Ari Horesh University of Pavia, Italy4th of March, 2023
The IMAT Critical Thinking section examines students’ ability to think critically and apply logic to solve problems. It is crucial to master this section to achieve a high score on the exam. 7 types of logic are commonly tested in this section, and each requires a specific approach:
- Summarising the main conclusion: This type of question involves identifying the main conclusion of an argument or passage. To excel in this type of question, it is important to understand the key points of the argument and the relationship between them.
- Drawing a conclusion: This type of question involves drawing a logical conclusion based on the information provided. To excel in this type of question, it is important to understand the premises and the logical relationship between them.
- Identifying an assumption: This type of question involves identifying an implicit assumption that underlies an argument. To excel in this type of question, it is important to understand the argument and identify the unstated assumptions that are necessary for the argument to be valid.
- Assessing the impact of additional evidence: This type of question involves evaluating the impact of additional evidence on an argument. To excel in this type of question, it is important to understand the argument and how the additional evidence affects the conclusion.
- Detecting reasoning errors: This type of question involves identifying errors in reasoning, such as logical fallacies or false premises. To excel in this type of question, it is important to understand the types of errors in reasoning and how to identify them.
- Matching arguments: This type of question involves matching arguments with their corresponding conclusions or assumptions. To excel in this type of question, it is important to understand the arguments and the logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion or assumption.
- Applying principles: This type of question involves applying a principle or rule to a specific case. To excel in this type of question, it is important to understand the principle or rule and how to apply it to different cases.
Now that we’ve broken down each type of question, let’s look at some past questions and examples from similar exams to further illustrate the importance of mastering critical thinking skills. We will also discuss the best resources to use for this section and how to study for it.
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IMAT Critical Thinking (Logic) Best Resources
One of the best ways to prepare for the IMAT Critical Thinking section is to practice as many questions as possible. It is important to use a variety of resources, including past papers from the BMAT Section 1, the TSA, and past IMAT exams.
However, before practicing any questions, it is important to develop a good strategy because each thinking skill has a specific set of steps that you must always use to solve the question. It is not enough to simply rely on intuition or guesswork.
I believe about 95% of IMAT takers follow their gut feeling instead of using a specific strategy to answer questions. This is a mistake and can lead to lower scores on the exam. It is important to have a structured approach to answering questions in the critical thinking section.
One of the best resources for studying the critical thinking section is the book “A Concise Introduction to Logic, 11th edition.” This book covers all the key concepts and thinking skills required for the exam. The first part of the book provides a comprehensive overview of the different types of logic, including deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, and propositional logic. It also includes many practice questions to help you test your understanding and reinforce your learning.
Overall, using a variety of resources and developing a structured approach to answering questions are crucial for success in the IMAT Critical Thinking section. The book “A Concise Introduction to Logic” is an excellent resource that can help you prepare in the best way possible and make the exam questions look like a piece of cake.
The Most Important Type of Skills to Have
While all types of logic skills are important to master, some skills are more frequently tested on the IMAT Critical Thinking (Logic) section than others. The most important skill to have is the ability to draw valid conclusions based on given premises. This skill is tested in many different ways on the exam, including questions that ask you to draw a conclusion, identify the main conclusion, or match an argument with its corresponding conclusion.
Drawing valid conclusions is essential to succeeding in the critical thinking section because it is the foundation of logical reasoning. It requires you to carefully analyze the given premises, identify the logical relationship between them, and use that relationship to draw a logical and valid conclusion. This skill is also closely related to deductive reasoning, which is another important skill to have for the exam.
To master the skill of drawing valid conclusions, it is important to practice as many questions as possible, using the strategies and approaches we will discuss later in the article. It is also helpful to review past questions and learn from your mistakes to improve your understanding of the material. Additionally, using high-quality study resources like the “A Concise Introduction to Logic” book can provide a strong foundation in this critical thinking skill and help you succeed on the exam.
Summarizing Main Conclusion
The “Summarizing Main Conclusion” question is one of the most straightforward types of questions in the IMAT Critical Thinking (Logic) section. Its goal is to test your ability to summarize the message of the author in 1-2 sentences.
