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GMAT Critical Reasoning Tip: Mind the Gap

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mind_the_gapLet’s start this post with a critical reasoning question:

When a group of people starts a company, the founders usually serve as sources both of funding and of skills in marketing, management, and technical matters. It is unlikely that a single individual can both provide adequate funding and be skilled in marketing, management, and technical matters. Therefore, companies founded by groups are more likely to succeed than companies founded by individuals.

Which one of the following is an assumption required by the argument?

Before we dive into the answer choices, let’s start by wrapping our heads around what this critical reasoning question is asking us: find the statement makes or breaks the conclusion of the argument – the gap in logic. The GMAT likes airtight arguments, so they are looking for you to find and identify the hole.

To illustrate how we are going to mind the gap, let’s start with a simple example:

Matt is a lawyer. (Premise)
Matt went to law school. (Conclusion)

Sounds reasonable, right? Of course, lawyers go to law school! Well, not necessarily…

In some U.S. states, paralegals who have been working for a period are eligible to take the bar exam and, if they pass, can become lawyers. Same goes for patent attorneys. They are often required to have a terminal degree in engineering or science in combination with field experience to sit for the patent exam. Many patent attorneys never darken the doors of a law school.

Alas, we have found the hole.

In concluding that Matt went to law school, the assumption is made that all lawyers go to law school. Without the argument stating that all lawyers go to law school, the conclusion that Matt went to law school is not necessarily true – the argument falls apart. If there were multiple choice answers to the question, the one that references that assumption that all lawyers must attend law school would be the correct one to select.

Easy enough, right? Answering our practice question should be a piece of cake!

Heading back to our question, when evaluating the hole, most students are going to fixate on the “single” versus “group” situation. But of course, a company started by a group of folks with varying skills is going to be more successful! You need a CEO, a CFO, and Director of Marketing, the Head of IT…

Anyone ever heard of Jeff Bezos? Michael Kittredge? Walt Disney?

Those test takers are going down the wrong path. The assumption being made is, actually, that good marketing, management, and technical skills equal success.

Turns out, both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump have a few failed businesses.

In theory, these types of critical reasoning questions should be as simple as our lawyer example. But clever wording and neatly disguised answer choices enough many GMAT test takers to take the road often taken, where they select an incorrect answer choice. Plus, they let the GMAT prey upon assumptions they have made based on knowledge they have outside of the exam.

Don’t be one of those test takers.

The key to being successful on these questions to not only mind the gap, but aggressively, anticipating not only that a gap is already there, but that it looks like Platform 9 ¾.

Now that we have figured out truly the assumption on which the argument rests – that marketing, management, and technical success result in business success -let’s evaluate the answer choices:

(A) A new company is more likely to succeed if every founding member contributes equally to the company’s initial funding than if some members contribute more funds than others.

(B) Some founding members of successful companies can provide both funding and skills in marketing, management, or technical matters.

(C) New companies are more likely to succeed when their founders can provide adequate funding and skills in marketing, management, and technical abilities than when they must secure funding or skills from nonfounders.

(D) Founders of a new company can more easily acquire marketing and management abilities than technical abilities.

(E) A new company is more likely to succeed if its technical experts are also skilled in management and marketing than if they lack management or marketing skills.

The correct answer is (should be) very obvious – (C) is the only option that addresses that marketing, management, and technical skills equal success.

Looking for further guidance on how to mind the gap in critical reasoning questions? Check out this video from Brian Galvin, Director of Academic Programs, at Veritas Prep.

The article first appeared here

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