How to Ace GMAT Critical reasoning application questions

GMAT Critical reasoning application questions go one step further than Inference questions, asking you to apply what you have learned from the passage to a different or hypothetical situation. For these questions, it’s important to ignore the answer choices until you’ve effectively broken down the passage. Understand the author’s argument. Some application questions will focus on the author’s point of view. Just like you would for a critical reasoning passage, identify the author’s conclusion and the evidence provided. Put yourself in the author’s shoes and ask yourself questions. What is my argument? What would make my argument stronger? What might weaken it?

1) Focus on process

2) Pay attention to how a particular process is performed
For example, if the passage focuses on describing an experiment, you must clarify step-by-step how the experiment is carried out, before you can apply that same method to a different situation.

Go back through the passage and list the verbs on your scratch pad. This will help you to understand the steps of the process and not confuse the sequence.

For Example:

Which of the following is most analogous to the change in the financial circumstances of the average middle-class American family from the 1970s to today, as described in the passage?

A A company has a 60% decrease in profits over a year, due to higher staffing costs.

B A company has a 60% decrease in profits over a year, but compensates for the losses by moving to a less-expensive office space.

C A company has a 40% increase in net income from sales over one year, but in the same period has a 90% increase in rent on its office space, leaving it with a lower profit than in the previous year.

D A company has a 60% increase in profits over one year, and chooses to reinvest that additional money by purchasing the office space it had previously rented.

E A company’s profits remain roughly the same from one year to the next, because although its net income from sales was lower than expected, the proceeds of a sale of real-estate assets were an unexpected boon.

We know this is an application question because of the phrase “most analogous.” Before we can make sense of the answer choices, we must go back to the passage and find the author’s perspective on this issue, and also the verbs that describe how family finances have changed from the 1970’s to today. Scanning back through the passage, we pull out a few key sentences that discuss a “change”:

“Skeptics of Warren’s theory point to the rise in household incomes since the 1970s, but this is in many ways an illusion.”

“…two wage earners means that their household income is about 75% higher than it would have been in the 1970s, but this is largely the result of the wife working outside the home, which also necessitates expenditures, like day care and a second car,..”

“Middle class financial anxiety isn’t the product of too many lattes and designer shoes; it is the result of increased costs for the cornerstones of modern life.”

Our notes on these key sentences might look something like this:

Author’s View: - rise in income an illusion; more $$ spent b/c of increased costs of living

Verbs: “rise in income”, “necessitates expenditures” “increased costs”

We must look for the answer choice that shows an increase in income but also an increase in expenses and costs, ultimately leading to financial anxiety. Answer choice C is correct.

Author : 

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They fail to look at critical reasoning as a scoring opportunity. GMAT Critical Reasoning is not a puzzle. There is no extra point in getting to the answer without using Process of Elimination. You are wasting your time overanalyzing the answer choices or posting your findings in GMAT Forums. The so-called Critical Reasoning experts know the answer. Justifying an answer choice is much easier.

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