How to approach the GMAT critical reasoning section

So here's a short and sweet article about how to do the critical reasoning (CR) section on the GMAT.  You may notice that the way I think you should approach the first step is different than what is written in many GMAT books.  However, after years of watching students I'm fairly certain that this first step is correct.  To begin, here is a pratice question:

 

The burden of maintaining the U.S. highway system falls disproportionately on the trucking industry. Trucks represent only about 10 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roads. Yet road use taxes assessed on trucks amount to almost half the taxes paid for highway upkeep and repair.

 

Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the argument above?

 

(A) blah blah blah blah

(B) blah blah blah blah

(C) blah blah blah blah

(D) blah blah blah blah

(E) blah blah blah blah

 

So here's the method: first you should

1) Scan the question and look for a few keywords like strengthen, weaken, conclusion, assumption. Don't spend more than 5 seconds reading the question. Since you haven't read the passage yet it is difficult to make sense of the question and so you should only scan it to get an idea of what it is about.  

2) Read the passage 

3) Now really read the question 

4) State exactly what you're trying to accomplish

5) Try to answer the question before looking at the answer choices! This is a very important step that many people skip and will really help you not fall into the GMAT traps 

6) Go through the answer choices. 

 

You'll also notice here that most of the work is done before you even look at the answer choices.  It is important to do the steps in the proper order if you don't want to get confused.  When you first start off you'll probably have a tendency to read through the question really quick, read through the answers, then reread the passage because you didn’t see the answer, then reread the answers, then read the passage again, start freaking out because you don’t see the right answer, and then make a guess.  However, if you use the proper strategy for critical reasoning you may read through the passage slower the first time, but in the end you’ll save time because you won’t have to reread the statements and answers multiple times.

 

That's it! So now let's apply the method to the above question. The answer is below, but don't look at it until you think you've chosen the right answer.

The burden of maintaining the U.S. highway system falls disproportionately on the trucking industry. Trucks represent only about 10 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roads. Yet road use taxes assessed on trucks amount to almost half the taxes paid for highway upkeep and repair.

 

Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the argument above?

 

(A) The trucking industry has enjoyed record after-tax profits in three of the past four years.

(B) Because of their weight, trucks cause over 50 percent of the damage sustained by highway surfaces each year.

(C) Without an economically viable trucking industry, the cost of goods in the United States would rise significantly.

(D) Road use taxes paid by trucking companies have decreased by 3 percent over the past five years.(B)

(E) Due to years of neglect, U.S. highways today are badly in need of major 

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Answer B! 

 

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