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Avoid these 4 GMAT Critical Reasoning Fallacies...

GMAT CR Logical FallaciesCritical reasoning, like its name, is a critical component of the GMAT exam. It is part of the Verbal Section, with 41 questions that need to be completed in 75 minutes. This section also has questions on Sentence Correction and Reading Comprehension. The Critical Reasoning component is comprised of 14 to 16 questions. They are designed to test reasoning abilities, and how well the test taker can judge the flaws, assumptions and conclusions in a given statement. What makes these questions important for GMAT participants is that it is an immense scoring opportunity. A well-prepared candidate can answer the questions quickly, and dedicate more time to Reading Comprehension questions, or the tricky Sentence Correction section.

In GMAT Critical Reasoning, a statement is followed by a Question, which can be broadly categorized under:

1) Finding assumption in a statement
2) Finding argument that strengthens or weakens the statement
3) Drawing an inference or conclusion
4) Picking the flaw in an argument
5) Identifying the argument structure
6) Choosing the right conclusion.

The answer should be picked from five choices. The answers are designed to confuse the test taker. Two answers in particular will be similar and structured in such a way that the test will take up lot of the candidate's time.

The trick is to thoroughly analyze the statement while reading it. Test takers must try to figure out the logical flaws, strengths and assumptions in the argument and reach a conclusion as to whether the statement makes sense or not. Even if a firm decision cannot be reached, at list two answers should be shortlisted for Process of Elimination.

There are 4 common logical fallacies made in GMAT Critical Reasoning questions.

1) Generalization

It is very easy to generalize based on incomplete assumptions, and insufficient evidence.

Example: Indian Judiciary is known for delaying verdicts, therefore the recent fast track court appointed for Delhi Rape Case can also expect the same delay.

Generalizing the response of Indian Judiciary, and extending it to all cases is a logical fallacy and if you read the answer choices carefully, it is easy to eliminate such choices.

2) Ad Hominem

Ad Hominem in Latin means 'to the man.' It refers to an argument made against a person, rather than dealing with his argument. Students must be careful in dealing with statements that attack the source and not the message.

Example: The doctor's article on the perils of smoking, including cancer, cannot be taken seriously, as he is known to be a heavy smoker.

Just because the Doctor smokes, it does not mean that he is not eligible to speak against smoking.

3) Inconsistencies and Contradictions

An inconsistent argument makes two or more contradictory claims. Such an argument leads to a wrong conclusion. The reason for this is that if the claims are contradictory, then both cannot be correct - one of them must be false, and no argument that rests on a false claim can be considered genuine.

Example: I did not take the cake, and besides, it already had a piece cut out from it.

The contradiction here is that the person claims to not have taken the cake, yet he saw a piece already cut from it.

4) Necessary vs. Sufficient Conditions

Necessary conditions are those which are necessary for a certain event to occur. Without that condition in place, the event will not happen. On the other hand, a sufficient condition is that which is enough for an event to occur. But just because the condition occurs, the event may not necessarily happen.

Example: I ran the race faster than him. Therefore I won.

Here running the race faster than someone is sufficient to win, but it does not mean it will necessarily happen. Other contenders may run faster.

Example: I ran the race faster than everyone. Therefore I won.

Here, running the race faster than everyone is a necessary condition to winning. As a result, the statement is correct.

Here is a GMAT critical reasoning question to test if you can put the above lessons to practice.

Q) Microfinance, pioneered by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus through Grameen Bank, eradicates poverty by providing small loans to poor people, mostly women. Studies on the impact of Microfinance have been studied based on the financial and economic aspects of the sector. But the cultural aspects like patriarchy have thus far been ignored. Studies by a senior professor have indicated that an economic environment conducive to easy access to mid to large sized loans can undermine the microfinance’s goal of empowering women; an effect multiplied in patriarchal societies.

What can be inferred from the above statement?

1) It is impossible to eradicate poverty among women in an economic environment with easy access to mid to large sized loans

2) The senior professor's intent is suspect as he speaks only against a Nobel Prize Winner. His links to conventional loan providers must be probed.

3) To attain a microfinance company's goal of empowering women in patriarchal societies, men should also become stakeholders in loans given to women.

4) The reason for Grameen Bank's success in Bangladesh can be due to two factors: non-existent patriarchal society, or lack of easy access to mid to large sized loans.

5) Microfinance is a pointless exercise in patriarchal societies

ANSWERS

1) It is impossible to eradicate poverty among women in an economic environment with easy access to mid to large sized loans

Answer: Applying the Necessary vs. Sufficient Conditions lesson, we can see that an economic environment with easy access to mid to large sized loans is sufficient to hinder poverty eradication among women. However, it is not necessary that poverty will not be eradicated in such environment.

Therefore, this answer is wrong.

2) The senior professor's intent is suspect as he speaks only against a Nobel Prize Winner. His links to conventional loan providers must be probed.

Answer: This is the perfect example of the Ad Hominem lesson. The focus is shifted from the message to the messenger, and therefore the inference is wrong.

3) To attain a microfinance company's goal of empowering women in patriarchal societies, men should also become stakeholders in loans given to women.

Answer: The inconsistency lesson can be applied here. The answer talks of empowering women, and at the same time talks about making men stakeholders in loans given to women. This answer is obviously wrong.

4) The reason for Grameen Bank's success in Bangladesh can be due to two factors: non-existent patriarchal society, or lack of easy access to mid to large sized loans.

Answer:
This is the only direct and true inference that can be made. The statement clearly stresses that these factors undermine micro-finance and so one of them must be absent in Bangladesh for microfinance to have succeeded.

5) Microfinance is a pointless exercise in patriarchal societies

Answer: Based on Generalization, we can see that while microfinance is not as effective in eradicating poverty, it cannot be generalized to state that it will be completely ineffective.

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