Learn the 4 Things You Must Know Before Taking the GMAT!   Download it Now!

GMAT Critical Reasoning Application Example

Last night I watched my beloved Duke Blue Devils beat Clemson and advance to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. On ESPN SportsCenter afterwards, they started discussing Duke’s potential fate in terms of seeding for the NCAA Tournament. As you probably know, the selection committee will be deliberating all weekend and release the tournament bracket tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.

ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt suggested that if Duke goes on to win the ACC Tournament, it could receive a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That’s important, he said, because there appears to be a big difference between the ultimate success in the Big Dance between teams that receive a #1 seed versus a #2 seed.

He cited the following “Stat of the Night” (as seen below on ESPN’s Twitter feed) to give weight to his point:

ESPN SportsCenter Stat of the Night which has useful gmat critical reasoning applications

As much as I’d like to believe that becoming a #1 seed will make all the difference for Duke, however, this strikes me as a specious argument — the type that you’re going to encounter on GMAT Critical Reasoning questions.

Let’s take a closer look.

The statistic above is what we call a premise on the GMAT. A premise is supporting evidence that an author uses to justify his conclusion. A conclusion, of course, is the author’s main point in the argument. For more on the parts of an argument and how they work together on GMAT critical reasoning questions, check out our video lesson “GMAT Critical Reasoning – Part 1.”

When an argument like Scott Van Pelt’s is presented in a GMAT critical reasoning prompt, there are a couple of potential questions the GMAT test makers can ask. Try your hand at the following two questions and post your answers in the “Comments” area below.

Example 1

One type of question asks you to actually supply the author’s conclusion. If the conclusion isn’t explicitly stated in the argument, as it’s not in the “Stat of the Night” posted above, you may be asked to identify it yourself. Let me reword the argument and you try to find the author’s conclusion.

ESPN Analyst: All eyes will be on the NCAA Tournament committee when it releases the tournament bracket on Sunday. The top 8 teams will be particularly interested. After all, since seeding began in 1979, 56 No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four. Just 31 No. 2 seeds have made Final Four appearances.

Question 1: By citing the differing success rates of 1 vs 2 seeds, what is the ESPN analyst trying to suggest?

Post your answer in the Comments area below.

Example 2

The more likely thing you’ll be asked to determine is what assumption the author is making to draw his conclusion. Finding assumptions is the key to solving most GMAT critical reasoning questions. By citing the “Stat of the Night” above, Scott Van Pelt was clearly making an assumption. But what?

Let me reword the argument again. Try to answer Question #2 in the Comments area below:

ESPN Analyst: If your team wants to improve its chances of making the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament, it’s important that you secure a No. 1 seed instead of a No. 2 seed. After all, since seeding began in 1979, 56 No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four. Just 31 No. 2 seeds have made Final Four appearances.

Question 2: What is the author assuming by concluding that being a No. 1 seed gives you a better chance of making the Final Four than being a No. 2 seed?

Additional GMAT Critical Reasoning Training

If you’d like a quick primer on finding assumptions, watch the short video below. For a comprehensive look at all aspect of GMAT critical reasoning questions including a detailed look at the most common patterns of arguments tested on the GMAT, check out our a-la-carte video lesson “GMAT Critical Reasoning – Part 2.