GMAT Critical Reasoning EXCEPT Questions

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A small number of GMAT Critical Reasoning questions can be described as "EXCEPT" questions. Instead of asking, "Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?" such a question might ask, "All of the following, if true, weaken the argument above EXCEPT."

Same type of question, but you're looking for a different answer.

Correct EXCEPT Answers

When you see a question such as "All of the following, if true, weaken the argument above EXCEPT," it is tempting to looking for an answer that strengthens the argument. After all, an strengthening answer is the opposite of a weakening answer, right?

If one of the answer choices does, in fact, strengthen the argument, it is correct. However, these are rare. Much more common are answer choices that have no effect on the argument--the sorts of choices you'd eliminate in other questions because they are irrelevant or outside the scope of the argument.

Wrong EXCEPT Answers

In a sense, EXCEPT questions have four similar answers. By that I mean, in a "weaken EXCEPT" question, four of the choices weaken the argument. However, these questions tend to define "weaken" (or "strengthen," in a "strengthen EXCEPT" question) more broadly than other questions.

In typical CR questions, you may have noticed that the standard is pretty high. There is usually one answer that is close--you could explain why it weakens the argument, but it isn't as clear-cut as the single correct answer.

On EXCEPT questions, since there are four answers (instead of one) that have the same effect on the argument, at least some of those four won't be as clear-cut as those single correct answers. They will all, to some extent, have the desired effect on the argument, but they aren't held to the same standard.

I Would Be Done EXCEPT

These questions don't have to be difficult. They do require a bit more work than others because there are four similar answers to wade through. If you know what you're looking for, they shouldn't be much harder than the typical strengthen or weaken question.

And just remember: These questions are rare. You might see more than one EXCEPT question on your exam if you do extremely well, but that's unlikely. It's also possible that you'll come across an EXCEPT question in Reading Comprehension, though there are fewer in RC and than in Critical Reasoning.

It's more important to master the fundamentals of assumptions, strengtheners, and weakeners than to worry about rare question types. Once you understand the basics, you can approach items like EXCEPT questions with much more confidence.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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