While applying for any business school in the world, students need to appear for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). It is a key part of the application process and enables the student to get admission into graduate business programs such as the Masters of Business Administration (MBA).

However, cracking the GMAT is not a cakewalk. Students face several challenges in answering the multiple-choice exam, which is standardized as computer-based and computer-adaptive. In the GMAT verbal section, about one-third of the questions are critical reasoning questions. These questions are typically aimed to check the competency of students in evaluating and strengthening an argument.

Why is GMAT Critical Reasoning Difficult?

Most students are unable to crack the critical reasoning questions in GMAT.  On average, there are about 36 verbal section questions asked in the GMAT, out of which the critical reasoning questions comprise of 11. These questions are completely new for fresher students, who find them difficult to comprehend. There is no definitive, textbook answer to any of these critical reasoning questions. The GMAT examines how the student can strengthen or weaken the argument and draw conclusions based on logical reasons. The GMAT critical reasoning section becomes a major stumbling block to students applying for top MBA institutes in India and across the world.

Cracking GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions with an Old Technique

There is one trick that has turned out to be quite effective in answering the GMAT critical reasoning questions correctly. Most students in India are not aware of this technique, which is why even today, GMAT makes their journey of getting into MBA colleges in Gurgaon, Delhi, and Mumbai difficult.

The technique dates back to 2,300 years ago and was developed by Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher and one of the world’s greatest thinkers of all time. The technique was called “reductio ad absurdum,” which translates to “the method of reduction to absurdity.”

According to Aristotle, this technique provides support to the concept that there is a possibility to have an absurd circumstance within the argument. In the critical reasoning questions of GMAT, students are expected to give reasons on how the conclusion is drawn from the facts  (that are considered to be true). But essentially, the drawn conclusion is likely to be false in itself. To crack these questions, students need to figure out a way that proves how the conclusion flows directly with the stated facts.

Aristotle’s technique uses the following simple steps to help students figure these questions out:

  • Assume that the facts are true but the conclusion is false
  • Question the possibility of whether the stated facts could lead to the conclusion or note
  • Organize the facts according to their occurrence and sequence
  • Identify the objective statement from the facts
  • Note down the measurable facts
  • Identify the opinion statement from the drawn conclusion
  • Note down the judgments made in the conclusion

After completing this analysis, consider the facts to be true and indisputable. And on such assumptions, think of a circumstance where the conclusion drawn from these facts would not be true. The more unlikely this circumstance is, the better it answers the question.

In GMAT, not all critical reasoning questions are so complicated. Some questions might not be as tricky as others. There are cases when this technique does not work effectively when the facts and the conclusions specified in the question are inarguably true.

Hence, it is wise to apply Aristotle’s “reduction to absurdity” technique early on. That way, your answer would be more precise than based on mere assumptions. And, you’d be able to steer clear of GMAT’s critical reasoning hurdles.