This tip on improving your GMAT score was provided by Brian Galvin at Veritas Prep.
Both on critical reasoning questions and on reading comprehension questions, you’ll often be asked to draw a conclusion. These “inference” questions, as they’re commonly called, can be among the more difficult on the GMAT verbal section, but that’s in large part because the way you infer in day-to-day life is different from the true definition of a conclusion by GMAT standards.
On the GMAT, the answer to an inference question must be true.
Now, in your life and in your work there are rewards to be had if you draw a conclusion that turns out to be correct, even if you draw it when you’re only 75 percent to 80 percent sure it’s correct. Hunches and probabilities are heavily rewarded. On the GMAT, those tend to be the trap answers—those answers that are probably but not necessarily true. Thankfully, this strictness that a properly-drawn conclusion “must be true” comes with a useful strategy for you:
If the correct answer must be true, then you can eliminate answers that could be false.
With inference questions, you’ll generally find yourself using process of elimination to get rid of answers that aren’t necessarily true—that could be false. Consider an example:
If Shero wins the election, McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission. But Stauning is more qualified to head it since he is an architect who has been on the planning commission for 15 years. Unless the polls are grossly inaccurate, Shero will win.
Which one of the following can be properly inferred from the information above?
(A) If the polls are grossly inaccurate, someone more qualified than McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission.
(B) McGuinness will be appointed head of the planning commission only if the polls are a good indication of how the election will turn out.
(C) Either Shero will win the election or Stauning will be appointed head of the planning commission.
(D) McGuinness is not an architect and has not been on the planning commission for 15 years or more.
(E) If the polls are a good indication of how the election will turn out, someone less qualified than Stauning will be appointed head of the planning commission.
Here, process of elimination can be very helpful. If you hold up each answer choice to the “could be false” elimination standard, you might have:
(A) Since we don’t even know that Stauning wants the job, we can’t tell that someone better qualified will be appointed. Perhaps the other potential election winner is planning to appoint his brother, who’s much less qualified. This statement could certainly be false.
(B) The word “only” is crucial here—what if the polls are grossly flawed and Shero loses the election? Do we know for sure that the winner wouldn’t also appoint McGuinness? Maybe McGuinness is the only qualified (and interested) candidate out there. This one’s close, but it doesn’t have to be true.
(C) Again, we don’t know that Stauning even wants the job; we just know he’s more qualified than McGuinness. This doesn’t have to be true.
(D) We don’t know McGuinness’s credentials; if he’s an architect with 14 years of experience, he still falls short of Stauning’s credentials but this statement would be invalidated. So this one doesn’t have to be true.
(E) This one is airtight. If the polls are accurate, Shero wins, and we know that if Shero wins he’s appointing McGuinness.
The real lesson here is that in many cases, the correct answer to an inference question won’t jump off the screen at you. But by putting each choice under a microscope and asking “could this be false?” you can usually eliminate the wrong four choices. So remember, the right answer must be true, meaning that you can eliminate any choices that could be false.
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