Tackling a GMATPrep CR Evaluate Problem

Stacey Koprince —  November 16, 2011 — 10 Comments

This week, we’re going to discuss Evaluate critical reasoning problems. Evaluate what? We’re trying to evaluate an assumption the author uses to draw a conclusion, so these Evaluate questions are a subset of the Assumption Family of questions.

Let’s say we’re given this argument:

In order to increase its profits, MillCo plans to reduce costs by laying off any non-essential employees.

Does that sound like a good plan? Profits equal revenues minus costs. What’s MillCo assuming in claiming that laying off non-essential employees will result in increased profits? For one thing, MillCo is assuming that revenues won’t drop as much as or more than the expected cost savings; if that occurred, MillCo’s profits wouldn’t increase.

An Evaluate question might say something like what would be most useful to know in order to evaluate MillCo’s plan? A correct answer might read:

Whether revenues will be affected adversely enough to threaten MillCo’s profit structure.

Let’s say that answer is no: MillCo’s revenues won’t be affected adversely enough. In that case, MillCo’s argument is strengthened. If, on the other hand, the answer is yes, MillCo’s revenues will be affected adversely enough, then MillCo’s argument is weakened. This answer, then, is designed to test the assumption; it helps to determine whether the assumption is valid. It does not tell us, however, that the assumption definitely is, or is not, valid.

We can pretend we’re scientists testing a hypothesis “ we devise some test to help us determine whether the hypothesis is more or less likely to be true. The author’s claim is the hypothesis. The correct answer should be structured in such a way that there are at least two possible paths “ one direction will make the argument a little more likely to be true (validate the hypothesis) and the other direction will make the argument a little less likely to be true (invalidate the hypothesis).

The incorrect answers will also be presented in this two paths format, with one key distinction: whether the response to the answer is “yes” or “no” makes no difference at all to the claim we’re trying to test. What if we had this answer choice?

Whether MillCo might reduce its costs by eliminating any contract workers.

If MillCo can reduce costs by eliminating contract workers, that doesn’t tell us anything more about whether laying off non-essential employees will help to increase profits. If, on the other hand, Millco cannot reduce costs by eliminating contract workers we still don’t know anything more about whether the plan regarding the employees will work.

This answer choice is trying to distract us by offering a different way to increase profits but we aren’t asked to find alternate ways to increase profits. We’re asked to evaluate whether the existing argument is valid.

If you haven’t yet, read this article before we try our GMATPrep problem. Set your timer for 2 minutes!

*  Columnist: People should avoid using a certain artificial fat that has been touted as a resource for those whose medical advisers have advised them to reduce their fat intake. Although the artificial fat, which can be used in place of fat in food preparation, has none of the negative health effects of fat, it does have a serious drawback: it absorbs certain essential vitamins, thereby preventing them from being used by the body.

In evaluating the columnist’s position, it would be most useful to determine which of the following?

(A) Whether increasing one’s intake of the vitamins can compensate for the effects of the artificial fat

(B) Whether the vitamins that the artificial fat absorbs are present in foods that contain the fat

(C) Whether having an extremely low fat intake for an extended period can endanger the health

(D) Whether there are any foods that cannot be prepared using the artificial fat as a substitute for other fats

(E) Whether people are generally able to detect differences in taste between foods prepared using the artificial fat and foods that are similar except for the use of other fats

Okay, now that you’ve got an answer, let’s use our 4-step CR process.

Step 1: Identify the Question

First, we read the question stem:

In evaluating the columnist’s position, it would be most useful to determine which of the following?

The key identifying language is pretty straightforward on this one: in evaluating and most useful to determine. This language reflects an Evaluate problem type.

Step 2: Deconstruct the Argument

In this argument, the first sentence tells us an opinion: the columnist thinks we shouldn’t use this artificial fat. The second sentence tells us two facts, but these facts are competing “ they’re not on the same side. First, the columnist acknowledges that the artificial fat doesn’t have any of the bad effects of real fat, BUT it does have its own bad effect: it prevents us from absorbing certain essential vitamins.

Your notes might look something like this (though there are lots of ways to write notes!):

C: don’t use AF ©
AF > real fat in some ways
BUT AF prevents absorb some vit

Note that I used abbreviations. AF = artificial fat. The c with the circle around it indicates the conclusion. I used the greater than symbol to mean better than.

What does this mean in normal, non-GMAT language? The columnist knows that this fat has a serious drawback and therefore concludes we just shouldn’t use it. What’s the columnist assuming? That there’s no way to fix or get around that drawback “ if there were, then maybe we wouldn’t have to avoid using the artificial fat.

Step 3: State the Goal

As we discussed earlier, our goal here is to find a two-path statement that will test one of the author’s assumptions. If that assumption is valid, then the argument will be at least a little bit stronger. If the assumption is not valid, then the argument will be at least a little bit weaker.

We haven’t discussed this yet, but we’d also want to remind ourselves what kinds of tempting traps we’re likely to see on questions of this type. Evaluate traps typically address some part of the premises but don’t actually address the conclusion, or they try to address some alternate way of reaching the conclusion. The answers look like they’re relevant (because they address something in the argument) “ but they don’t actually address the right thing: what additional information could help to test some assumption that is already in the argument.

Step 4: Work from Wrong to Right

(A) Whether increasing one’s intake of the vitamins can compensate for the effects of the artificial fat

If the answer is yes: then we could eat the AF and still get our vitamins. That weakens the columnist’s claim.

If the answer is no: then the columnist’s claim is a little bit better. Possibly there’s still another work-around that’ll let us eat the AF and still get our vitamins, but a no answer here knocks down one possible way.

This one looks good so far; leave it in.

