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GMAT Tips – Sample Problem: Critical Reasoning Assumptions

Today’s GMAT Tip comes to us from Kaplan. In this article, Kaplan GMAT instructor Bret Ruber explains how to answer Critical Reasoning questions involving assumptions:

In today’s GMAT practice problem, we will be looking at a Critical Reasoning  assumption question.  Remember, on an assumption question, your goal is to identify the conclusion and evidence within the argument, and then look for the unstated piece of information that links the conclusion and evidence together – this piece is the assumption.


Every four years, the city council of Townsville drafts a city plan over the course of a series of city renewal meetings.  By design, the council spends the majority of its time considering initiatives presented by each council member.  These initiatives address the needs of each council member’s individual constituents.  The council eventually succeeds in reaching a compromise that effectively balances the needs of Townsville’s diverse factions.  But on final analysis, the meetings fail to draft an effective city plan, as the council invariably fails to reach a resolution that will achieve a vision that benefits the greater whole of Townsville.

Which of the following is an assumption upon which the argument depends?

(A) There are too many insignificant factions within Townsville that influence the city council’s plans.

(B) The city council does not devote enough time to building an effective city plan.

(C) The city council should not commit time to considering the needs of the constituents of each individual council member.

(D) Reaching a shared compromise that balances factional interests should be the primary goal of local government.

(E) An effective city plan must achieve a vision that helps the town as a whole. 


As is the case in many difficult critical reasoning problems, the question above includes much information that is not essential to breaking down the stimulus.  However, if you look for the essential pieces one at a time, you will not be distracted by superfluous information.

Let’s start with the conclusion, or main point, of the argument.  The author concludes, “the meetings fail to draft an effective city plan.”

Once we have found the conclusion, we look for the evidence.  Remember, the evidence is the information the author uses to support the conclusion.  In this argument, the evidence follows the conclusion and states, “the council invariably fails to reach a resolution that will achieve a vision that benefits the greater whole of Townsville.”

The final step is to identify the assumption, which is the unstated piece of information that must be true for the evidence to logically lead to the conclusion.  Our evidence proclaims that the resolution does not benefit all of Townsville, but the conclusion states that the resolution is not effective.  The assumption, therefore, is that if the entire town does not benefit that the plan must not be effective.

Once we have successfully identified the assumption, we go to the answer choices and look for one that matches.  In this case, choice (E) is correct.

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Posted in: GMAT - Verbal, GMAT Tips

Schools: Harvard Business School, London Business School, UPenn / Wharton

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