One of the more common critical reasoning question types used on the GRE are assumption questions. GRE assumption questions require you to find the author’s evidence and the author’s conclusion. You are required to build the necessary link between the two that the author felt was so self evident that it need not be stated.
It is important for you to be able to distinguish evidence and conclusion keywords on the GRE. Examples of evidence terms are:
- For example
- From the fact that
- After all
- It is clear from
Examples of conclusion terms are:
- It is clear
- It follows that
- As a result
- This proves that
- Studies suggest
- This shows
These lists are not exhaustive but they offer a general idea of what to look for. You always identify the evidence and conclusion and bridge the gap between the two by incorporating any new words or phrase that are mutually exclusive. Try this question and see how you do.
1) Mary has been judged to be a bad home cook simply because she uses ingredients that are spicy. This judgment is ill founded however because many famous restaurants chefs use spicy ingredients their dishes are loved by all.
Which one of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?
(A) Spicy ingredients have a comparable effect when considering meals crafted by home cooks and restaurant chef alike.
(B) Some people who eat at diners do not like spicy food as much as they enjoy desserts.
(C) Some home cooks can decorate their dishes as well as restaurant chefs.
(D) Spicy meals are easy to digest if you are under the age of 35.
(E) The quality of Mary’s food is better judged by her family than by her friends who eat at fancy restaurants.
The author’s opinion is that Mary is a good cook. Note the keyword “however” letting you know the author is changing the direction of the argument. The evidence used compares Mary’s cooking to the many famous restaurant chefs’ cooking. This author is assuming what is true about Mary is true about the famous restaurant chefs. In order for this argument to make sense, we must assume that we can compare Mary and the famous restaurant chefs. The correct answer is choice (A).
Now let’s see why the other answers are incorrect. Answer choice (B) mentions diners and desserts. Neither of these topics was mentioned in the stimulus. We call this type of answer “out of scope”. On GRE assumption questions, you cannot introduce new information in the correct answer choice. Answer choice (C) is incorrect because it mentions decorating dishes, which is also out of scope. Answer choice (D) is incorrect because it mentions digestion and under the age of 35, which again is out of scope. (E) is incorrect because “better judged” makes an irrelevant comparison that our author did not make.
Your ability to identify incorrect answer types can make your short verbal reasoning questions much easier on Test Day.
Let’s try another assumption question and see how you do:
2) Great paintings have always caused people to be shocked. The Di Vinci’s Mona Lisa made many people angry when they first saw it. So, since it is clear that art is shocking, we should not hesitate to donate money to support the art that people find shocking.
Which of the following is a valid assumption?
(A) Most art is shocking.
(B) Di Vinci received donations to paint the Mona Lisa.
(C) Art used to be more shocking in the past than it is now.
(D) Donations should support art.
(E) All things that shock us are considered art.
The conclusion and the evidence are both in the last sentence. The new term used is “donate money”. This means the author needs us to build a link between donating money and art. The correct answer is (D).
(A) is incorrect because only great painting are shocking, not all art. Plus it does not mention our new phrase” donate’.
(B) There is no evidence that proves the DiVinci received donations. Plus, we only need concern ourselves with evidence and conclusion when dealing with assumption questions.
(C) The word “more” makes an irrelevant comparison that our author never uses.
(D) This answer is too extreme. We can’t state that everything that is shocking is art because there are many shocking things that may not be art. We only know that art is shocking.
Your understanding of how assumption questions work will also help you with other critical reasoning questions, such as strengthen the argument, weaken the argument and flaw. All of these question types will also help you perform better in your analytical writing section on Test Day. Assumption questions are worth practice because they will help your overarching GRE percentile ranking and raise your score.