Andrew Mitchell, Kaplan Test Prep‘s director of pre-business programs and a longtime GMAT instructor offers this GMAT tip:
Especially as the U.S. Presidential election draws near, the world around us teems with “arguments.”
Arguments conveyed through TV ads, debates, stump speeches, and newspaper editorials attempt to convince us to subscribe to a particular worldview, vote for a certain candidate, even donate money to a specific campaign.
That’s what all arguments are: attempts to convince. In real life, arguments make this attempt using a variety of tactics, some more honorable than others. While some arguments are based on solid evidence and reasoning, others rely on appeals to emotion or distorted facts.
Fortunately for GMAT test takers, the arguments found in critical reasoning questions follow a specific pattern. Keep these things in mind as you evaluate GMAT arguments:
- All GMAT arguments contain evidence, which is used to support a conclusion.
- On the GMAT, all evidence is accepted as true. No exceptions, no “fact checkers.”
- All GMAT arguments are designed to contain a key point of vulnerability: a gap between the evidence and the conclusion that must be bridged by an assumption.
- An assumption is defined as “something the author doesn’t state but that must be true in order for the argument to hold.
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Finding the assumption is the key to critical reasoning success: questions can ask you to identify the central assumption, point out a flaw in the argument (by showing why the assumption is unreasonable), or recognize potential facts that would strengthen or weaken the argument (by supporting or undermining the assumption, respectively).
Practice identifying assumptions as you listen to the candidates’ arguments. Take this one, for instance: “My administration would create more jobs, since my policies will cut taxes on corporate profits.”
What’s the assumption? There are many assumptions here, but the central one is that reducing corporate taxes will indeed have a positive effect on job creation. Simple as that. Arguments can get quite subtle on the GMAT, but the assumption will always connect the terms of the evidence (in this case, the tax-cutting policies) with those of the conclusion (the resulting job growth).
Whether you believe this particular assumption on Election Day is between you and the voting booth. Whether you can identify assumptions on the GMAT is essential to achieving a high score.
Edited by Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets.