Sunday, September 28, 2008

Critical Reasoning Primer- Fact, Inference and Judgment

cat mba critical reasoning fact inference judgmentCAT 2006 came as a surprise to many. The difficulty level of the quant section nosedived and that of the verbal section skyrocketed. Gone were the regular ‘jumbled paragraphs’ or ‘usage’ questions and in their places were ‘paragraph completion’ and ‘fact-inference-judgment’ questions, both of which required more of logical reasoning and critical thinking than of verbal ability. And suddenly common sense became uncommon. Confusion reigned supreme. Verbal section needed more brains than quant section.

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I didn't know."-- Mark Twain

Unfortunately, the CAT takers couldn’t get off the hook so easily. But many succumbed to the pressure and committed egregious errors. The easiest of the questions, the inference-fact-judgment questions, stumped many, probably because of their newness or the pressure of the CAT paper. But all that those questions required were understanding the given definitions and applying the parajumble method of working with options. In this article, I will expand the meanings of the three definitions and give the examples from the CAT 2006 paper. Who knows, CAT 2007 might again feature some version of these critical reasoning questions.

FACTS: deal with pieces of information that one has heard, seen or read, and which are open to discovery or verification. The key word here is “verification”. A fact is a statement that can be ‘verified’, i.e. a fact is either true or false. Facts are statements that may involve numbers, natural phenomena, dates etc. The characteristics of the statements classified as facts are:

· Made after observation or experience. An event cannot become a fact unless it has occurred.
· Confined to what one observes; cannot be made about the future.
· Limited number possible.
· Not perception dependent. A fact will be agreed to by every person. It does not change from person to person.
· Tends to bring people together in agreement.


1) Nearly 2 lac students took CAT last year.
Life exists on other planets (although physically not possible to verify, this statement will be either true or false).
I like Pink Floyd more than Metallica (It may not seem so, but this statement is either true or false. Either I like Pink Floyd more than Metallica or I don’t).
The legislature is advocating vigorously against intrusion of judiciary in parliamentary affairs.
A football field is 100 yards long.

NOTE: Notice the difference when a sentence contains subjective or abstract expressions-

6) The music was very loud (NOT a fact as the loudness might vary from person to person).
I found the music very loud (A fact as it is either a truth or a lie. I must have found the music very loud or not very loud).
Poverty is a curse on mankind (NOT a fact…’curse on mankind’ is too abstract).
20% of the population live below poverty line (Fact).


1) The government has been supplying free drugs since 2004, and 35 000 have benefited up to now- though the size of the affected population is 150 times this number.
Only about 13 million children in the age group of 6 to 14 years are out of school.
The truth is that we have more red tape- we take eighty- nine days to start a small business, Australians take two.
The economies of the industrialized western world derive 20% of their income from the sale of all kinds of arms.

INFERENCES: are conclusions drawn about the unknown, on the basis of the known. Notice the three words ‘conclusions’, ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ very carefully. They will give you complete description of what an inference consists of-

· Known- A fact. The first thing an inference should consist of is a fact. This fact is required to prove another proposition.
· Unknown- Something which can be logically proven by the given fact or the ‘known’. Therefore, in an inference an unknown proposition is present which is to be proven with the help of the fact. Remember that this proposition has to be proven with the help of another fact.
· Conclusion- Once the unknown has been proved with the help of the known (fact) it is called a conclusion.

Notice the meaning of the word ‘Infer’. To infer means
· to conclude from evidence; to deduce
· to have a logical consequence. (an inference = a conclusion)

Therefore, the process of inference can be summarized by the figure given below:

cat mba fact inference judgments critical reasoning


1) Because the old man stayed indoors all the time and did not receive any visitors, no one discovered his dead body for days.
(the green part is the fact and the brown part is the conclusion. Notice that without the explanation given by the fact, you cannot convincingly prove the conclusion.)
The footprint warned Robinson Crusoe that there was someone else on the island.


(the facts are in green and the conclusions are in brown)
1) The recent initiatives of networks and companies like AIDScare Network, Emcure, Reliance-Cipla-CII, would lead to availability of much-needed drugs to a larger number of affected people.
According to all statistical indications, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has managed to keep pace with its ambitious goals.
Every red tape procedure is a point of contact with an official, and such contacts have the potential to become opportunities for money to change hands.
Even without war, we know that conflicts continue to trouble us- they only change in color.

JUDGEMENTS: are opinions that imply approval or disapproval of persons, objects, situations, and occurrences in the past, the present or the future. There is a fine line of distinction between inferences and judgments. Most of the times judgments are also based on facts and therefore they seem like inferences. But there are some ways to differentiate a judgment and an inference-

· Judgments are arguable and contestable. Inferences are rock solid. Although both judgments and inferences are based on facts, in the latter the conclusion is so unquestionable that it becomes fact itself.
· Judgments are opinions, suggestions and recommendations whereas inferences are proven conditions.
· Judgment statements include a lot of quantities that cannot be measured, such as happiness, beauty, joy etc.
· Many a times, judgments are not accompanied by facts at all but are only opinion statements. When there is no fact involved, the statement can only be a judgment statement.
· A judgment is an honest attempt to make reasonable observations about the given facts but they do not conclusively prove anything.


1) It is estimated that that 30% of Indians live below poverty line. (judgment: if it is an estimate, it cannot be a fact).
Every mother has only the best interests of her children at her heart. (Is there a way to look inside a mother’s heart?).
Because we had three wars with our neighboring country, we should keep our armed forced ready for the fourth one.


1) So much of our day-to-day focus seems to be on getting thins done, trudging our way through the tasks of living- it can feel like a treadmill that gets you nowhere; where is the childlike joy?
We are not doing things that make us happy; that which brings us joy; the things that we cannot wait to do because we enjoy them so much.
This is the stuff that joyful living is made of- identifying your calling and committing yourself wholeheartedly to it.
When this happens, each moment becomes a celebration of you; there is a rush of energy that comes with feeling completely immersed in doing what you love most.
Given the poor quality of service in the public service, the HIV/AIDS affected should be switching to private initiatives that supply anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) at a low cost.
But how ironic it is that we should face a perennial shortage of drugs when India is one of the world’s largest suppliers of generic drugs to the developing world.
The Mid-day Meal scheme has been a significant incentive for the poor to send their little ones to school, thus establishing the vital link between healthy bodies and healthy minds.
The goal of universalisation of elementary education has to be a pre-requisite for the evolution and development of our country.
We should not be hopelessly addicted to an erroneous belief that corruption in India is caused by the crookedness of Indians.
Red tape leads to corruption and distorts people’s character.
Inequitable distribution of all kinds of resources is certainly one of the strongest and most sinister sources of conflict.
Extensive disarmament is the only insurance for our future; imagine the amount of resources that can be released and redeployed.

That’s all folks! In the next article I will expound on the building blocks of critical reasoning and how to break arguments into its blocks in order to solve questions. I will take up some GMAT critical reasoning questions and dissect arguments step by step. Till then, chew the cud over the present article…Cheers!

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