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Don’t Overthink GMAT Critical Reasoning Arguments

I recently received an e-mail from one of my students asking the following:

“I was reading in Brandon Royal’s Game Plan for the GMAT book about “Implementation Assumptions” and I don’t really understand them. How do they work and what am I missing?”

Note: Brandon Royal writes the following about implementation assumptions: “Implementation assumptions are a category of assumption that most closely mirror common sense. Although they sound so obvious when explained in simple academic terms, they are often spun into more complicated, convoluted scenarios when appearing on the GMAT (whether they appear as Critical Reasoning problems on the Verbal section or as Analysis of an Argument essay).” He then goes on to give some examples and four reasons why plans may not work (i.e. be implemented) as anticipated.

I’m posting my response to my student’s question below because I think it will help you. In it, I allude to the common patterns of GMAT critical reasoning arguments that I teach in my course. You can learn them all in detail in my video lesson “GMAT Critical Reasoning Part 2” by clicking HERE.


gmat critical reasoning finding assumptionsThe problem with narrowly defining a specific type of assumption a certain way is that it makes you think there’s something unique about it. By calling these types of assumptions “implementation assumptions,” the author makes you think there’s something special about them that you need to be aware of.

In reality, they’re just “resolving the paradox” arguments mixed with “causal” arguments (if you think about the terminology I use in my videos).

Think about one of the examples the author uses in explaining these assumptions back before the practice questions themselves (Loc. 5822 in the Kindle version). He uses the example of the Western travel magazine stating:

“Because air travel is becoming so convenient and because people have grater disposable incomes, soon everyone will have been to Africa to see the lions.”

Brandon Royal then notes that in reality, few people outside of Africa can claim to have been to Africa to see the lions. What accounts for the discrepancy between the travel magazine article and people actually going to visit Africa and the lions? Was the article wrong about plane travel becoming more convenient or people having higher levels of disposable income?

Let’s break this down into simple terms that are consistent with the approach you know you’re supposed to take on the GMAT.

The magazine’s conclusion is: More people will start going to see the lions.

Based on the premise: Air travel is becoming less expensive and people have more disposable income.

In essence, the author is saying that less expensive air travel (and higher disposable incomes) will CAUSE people to go see the lions in Africa.

But that’s not happening for some reason. The paradox is that despite cheaper travel and higher incomes, people are NOT going to see the lions.

Why not? What could explain that?

There’s a breakdown in the IMPLEMENTATION between the theory and the reality. The author of the magazine article was assuming the people would use their disposable income to go see the lions, but they’re not.

Anything that explains why the people might not be using their newfound disposable income to go see the lions would explain the paradox (or weaken the argument, depending on how the question is asked). Maybe they’d rather go see the Eiffel Tower. Maybe the flight selection to certain African countries is restricted or not very appealing. Etc.

The author lists four of the most common reasons why theory doesn’t always result in reality (lack of desire, lack of resources, lack of skill, or other bottlenecks) but usually it’s pretty easy to find an answer choice that explains the paradox and explains why the theoretical plan isn’t implemented (i.e. why the original assumption was wrong).

Does this make more sense for you now?

Still have questions or comments about implementation assumptions? Post them below.