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How to improve your Critical Reasoning quickly












In CAT 2015, if the previous year patterns are anything to go by, Critical Reasoning is going to play a critical role. It is important that you understand it well and improve in it in the remaining time. Also, for reasons that I cannot understand, a lot of coaching institutes and books skip or do not pay adequate attention to critical reasoning as a topic while teaching. That makes it all the more important that you understand it from the basics. So, let’s begin.

What does the term ‘Critical Reasoning’ mean?

The word ‘critical’ has several meanings:

Critical means precarious e.g. a patient’s critical condition

Critical also means disapproving e.g. being critical of someone’s actions

Critical also means dispassionately analytical e.g. critical analysis of a poem or a painting

It is the third meaning that comes into effect in the term ‘Critical Reasoning.’

To solve Critical Reasoning questions, the following steps are essential:

  1. Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment
  2. Observe and apply relevant information from the facts of the case
  3. Recognise unstated assumptions and values
  4. Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments
  5. Recognise the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions
  6. Draw warranted conclusions (Inferences), and generalisations

Construction of an Argument:

An argument consists of 2 essential components:

  1. Premise(s) – the facts of the case
  2. Conclusion(s) – the result reached through the facts

An argument, however small, must have these two components. An argument may also be based on an Assumption(s), and may also lead to an Inference(s)

What is an Assumption?

An Assumption is a thought/idea taken to be true to arrive at the stated conclusion but has no supporting evidence in the premises. In other words, it is an implied premise, from which the conclusion is drawn

For example:

Premise – Jake’s fingerprints were found on the murder weapon

Conclusion – Therefore he must be the killer

Assumption – Nobody else touched the weapon before or after Jake did


How to work out the Assumption?

The Assumption is an implicit premise without which a conclusion cannot be reached

Think of the argument as a simple sum:

2 (one premise) + 3 (another premise) + X (assumption) = 10 (conclusion)

Be clear as to what the conclusion is – Ask yourself what the writer of the question is trying to prove.

As the conclusion changes, X must change

For example:

Premise – Jake’s fingerprints were found on the murder weapon

Conclusion – Yet, he cannot be the killer

Assumption – Some evidence of the involvement of another person exists


What NOT TO DO when working out the Assumption:

Premise – Philosophers play an important role in the intellectual development of society

Conclusion – Therefore they influence people’s thinking

Assumption 1 – Philosophers are crucial to the intellectual development of people

(Incorrect – Rephrasing a premise does not make it an assumption)

Assumption 2 – Society needs intellectual development

(Incorrect – An irrelevant statement that does not support the conclusion is not an assumption

Assumption 3 – Intellectual development of society may not happen at all

(Incorrect – A statement that contradicts the premise cannot be the assumption)

Assumption 4 – Society believes in what philosophers say

(Correct – The assumption addresses and validates the conclusion)


What is an Inference?

An Inference is a statement logically derived from the premise, or the conclusion, or both together.

In other words, it is an implied conclusion

Let’s consider the first example that we saw:

Premise – Jake’s fingerprints were found on the murder weapon

Conclusion – Therefore he must be the killer

Assumption – Nobody else touched the weapon before or after Jake did

Inference – At some point Jake handled the weapon

Another Sample Argument: It has been observed that due to poverty, many children from underprivileged families work in hazardous professions, such as manufacturing of fireworks

Inference 1 – These children are deprived of education – (Incorrect – they may still be attending school)

Inference 2 – Manufacturers of fireworks commonly employ child labour – (Correct)

Inference 3 – Poverty forces poor families to take significant risks with their health – (Correct)


The difference between an Assumption and an Inference:

Assumptions have no supporting data in the facts of the case whereas inferences are fully supported by the facts of the case.

Assumptions are needed to arrive at the conclusions if the premises are insufficient whereas inferences are not required to arrive at the conclusions; rather they may become evident as results of the conclusion.


What NOT TO DO when working out the Inference:

Premise – A recent survey established that obesity is rising among children

Conclusion – Therefore, the principal of a leading school has decided to stop the sale of aerated drinks in the school café

Inference 1 – Consumption of aerated drinks is a major cause of obesity among children

(Incorrect – It is an assumption required to arrive at the conclusion)

Inference 2 – The decision of the principal was based on the findings of the survey

(Incorrect – Rephrasing a conclusion does not make it an inference)

Inference 3 – The survey included only the children from affluent families

(Incorrect – An irrelevant guess cannot be treated as an inference)

Inference 4 – before this decision, aerated drinks were available in the school café

(Correct – This inference can be logically concluded from the data provided)


I hope you would have learnt something from this post about exam strategy for CAT Preparation. Do provide feedback about the same via the comments section on the blog. I look forward to your suggestions.


Ravi Handa, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, has been teaching for CAT and various other competitive exams for around a decade. He started online courses on his website Handa Ka Funda in 2013 and 10000+ students have subscribed for them since then.

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