GMAT Critical Reasoning, GMAT Verbal
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Critical Reasoning – The Boldfaced Question

Arguably the toughest GMAT Critical Reasoning question-type, the boldfaced question is feared by many GMAT test-takers. In fact many test-takers feel very good if they encounter a boldfaced question on test-day since they link it to having performed well on the test — if it is the toughest question type then getting a boldfaced question means that one has successfully answered the medium-level questions.

The boldfaced question is rightfully the toughest question type on the Verbal section:

  • firstly, it has two arguments instead of one like in the case of other CR question types, easily making it twice in length
  • secondly, it is the only Verbal question type that demands you to solve the question, like Problem Solving questions in Quantitative section;
  • thirdly, it is a meta-question type on which your technique is tested to the fullest

Let us take a GMAT Boldfaced question to learn how to tackle this question type.

Editorial: An arrest made by a Midville police officer is provisional until the officer has taken the suspect to the police station and the watch commander has officially approved the arrest. Such approval is denied if the commander judges that the evidence on which the provisional arrest is based is insufficient. A government efficiency expert has observed that almost all provisional arrests meet the standards for adequacy of evidence that the watch commanders enforce. The expert has therefore recommended that, because the officers’ time spent obtaining approval is largely wasted, the watch commander’s approval no longer be required. This recommendation should be rejected as dangerous, however, since there is no assurance that the watch commanders’ standards will continue to be observed once approval is no longer required.

In the editorial, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

(A)  The first is a claim, the accuracy of which is disputed by the editorial; the second is a conclusion drawn in order to support the main conclusion of the editorial.
(B)  The first is a conclusion, the evidence for which the editorial evaluates; the second is part of the evidence cited in favor of that conclusion.
(C)  The first is an observation that the editorial disputes; the second is a conclusion that was drawn from that observation.
(D)  The first is a finding that was used in support of a proposal that the editorial opposes; the second is a judgment that was based on that finding and in turn was used to support the proposal.
(E)  The first is a finding introduced to support the main conclusion of the editorial; the second is that main conclusion.

Boldfaced questions have two arguments not one

While usual Critical Reasoning questions have one argument, boldfaced questions have two since they are present not just an argument but an argument plus an evaluation of it.

In this question for example, the editorial is actually evaluating a particular argument, what is that argument?

Argument 1: The expert has therefore recommended that the watch commander’s approval no longer be required.

The editorial then proceeds to evaluate it and present an argument about the previous argument.

Argument 2: This recommendation should be rejected as dangerous

Step 1: Identify the two arguments and their relationship to each other

The first step is to identify the two arguments. How does one identify them?

Arguments are not pieces of information or evidence, they are clear plans of actions or recommendations, as can be seen from the above two arguments. So whichever statement or clause exactly expresses a plan or action or recommendation is an argument. They can be called by various names, contention, assertion, claim, recommendation, argument or conclusion.

Once you have identified the two arguments, it is important to classify them as the main argument and the secondary argument. In this case the main argument is the argument of the editorial, argument 2. The secondary argument or argument 1 is the argument made by the government expert.

Next, you have to identify the relationship between the two arguments: are they opposed to each other, are they supporting each other, is one qualifying the other?

In this case they are opposing each other.

Step 2: Classify the remaining sentences and assign them to the respective arguments

Each of the arguments identified in Step 1 are arrived at using premises — statements, evidence, data or  judgments. The second step is to assign the remaining sentences to each of the arguments as premises.

Premise 1: An arrest made by a Midville police officer is provisional until the officer has taken the suspect to the police station and the watch commander has officially approved the arrest. Such approval is denied if the commander judges that the evidence on which the provisional arrest is based is insufficient
Premise 2: A government efficiency expert has observed that almost all provisional arrests meet the standards for adequacy of evidence that the watch commanders enforce
Premise 3: The officers’ time spent obtaining approval is largely wasted

Argument 1: The expert has therefore recommended that the watch commander’s approval no longer be required.

Premise: Since there is no assurance that the watch commanders’ standards will continue to be observed once approval is no longer required

Argument 2: This recommendation should be rejected as dangerous

Step 3: Eliminate options based on the above two classifications

The next step is to look at the portions in boldface in the question and map them to your classification.

The key to solving boldfaced questions quickly and correctly is to eliminate answer options as clinically as possible based on two criteria:

  • Incorrect classification of statements
  • Incorrect classification of relationship between arguments

On this question it is clear that both statements in boldface are premises used to support Argument 1 and that Argument 2 opposes Argument 1

(A)  The first is a claim, eliminate the option at this stage itself since the first one is a premise and not a claim, which as discussed is another term for an argument.

(B)  The first is a conclusion, eliminate for the same reason as above.

(C)  The first is an observation that the editorial disputes; the second is a conclusion, option can be eliminated here since the second one is also not a conclusion but a premise.

(D)  The first is a finding that was used in support of a proposal that the editorial opposes; the first is a premise that supports argument 1 (in this case called a proposal), the second is a judgment that was based on that finding and in turn was used to support the proposal, the second is also a premise that is used to support argument 1.

(E)  The first is a finding introduced to support the main conclusion of the editorial; option can be eliminated since main conclusion is argument 2 and not argument 1 which this finding supports.

As you can see from the deconstruction above, boldfaced questions test your Critical Reasoning technique to the maximum: your ability to separate arguments from premises and identify relationships between arguments.

It goes without saying that if your technique is strong and you can do the first two steps correctly, boldfaced questions will not take any longer than other Critical Reasoning questions since the longer time taken to read boldfaced passage can be made up in eliminating options in no time. As you would have noticed you can eliminate an entire option by reading only the first few words.

So the next thing to do would be to pick up a few boldfaced questions from the Official Guide to and try to solve them using the method discussed.

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3 Comments

  1. Vanya Bisht says

    Hi, Can your next post please focus on the Strengthen and Weaken type of questions and how to frame the argument with the help of ‘x’ and ‘y’?

    Like

  2. Pingback: Critical Reasoning – The Complete The Passage Question | The GMAT Blogger

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