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Tiny GMAT Critical Reasoning Mistakes You Might be Making (Part 3) by ManhattanGMAT

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Tiny GMAT Critical Reasoning Mistakes You Might be Making (Part 3) by Reed Arnold Guess what? You can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free—we’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here . The hunt for tricky GMAT Critical Reasoning games continues. (Check up here and here for the first two parts on this series). As before, I’ll present three types of GMAT Critical Reasoning mistakes I see students (and myself) make, and I’ll give some sample questions demonstrating the trick. Then I’ll give you a number for an actual CR problem in the 2017 OG that has this kind of thing going on in it. How Might an Answer Trip You up in GMAT Critical Reasoning? 1) It Gives Information on a Relationship that Doesn’t Matter The start-up company Pillow Inc. makes pillows that ensure a perfect night’s sleep, and thus, many companies are seeking to acquire it. The two largest contenders, SleepCo and SweetDreams, are set to make offers soon, and Pillow Inc. will probably sell to the company that offers them the most money. Because SleepCo had much more profitable years than SweetDreams in the last decade, it’s likely that SleepCo will soon acquire Pillow Inc. Which of the following would be most useful to compare in evaluating the argument? A) The proportion of available funds both SleepCo and SweetDreams have set aside for the specific purpose of acquiring other companies. B) The number of times in recent years that each company has reinvested all of its profit into business ventures. “I don’t care about other business ventures. And just because a company has had a lot of profit, I need to know how much of that profit they can spend on buying Pillow Inc. So I say A . Now comes the part where you tell me I’m wrong.” You know me too well, disembodied voice in my head. A is incorrect, though it sounds very tempting. We need to specify what really matters to this argument, though. The only thing that matters is which company can give more money to Pillow Inc . “Doesn’t that depend on what percentage of their funds they have to spend on acquisitions?” Sure, relative to the amount that company has . If I knew the information in A , I could tell you the proportion of dollars a company could give to Pillow Inc. to the dollars it could not give to Pillow Inc. But that tells me absolutely nothing of the proportion of dollars one company could give to Pillow Inc. to the dollars the other company could give to Pillow Inc. And that’s the relationship that matters—who can give more. For instance, if SleepCo can give 100% of its available to funds to Pillow Inc., you might think SleepCo has got it in the bag… until you hear that its available funds amount to a grand total of $3.27. Meanwhile, SweetDreams can only give 2% of its available funds… but it’s 2% of $100 million, and suddenly it seems like SweetDreams is the winner, despite its low percentage of funds available to pay for acquisitions. The GMAT loves relationships and relative values, in both the Quant and Verbal sections. It loves requiring you to notice the difference between relative values and actual values, and to note which relationships are important to the discussion at hand. Always make sure you’re considering the relationship that actually matters in a GMAT Critical Reasoning problem. (EXAMPLE: CR 655 about burning trash) 2) It Tempts You to Bring in Real World Knowledge The city council in Hobbiton is disturbed by the terrible nutritional value of the meals served for lunch at the public schools in the Frodo District. One step they’re taking to alleviate this issue is to stop purchasing animal products from Everything Fried, and they are instead looking at Healthy Meats for the meat and dairy portions of the lunches. Because Healthy Meats uses significantly less salt than Everything Fried, this change would make school lunches healthier. Which of the following would weaken the argument? A) Everything Fried is unhealthy because of the unusually high mercury levels in all of its food. B) Healthy Meats provides meats for two large fast food chains. “Well, I don’t care about why Everything Fried is unhealthy, because you told me once not to explain a premise, and I learned my lesson. But if Healthy Meats is giving food to fast food chains, it’s probably not as healthy as its name implies, so B .” You are making some very valid inferences in the real world. Your brain has noticed a trend: meats served at fast food joints are usually, to put it delicately, [cuss word] gross. We’ve all seen the documentaries: it’s the worst cuts of the meat, often the stuff no one else wants, ground up and mashed together into something that looks vaguely like a meat patty. But that’s the real world. And it has no place on the GMAT. We’re not given the information in the problem that ‘fast food=poison.’ You have to leave that at the door, along with all other circumstantial knowledge. It’s not applicable. The answer here is A . It doesn’t really explain the premise (and remember: that’s a tempting wrong answer choice for Strengthen questions)—the premise is that Healthy Meats is better because it uses less salt than Everything Fried. Does that mean, though, that Everything Fried uses too much salt? That’s one of the assumptions (notice again: what relationships matter?). But if Everything Fried is unhealthy for something other than salt for instance, mercury—then the difference in salt content won’t matter all that much. (EXAMPLE: CR 658 about hotel carpentry) 3) It Does Make the Argument Slightly Better/Worse… But You’re Looking to Guarantee/Ruin It In Oceanside, recent thunderstorms have brought about some of the most severe flooding the city has ever seen. This is most likely due to the city’s zoning laws. The lack of such laws allowed developers to build as much as they wanted, and this required the pouring of acres and acres of concrete. Concrete lacks the permeability of soil, so even with the draining system designed by the city planners, the ground just didn’t have the ability to absorb the rainwater at rates even close to what it could before. Which of the following would strengthen the argument? A) If zoning laws had been in place, the same developments could have been built at three times the cost due to steep fees paid to the city. B) Concrete is the least permeable substance of all common building materials . “Well, since in A the buildings could have been built regardless of any zoning laws, I’d pick B . But B just seems to be explaining a premise, so I don’t know what to choose.” The answer here is A . It sounds like a weakener. In fact, with one letter change, it would be. If the ‘could have been built’ were ‘would have been built,’ it would have been a weakener, because ‘would’ implies that the buildings were going to be there no matter what the zoning laws did. But this answer says that they could have been built at three times the cost. That gives developers an incentive to not build—perhaps it’s just too expensive. “PERHAPS?! YOU’RE MAKING ME CHOOSE AN ANSWER BASED ON ‘PERHAPS?!’” You’re upset, I can see that— “I’ve been told not to bring in my own assumptions! Don’t I have to assume that three times more expensive is too expensive for the developers? Maybe they can afford the cost and it’s no big deal to them!” Maybe so. But you have to remember that with a Strengthen question, you’re not looking to guarantee the argument. With a Weaken question, you’re not looking to destroy it. You’re just trying to make the argument more likely, or less likely. Even if it’s only a teensy, tiny, itty bit more likely, that’s the answer. The argument could still be wrong . Yes, the developers could build the exact same thing and the flooding could be the exact same even with zoning laws. But A brings up a reason to think that maybe, possibly, zoning laws would have changed what was eventually built. It doesn’t guarantee it; it just makes the argument a little bit stronger. So that’s the answer. “But isn’t that real-world knowledge? That higher costs could affect developers that way?” Yes, it is. I wish I could tell you that everything on the GMAT is absolute. But there are bends to the rules of the test. For example, “being” is almost always incorrect in Sentence Correction—but I found a question recently in which it wasn’t. While you can’t bring too much circumstantial, real-world knowledge to the test, you will need to keep some ‘common sense’ about you. I admit, it’s a fine line to walk. But keep practicing and you’ll develop your sense for when you’re crossing it and when you’re just toeing it. (EXAMPLE: CR 666 about casinos) EXPLANATIONS: CR 655: C and E are both relative values that distract you from the only relative value that actually matters: amount of trash burned this year compared to the amount of trash burned last year, which I’m already told will be ‘half as much.’ It doesn’t matter what proportion of the trash they can recycle—whether it’s 0%, 50%, or 100%, they’re still going to burn half as many trucks of trash as they did last year. It doesn’t matter if I collect less or more trash this year, as long as the amount of trash that gets burned is half as much as last year. I can collect way, way, way more trash, and still only burn half as much as I did last year. CR 658: Answer B is commonly chosen because, “Bigger hotels have worse carpentry. If they’re spending so much time and money on size, they can’t afford nice carpentry,” or something to that effect. I think when students think this, they’re pondering the gigantic Holiday Inns of the world and the plastic paneling on the walls. But that’s real-world knowledge. There’s no real reason a large hotel can’t have beautiful carpentry, and without that information given in a problem, we can’t assume it away. CR 666: This is a tough one. I first ignored answer A because I thought, “What if Moneyland already has casinos in the five counties Apex is selling in? Moneyland needs to be able to buy at least three of the five, and I have no idea if it has that capability.” But the point is, there’s a chance Moneyland can buy three of the five and tie Apex. That’s enough to say the argument is weakened. It’s not ruined at all—Apex could still very well have the most casinos. That might still even be the most likely outcome. But it’s a little less likely if what is given in A is true.

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