Critical Reasoning Basics

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A Critical Reasoning question is generally of the form of a paragraph or a case, followed by one or two questions. The short paragraph is an argument which comprises of:
1. The premise - the evidence
2. The conclusion -the main point of the argument and
3. An assumption - the unstated or missing premises without which the argument would be untenable.

In some cases the conclusion may not be given and the question may require that you supply the conclusion. The premises are pieces of evidence that the author uses (as basis) to arrive at the conclusion. The conclusion is valid depending on the strength of the premises or evidences.

Locating the conclusion
Certain key words can help you isolate the conclusion and the evidence in a stimulus;
Clues that signal evidence includes - since, because, as, due to, etc.
Clues that signal conclusion include - so, therefore, thus, consequently, hence, as a result etc.

Approach methodology
Take a look at the question first before looking at the answer options. The basic question types include

 • Find conclusion
• Supply conclusion
• Identify argument
• Strengthen argument
• Weaken argument
• Find an inference
• Mimic argument

(1) Find the conclusion
In this question type, you have to choose the statement that is already given in the passage as the conclusion of the argument from the answer choices. Look out for key words like hence, so thus, therefore etc. However, a conclusion may also begin without these key words.

(2) Supply the conclusion
In this question type, the argument consists of merely a set of evidences. You have to supply the conclusion. This implies that the answer is not a sentence given in the passage but must include and rest on all the evidences.

(3) Find the assumption
To answer this question, you have to identify the conclusion that is already given in the paragraph. An assumption is a statement that is not given as the premise but is required if the conclusion has to be valid. Without the assumption, we cannot arrive at the conclusion.

As the assumption is an unstated premise, the answer is not a statement given in the paragraph. There could be several assumptions and hence you are required to find the assumption on which the conclusion depends.

(4) Strengthen Argument
In strengthen - weaken the argument, the type of premises given should be examined. The premises could be presented in the form of
i. Statistical Data - numbers, percentages, ratios etc.
ii. Causal Data - that is the data may be in the form of cause - effect relationship.
iii. Analogy - arriving at a conclusion through likening it to a similar situation.

Here the conclusion is already given in the argument. One of the choices if true further supports or reinforces the conclusion. This means that the conclusion is further strengthened if a choice is true.

The question is phrased in one of the following ways.
i. Which of the following, if true strengthens the argument?
ii. Which of the following, if true least weakens the argument?
iii. Which of the following, if true, adds credence to the argument?
iv. Which of the following, if true, reinforces the argument?

(6) Find the inference
In this question type the conclusion is already given. If the statements in the argument are true, one of the choices also must be true. If there are two premises, it is possible for us to make two inferences. The questions appear as follows:
i. If the statements in the arguments are true, which of the following most also be true?
ii. Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?
iii. Which of the following is implied in the passage?

Inferences often have very little to do with conclusion and for each premise you can have an inference. So the inferences made from the premises need to be mapped with the given options to deduce the right answer option.

(7) Mimic The Argument

Here one of the choices is similar/parallel to the given argument in logic and structure. You’ll have to determine the option which best matches the given argument. The similarity can be in the form of a premise or conclusion or inference and varies.

Facts, Inferences and Judgments
This type of questions has a set of sequentially ordered statements. Each statement can be classified as one of the following.
A. Facts, which deal with the pieces of information that one has heard, seen or read, and which are open to discovery or verification (the answer option indicates such a statement with an ‘F’)
B. Inferences, which are conclusions drawn about the unknown, on the basis of the known (the answer option indicates such a statement with an ‘I’)
C. Judgments, which are opinions that imply approval or disapproval of persons, objects, situations and occurrences in the past, the present or the future (the answer option indicates such a statement with a ‘J’)

You have to select the answer option that best describes the set of statements. In most casesthis type has four statements in each question.