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GMAT Critical Reasoning Tip: Identifying Conclusions

finding conclusions on gmat critical reasoning questionsThe methodology for answering GMAT critical reasoning questions sounds pretty simple and straightforward on the surface. You read the question first to make sure you know what you’re supposed to zero in on, and then you read the argument prompt reductively to identify the parts of the argument, starting with the conclusion.

Accurately identifying the argument’s conclusion is the key to the whole thing.

Well, sort of. Ultimately a large majority of the questions you’ll face on GMAT CR rely on your ability to figure out the author’s assumption(s). But you can’t do that if you don’t first know what the author’s conclusion is. So really, it all starts there.

But identifying the conclusion is not always as easy as it sounds. So how do you know you’ve correctly found the author’s conclusion? How do you know you’re not looking at a premise or background information instead?

Here’s a cool little trick for you that will make it a whole lot easier (watch this short video):

Tip for Identifying Conclusions on GMAT Critical Reasoning

Here’s a summary of what I discuss in the video above based on an insight I had recently while tutoring a student who was struggling to identify the author’s conclusion in GMAT critical reasoning arguments.

It goes like this.

If you’re looking at a sentence in the passage and wondering if it’s the author’s conclusion, ask yourself: If someone came up to me randomly on the street and said this to me, how would I likely respond?

If the answer is that you’d probably respond something like, Why do you think that?, then you’ve found the author’s conclusion. In other words, the author would have to justify his/her claim with some sort of evidence to convince you of what has just been said. That, by definition, is a conclusion.

By contrast, if the answer is that you’d simply respond with something like, Hmmm, that’s interesting, thanks for sharing…, then what you’re looking at is a premise rather than a conclusion. In other words you’re looking at a fact. Nothing further has to be said. Nothing has to be explained. It is what it is. That’s a premise, not a conclusion.

If you struggle with identifying the author’s conclusion, give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised at just how helpful and enlightening this simple question can be for you!

Post your questions/comments below and prepare to dominate the GMAT!