Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Why Critical Reasoning Needs Your Complete Attention on the GMAT!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomLet’s look at a tricky and time consuming official Critical Reasoning question today. We will learn how to focus on the important aspects of the question and quickly evaluate our answer choices:

Tiger beetles are such fast runners that they can capture virtually any nonflying insect. However, when running toward an insect, a tiger beetle will intermittently stop and then, a moment later, resume its attack. Perhaps the beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest; but an alternative hypothesis is that while running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop. 

Which of the following, if discovered in experiments using artificially moved prey insects, would support one of the two hypotheses and undermine the other? 

(A) When a prey insect is moved directly toward a beetle that has been chasing it, the beetle immediately stops and runs away without its usual intermittent stopping. 
(B) In pursuing a swerving insect, a beetle alters its course while running and its pauses become more frequent as the chase progresses.
(C) In pursuing a moving insect, a beetle usually responds immediately to changes in the insect’s direction, and it pauses equally frequently whether the chase is up or down an incline. 
(D) If, when a beetle pauses, it has not gained on the insect it is pursuing, the beetle generally ends its pursuit. 
(E) The faster a beetle pursues an insect fleeing directly away from it, the more frequently the beetle stops.

First, take a look at the argument:

  • Tiger beetles are very fast runners.
  • When running toward an insect, a tiger beetle will intermittently stop and then, a moment later, resume its attack.

There are two hypotheses presented for this behavior:

  1. The beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest.
  2. While running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop.

We need to support one of the two hypotheses and undermine the other. We don’t know which one will be supported and which will be undermined. How will we support/undermine a hypothesis?

The beetles cannot maintain their pace and must pause for a moment’s rest.

Support: Something that tells us that they do get tired. e.g. going uphill they pause more.

Undermine: Something that says that fatigue plays no role e.g. the frequency of pauses do not increase as the chase continues.

While running, tiger beetles are unable to adequately process the resulting rapidly changing visual information and so quickly go blind and stop.

Support: Something that says that they are not able to process changing visual information e.g. as speed increases, frequency of pauses increases.

Undermine: Something that says that they are able to process changing visual information e.g. it doesn’t pause on turns.

Now, we need to look at each answer choice to see which one supports one hypothesis and undermines the other. Focus on the impact each option has on our two hypotheses:

(A) When a prey insect is moved directly toward a beetle that has been chasing it, the beetle immediately stops and runs away without its usual intermittent stopping.

This undermines both hypotheses. If the beetle is able to run without stopping in some situations, it means that it is not a physical ailment that makes him take pauses. He is not trying to catch his breath – so to say – nor is he adjusting his field of vision.

(B) In pursuing a swerving insect, a beetle alters its course while running and its pauses become more frequent as the chase progresses.

If the beetle alters its course while running, it is obviously processing changing visual information and changing its course accordingly while running. This undermines the hypothesis “it cannot process rapidly changing visual information”. However, if the beetle pauses more frequently as the chase progresses, it is tiring out more and more due to the long chase and, hence, is taking more frequent breaks. This supports the hypothesis, “it cannot maintain its speed and pauses for rest”.

Answer choice B strengthens one hypothesis and undermines the other. This must be the answer, but let’s check our other options, just to be sure:

(C) In pursuing a moving insect, a beetle usually responds immediately to changes in the insect’s direction, and it pauses equally frequently whether the chase is up or down an incline.

This answer choice undermines both hypotheses. If the beetle responds immediately to changes in direction, it is able to process changing visual information. In addition, if the beetle takes similar pauses going up or down, it is not the effort of running that is making it take the pauses (otherwise, going up, it would have taken more pauses since it takes more effort going up).

(D) If, when a beetle pauses, it has not gained on the insect it is pursuing, the beetle generally ends its pursuit.

This answer choice might strengthen the hypothesis that the beetle is not able to respond to changing visual information since it decides whether it is giving up or not after pausing (in case there is a certain stance that tells us that it has paused), but it doesn’t actually undermine the hypothesis that the beetle pauses to rest. It is very possible that it pauses to rest, and at that time assesses the situation and decides whether it wants to continue the chase. Hence, this option doesn’t undermine either hypothesis and cannot be our answer.

(E) The faster a beetle pursues an insect fleeing directly away from it, the more frequently the beetle stops.

This answer choice strengthens both of the hypotheses. The faster the beetle runs, the more rest it would need, and the more rapidly visual information would change causing the beetle to pause. Because this option does not undermine either hypothesis, it also cannot be our answer.

Only answer choice B strengthens one hypothesis and undermines the other, therefore, our answer must be B.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!