VARC Critical Reasoning Decoded- Types, Basic Format, Decoding

For competitive examinations be they entrance examinations or examinations for jobs, critical Reasoning as part of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) like Critical Reasoning for CAT has become an integral part.  The critical reasoning questions that are asked in the examinations can be extremely mind-boggling for the candidates.  Majorly assumption-based solutions are required for such questions. The very term ‘Critical Reasoning’ depicts a need to think deeply, formulate an appropriate solution after having analyzed, synthesized, and evaluated all the available information and adding to it one’s experience. 

Types Of Critical Reasoning For CAT 

There are several different types of questions that are posed to check critical reasoning.  Here are some of them:

  • Strengthen/Weaken the Conclusion
  • Identify assumption
  • Identify inference
  • Identify conclusion
  • Resolve given paradox
  • Complete given argument
  • Mimic the reasoning

For all critical reasoning questions that are posed, the first thing is to clearly list in your mind what are the need(s) of the question. Next, use critical thinking to analyze all the information that is contained within the question. Then, remove the non-essential information and focus only on the essential information. At this point, you have to carefully search for the hidden assumptions provided in the question so that you can arrive at the required solution. 

It is a given that the majority of the competitive exams will have between 3 and 5 questions on critical reasoning questions which could take on any of the many forms, such as weaken /strengthen the conclusion, summary, and paradox. So, it is important to have knowledge of the basic components of critical reasoning. 

  • Premise/Fact (verifiable complete statement)
  • Conclusion (argument’s key point, affirmed on the basis of the argument’s other propositions)
  • Assumption (the premise that is not stated but needs to be deciphered to confirm the conclusion arrived at)
  • Inference (conclusion(s) based on facts that are provided)

Basic Format Of Critical Reasoning For CAT 

Typically, a critical reasoning question will have a paragraph that states some facts. It will also have a few assumptions that are not stated.  Using the two, a definite conclusion has to be reached. 

The key requirement for solving such a question of critical reasoning is to glean the following from the question:

  • What are the facts in the paragraph/argument?
  • What is the conclusion of the argument/paragraph?
  • What is unstated/underlying assumption(s) made in the question?
  • What does the question need you to do/What is the question asking?

Decoding VARC – Critical Reasoning For CAT 

Let us now decode, with the help of some previous year questions, how to tackle a critical reasoning question.

Foremost, remember that you can strengthen or weaken the argument given in the question.   Going against the assumption given in the question will weaken the conclusion, and going in support of the assumption will strengthen the conclusion. Let us now look at a critical reasoning question.

The following is a question that was posed in the 2016 CAT Examination.


French cuisine is well regarded all across the world. Even then, Paris has more American restaurants that sell fries and burgers and fries (that many people look at as being junk food now) than any of the other European capital cities have. Obviously, the French are extremely fond of junk food and are not too proud to eat it.

Of the following, which, if true, will most weaken the contention of the author?

A)  Paris has a huge number of Lebanese restaurants compared to other European capitals.

 B) The French Cordon Bleu is an extremely expensive cuisine.

 C)  A very low number of French tourists eat at burger restaurants in New York.

 D) When consumed in moderation, the nutritional value of junk food is actually high.

 E) In Paris, American tourists, in usually large numbers, eat at burger joints.

Correct Answer: E 


The argument/contention put forth by the author specifies that the French have an extreme fondness for junk food because Paris has many American restaurants. Now, to defeat this argument, the most effective will be, if it is possible to show that it is not the French who eat in the American restaurants in Paris.  And, the statement that appears to be nearest to this point is that the American tourists visiting Paris are the ones who eat at those restaurants and not the French, option E. 

Now let us look at critical reasoning for resolving a paradox.

A paradox is any statement that will in effect contradict itself and may still be true or even wrong simultaneously. 

