Basics of Critical Reasoning Questions

Critical reasoning questions are very important, however baffling sometimes.  In fact, critical reasoning seems to play a significant part in bringing scores down by fetching negative marks for you.

You should know a few things before trying to solve these question –  the premises, conclusions, arguments and assumptions.

Basic Definitions

Premise – A premise usually begins with identifiers such as if, given that, since, because, suppose etc. Basically reasons and evidences behind a conclusion make premise. Once you learn to identify and distinguish these, the rest becomes a cakewalk.

Argument – An argument is a statement or a set of statements that includes at least one premise and a conclusion.

An assumption is an unstated premise. To be a little more specific, an assumption, like the premise, is an unquestionable fact. However, unlike the premise, it is not explicitly stated and requires reading between the lines.

Conclusion – A statement that the premise supports and is a way of promoting a certain belief or a point of view.

The Role of Indicator Words

Consider the following argument:

Since carrots are full of vitamins, it follows that your body will benefit if you eat them.

In this argument, how do we know which part is considered the premise and which part is the conclusion? The premise here is the fact that carrots are full of vitamins. The conclusion is that your body will benefit from you eating carrots.

This statement about carrots includes indicator words. Indicator words provide assistance to you when you are trying to identify an argument and its parts. The phrase Since carrots are full of vitamins uses the indicator word ‘since’ which is often associated with premises. The last part of the sentence uses the phrase, ‘it follows that’ to show that it is a conclusion.

Examples of words or phrases that are typically included in premises:

  • because
  • since
  • given that
  • seeing that
  • as shown by
  • assuming that
  • considering that
  • for the reason that

Examples of words or phrases that are typically included in conclusions:

  • therefore
  • thus
  • it follows that
  • which proves/implies that
  • which means that
  • as a result
  • so
  • we may conclude

Tips to Solve Critical Reasoning Questions

1. Identify the question:

Your first step towards acing critical reasoning questions begins by categorization of the problem. Many a times the problem explicitly mentions the type in which case you simply require to pay attention to it and make a note.

Critical reasoning questions can be categorised in the following types:

  • Weaken the argument/find a flaw
  • strengthen the argument
  • find the assumption
  • inference/conclusion
  • structure of the argument
  • evaluate the conclusion
  • complete the argument

2. For strengthening & Weakening argument and find the assumption questions, look for a valid assumption:

To strengthen an argument, you would require to find an assumption in the passage that supports it. To weaken an argument, an assumption in the passage that either contradicts or negates the argument has to be found.

3. For the remaining question types, internalize it and try to put it in your words.

 

 

So, these are the basic approach for critical reasoning questions. Always keep in mind that critical reasoning passages are different than reading comprehension. You are required to read and pay attention to every single word. Addition or removal of a small word can change the entire meaning and implications of a sentence. We will discuss them in more details in the coming articles. Till then, keep practising 🙂

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