conclusions

GMAT Critical Reasoning – How Did You Reach That Conclusion?

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Following the post on assumptions, there is another aspect of the critical reasoning portion of the GMAT I will discuss today: Conclusions.

What is a conclusion? The dictionary says that a conclusion is a proposition concluded or inferred from the premises of an argument.

So that doesn’t tell us anything at all, but basically what it means is that a conclusion is what you can deduce from analyzing the premises (  blog about premises coming soon! ) of an argument.

Let’s look at an example:

  • Premise 1: Anish is great GMAT instructor.
  • Premise 2: Most great GMAT instructors are smart.
  • Conclusion: Anish is probably a smart guy.

There is a reason why probably is italicized, and the reason is is a common GMAT trick in the critical reasoning section. The GMAT may provide a misleading possible answer for a possible conclusion such as:

  • Anish is smart

Leaving aside the prior knowledge that tells us this isn’t true (because for critical reasoning questions we should never include any outside knowledge in our analysis of a passage) the premise provides a keyword that tells us it’s not the answer: “most.” “Most” in this context simply means more than half, but not all. Using that definition, we can not assume that Anish is one of the smart great GMAT instructors, regardless of how likely it may, or may not be.

As far as the application of conclusions in real life, it is pretty evident how this applies to the business world. Using all the evidence we have, we need to be able to come up with the conclusion of whether the economy will go up or down next year, whether a certain marketing strategy will reach its goal, and whether a certain investment will pay off in the long term.

Having given a simple example, and related the thought process to actual business problems, let’s see how we can solve typical conclusion problems on the GMAT.

500-600

On their way from their nest to a food source, ants of most species leave a trail of chemicals called pheromones. The ants use the scent of the pheromones to guide themselves between the food and their nest. All pheromones evaporate without a trace almost immediately when temperatures rise above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degree Fahrenheit), as is typical during afternoons in places such as the Sahara Desert.

The statements above, if true, most strongly support which one of the following?

  • (A) Most ants forage for food either only in the morning or only during the night.
  • (B) Most ants that do not use pheromones to mark the paths they take between their nest and food live in the Sahara Desert.
  • (C) If any ants live in the Sahara Desert and forage for food at no time but in the afternoon, those ants generally do not use pheromones to guide themselves between food and their nest.
  • (D) If any ants do not use pheromones to navigate between food and their nest, those ants use a different substance that does not evaporate in temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius.
  • (E) If any Saharan ants forage for food in the afternoon, those ants forage for food less efficiently when temperatures are above 45 degrees Celsius than they do when temperatures are lower.

How do I answer this question? For those who have read the previous blog about assumptions, you may remember that first thing is to get rid of all the BS and restructure the passage with only relevant info:

Premises:

  • Most species of ants leave chemicals on their way from the nest to a food source.
  • This chemical helps them find their way back home from the food.
  • This chemical can evaporate within seconds in hot places, like the sahara desert in the afternoon.

Now you may notice a few things:

  1. I italicized “most” as it is a key word which may or may not be relevant
  2. I left out the name of the chemical. Pheromones may not be such a complicated word, but the GMAT uses complicated words that add no value in order to confuse us, so we can simply ignore them.

Let’s analyze the answer choices using the simplified passage:

  • (A) Most ants forage for food either only in the morning or only during the night. Nothing in the passage indicates this – wrong.
  • (B) Most ants that do not use pheromones to mark the paths they take between their nest and food live in the Sahara Desert. The passage doesn’t even indicate that there are any ants that live in the Sahara Desert – wrong.
  • (C) If any ants live in the Sahara Desert and forage for food at no time but in the afternoon, those ants generally do not use pheromones to guide themselves between food and their nest. This answer stated that if there are ants that forage for food when it is impossible to use the chemicals, then they probably don’t use chemicals to find their way. This makes perfect sense – correct.
  • (D) If any ants do not use pheromones to navigate between food and their nest, those ants use a different substance that does not evaporate in temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius. We don’t know if these ants leave any chemical, while we do not know that any of them actually go out when the temperature is 45 degrees – wrong.
  • (E) If any Saharan ants forage for food in the afternoon, those ants forage for food less efficiently when temperatures are above 45 degrees Celsius than they do when temperatures are lower. Passage says or implies nothing about food foraging efficiency – wrong.