When solving a paradox critical reasoning question: 

  • begin by identifying the paradox.
  • paradox question can be of two types: 
  • Resolving of paradox- here a solution has to be found for the paradox
  • Explaining of discrepancy: here an explanation has to be found for the paradox provided in the question

Let us look at solving a critical reasoning paradox question with an example question.


French cuisine is famous for its liberal and frequent use of cheese and cream, both of which have high levels of saturated fat.  For years, it has been shown by medical studies that there exists an extremely strong correlation between coronary heart disease and diets that are high in saturated fat, and yet, France has a much lower incidence of such disease than found in comparable countries like the United States.  This is the so-called French Paradox.

Which of the following, if true, helps to explain the French Paradox?

A) Certain kinds of cheese can have as much as five times the amount of saturated fat that cream has.

B)  People in the United States, per capita, eat almost the same amount of saturated fat on average as do people in France.

C)  The United States imports more cheese from France than from any other country.

D) Red wine, typically served with French food, helps to clean the buildup of fats in the arteries, reducing the risk of heart disease.

E)  It is typically for a French person to have either cream or cheese at each of the three meals in a day.

Answer: D


Step 1:

 As the first step, you need to understand the paradox.  In this paragraph, the paradox is that the French eat food with high saturated fats and have much lower incidents of heart disease compared to people in other countries, like the Americans, who eat the same amount of saturated fats.

Step 2:

See which of the options will resolve the paradox in the best possible way.

So, if you look at options B and E, you will see that both of them will make it harder to explain the paradox.

B: if both the French and the Americans are eating the same amount of saturated fat, why are the French not affected by heart trouble as much as the Americans are? 

E: if the French always consume fatty food, why don’t they have heart trouble? 

In effect, neither B nor E provide an answer to the question and simultaneously make it more difficult to understand.

Both options A and C seem to be irrelevant. 

A: Talks about there is more fat in cheese than there is in cream.  Since the French consume both cheese and cream and are eating food high in fats, it does not matter this way or that.

C:  Focus shifts to imports, and this has no relation whatsoever to how diet and epidemiology are related.

Finally, the paradox is resolved by statement D. The drinking of red wine by the French, in moderation, it keeps the arteries clear despite their eating fat-rich food regularly. 


Oliveboard Mobile App
  • Video Lessons, Textual Lessons & Notes
  • Topic Tests covering all topics with detailed solutions
  • Sectional Tests for QA, DI, EL, LR
  • All India Mock Tests for performance analysis and all India percentile
  • General Knowledge (GK) Tests

Free videos, free mock tests and free GK tests to evaluate course content before signing up!

Now let us look at critical reasoning for resolving an inference/conclusion question.

Inferences, or in other words conclusions, are those which are drawn about that which is not known by basing it on that which is known (fact).  Inference makes us look at what is not explicitly stated but that which can be gleaned from what is stated.  The date in a statement that is known will be the fact. 

Let us look at an example.

An Indian elephant can produce as much as 100 kilograms of dung every day.

From this, we can draw the inference that an Indian elephant must be eating more than 100 kilograms of food every day.

Now, let us look at what is not an inference.  It is not:

  • a fact restated 
  • an example
  • that which is not based on facts

Let us look at how to decode an inference question with the help of an inference question.

Gopala Products has 2 departments A and B, both providing consistent performance through the past 5 years. Department A provided about 30 percent of the transactions of the company and 50 percent of the profits of the company.  The balance was attributed to department B.

The statements provided above will support which inferences given below with regard to Gopala products in the past five years?

A. In terms of INR the total profits for Gopala Products have been stable through the past five years.

B. Department A provides such services in an extremely competitive field, while Department B is working in a mostly untapped market.

C. Department B has a lower average profit per transaction compared to Department A.

D. Gopala Products’ Department A’s products line has been consistent through the last five years.

E. Majority of the families, through specified 5 years duration, will spend more money on offerings of Department A than of Department B.

Now, based on the above statement about Gopala Products, only one of the 5 inference options will support the statement.  Let us look at how to arrive at the correct one by checking out each inference one at a time.