However, the hardest part about this type of question is sorting through the answer choices. Sometimes, there can be more than one answer that looks correct, but you must remember that you are looking for the MAIN conclusion, not just something that is said in the text that is true. So, how can you more easily find the main conclusion?
First, when you read the question, avoid jumping to the answers. Instead, read the text and formulate your own conclusion in your own words. Then, underline a matching sentence from the text. The conclusion is either directly stated in the text or there will be a sentence that acts as a stepping stone to it. After making your own conclusion, you can go through the possible answer choices and start the elimination process. Find the answer that best matches your own conclusion and compare it to your underlined sentence in the text.
However, be careful: the answer selection can often be vague or overreaching, meaning that they make sense and are true in real life but they are not explained by the text alone. If you are still having doubts after completing these steps, ask yourself: “Is this really a conclusion or is this just supporting the conclusion?” Remember that just because an answer matches something from the text, does not necessarily mean it is the conclusion.
Certain words or phrases can also be a giveaway of the conclusion. For example, words such as “Therefore”, “so”, “as a result”, “thus”, “hence”, and others can indicate the conclusion. These words may not always be obvious, but with practice, you will slowly recognize these identifiers more and more.
Here are the key steps to follow when answering a “Summarizing Main Conclusion” question:
- Read the question carefully. Do this for every question in the IMAT Critical Thinking (Logic) section.
- Read the passage carefully and thoroughly, making sure you understand the main idea.
- In your own words, make a conclusion for the passage. What is the author’s main idea? Be concise and precise.
- Find a sentence in the text that matches the conclusion you made, and underline it. This sentence should either directly state the conclusion or provide a stepping stone to it.
- Keep an eye out for giveaway words and phrases that can indicate the conclusion. Examples include “Therefore”, “so”, “as a result”, “thus”, “hence”, and others.
- Find an answer that matches the underlined sentence. Use the elimination method to narrow down the answer choices and select the one that best matches your conclusion.
By following these steps, you can improve your ability to summarize the main conclusion and avoid falling for answer choices that are not directly related to the main idea. With practice and attention to detail, you can excel in this type of question and boost your overall score on the IMAT Critical Thinking (Logic) section.
The “Drawing Conclusions” question is a more abstract type of question in the IMAT Critical Thinking (Logic) section because there is no conclusion clearly written in the passage. Your goal is to find supporting evidence in the text that can be used to make a generalized statement about the passage. Once you find the supporting evidence, try to connect the dots and ask yourself: “What is the author trying to prove?”
When answering this type of question, it is important to eliminate any previous knowledge you may have and rely solely on the information provided in the text. You may see an answer that you know is true based on what you have learned in daily life, but if it is not proven by the text, then it is irrelevant.
Something to keep in mind with this type of question is that the conclusion will not always be as clear as it would be for the “Summarizing Main Conclusion” question type. When drawing conclusions, they can be less obvious as long as they are proved by what is in the passage, i.e., supported by evidence. This is a very important question to use the process of elimination for. Once you eliminate the easy outliers, you can sort between what is additional evidence, what is irrelevant, and what can be concluded. Focus on the reasons/evidence in the text; they will answer WHY we can conclude an answer.
Here are some common types of wrong answers, or tricks, you need to look out for and avoid: contradictory conclusions, conclusions that are supporting evidence and not the conclusion on their own, and conclusions that are overgeneralized.
Contradictory conclusions are usually the most obvious to spot because you can find the opposite information in the text. For example, if the text says, “Rising earth temperatures due to human pollution have been shown to cause the ice caps to melt,” a contradictory conclusion would be “humans have not contributed to the loss of polar bear habitats in the ice caps.” Our example here directly states that human pollution causes rising temperatures and, therefore, causes the ice caps to melt. Since the polar bears live there, we can draw the real conclusion that humans are, in fact, destroying their habitat.
