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My New Critical Reasoning Strategy

I’ve decided upon a new strategy to prepare for the critical reasoning section of the GMAT. That’s part of the 41 questions you’re asked in the verbal section of the test, and it’s meant to test your ability to review your reasoning skills in making and evaluating arguments and then coming up with a plan of action based on your assessment.

Here’s what I’m now doing:

Read the Question First – This is something I keep forgetting to do in practice because within the MGMAT course, you do the same type of problems in sets.  Therefore, I usually already know what type of question is coming.  Reading the question first can save you a ton of time, sometimes giving you the conclusion of the argument right away.

Diagram and Take Notes – I never read my notes for Critical Reasoning, but the act of paraphrasing, summarizing, and jotting something down related to the passage really helps me retain what I read.  I used to think it was a waste of time, but I’ve found that since I started diagramming, I definitely re-read the passage fewer times and my accuracy rate is much higher.  One thing I do differently than MGMAT – I only draw the top horizontal line for my CR diagram.  I don’t finish off the “T” with a vertical line because questions usually don’t have counterpoints and the additional line can screw up my notetaking.

Read Every Word in the Answer Choices – For some of the harder questions, it only takes a single word to make an answer choice correct or incorrect.  It’s a good idea to read and take into account every single word. Speeding through this process can cause you to gloss over important keywords.

Rank the Answer Choices with an “ABCDE” Grid – When you’re testing at the 700 level, it can become really difficult to toss out that many answer choices.  Sometimes, you’ll only be able to narrow it down to three.  The obvious ones that are completely out of scope or in the wrong direction should still be immediately thrown out.  However, I need to be more careful about tossing out answers that sound strange but, after logic and reasoning, fulfill the question asked.  I just need to make sure to go through the process of writing an “ABCDE” grid and picking the best answer.

Avoid Extreme Answers – Many times the answer to a Critical Reasoning question is the one that is the least extreme.  Words like “always” and “never” are much less applicable than words like “sometimes” or “possibly.”

This post is adapted from Random Wok, a blog written by Mako from Silicon Valley. You can read all of his posts at Random Wok.

Previous posts by Mako at PoetsandQuants:

Why I Want an MBA

Climbing the GMAT Mountain: 630 to 710 on a Practice Test

Do Consultants Have An Unfair Edge Over Other Applicants?

Falling Behind & Stressed Out