In today’s world of instant gratification and ubiquitous mobile phone usage, we are becoming used to things going fast. Multitasking has become the new norm, and it seems like no one takes the time to finish anything before jumping off to the next task. While this hectic pace may allow more tasks to be accomplished (although not necessarily well), it also makes it harder for any one task to be attentively completed. In short, it’s becoming harder to finish any one thought.
The GMAT is an exam that tests many different facets of understanding, and some questions are designed to test your ability to finish a thought. In Critical Reasoning, we are often asked to establish which answer choice is the correct answer to a given question. However, sometimes there is no actual question posed, but simply an unfinished thought that must be completed. The thought cannot end in multiple different ways, but rather, it must end in the only answer choice that is coherent with the rest of the passage. These questions combine elements of strengthen, weaken and inference questions and ask you to best complete the passage given.
These questions do tend to be harder than a typical Critical Reasoning question, and therefore may not show up that frequently on any one test. However, they are important to understand because they ______________
A) Build confidence
B) Underscore important concepts
The answer to my little trivia game was B, but you could make a case for any of the given answers. Let’s try it again with an actual GMAT question:
Environmentalists support a major phase-down of fossil fuels and substitution of favored ‘non-polluting’ energies to conserve depleting resources and protect the environment. Yet energy megatrends contradict those concerns. Fossil-fuel resources are becoming more abundant, not scarcer, and promise to continue expanding as technology improves, world markets liberalize, and investment capital expands. However, these facts do not mean a smaller role of the non-polluting sources of energy in the long run given that ______________
A) The costs of producing energy from non-polluting sources of energy have remained constant in the last five years.
B) The availability of fossil fuels does mean an increased use of the same.
C) The amount of confirmed deposits of fossil fuels is sufficient to serve the world energy needs at least over the next two centuries.
D) There is an increasing sense of acceptance across the world on the harmful effects of the use of fossil fuels on the environment.
E) Non-polluting sources of energy are less cost-effective than fossil fuels.
The correct answer must correctly finish the thought as if it were always supposed to be there. If there are any contradictions or illogical conclusions drawn, that answer choice must be incorrect. The thought began by discussing fossil fuels and how environmentalists are calling for decreasing their use. However, the worldwide trend is that their use is increasing (#FossilFuels). These facts must somehow combine to indicate that non-polluting sources of energy will still be prevalent in the future, and we must select the answer choice that supports that. Let’s examine them one by one.
Answer choice A “The costs of producing energy from non-polluting sources of energy have remained constant in the last five years” introduces cost into the equation. There was no mention of cost prior to this, so it seems illogical that cost will be a determining factor in this issue. We can safely eliminate A.
Answer choice B “The availability of fossil fuels does mean an increased use of the same” is actually a 180°. If this were true, then there would be ever more fossil fuel use, and the alternatives would be significantly reduced. Answer choice B may seem tempting, but it’s going the wrong way.
Answer choice C “The amount of confirmed deposits of fossil fuels is sufficient to serve the world energy needs at least over the next two centuries” brings up an arbitrary timeframe for the purposes of sounding grandiose. Two centuries seems like a long time, but it’s also unfounded and irrelevant to the process. What if the answer choice had been two decades instead? Or two millennia? Would that make it more or less likely to be true? The arbitrary timeframe does not have any bearing on this thought, so we must eliminate answer choice C.
Answer choice D “There is an increasing sense of acceptance across the world on the harmful effects of the use of fossil fuels on the environment” brings the argument back to the cause of the environmentalists. This harkens back to the first sentence of the passage, and logically concludes why the facts may indicate something, but the long term trend will eventually indicate something else. Answer choice D is correct.
Answer choice E “Non-polluting sources of energy are less cost-effective than fossil fuels“ can be particularly tempting, because it is actually true in real life. However, just like with answer choice A, the concept of cost is parachuted into the passage with no antecedent to build upon. This factoid may be largely true in 2014, but does that mean it will be true in 2015 or 2025? We cannot select answer choices that seem correct in real life but are unsupported in the text. Answer choice E can also be eliminated.
When it comes to finishing a thought, it is important to note that the conclusion is often the most interesting part. Even if you’re already contemplating the next element or task, ensure that you do a thorough job finishing up the previous job. No one likes to leave loose threads, and it completely undermines your conclusion when the last portion is unclear or unfinished. Above all, the most important thing is to always…
Ron Awad is a GMAT instructor for Veritas Prep based in Montreal, bringing you weekly advice 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.