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GMAT Tip: Completing the Critical Reasoning Blank

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While strengthen, weaken, and inference questions tend to make up the bulk of GMAT Critical Reasoning questions, another question Critical Reasoning type that appears often is those that require completing the blank, following the prompt:

Which of the following most logically completes the argument below?

These question types are asking you to figure out what makes sense, typically as part of a plan of action based upon data, surveys, or other kinds of feedback. Let’s take a look at a sample problem below:

Which of the following most logically completes the argument below?

NowNews, although still the most popular magazine covering cultural events in Kalopolis, has recently suffered a significant drop in advertising revenue because of falling circulation. Many readers have begun buying a competing magazine that, at 50 cents per copy, costs less than NowNews at $1.50 per copy. In order to boost circulation and thus increase advertising revenue, NowNews’s publisher has proposed making it available at no charge, but this proposal has a serious drawback, since _______.

(A) Those Kalopolis residents with the greatest interest in cultural events are regular readers of both magazines.

(B) One reason NowNews’s circulation fell was that its competitor’s reporting on cultural events was superior.

(C) The newsstands and stores that currently sell NowNews will no longer carry it if it is being given away for free.

(D) At present, 10 percent of the total number of copies of each issue of NowNews are distributed free to students on college campuses in the Kalopolis area.

(E) NowNews’s competitor would begin to lose large amounts of money if it were forced to lower its cover price.

The conclusion of this prompt is asking for what is a drawback to a plan that has been presented. We are asked to figure out what that drawback is, but first need to assess the premise and goals to be achieved by the conclusion.

For this specific prompt, let’s ask – what is the reason for the plan? Advertising revenue for NowNews has declined because of decreased circulation. A loss of revenue is, of course, implied as something that is not good and needs to be fixed.

How is declining advertising revenue to be fixed? By boosting circulation, or at least, reversing falling circulation. What suggestion is made? To make NowNews available for no charge aka for free.

The prompt wants us to take the suggested plan – making the newspaper available at no extra change – and pick an answer choice that would make that suggestion completely unworkable and destined to fail.

By assessing the answer choices:

  • Talks about readers of both magazines, but doesn’t address the recommended plan. Wouldn’t regular readers pay for NowNews, anyways?
  • Great to know, and implies maybe the plan won’t be super successful, but isn’t a drawback of the plan to boost circulation.
  • Ah – yes, this is the type of answer we are looking for! If no one will carry a free newspaper, then there is no way offering NowNews at no charge will be successful.

The correct answer is (C). But, for peace of mind:

(D) Interesting, but doesn’t provide guidance as to how this could or would impact circulation, and whether it is unsuccessful.

(E) Not a drawback for NowNews, but a positive – doesn’t fill in the blank appropriately.

When looking at these types of questions, always ask yourself – why the plan? what should the plan do? And assess the answer choices to make sure the answer choice you select fits well into drawbacks, considerations, and/or additional benefits – depending on what you’re being asked to consider.

The above GMAT Tip comes from Veritas Prep. Since its founding in 2002, Veritas Prep has helped more than 100,000 students prepare for the GMAT and offers the most highly rated GMAT Prep course in the industry.

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Lena Maratea
Lena Maratea is the Digital Marketing Manager at Clear Admit. She's a South Philadelphia native who graduated from Temple University’s Fox School of Business with a BBA in Marketing. She creates and curates essential digital content for the Clear Admit community.