assumption is something an author must believe to be true in order to draw his or her conclusion. This assumption is NOT stated explicitly in the argument.
  • All assumption arguments will contain a “core”, i.e., a conclusion and the major premise or premises that lead to it.
  • All assumption arguments will contain at least one or more than one assumption.

 

2. STRENGTHEN/ WEAKEN THE ARGUMENT

Both strengthening and weakening questions are asked to find a new piece of information that, if added to the given argument, will make the conclusion correct or most likely to be correct (Strengthen) or incorrect/ most likely to be incorrect (Weaken). The fact that this information is new, or is given in the argument, is the major difference between Strengthen and Weaken questions. The new piece of information acts as an evidence to make the assumption valid.

 

3. INFERENCE BASED

As per critical reasoning inference is something that must be true based on the available evidence/ premise.  In general, infer means most likely to be true. However, in CR inference is not most likely but DEFINITELY true.

Inference arguments will not contain a conclusion in the argument. Inference is something that can be logically understood from the statement given. Also, inference cannot be something which is copied from the statement, rather is logically derived from the statement.

 

4. COMPLETE THE ARGUMENT

These kinds of questions ask us to be part of the argument and thus, are trickier. This question demands careful attention to contextual details. In case  “because” or “since” is given before the blank, in which you are asked to find additional strengthening evidence, be very clear in distinguishing those facts that could strengthen the argument and those that must strengthen the argument. The correct answer must be of the latter kind and some incorrect answers could be of the former kind. 

The lessons on Parajumbles will also help us find the answer to these questions (CLICK HERE to go to Lesson on Parajumbles). One has to understand the transition words to solve these questions.  The complete the argument answer can be based on premise but it has to work with the conclusion not counteracting it. The premise has to be understood before answering a complete the argument question. The complete the argument can be in the middle of the sentence and also be at the beginning of it. One should be clear that the position of the complete the argument doesn’t matter. What matters is the proper understanding of the passage. The content given and the tone of the passage is equally important.

Sometimes argument brings up emotionally charged issues. It is important to put any strong emotions aside and answer exactly as per the argument does, or does not, say.

 

5. FINDING CONCLUSION

Conclusion depends on other statements/ premise. The first statement is a premise, if a statement supports another statement. First statement is probably the conclusion, if a statement is supported by another statement. Conclusion is based on the premise. In other words, conclusion is something that author is trying to prove you.

Here we come to the end of second part. Third lesson will show how to apply these basics to CAT questions. However, if you think you are ready to take a test now, CRITICAL REASONING QUIZ.


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