XAT Critical Reasoning – How to solve CR Questions?

Monday, December 14th, 2020

XAT Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning questions have been a regular feature of the XAT Verbal and Logical Ability section. These are quintessential critical reasoning questions in which an argument is given followed by questions that ask test-takers to choose the correct assumption/ true statement/ strengthening/ weakening/ plausible explanation statement from the 5 answer options given.

Structure of a Critical Reasoning Question

Every critical reasoning question is in the form of an argument and every argument will have a premise and a conclusion. A premise is a statement of fact or evidence, stated in the passage, which is presumed to be true in the context of the passage. Premises are always explicitly stated. When a premise is not stated, or the author has taken it for granted, it becomes an assumption. A conclusion is an opinion or assertion that the author wants to prove by using premises and assumptions.

Important Note:

Identifying the conclusion of any argument is crucial for solving the most critical reasoning questions. Questions that ask a test taker to strengthen or weaken the argument always imply strengthening or weakening the conclusion of the argument. Other question types such as assumptions/ true statements and plausible explanations too involve the conclusion. Answer options that strengthen or weaken the premise of the argument are incorrect and are standard wrong answer traps present in XAT critical reasoning questions.

At first, critical reasoning questions may appear daunting to many test-takers but with sufficient practice of XAT mock tests, test-takers will soon realize that this is a question type that they can score off. Furthermore, unlike reading comprehension passages and decision making caselets, this is a question type that is not very time-consuming.

Standard Wrong Answer Traps in Critical Reasoning Questions

  1. Red Herring answer option – This option makes an argument related only subtly to the main argument but in reality is an option to divert the attention from the issue at hand. Example: In a strengthening question, an answer option that strengthens the premise rather than the conclusion.
  2. Incorrect Comparisons – One must compare two similar things and use the correct metric for measurements. Apples are to be compared with apples only. Example of an incorrect metric: It is safer to drive a car than a motorcycle since there are fewer car accidents than bike accidents.
  3. Attacking the Arguer instead of the argument – This is an argument in which an argument tries to refute another argument by attacking the arguer rather than the argument itself. Example: The Senator’s suggestion to ban the sale of guns is not to be considered since the Senator owns many expensive guns himself.
  4. Wrong generalizations – Such an argument makes a conclusion based on evidence that is not representative of the whole group. Example: My uncle smoked and drank heavily and did not suffer from any major illnesses.
  5. Correlation–Causation error: Two events may take place simultaneously but this does not mean that one event caused the other. Correlation does not mean causation.
  6. Real-world knowledge error – Things that are true in real-life situations may not always be the correct answer unless explicitly stated in the argument.
  7. Circular Reasoning – When an attempt is made to make an argument by beginning with an assumption that what you are trying to prove is already true. Example: New Delhi is in India. Therefore, New Delhi is in India.


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    While solving critical reasoning questions in mock tests it is advisable to make a note of every wrong answer and the reasons as to why they were wrong. Over a period of time, this will make solving critical reasoning questions much easier. In case you encounter a question whose answer you are not sure of, simply eliminate the standard wrong answers until you are left with the correct answer option.

    Let us solve a few examples by identifying the standard wrong answer traps.

    Example 1:

    Pythons are land-based reptiles. However, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts have come face to face with pythons in lakes and rivers. Finding pythons in water is not a mystery or a miracle. Many species of predators have been found living in surprising habitats. Predators such as alligators, otter and mountain lions are thriving in places they shouldn’t, revealing some serious misunderstandings about their behaviors and how to protect them. Scientific literature divulges that these creatures are actually returning to habitats they once originally occupied. This fact helps conservationists help improve the original habitats of these creatures.

    Which of the following strengthens the fact that predators such as pythons are returning to habitats they once occupied?

    A. Most pythons still live on land.

    B. Predators such as pythons have an awareness of the place they were born in.

    C. Most pythons prefer to live in lakes and rivers.

    D. More pythons live on land than in water such as lakes and rivers.

    E. Predators such as pythons have a genetic memory of their original habitats.

    Answer: In a strengthening question we have to strengthen the conclusion always. The conclusion of this argument is that predators such as pythons are actually returning to habitats they once originally occupied. How is this possible? Only option E gives the plausible explanation – predators such as pythons have a genetic memory of their original habitats.

    Option A is incorrect – Wrong generalization.

    Option B is incorrect – Red Herring answer option.

    Option C is incorrect – Circular Reasoning.

    Option D is also incorrect – Incorrect metric used.

    Therefore, option E is the correct answer.

    Example 2:

    The British consumer giant firm, GKS, has a bestselling quick food snack product in India named Margi. Margi contains sodium glutamate or Ajinomoto which has unhealthy side effects on those who consume food laced with it. Britain has long banned food snacks that have sodium glutamate from being sold in its country. Recently, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) made a recommendation to the Indian government to ban Margi. Clearly, food deemed fit for Indians is not deemed fit for UK residents.

    Which of the options is not necessarily the underlying assumption of the author in the paragraph above?

    A. Indians had accepted unhealthy food as the norm.

    B. Economic exploitation and profiteering, unless challenged, run smoothly.

    C. Typically, a lot of Indian food is not fit for human consumption.

    D. British companies dump their obsolete and unhealthy food products in third world countries such as India which do not have strong laws to protect their citizens’ health.

    E. Racism makes it easy for the British to justify the exploitation of inferior races.

    Answer: Remember this is a NOT question. Therefore, the correct answer will affirm one of the standard wrong answer traps given above in this article.

    If Margi was a bestselling snack in India then Indians had clearly accepted unhealthy food as the norm. Eliminate options A.

    Option B can be borne out from the passage and option C too since an unhealthy snack like Margi is allowed to be sold in India. Option D is also an assumption that can be borne out from the passage since if Margi is being allowed, other companies are likely to be selling unhealthy food products too.

    Option E is an assumption that cannot be borne out from the passage. It affirms wrong answer number 6 – real-world knowledge error answer.

    Therefore, option E is the correct answer.


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