(B) Whether the vitamins that the artificial fat absorbs are present in foods that contain the fat

If the answer is yes: then wait the point of this is that people will replace fatty foods with foods that have this AF, and then the vitamin absorption problem is with this AF stuff. We might want to know whether the AF foods have these vitamins, but there’s no problem with the regular-fat foods containing these vitamins.

If the answer is no: Ditto. We’re talking about the wrong thing here “ the fatty foods rather than the foods with AF.

Cross this one off.

(C) Whether having an extremely low fat intake for an extended period can endanger the health

If the answer is yes: then people should make sure not to have extremely low fat intake but wait how does artificial fat play into this? I’m not sure. Nor does the argument indicate anything about extremely low fat intake. The argument only talks about people who need to reduce their fat intake.

If the answer is no: then people don’t have to worry about getting enough fat but again, this whole artificial fat and vitamin thing isn’t impacted at all here.

Cross this one off.

(D) Whether there are any foods that cannot be prepared using the artificial fat as a substitute for other fats

If the answer is yes: then people won’t be able to have the AF in those foods. So what? The argument doesn’t claim that all foods have to be able to be prepared with this AF stuff.

If the answer is no: then people can have AF in anything that contains regular fat. Again, so what?
Cross this one off.

(E) Whether people are generally able to detect differences in taste between foods prepared using the artificial fat and foods that are similar except for the use of other fats

If the answer is yes: then people might be less likely to use the AF if it tastes funny (or more likely if it tastes better!). But that doesn’t affect whether we’re getting our vitamins.

If the answer is no: then people won’t know whether something contains the AF or regular fat. But that doesn’t address the issue about the vitamins and whether people can still get the vitamins they need if they eat food with AF in it.

Cross this one off. The correct answer is A.

Key Takeaways for Solving Evaluate CR Problems:

(1) Know how to recognize this type. The question stem will likely use some form of the word evaluate, determine, or useful / important to know.

(2) Know what to do with Evaluate questions. Find the conclusion and identify the main supporting premise(s), then brainstorm assumptions. Our goal is to find an answer that tests an assumption. We’re trying to test the author’s claim as scientists “ we test a hypothesis, and the answer could go either way (could make the claim more or less likely to be true, depending upon the answer to our test).

(3) The correct answer will be able to both slightly strengthen and slightly weaken the hypothesis, depending upon whether the information in that choice goes one way or the other. Incorrect answers might only strengthen the conclusion, or they might address a premise without affecting the conclusion, or they might distract us by trying to talk about some other aspect of something in the argument that doesn’t actually relate to the conclusion.

* GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

Stacey Koprince

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Stacey Koprince is an Instructor and Trainer as well as the Director of Online Community for Manhattan Prep. She's also a management consultant who specializes in corporate strategy. She has been teaching various standardized tests for more than fifteen years and her entire teaching philosophy can be summed up in five words: teaching students how to think.

10 responses to Tackling a GMATPrep CR Evaluate Problem

  1. Hi Stacey,
    Thanks again for your wonderful article. I started making conclusion as follows
    Actually I started writing this comment to clarify why C is not right but I realized C is not right and A is right while writing this paragraph.
    Please clarify the reasoning ( it may look/sound /// unprofessional , please excuse)
    I understood conclusion as — People should reduce their “fat intake” (whether artificial or natural or any other source of fat) — main conclusion //
    And we are asked here to question/evaluate “Why Artificial Fat should not be taken? ( as part of the given paragraph)
    C is not right because it does talk about the main conclusion partly but does not talk about the question in hand (Artificial Fat intake)
    B is not right because “even if it is present, medical advisers advised not to intake, in addition to that, the question is about in taking Artificial Fat
    A is right, it does say about what happens if someone takes Artificial Fat and would be possible to compensate by something else to save the health. “Compensating even if you take Artificial Fat”. A talks about in taking Artificial Fat

    In CR, I always cancel out four choices and filter one lastly (being best based on question, paragraphs etc) is that ok or is it possible to select the correct answer choices directly. thanks Achari

    • First, please don’t apologize for “looking / sounding unprofessional” – I’m the teacher, so it’s my job to look and sound professional here, not yours! :)

      The conclusion is contained in this full sentence: People should avoid using a certain artificial fat that has been touted as a resource for those whose medical advisers have advised them to reduce their fat intake.

      The author’s actual conclusion is not that people should reduce their fat intake – that’s what the medical advisers have advised. The author has advised only that people shouldn’t use this certain artificial fat. It’s very important to make sure that you’re picking out the *author’s* conclusion, and not the conclusion of someone else mentioned in the argument. Then we are asked to evaluate the position that people shouldn’t use this artificial fat, yes.

      Does this new understanding of the conclusion now help you see more clearly why C is incorrect? C talks about fat intake in general, but the author hasn’t advised anything about overall fat intake. He’s only advised that people not use the artificial fat.

      For CR in general, we are usually crossing off the 4 wrong answers as opposed to directly finding the right answer. There are times when I’m pretty sure I’ve found the right answer already, but I still check the other answers just to make sure!

  2. Hi Stacey,
    Thanks for the reply and for the encouraging lines about looking unprofessional.
    Authors vs medical advisers’ conclusion, Beautiful,, yes , I got that.
    I want to end this comment with “students whom you teach are lucky “ . I am lucky to have as a virtual teacher through this blog.
    God bless you
    Once again thanks for the reply Achari

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  6. Winsome thoughts the following. Have you been convinced it is the accurate approach to look at it even though? My very own individual experience is that we ought to virtually dwell and permit live mainly because what one particular individual thinks just a different human being simply wont. Human beings are heading to try and do what they want to complete. Inside end, they often do. Essentially the most we can hope for is always to establish a few items below and there that hopefully, makes it possible for them to generate just a small far better informed decision. Otherwise, wonderful post. You are absolutely making me feel

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