Elli Papadaki GMAT test questions take their toll

My tussle with GMAT test questions continues………

“To avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, the board of a major U.S stock exchange is considering a new policy that would ban former top executives of the exchange from taking positions at publicly traded companies for a period of two years after leaving the stock exchange. Critics of the plan say the policy is unfair because it would likely prevent former top executives of the exchange from earning a decent living.”

Which of the following statements, if true, would most strengthen the prediction made by the critics of the proposed company policy?

(A) The labour union that represents most of the stock exchange’s employees has made public statements that threaten a strike if the policy is adopted.
(B) Former employees of the exchange most often work for publicly traded companies after leaving the exchange.
(C) Low-level managers at the exchange have an average tenure of 13 years, one of the longest in the industry.
(D) Low-level managers at the exchange most often leave their jobs for positions with the state or federal government.
(E) Former top executives of the exchange have a particular set of skills such that they are usually only able to find work with publicly traded companies.

If confused, perplexed or even undecided is the word that comes closest to describing your reaction the first time you try to answer such a problem, then fear not - it’s only normal.

A common mistake made by many when it comes to approaching critical reasoning problems, I am told,  is not reading the text properly or being tricked by a seemingly correct answer. How many of you would set off trying to tackle such a question by reading the text first and then looking at the question stem? Apparently, most people do – and so did I.

The reason I have highlighted the word strengthen in the question stem is because this is where we all need to start off if we are to understand what we are looking for. Hopefully, this will become second nature. Always read the question stem first so that we know what to look for. Sometimes, we can predict what the right answer should be before looking at our options and this could save us valuable time on test day.

The strategy to critical reasoning is rather simple. We are always confronted with a text, where the author reaches a certain conclusion based on certain evidence. These two elements, the conclusion and the evidence, are what we should aim to identify in the first instance as they are the key to the right answer.

As the term “critical reasoning” suggests, we are either looking for a fault in the author’s assumption when reaching a certain conclusion or we are on the look out for an assumption that would reinforce the author’s conclusion if this assumption were to be true.

In this instance, the author’s conclusion is that “this new policy is unfair because it would likely prevent top executives of the exchange from earning a decent living”. The evidence is that “this new policy would ban former top executives of the exchange from working at publicly traded companies”. As such, if we were to paraphrase this, we would be likely to say that “if former top executives of the exchange were not allowed to work at publicly traded companies, they wouldn’t be able to earn much”.

Before we even look at the answer choices, the question we need to be asking is why wouldn’t these executives be able to earn a decent living were the plan to go ahead? A reasonable speculation to make would be because they wouldn’t be able to find another job. Looking at the answer choices, answer (E) nicely paraphrases this justification.

Once you can demystify what it is you are being asked to do, and once you develop a strategy for approaching this type of question, finding the right answer should become much easier.