Some answer choices offered may not be a conclusion but rather more evidence to another conclusion. These are often more difficult to spot. However, if you cannot decide between two answers at the end, try to use one answer to strengthen another. If one answer can provide more evidence and strengthen another answer, then it is likely just evidence, and the other option is your real conclusion.
When a conclusion is overgeneralized, there is too big of an assumption we have to make. For example, if the text says, “Ari likes to eat fruits and vegetables,” a conclusion stating “Ari is a vegetarian” requires us to make too big of a jump between passage and conclusion. Just because you like fruits and vegetables does not mean you eat ONLY fruits and vegetables. It is possible Ari eats other things like meat (and, therefore, is not a vegetarian).
Here are the key steps to follow when answering a “Drawing Conclusions” question:
- Read the question carefully. Do this for every question in the IMAT Critical Thinking (Logic) section.
- Go through the text and underline evidence that supports a generalized statement.
- Read the answer choices and eliminate the outliers. It is usually easiest to eliminate contradictory conclusions first.
- Using the underlined evidence and examples, prove each conclusion. Ask yourself, “Is this another piece of evidence, or is this proved and strengthened by what’s in the text?”
- Remember to ignore bias and disregard answers that may be true in the real world but are not supported by the text.
Here’s a table of some key words and phrases to remember for the “Summarizing Main Conclusion” and “Drawing Conclusions” question types:
|Key Words/Phrases||Summarizing Main Conclusion||Drawing Conclusions|
|Main conclusion||Goal of question||No clear conclusion|
|Supporting evidence||Look for matching sentence||Find evidence that supports a generalized statement|
|Giveaway words/phrases||“Therefore”, “so”, “as a result”, “thus”, “hence”, etc.||N/A|
|Contradictory conclusions||Answer choices that contradict information in the text||Answer choices that contradict information in the text|
|Supporting evidence as conclusion||Answer choices that provide additional evidence but are not a conclusion on their own||N/A|
|Overgeneralized conclusions||Answer choices that require too big of an assumption or jump between passage and conclusion||Answer choices that require too big of an assumption or jump between passage and conclusion|
|Key Steps||1. Read the question||1. Read the question|
|2. Read the passage||2. Go through the text and underline evidence|
|3. Formulate your own conclusion||3. Read the answer choices and eliminate the outliers|
|4. Find a matching sentence in the text||4. Prove each conclusion using the underlined evidence and examples|
|5. Look for giveaway words/phrases||5. Ignore bias and disregard answers that are not supported in the text|
Strengthening/Weakening the Argument
Strengthening and weakening the argument is all about supporting evidence. The most important step is to find the conclusion or main idea of the argument. Without knowing what the author is trying to prove, you will not be able to find the answer, so this should be the first priority. Once you have found the conclusion or main idea of the argument, determine whether you are strengthening or weakening the argument. The answer choices will mix both types up, giving you an easy way to eliminate a few choices. Next, go through the text and find any evidence that supports or attacks the argument of the author. This supporting evidence is needed because an answer can either strengthen or weaken the argument by adding to or attacking the evidence in the passage.
So, how can we weaken an argument?
Deny an assumption: Assumptions are the pillars of the argument. Without them, the argument collapses.
Question evidence on which the conclusion relies: A strong argument must be supported by evidence. The weaker the evidence, the weaker the argument.
Add more evidence that weakens the conclusion: Adding a negative can easily weaken an argument. Conflicting evidence is often a sign of a weak argument.
Question a claim of causation when there is only correlation: Dissociate the relationship between the argument and evidence. Prove that they are not necessarily related but more coincidental.
To find what strengthens an argument, you can simply do the opposite of the strategies mentioned above. For example, you could ask yourself, “What reinforces an assumption?” or “What adds more evidence to strengthen the conclusion?”
It’s important to note that you should pick the answer that most strengthens or weakens the argument, not just one that weakens or strengthens it a little.
Here are the key steps to follow when answering a “Strengthening/Weakening the Argument” question:
- Find the argument: This is the most important step. Without knowing what the author is trying to prove, you will not be able to find the answer.
- Find supporting evidence in the text: This is needed before analyzing possible answers.
