ROn Point: Boldface Questions on the GMAT

When reading through diverse texts, it is not uncommon to see various portions highlighted in different forms. The use of italics has become ubiquitous with citing references or proper names, and the GMAT has no reserved denotation for Italics. Generally, text that is underlined needs to examined carefully, and the GMAT uses this method exclusively for sentence correction. However, nothing draws the eye like the use of boldface. The additional thickness of the characters makes every letter seem more important than the paler doppelgangers that share the page with them. (Beware: a letter with tiny goatee may be an evil twin of that letter. G is the most likely evil doppelganger)

Much like underlining, the GMAT reserves bolding text for specific questions, and you will not see any bolded text outside of this branch of questions. The colloquially-named “boldface” questions in Critical Reasoning will ask you to determine the roles of the portions in boldface in a given stimulus. The portions of the text not underlined are easy to ignore but still play a major role in determining the correct answer to most of these questions. Let’s look at one that has vexed students before and find the best way to solve it.

To get into a top MBA program one must have five years of work experience and a 90th percentile GMAT score. Alexis has a 95th percentile GMAT score and five years of experience in the work force, so Alexis must be accepted into a top MBA program.

(A)   The first is a piece of evidence; the second is a conclusion that must be true based on the evidence presented.

(B)   The first is a piece of evidence; the second is a conclusion that is not necessarily true based on the evidence presented.

(C)   The first is a conclusion that follows from the evidence; the second is a piece of evidence.

(D)   The first is a conclusion that is not necessarily true based on the evidence; the second is a piece of evidence.

(E)    The first is the conclusion of the author; the second is a cause-and-effect relationship that supports the conclusion.

Since boldface questions necessarily refer to two different portions of the text that are bolded, each answer choice offers two parts, the former referring to the first bolded section and the latter referring to the second. Needless to say, it becomes something of a juggling act to try and keep track of everything (unless you’re a professional juggler in which case business school is a suitable fallback option). The best bet is to look at each bolded section individually and see which answer choices can be eliminated solely for being incorrect on this portion.

One must have five years of work experience is a piece of evidence, or possibly a premise. The author’s conclusion is that Alexis will get into school based on this piece of evidence and the fact that she possesses these necessary requirements. This should allow us to quickly eliminate answer choices C, D and E, as this is necessarily not a conclusion. Typically the analysis of a single bolded portion will produce a 3-2 split between possible and impossible answer choices. In this case we’re already down to 2 choices and need to use the second portion to further differentiate these two answer choices.

Alexis must be accepted into a top MBA program is definitively a conclusion. This can be determined in one of two ways. Firstly, it is the author’s main point based on previously mentioned evidence. Secondly, it is preceded by the telltale “So”, typical conclusion verbiage. Answer choices C and D were already eliminated, (but now they face double secret elimination) and E is also incorrect. Answer choices and B use almost the same wordings, and clearly one of them must be the correct answer whereas the other is predicated on faulty logic. Since the first seven words of both choices are identical, let’s focus in on the portions after the semi-colon:

(A) The second is a conclusion that must be true based on the evidence presented.

(B)  The second is a conclusion that is not necessarily true based on the evidence presented.

The difference will hinge on whether or not the presented information is sufficient to ensure that Alexis gets into a top school. The author offers two conditions that are listed as necessary: the work experience and the 90th percentile GMAT score. However the decision point here now becomes whether the conditions outlined are sufficient or merely necessary among so many other options. If the conditions are sufficient, then nothing else could possibly be needed to get into a top school. If they are necessary, there might be other conditions.

Examining this logically as potential business students, are there any glaring omissions to getting into a top business school may require? Minor details like a bachelor degree? Perhaps those letters of recommendation you keep hearing about? Applying to the actual school might be the most glaring omission? Put another way, what if the question, circa 2005 asked:

“To date Anna Nicole Smith, one must be a millionaire and drive a Mercedes. Ron is a millionaire and drives a Mercedes, so he must be able to date Anna Nicole Smith.”

In this case, it’s fairly obvious that there are some minor details that may also be required to go out with Anna Nicole Smith. For one, they have to actually know her. Most importantly, they must be octogenarians! Just because conditions are outlined, does not mean that they are sufficient and that nothing else is required. As always, if you think logically on the GMAT, you won’t fall into the trap that is answer choice A, and correctly pick B as the correct answer for this bolded query.

Answer: (B)

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Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you occasional tips and tricks for success on your exam.  After graduating from McGill and receiving his MBA from Concordia, Ron started teaching GMAT prep and his Veritas Prep students have given him rave reviews ever since.