Critical Reasoning

  1. Always read the question stem first (before reading the passage). It will contain useful clues about what to look for and think about as you read the passage.
  2. Questions that ask you to identify an assumption behind the argument are similar to those that ask you to select the answer choice the most seriously weakens the argument. In both types of questions, your task is to determine what must be assumed in order for the argument's conclusion to be reasonably inferable. In the latter type of question, your second task is to find the statement among the answer choices that refutes that assumption.
  3. If the passage confuses you, try identifying the argument's conclusion (often signaled by terms such as "as a result," "consequently," and "therefore") and its premises�evidence that is given as factual (often signaled by terms such as "because," "since," and "given that.") The passages do not always present the components of an argument in the most coherent sequence. Reasoning linearly from premises to conclusion can help you make sense of it all.


  1. In any question that asks which answer choice most effectively either weakens or strengthens the argument, you can be certain that one or two of the answer choices will go the wrong way�by accomplishing just the opposite of what the question asks for. Be on the lookout for them; it's remarkably easy to become confused and go for this type of answer choice under time pressure and during a momentary lapse of concentration.
  2. Many passages contain superfluous statements which are irrelevant to the argument and shouldn't come into play at all in responding to the question at hand. Don't be thrown by these red herrings; separate them out from the important logical features of the argument