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Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving Help (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 29, 2011

Evaluating Evidence

Logic tests often measure deductive as well as inductive reasoning skills. That's why some questions may ask you to evaluate evidence. Remember, strong evidence for a deductive argument is both credible and reasonable.

Sample Question

You'll need to keep these criteria in mind and use your common sense to work your way through problems like the following:

Karen has complained to her supervisor that the company provides the math department with more technological amenities than it does the English department. Which of the following would provide the strongest support for her claim?
  1. All the people in the English department agree with Karen.
  2. The 30 people in the English department have only one printer and one fax machine, whereas the 35 people in the math department have three printers, three fax machines, and a scanner.
  3. There are 8 percent more people in the math department than in the English department.
  4. The English department prints more documents than the math department does.

You should have selected b as the answer. Why? Because b provides the most specific and relevant support for the argument. Though there is strength in numbers and it helps that all the people in the English department support Karen's claim (choice a), Karen is more likely to convince the management by citing concrete statistics. It's clear from the numbers provided in choice b that the math department does indeed have more technological amenities than the English department does. Choice c isn't the strongest piece of evidence because it merely states that there is a small percentage difference between the amount of employees in the math and English departments, without relating this fact to the issue at hand—the technological amenities. Choice d, while it could be used to support Karen's claim, is not as strong as b, because it also doesn't directly address the amenities.

Now it's your turn.

Drawing Conclusions from Evidence

Many questions you face when you're being tested on your reasoning skills will ask you to draw conclusions from evidence. You've completed several lessons on inductive reasoning, so you should be quite good at these questions, even if their format is different from what you're used to.

As in the other types of questions, you can help ensure a correct response by using the process of elimination. Given the evidence the question provides, you should automatically be able to eliminate some of the possible answers.

Sample Question

For example, read the following question:

A jeep has driven off the road and hit a tree. There are skid marks along the road for several yards leading up to a dead fawn. The marks then swerve to the right and off the road, stopping where the jeep is. The impact with the tree is head-on, but the damage is not severe. Based on the evidence, which of the following is most likely what happened?

  1. The driver was aiming for the fawn and lost control of the jeep.
  2. The driver fell asleep at the wheel and was awakened when he hit the fawn.
  3. The driver tried to avoid the fawn and lost control of the jeep.
  4. The driver was drunk and out of control.

Tip

You have most likely been using the process of elimination for years. It comes in quite handy on most tests, especially on multiple-choice questions. You look at your choices and then eliminate the ones you immediately recognize as wrong.

Given the facts—especially the key fact that there are skid marks—you can automatically eliminate choices a and b. If the driver were aiming for the fawn, he probably wouldn't have hit the brakes and created skid marks. Instead, he probably would have accelerated, in which case, his impact with the tree would have been harder and resulted in more damage. Similarly, if the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and only woken up when he hit the fawn, there wouldn't have been skid marks leading up to the fawn.

So now you're down to two possibilities: c and d. Which is more likely to be true? While it is entirely possible that the driver was drunk, all of the evidence points to c as the most likely possibility. The skid marks indicate that the driver was trying to stop to avoid hitting the fawn. Unsuccessful, he hit the animal and swerved off the road into a tree.

Other questions that ask you to draw conclusions from evidence may vary in format, but don't let their appearance throw you. If you read the following practice problems, for example, you'll see that you can tackle them quickly and easily by applying the evidence that's provided and eliminating the incorrect answers as you go along.

Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving In Short

Tests that aim to measure your critical thinking and reasoning skills generally ask three types of questions: those that measure your common sense, those that measure your ability to recognize good evidence, and those that measure your ability to draw logical conclusions from evidence. You'll perform well on these tests if you remember to break down the parts of a problem and think about different possible scenarios, keep in mind the criteria for strong arguments and good evidence, and start inductive reasoning questions by working with the key facts. Use the process of elimination to help you arrive at the correct answer.

Skill Building until Next Time

  • Stop in your local bookstore or go to the library and get a book of logic problems and puzzles. The more you practice them, the better you'll get at solving them.
  • Write your own logic problems and puzzles. Test them out on your family and friends. Be sure you can clearly explain the correct answer.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving Practice.

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