GMAT Official Guide 12th Edition: Critical Reasoning
The 11th edition has 141 Critical Reasoning problems (including 17 Diagnostic problems). In the changeover to the 12th edition, 50 problems were removed, leaving 91 repeats (including all Diagnostics), and 50 problems were added, yielding 141 Critical Reasoning problems in the 12th edition – the same number as in the 11th edition.
The proportion of new Critical Reasoning problems (35%) is very nearly the same as the average for all problems (33%).
The proportion of problems in various categories has changed somewhat.
Two minor question types have substantially increased in number: Analyze the Argument Structure (from 3 to 13) and Evaluate the Conclusion (from 6 to 14). Analyze the Argument Structure problems include “boldface statement” problems, in which 1 or (usually) 2 statements within an argument are displayed in boldface, and you are asked to describe the role these statements play within the argument. The GMAT has added 9 such problems. Evaluate the Conclusion problems ask you to choose the best way to evaluate the validity of a conclusion, e.g. what information would be most useful to know. These increased numbers may indicate that the GMAT is emphasizing these particular types of problems more than before.
Among major question types, Weaken the Conclusion has fallen the most in number (from 51 to 37); however, it is still the most numerous question type. Both Find the Assumption and Draw a Conclusion have also registered declines; in fact, in the 12th edition, they are not much more prevalent than the growing minor types mentioned earlier. However, Find the Assumption and Draw a Conclusion should still be classified as major types, given their logical importance.
This graph displays the difficulty level of problems that were removed, repeated, and added. Excluding problems in the Diagnostic exam, higher-numbered problems are more difficult, according to the GMAT. On the left, red problems were removed from the 11th edition. On the right, dark-green problems were added to the 12th edition. Light colors represent repeated questions.
Problems were removed from the 11th edition at all levels of difficulty. Every instance in which 2 or 3 questions were asked about 1 argument was eliminated. In some cases, every question was removed; in other cases, one question was preserved.
Problems were also added to the 12th edition at all levels of difficulty, but in an absolutely regular pattern, with no more than 1 at a time.
As for the difficulty of various question types, the average difficulty of Analyze the Argument and Evaluate the Conclusion fell, because more problems of each type were added throughout. Evaluate the Conclusion fell the most, since many low-numbered problems of this type were added. Among the major question types, Find the Assumption and Draw a Conclusion became moderately harder.
- The most interesting shift is the growth of the minor types, particularly Analyze the Argument Structure, as mentioned above. Analyze the Structure problems were under-represented in the 11th edition (in fact, only one boldface statement problem exists – and it’s in the Verbal Supplement, not the 11th edition itself). This problem type is generally difficult, since the arguments are generally long and complex, and the answer choices are often worded in confusing ways. Students should be sure to practice problems of this type. Also, Evaluate the Conclusion deserves additional attention, although the new problems are concentrated in the lower (easier) numbers.
- An interesting new structure appeared in one Explain the Event problem (#22). In this problem, a plan is outlined, together with the result (the failure of the plan). Finally, further information is provided. This further information allows you to rule out some possible explanations for the failure of the plan.
- Several new problems contain rather long chains of cause and effect (e.g., #49, 62, 112). Students will continue to need effective techniques for keeping track of complex arguments.