Tackling GMAT Critical Reasoning Boldface Questions

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomFor some reason, GMAT test takers automatically associate boldface questions with the 700 level, but this fear is unfounded, honestly!

We have often found that one strategy, which is very helpful in other question types too, helps sort out most questions of this type, though not in the same way. That strategy is – ‘find the conclusion(s)’

The conclusion of the argument is the position taken by the author.

Boldface questions (and others too) sometimes have more than one conclusion – One would be the conclusion of the argument i.e. the author’s conclusion. The argument could mention another conclusion which could be the conclusion of a certain segment of people/ some scientists/ some researchers/ a politician etc. We need to segregate these two and how each premise supports/opposes the various conclusion. Once this structure is in place, we automatically find the answer. Let’s see how with an example.

Question: Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled. There has been debate as to whether we can conclude that these purchases will actually lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists. The answer is no, since motorists with more fuel-efficient vehicles are likely to drive more total miles than they did before switching to a more fuel-efficient car, negating the gains from higher fuel-efficiency.

Which of the following best describes the roles of the portions in bold?

(A)The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

(B)The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence.

(C)The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence.

(D)The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.

(E)The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.

Solution: As our first step, let’s try to figure out the conclusion of the argument:

The author’s view is that “purchases of fuel efficient vehicles will NOT lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists.”

This is the position the argument (and author) takes.

The argument gives us another conclusion: these purchases will actually lead to an overall reduction in the total consumption of gasoline across all motorists.

Some people take this position (implied by the use of “there has been debate”)

This is our second bold statement. It introduces the opposing conclusion.

Let’s look at our options now.

(A) The first describes a premise that is accepted as true; the second introduces a conclusion that is opposed by the argument as a whole.

The first bold statement: Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled.

This is a premise and has been accepted as true. We know it has been accepted as true since the last line ends with – “…negating the gains from higher fuel-efficiency”

We have seen above that the second bold statement tells us about a conclusion that the argument opposes.

So (A) is correct. We have found our answer but let’s look at the other options too.

(B) The first states a position taken by the argument; the second introduces a conclusion that is refuted by additional evidence.

The first bold statement is a premise. It is not the position taken by the argument. Let’s move on.

(C) The first is evidence that has been used to support a position that the argument as a whole opposes; the second provides information to undermine the force of that evidence.

This option often confuses test-takers.

The evidence is – “Recently, motorists have begun purchasing more and more fuel-efficient economy and hybrid cars that consume fewer gallons of gasoline per mile traveled.”

That is, “the motorists have begun purchasing fuel efficient cars that give better mileage.”

The second bold statement does not undermine this evidence at all. In fact, it builds up on it with – “This brings up a debate on whether it will lead to overall decreased fuel consumption?”

Hence (C) is not correct.

(D)The first is a conclusion that is later shown to be false; the second is the evidence by which that conclusion is proven false.

The first bold statement is not a conclusion. So no point dwelling on this option.

(E)The first is a premise that is later shown to be false; the second is a conclusion that is later shown to be false.

The premise is taken to be true. The argument ends with “… the gains from higher fuel-efficiency”. Hence, this option doesn’t stand a chance either.

We hope you see how easy it is to break down the options once we identify the conclusion(s).

Keep practicing!

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!