“Many a true word is said in jest.”—I don’t know, but I heard it from my mother.
I think that Critical Reasoning is my favorite part of the exam because it is the purest of the pure. I’ve written before that the GMAT is an aptitude test rather than a knowledge test. On the simplest level, in both the quant and the verbal, the exam tests a logic system: be specific, don’t assume, and don’t rationalize. Nowhere is this more true than in Critical Reasoning—there is no mathematical foundation work nor are there grammar rules. As Gertrude Stein used to say, “There is no there, there.” Of course, she was talking about Oakland. . .fill in your own joke. When I’m being* mean to students, I say, “If you know what all the words mean, you should get them all right.”
But students don’t get them all right. Even those who know what all the words mean. Why is that? Because people think. They assume, they rationalize, and they inject opinions. Why is this bad? Because it’s a game. Critical Reasoning doesn’t take place in reality. Here’s an analogy I thought up all by myself, so it isn’t in the Strategy Guide: Critical Reasoning bears the same relationship to reality that Monopoly does. When you play Monopoly, you don’t think about how reasonable free parking or building hotels is, you exploit the rules. It’s the same thing. A lot of OG arguments involve medical issues, but you hardly ever care whether people live or die because that’s usually not the conclusion. Play the game.
As a by the way, if students struggle with the CR, it’s often half of their trouble in the quant. Folks are not specific; they read the question or the given incorrectly. And they don’t recognize the types and patterns. In other words, they don’t play that game. However, folks fail to notice these mistakes because they are too consumed with worry about their math foundations. Conversely, engineers with strong foundations also suffer here, especially in the DS because they try to use brute mathematical force instead of playing the game. It is a behavioral problem. People don’t do; they think. Don’t think—much like in life, it only gets you into trouble.