A. Wrong inference. Since no monitory amount has been mentioned, just proportion and percentage has been mentioned, we cannot infer amount in Rupees. 

B. Wrong inference.  No information has been given about the type of market or competition. 

C.  Correct choice.  For Department A, there is a transaction to profit ratio of 30:50, and Department B has a 70:50. So, Department B makes twice the transactions compared with Department A to get the same percentage of profits as Department A.

D. Wrong inference.   Since there is no mention of product lines, they cannot form part of the inference. 

E. Wrong inference.   There has been no mention of spending per family, so it cannot form part of the inference. 

So, it is essential to keep in mind if something has not been mentioned in the statement then it cannot be part of the inference. The existing evidence must be supporting the inference.  

Just remember: Fact Deduction Logic Conclusion = Inference

Now let us look at critical reasoning for resolving a mimic the reasoning question.

The question that is posed will have its own reasoning, and from the options that are provided, you need to select the reasoning that matches/ mimics/ is the same as the reasoning in the question.

When you mimic the reasoning: 

  • look for the reason that is specified in the question
  • Mimic/ match this reasoning of the questions with the options to narrow down to the right one. 
  • Focus on the structure of the argument and not its content
  • The choice you make of the correct answer needs to have the exact logic, though the order or conclusion and premise may not be the same as the original statement.
  • If there is a negation, it should also be present in the correct answer.

Let us look at decoding a “weaken” the conclusion question


Many computer programs are being produced all the time that solve engineering-based mathematical problems making it more and more needless for practicing engineers to gather a deep understanding of the fundamental principles of mathematics. As a result, while training engineers who shall work in industry, mathematical principles should be less emphasized so that space in the engineering curriculum will be available for other important subjects. 

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument given for the recommendation above? 

A)  To effectively use any computer programs which will give solutions to engineering-based mathematical problems the user must have knowledge of the fundamental mathematical principles. 

B)  Several of the computer programs that solve engineering-based mathematical problems are already being used as a routine. 

C)  The development of composites and new materials requires the engineering curriculum, for those who will join the industry, to provide time to the teaching of the properties of those materials. 

D)  Majority of the computer programs geared to solving engineering-based mathematical problems run on the configuration of computers available to the majority of the engineering firms.

E)  It is part of the engineering curriculum that the student should be familiar with a variety of computer programs and their usage.

Here, the option that will most weaken the argument is option A since it outright says that there is a need to know the fundamental of mathematics to run the computer programs effectively.  So, the argument that teaching the fundamentals of mathematics is not needed is ruled out. 


Questions on Critical reasoning are not difficult to solve if check out the type of question that has been asked, think clearly about how that type of question is to be solved, and use elimination to arrive at the correct option.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I answer questions in Critical Reasoning for CAT?

Do the following while answering Critical Reasoning Questions:
Follow active reading when you read the passage provided for the question.
Reread the complicated parts and understand them through asking yourself questions on the passage.
Recognize and decide on what the premises and conclusion are for that passage. 
Understand the theme and tone used in the passage. 
Only focus on the question and the aspect that forms its basis.
Keep track of the keywords in the question while reading the question. They will lead you to the correct answer.

What are the various types of questions in Critical Reasoning for CAT?

Some types of the critical reasoning questions that are asked in the competitive/ entrance examinations are:
Strengthen/Weaken the Conclusion
Identify assumption
Identify inference
Identify conclusion
Resolve given paradox
Complete given argument
Mimic the reasoning

What does not count as an inference answer to a Critical Reasoning question of the inference type?

An inference is not:
a fact restated 
an example
that which is not based on facts

What are the basic components of critical reasoning?

The basic components of critical reasoning are:

Premise/Fact (verifiable complete statement)
Conclusion (argument’s key point, affirmed based on the argument’s other propositions)
Assumption (the premise that is not stated but needs to be deciphered to confirm the conclusion arrived at)
Inference (conclusion(s) based on facts that are provided)

Leave a comment