GMAT Critical Reasoning, GMAT Verbal
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Critical Reasoning – The Complete The Passage Question

As most test-takers would know a majority of the Critical Reasoning questions you will encounter will belong to the Strengthen-Weaken Type — out of the 13-14 Critical Reasoning questions you will encounter at the least 5 will be from these two types. You will posed with 1-2 questions from each of the other question types. While the Boldfaced Question, is most famous and understandably toughest question type, which we discussed in this post, the Complete The Passage question is the least understood of question types.

This is an often overlooked and underrated question type. Many test-takers think it is a Conclusion question. The Complete The Passage question IS NOT a conclusion question.

It can be a deceptively tricky question type because depending upon the passage it might be a strengthen or weaken or explain/resolve type. Let us take a few GMAT questions to explore this question type further.


Which of the following most logically completes the argument?

Utrania was formerly a major petroleum exporter but in recent decades economic stagnation and restrictive regulations inhibited investment in new oil fields. In consequence, Utranian oil exports dropped steadily as old fields became depleted. Utrania’s currently improving economic situation, together will less restrictive regulations, will undoubtedly result in the rapid development of new fields. However it would be premature to conclude that the rapid development of new fields will result in higher oil exports because ________ .

(A) the price of oil is expected to remain relatively stable over the next several years
(B) the improvement in the economic situation of Utrania is expected to result in a dramatic increase in the number of Utranians who own automobiles
(C) most of the investment in new oil fields is expected to come from foreign sources
(D) new technology is available to recover oil from old oil fields formerly regarded as depleted
(E) many of the new oil fields in Utrania are likely to be as productive as those that were developed during the period when Utrania was a major oil exporter

A closer look at the last sentence sentence will indicate that this question is in fact a weaken question. Just replace the last sentence with this one — it is therefore reasonable to expect that Utranian oil exports will start increasing in the near future — followed by this question — which of the following casts most serious doubts on the prediction made in the argument?

Once you are able to identify this you need to look for an answer that weakens the argument that Utranian oil exports will increase. The correct option should provide a reason why Utranian exports will not increase.

This is a relatively easy question and hence it is not difficult to pick out option (B) as the correct answer — if domestic sales of automobiles will increase dramatically then so will domestic consumption of oil and hence despite all the changes exports might not increase.


Garnet and RenCo each provide healthcare for their employees. Garnet provides for both testing of its employees’ high cholesterol levels and treatment of high cholesterol. This policy saves Garnet money since high cholesterol left untreated for many years leads to conditions that require to very expensive treatment. However RenCo does not have the same financial incentive because ________ .

(A) early treatment of high cholesterol does not entirely eliminate the possibility of a stroke later in life.
(B) the mass media regularly feature stories encouraging people to maintain diets that are low in cholesterol
(C) RenCo has significantly more employees than Garnet has
(D) RenCo’s employees are unlikely to have higher cholesterol levels than Garnet’s employees
(E) the average length of time an employee stays with RenCo is less than it is for Garnet

While the previous question was a Weaken Type, this one is an Explain/Resolve type —  a situation involving a discrepancy, an anomaly or an exception for which you need to find the explanation.

By all accounts RenCo should also have the same financial gain as Garnet but that is not the case, the correct option should tell you why RenCo will not have any financial gain by adopting the same policy as Garnet.

The close options are (C), (D) and (E).

Option (C) is a very good trap since it means that the cost of diagnosing will be much higher for RenCO than for Garnet. But by the same coin, the estimated cost of expensive treatments later on will also be much higher for RenCo than for Garnet. Hence even if RenCo has significantly more  number of employees than Garnet, there still is a financial incentive to adopt the policy.

Option (D) would have been correct if it said that employees of RenCo are likely to have much lower cholesterol levels than employees of Garnet, since that would mean lower risk of expensive treatment later on. But option only says they are unlikely to have higher levels, so both sets of employees are comparable and RenCo should also have the same financial incentive.

Option (E) is the correct one. If RenCo employees are likely to stay for a shorter period than do Garnet employees, it would mean that RenCo would not have to pay for emergency treatments that might be required over the longer-term since the employees do not stay with them for so long. Hence, for RenCo paying for diagnosis will only mean an additional financial burden since they are not going to have to bear the treatment costs.

So when faced with Complete the Argument/Passage question

  • read the last sentence carefully
  • determine what question type it is — a weaken question, a strengthen question or explain resolve question
  • evaluate every answer option against the question type

As usual it is best if you solve a few questions of this type from the Official Guide with the process described above to strengthen your technique.



  1. Alphonsa says

    Hi Tony,
    Your blogs are very useful in nailing these typical CR questions.
    How would you tackle the one below?
    What would you categorize it as?

    Taken from OG:

    The earliest Mayan pottery found at Colha, in Belize, is about 3,000 years old. Recently, however, 4,500-year-old stone agricultural implements were unearthed at Colha. These implements resemble Mayan stone implements of a much later period, also found at Colha. Moreover, the implements’ designs are strikingly different from the designs of stone implements produced by other cultures known to have inhabited the area in prehistoric times. Therefore, there were surely Mayan settlements in Colha 4,500 years ago.

    Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

    (A) Ceramic ware is not known to have been used by the Mayan people to make agricultural implements.
    (B) Carbon-dating of corn pollen in Colha indicates that agriculture began there around 4,500 years ago.
    (C) Archaeological evidence indicates that some of the oldest stone implements found at Colha were used to cut away vegetation after controlled burning of trees to open areas of swampland for cultivation.
    (D) Successor cultures at a given site often adopt the style of agricultural implements used by earlier inhabitants of the same site.
    (E) Many religious and social institutions of the Mayan people who inhabited Colha 3,000 years ago relied on a highly developed system of agricultural symbols.


  2. Hi Alphonsa, Glad to know you find the posts useful. This is a pretty good question and it is one of those rare argument types that does lot fall into the 3 types of S/W argument types that I had outlined and discussed in other posts.

    Whenever you have such a case, you need start with the argument – Mayans settled there 4500 years ago and see which option weakens this.

    The option will usually be a absolutely new premise that will throw the conclusion into question.

    If you examine the options none except option D is doing that since while the stoneware resembles later Mayan stoneware and is different from those preceding inhabitants, it still does not mean that it belongs to the Mayans since as option D suggests the Mayans could have copied it.

    It is a tricky one; I reached it via elimination.

    Hope this clarifies.


  3. Ankur Sharma says

    HeLLo Tony,

    This is with reference to the medium difficulty level question – Garnet and RenCo.
    My reason to eliminate option D is – ” . . unlikely . . ” – does not mean Employees at RenCo will not suffer from H.Ch. And, We don’t have any more information to conclude “unlikely” could lead to financial gains for RenCo.
    1) Is My reasoning correct?
    2) How is “unlikely to have higher cholesterol” different from (mentioned in Your reasoning to eliminate option D) “likely to have much lower cholesterol”?

    In advance, Thank You for the response.

    Thank You.


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