CAT Verbal Ability: Critical Reasoning - Part 1

In most of the competitive exams, you will find critical reasoning questions in form of summary, inference, assumption, paradox and strengthen/weaken the conclusions. You will find 3-5 questions based on critical reasoning in the verbal ability section of most of the MBA entrance exams (CAT, XAT, etc.). These questions can also be asked from RC passages.

What is Critical Reasoning?

Critical reasoning means making clear, reasoned conclusion based on given facts and underlying assumptions.

How to score well in critical reasoning of verbal ability?

There are two requirements for this:

  • Knowledge of basic components of critical reasoning.
  • Knowledge of different types of questions and tricks to solve these questions.
Basic components of Critical reasoning of verbal ability
Basic components, in any critical question, consist of the following important items:
  • Fact: A clear and complete statement, made by the author, which can be verified. A fact is also called premise.
  • Conclusion: It is the point which author is trying to convey or wants to convince us.
  • Assumption: It is an unstated fact which was in the mind of author while issuing/writing the given statement. There can be more than one assumption for any given situation. An assumption is always with respect to an author/a writer.
  • Inference: It is an unstated conclusion drawn on the basis of given fact. There can be more than one inference for any given situation. An inference is always with respect to listener/reader.
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Format of a question in Critical reasoning section of verbal ability

A typical critical reasoning question that comes in most of the competitive exams consists of a paragraph containing a few facts, and a few unstated assumptions leading to one definite conclusion.

The most important requirement to solve critical reasoning questions in CAT or any other MBA level exam is that after reading the question paragraph you should be able to figure out the following:

  • Facts in the given critical reasoning paragraph or argument.
  • Conclusion of the given critical reasoning paragraph or argument.
  • Underlying and unstated assumption/s made by the author/writer of the given critical reasoning question.
  • What has been asked in the given question.
Types of critical reasoning questions in verbal ability
  • Strengthen or weaken the Conclusion
  • Find an Assumption
  • Find an inference
  • Resolve the paradox
  • Mimic the reasoning
Critical reasoning sample question:

Let's discuss the strategy to approach a critical reasoning question with the help of an example.

Example: Diamonds are a more popular investment among the extremely rich than are yachts. Ten thousand times as many people, who can afford both, buy a diamond as a yacht.

Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the argument above?
  1. Owning a private yacht is more prestigious than owning a diamond.
  2. There are fewer yacht brokers than there are diamond brokers.
  3. It is harder to resell a yacht than to resell a diamond.
  4. The ratio of people who can afford diamonds to the people who can afford yachts is a million to one.

Solution: Here the Fact is 'Ten thousand times as many people, who can afford both, buy a diamond as a yacht'.

Conclusion: Diamonds are a more popular investment among the extremely rich than are yachts.

What have we been asked? 'We have to weaken the conclusion i.e. we have to show or prove that 'yachts are a more popular investment among the extremely rich than are diamonds' i.e. this exactly what we mean by 'weaken the conclusion'. In other words we have to go against the conclusion given in the question.

But how strengthening or weakening is done? Trick: if we go against the assumption made by the author in the question then the conclusion is weakened and if we go with (support) the assumption made by the author then the conclusion is strengthened.

Assumption: whatever most of people are buying is the best form of investment.

To weaken the conclusion we have to pick the choice which will go against the assumption.

How to find this answer option?

If more people are buying diamonds then there will be oversupply of the diamonds in the market. This in turn will decrease the value (in terms of selling) of the diamonds in the market. Hence there is no point in spending money on the diamonds. On the other hand the availability of 'yachts' is less in the market so its value (in terms of buying/selling) is more in the market. Therefore if money is invested in yacht then this will increase/multiply the invested money. This is clearly shown by option 4.

Previous year CAT questions:

Question 1: French cuisine is highly regarded all over the world. Yet in Paris there are more American restaurants selling burgers and fries (which many people now class as junk food) than there are in any other European capital city. Obviously the French are very fond of junk food, and are not too proud to eat it. (CAT 2016)

Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the author’s contention?

A) There are also a larger number of Lebanese restaurants in Paris than there are in other European capital cities.
B) French Cordon Bleu cuisine is very expensive.
C) The number of French tourists eating in New York burger restaurants is very low.
D) Junk food is actually has high nutritional value when eaten in moderation.
E) There are an unusually large number of American tourists in Paris who eat at burger joints.

Answer: (E)
Explanation: The author’s contention (argument) is that the French are very fond of junk food because there are so many American restaurants in Paris. The best way to defeat this argument is to show, if possible, that the French do not eat in those American restaurants. The closest to that is answer E which suggests that the American tourists are the ones who eat at those restaurants.

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Question 2: Read the passage and answer the questions based on it. (CAT 2017)

Typewriters are the epitome of a technology that has been comprehensively rendered obsolete by the digital age. The ink comes off the ribbon, they weigh a ton, and second thoughts are a disaster. But they are also personal, portable and, above all, private. Type a document and lock it away and more or less the only way anyone else can get it is if you give it to them. That is why the Russians have decided to go back to typewriters in some government offices, and why in the US, some departments have never abandoned them. Yet it is not just their resistance to algorithms and secret surveillance that keeps typewriter production lines - well one, at least - in business (the last British one closed a year ago). Nor is it only the nostalgic appeal of the metal body and the stout well-defined keys that make them popular on eBay. A typewriter demands something particular: attentiveness. By the time the paper is loaded, the ribbon tightened, the carriage returned, the spacing and the margins set, there's a big premium on hitting the right key. That means sorting out ideas, pulling together a kind of order and organising details before actually striking off. There can be no thinking on screen with a typewriter. Nor are there any easy distractions. No online shopping. No urgent emails. No Twitter. No need even for electricity - perfect for writing in a remote hideaway. The thinking process is accompanied by the encouraging clack of keys, and the ratchet of the carriage return. Ping!

1. Which one of the following best describes what the passage is trying to do?

A) It describes why people continue to use typewriters even in the digital age.
B) It argues that typewriters will continue to be used even though they are an obsolete technology.
C) It highlights the personal benefits of using typewriters.uture.
D) It shows that computers offer fewer options than typewriters.

Answer: (A)
Explanation: Throughout the passage, the author is explaining why the typewriter continues to be used even in today's digital age. Some of the reasons he has given are that they are personal and private. The information typed on a typewriter cannot be leaked out. He also talks about its nostalgic value. It does not need electricity and can, therefore, be used even in remote locations.

2. According to the passage, some governments still use typewriters because:

A) they do not want to abandon old technologies that may be useful in the future.
B) they want to ensure that typewriter production lines remain in business.
C) they like the nostalgic appeal of typewriter.
D) they can control who reads the document.

Answer: (D)
Explanation: The fourth sentence of the passage “Type a document and lock it away and more or less the only way anyone else can get it is if you give it to them” clearly shows that it is possible to control who reads the document.

3. The writer praises typewriters for all the following reasons except:

A) Unlike computers, they can only be used for typing.
B) You cannot revise what you have typed on a typewriter.
C) Typewriters are noisier than computers.
D) Typewriters are messier to use than computers.

Answer: (D)
Explanation: Options A, B and C are positive in connotation. Even “noisier than computers” seems to be a welcome thing; look at “encouraging clack” of keys. Clearly, the only thing that is not welcome about the typewriter is that it is messier than that the computer.

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Critical reasoning: Key Learning
  • Before attempting the question, understanding and clarity of the components of Critical reasoning i.e. fact, assumption, argument and inference is very important.
  • Solving the question with the help of tricks will help you to save time and attempt more questions.
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