Students taking test

Suggested Approach for Analytical Reasoning

You may find it helpful to answer questions about a passage that seem less difficult first, and then turn to questions that seem more difficult. Whether or not you take this approach, it is best to finish one passage before starting on another, because much time can be lost in returning to a passage and reestablishing familiarity with its relationships.

On the other hand, if you are having great difficulty on one particular set of questions and are spending too much time on them, it may be to your advantage to skip that set of questions and go on to the next passage, returning to the difficult set of questions after you have finished the other questions in the section.

Do not assume that because the conditions for a set of questions look long or complicated, the questions based on those conditions will be especially difficult.

Read the passage carefully

Careful reading and analysis are necessary to figure out exactly what the relationships are in an Analytical Reasoning passage. Some relationships are fixed (for example, P and R must always work on the same project). Other relationships are variable (for example, Q must be assigned to either team 1 or team 3). Some relationships that are not stated explicitly in the conditions can be deduced from those that are stated (for example, if one condition about paintings in a display specifies that Painting K must be to the left of Painting Y, and another specifies that Painting W must be to the left of Painting K, then it can be deduced that Painting W must be to the left of Painting Y).

In reading the conditions, do not make unjustified assumptions. All the information needed to answer each question is provided in the passage and the question itself. For instance, in a set of questions establishing relationships of height and weight among the members of a team, do not assume that a person who is taller than another person must weigh more than that person. As another example, suppose a set involves ordering and a question in the set asks what must be true if both X and Y must be earlier than Z; in this case, do not assume that X must be earlier than Y merely because X is mentioned before Y.

The conditions are designed to be as clear as possible. Do not interpret the conditions as if they were intended to trick you. For example, if a question asks how many people could be eligible to serve on a committee, consider only those people named in the passage. When in doubt, read the conditions in their most obvious sense. Remember, however, that the language in the conditions is intended to be read for precise meaning. It is essential to pay particular attention to words that describe or limit relationships, such as “only,” “exactly,” “never,” “always,” “must be,” “cannot be,” and the like.

Through this kind of careful reading, you can develop a clear picture of the structure of the relationships involved, including the kinds of relationships permitted and the range of possible outcomes allowed or required by the conditions.

Keep in mind that the questions are independent of one another

Each question should be considered separately from the other questions in its set. No information, except what is given in the original conditions, should be carried over from one question to another. For example, if Question 1 adds the supposition “if P is sitting at table 2 ...,” this supposition should NOT be carried over to any other question in the set.

In most cases a question will simply ask for conclusions to be drawn using the conditions as they were originally given. A few questions may, however, add to the original conditions or temporarily suspend or replace one of the original conditions. These changes apply only to that individual question.


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