Correct answer is C

600-700

Stronger patent laws are needed to protect inventions from being pirated. With that protection, manufacturers would be encouraged to invest in the development of new products and technologies. Such investment frequently results in an increase in a manufacturer’s productivity.

Which of the following conclusions can most properly be drawn from the information above?

  • (A) Stronger patent laws tend to benefit financial institutions as well as manufacturers.
  • (B) Increased productivity in manufacturing is likely to be accompanied by the creation of more manufacturing jobs.
  • (C) Manufacturers will decrease investment in the development of new products and technologies unless there are stronger patent laws.
  • (D) The weakness of current patent laws has been a cause of economic recession.
  • (E) Stronger patent laws would stimulate improvements in productivity for many manufacturers.

This passage is actually pretty simple and straight-forward, so there is no need to restructure. Let’s move straight to the answer choices:

  • (A) Stronger patent laws tend to benefit financial institutions as well as manufacturers. Nothing about financial institutions – wrong.
  • (B) Increased productivity in manufacturing is likely to be accompanied by the creation of more manufacturing jobs. Nothing about jobs – wrong.
  • (C) Manufacturers will decrease investment in the development of new products and technologies unless there are stronger patent laws. It says nothing about a decrease if things remain the same, it could stay the same – wrong.
  • (D) The weakness of current patent laws has been a cause of economic recession. Nothing about economic recession – wrong
  • (E) Stronger patent laws would stimulate improvements in productivity for many manufacturers. The passage states that A leads to B, and B leads to C. This answer choice states that therefore, A leads to C – Correct

Correct answer is E

700-800

Advocates insist that health savings accounts are an efficient method to reduce medical expenses. However, widespread adoption of these accounts will soon undermine the public’s health. One reason for this is that most people will be reluctant to deplete their accounts to pay for regular preventive examinations, so that in many cases a serious illness will go undetected until it is far advanced. Another reason is that poor people, who will not be able to afford health savings accounts, will no longer receive vaccinations against infectious diseases.

The statements above, if true, most support which of the following?

  • (A) Wealthy individuals will not be affected negatively by health savings accounts.
  • (B) Private health insurance will no longer be available.
  • (C) Most diseases are detected during regular preventive examinations.
  • (D) Some people without health savings accounts are likely to contract infectious diseases.
  • (E) The causal relationship between an individual’s health and that person’s medical care has been adequately documented.

This is a very complicated question, as can be expected of 700 level questions. Let’s start by restructuring the passage:

  • Health savings accounts reduce medical expenses.
  • Health savings accounts undermine public health for 2 reasons:
    • people will not spend the money on preventive measures
    • Poor people won’t have health savings accounts and will not receive vaccinations against infectious diseases

Let’s examine the possible answers:

  • (A) Wealthy individuals will not be affected negatively by health savings accounts. It does not say anything about wealthy people or limit the problem strictly to poor people – wrong.
  • (B) Private health insurance will no longer be available. Says nothing about health insurance – wrong.
  • (C) Most diseases are detected during regular preventive examinations. Passage says many diseases, not most. It’s a nice trick by the GMAT, but if we pay attention to the word choice it is clear that this is not the choice – wrong.
  • (D) Some people without health savings accounts are likely to contract infectious diseases. Passage says poor people will not be able to afford health savings account, and that they won’t get vaccination for infectious diseases. We can safely assume that that means that at least some of them are likely to contract such diseases. Again, the words some and likely are key here, as they leave some ambiguity. If the answer choice replaced some with all or most, and are likely to  with will, the answer would be wrong, but it doesn’t, so it is correct.
  • (E) The causal relationship between an individual’s health and that person’s medical care has been adequately documented. If anything, this is an assumption, not a conclusion – wrong.

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Why should you improve your conclusion making on critical reasoning GMAT questions? Because reaching conclusions is what we do in life. If you get better at this, you will get better at life. For further practice, check out the following links from GMAT Club. A GMAT Club account is required to access the problems, but it takes 30 seconds to sign up. It is free and a great resource to have in preparation for the exam.

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