GMAT Tip of the Week

When Two Wrongs Make a Right

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

If you’ve ever been a child, you’ve probably been told on multiple occasions that “two wrongs don’t make a right” (that’s typically the companion lesson to the rhetorical question “if all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”). Parents don’t anticipate fun activities like bungee jumping and cliff diving with the bridge hypothetical, nor do they account for GMAT Critical Reasoning questions with the wrong/right axiom.

One of the higher-difficulty Critical Reasoning question types asks you to “mimic the reasoning” of a given argument by choosing from five different arguments the one that parallels the logic in the original. Perhaps the most important concept to keep in mind when facing these questions is that if the original argument uses flawed logic, the correct answer must be flawed, as well. Put another way, if the original has a “wrong”, you’ll need another wrong to make the question right! Consider the following example:

Original: Fish have fins and tails. The new dolphin at the aquarium has fins and a tail, so it must be a fish.

This argument is flawed. Fish aren’t necessarily the only animals with fins and tails, so it cannot be proven that the dolphin is a fish.

Which of the following arguments is most parallel in its logical structure to the argument above?

Incorrect answer: Giraffes have spots and long necks. The new animal at the zoo is a giraffe, so it must have spots and a long neck.

This argument is not flawed. If it is accepted that giraffes have spots and long necks, then any giraffe will share those characteristics.

Correct answer: This movie must be made by Pixar, because it uses computer animation, and Pixar movies always use computer animation.

This argument is flawed in the same way as the original – Pixar movies aren’t necessarily the only ones to use computer animation.

The GMAT tries to obscure answers like these, however, by having slightly different subject matter, and by changing the sentence structure. Note that your job is to replicate the logical structure of the original, but not its subject matter or sentence structure. The original was flawed, so the correct answer needed to be flawed, as well.

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