- Eliminate easy options: These will be the answers that are opposite to what you want (for example, “Strengthen” instead of “Weaken”).
- Determine whether the answer strengthens or weakens the argument: Focus on evidence that supports or attacks the argument of the author.
- Choose the answer that most strengthens or weakens the argument: Don’t just pick an answer that weakens or strengthens it a little.
|Key Concepts/Strategies||Weakens Argument||Strengthens Argument|
|Find the conclusion/main idea of the argument||✔||✔|
|Find supporting evidence in the text||✔||✔|
|Eliminate easy options (opposite to what you want)||✔||✔|
|Deny an assumption||✔||–|
|Question evidence on which the conclusion relies||✔||–|
|Add more evidence that weakens the conclusion||✔||–|
|Question a claim of causation when there is only correlation||✔||–|
|Choose the answer that most strengthens or weakens the argument||✔||✔|
And here are the key steps to follow when answering a “Strengthening/Weakening the Argument” question, and a shorter, easy to remember version:
- Find the conclusion/main idea of the argument.
- Find supporting evidence in the text.
- Eliminate easy options (opposite to what you want).
- Determine whether the answer weakens or strengthens the argument.
- Choose the answer that most weakens or strengthens the argument.
Flaw In the Argument
When searching for flaws in an argument, it is crucial to identify the assumption upon which the argument is based. The assumption is typically an obvious and fundamental concept that the author does not explicitly mention. Without the assumption, the conclusion of the argument would be false. For example, if we assume that a man only sleeps with the lights off, we can conclude that he is awake when the lights are on. However, if we remove this assumption, the conclusion is no longer valid.
Once we have identified the assumption, we need to examine each answer option to determine which one exposes the flaw in the argument. When analyzing each option, we should watch out for common flaws, such as mistaking correlation for causation, confusing absolute numbers with percentages, making illogical comparisons, projecting the qualities of a smaller group onto a larger group, and confusing necessary and sufficient conditions. We should also be aware of jumping to conclusions based on anecdotes.
To find the flaw in an argument, we should read the question and passage carefully, identify the conclusion and assumptions, and attack the assumptions with the answer options. By discarding invalid options, we can arrive at the correct answer.
here’s an explanation for each of the flaws:
- Correlation is not causation: This is a common flaw in arguments where two things are related, but it is not clear which one causes the other. Just because two things occur together, it does not mean that one causes the other. This mistake can be made by assuming that correlation is evidence of causation when there may be other factors at play.
- Absolute numbers vs percentages: This flaw involves confusing percentages with absolute numbers, which can be used to make a sample seem larger or smaller than it really is. For example, if a survey shows that 50% of people prefer a certain brand of soda, it is important to know how many people were surveyed to determine if this is a statistically significant result.
- Illogical comparisons: This flaw occurs when two things are compared in a way that doesn’t make sense logically. For instance, just because one group is increasing while another group is decreasing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are switching from one group to another. This flaw can also be seen when comparing different groups with different sizes or in different situations.
- Projecting: This flaw occurs when an author takes the qualities of a smaller group and applies them to a larger group without considering other factors. This can result in overgeneralizations and stereotypes, as well as ignoring other factors that may contribute to the behavior being observed.
- Confusing necessary and sufficient conditions: This flaw involves confusing a necessary condition with a sufficient condition or vice versa. A necessary condition is something that must happen for something else to occur, but it does not guarantee that the final outcome will happen. On the other hand, a sufficient condition always results in the same consequence, but there may be other ways to achieve the same outcome.
