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GMAT Tip: Eliminate Out of Scope

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Believe it or not, getting to the right answer for a Critical Reasoning question can be as simple at reading the prompt carefully and strategically eliminating answer choices that are out of scope of the passage. A lot of answer choices can “sound good” but really don’t do anything in the form of answering the question being asked or give the additional information required to strengthen or weaken the argument.

The below question is a perfect example of when out of scope answer choices help us to quickly get to 50/50:

Boreal owls range over a much larger area than do other owls of similar size. The reason for this behavior is that the small mammals on which owls feed are especially scarce in the forests where boreal owls live, and the relative scarcity of prey requires the owls to range more extensively to find sufficient food.

Which of the following ,if true, most helps to confirm the explanation above?

  1. Some boreal owls range over an area eight times larger than the area over which any other owl of similar size ranges
  2. Boreal owls range over larger areas in regions where food of the sort eaten by small mammals is sparse than they do in regions where such food is abundant.
  3. After their young hatch, boreal owls must hunt more often than before in order to feed both themselves and their newly hatched young
  4. Sometimes individual boreal owls hunt near a single location for many weeks at a time and do not range rather than a few hundred yards.
  5. The boreal owl requires less food, relative to its weight, than is required by members of other owl species.

For answer choice (A), this literally just repeats the information already give – “range over a much larger area than do other owls.” The addition of eight times is all that is being made. Mark this one off the list!

For answer choice (B), this is a possibility – it explains why there are few small mammals for boreal owls to eat. A quick lesson in the food chain, perhaps?

For answer choice (C), the mention of the young and need to hunt more often is a bit outside the scope of the passage, and doesn’t explain why boreal owls need to expand their area. Or, rather, we’d have to make more than one jump in logic to explain why boreal owls need to hunt more widely.

For answer choice (D), like answer choice (C), this is also outside the scope. It implies, in fact, the opposite from the prompt and does nothing to confirm the explanation.

And lastly, answer choice (E) is much like (C) and (D) – why would less food explain why boreal owls hunt over a broader area? Wouldn’t they need to hunt less if they need more food?

The correct answer choice is (B) – and arguably the other answer choices are very easy to eliminate provided we’ve really thought through what would have explain why boreal owls hunt over a larger area.

This is the case for many Critical Reasoning questions – often, jumping right to the answer choices and getting rid of out of scope answers can be much easier than anticipating an answer first based upon the information provided.

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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