- Jumping to conclusions: This flaw involves making assumptions based on anecdotal evidence or hearsay without fully considering all the facts. Jumping to conclusions can lead to oversimplifications and inaccurate assumptions, and it’s important to take a more critical approach to evaluate the evidence and reasoning behind an argument.
here’s a table summarizing the most common flaws in arguments and their descriptions:
|Correlation is not causation||Correlation is not the same as causation. Just because two things are related does not mean that one causes the other.|
|Absolute numbers vs percentages||Using percentages can be misleading when trying to compare sample sizes or populations.|
|Illogical comparisons||Comparing two things in a way that doesn’t make logical sense.|
|Projecting||Generalizing the characteristics of a smaller group to a larger one without sufficient evidence.|
|Confusing necessary and sufficient conditions||Mistaking a condition that is required for an outcome with one that is sufficient to guarantee it.|
|Jumping to conclusions||Drawing a conclusion without sufficient evidence or reasoning.|
An assumption is an unwritten connection between the evidence and the conclusion that the author must believe to be true for the conclusion to hold. It’s a crucial link that’s not explicitly stated, and without it, the conclusion is not valid.
One common mistake is choosing an answer that the author could believe but is not necessary for the conclusion to hold. To avoid this trap, look for a critical assumption that’s essential to the argument.
A helpful strategy to test if you’ve found the assumption is called the negation test. Reverse the answer, and if it contradicts the conclusion, you’ve likely found the assumption.
- Identify the question type – the question is asking for an assumption.
- Find the conclusion and the evidence that supports it.
- Identify the unwritten link between the evidence and the conclusion.
- Choose the answer that’s a critical assumption for the argument to hold.
- Use the negation test to verify your choice.
- Find the conclusion.
- Find the evidence.
- Identify the unwritten link.
- Choose a critical assumption.
- Use the negation test to verify your answer.
To solve parallel reasoning questions, you need to break down the argument into sequences or actions and assign a variable to each action. This helps to simplify the argument into its simplest form, and to identify similarities between answer options.
For example, let’s say the argument is: “My dad told me that if I learn 40 new words in German every week, he will give me 50 euros every month. Unfortunately, I am not able to learn more than 10 words per week.”
In this argument, the action is learning German words and the reaction is receiving 50 euros. To break it down using variables, let Y be the action of learning 40 new words in German every week, and R be the reaction of receiving 50 euros every month. Since the person in the argument is only able to learn 10 words per week (let G be the action of learning 10 words per week), the reaction of receiving 50 euros will not happen.
Simplify the expression with variables, and put each answer option into the same variable format to see which are the most similar. Then eliminate and solve.
- Break down the argument into actions and reactions.
- Assign a variable to each part.
- Simplify the expression with variables.
- Put each answer option into the same variable format and identify similarities.
- Eliminate and solve.
Final Recommendations for the Written Exam:
Instead of using colors, try using variables to simplify the argument. Assign a letter to each action and reaction to help you identify similarities between answer options. Remember that every argument is made up of actions and reactions, so focus on identifying those to help you solve parallel reasoning questions.
What is a principle in an argument?
It is the underlying belief or value that the author uses to support their conclusion.
What is an example of a principle?
For instance, if an argument suggests that people who consume alcohol should be placed at the bottom of liver transplant lists, the principle could be that individuals should be responsible for their own health or medical care should prioritize those who take care of their health. Although there can be multiple principles, they are related to the same idea of health and personal responsibility.
Questions that ask for the principle of the argument are similar to parallel reasoning questions. The difference between identifying the principle of the argument and finding the parallel reasoning is that the principle is more closely related to the actual topic and conveys a message rather than being reduced to the most basic form possible.
To tackle these questions, read the text carefully, identify the main idea, and rephrase it in more general terms. Then, select the answer option that best fits the author’s belief or value. You can also think of the answer as another example that illustrates the author’s perspective.
Identify the conclusion and evidence to understand the argument.
Arguments rely on evidence to draw conclusions.
Identify the argument and generalize it.
Use the supporting evidence to determine a more generalized take-home message.
Prove your principle by demonstrating what it argues. If you can establish what the principle is arguing, it is likely a good principle.
Summary and Last Tips
In conclusion, critical thinking is a crucial skill to have when approaching the IMAT exam. By following the strategies outlined in this article, you can improve your ability to identify flaws in arguments, find the main conclusions, solve assumptions, apply principles, and use parallel reasoning. Remember to take your time, read the questions carefully, and practice as much as you can before the exam. With dedication and practice, you can enhance your critical thinking abilities and increase your chances of success on the IMAT exam. Good luck!