Special Assumption Questions – GMAT Critical Reasoning Prep

Any of these 3 can pop up with weakening, strengthening and assumption questions. Premise (P)+ Assumption (A) = Conclusion (C).

The 3 types:

1. plan/proposal/prediction questions

2. representative and

3. cause and effect.

1. Plan: assumption is that the plan will work. Prediction: the prediction will come true.


The hale Burton Oil Pipeline Construction Corporation has had a bad quarter. Rather than lay off workers to cut costs, however, it will simply defer salaries for 30 days and hold them in a mutual fund to pick up interest to cover expenses. By doing this the company and its employees will avoid the negative consequences often associated with earning shortfalls.

Which of the following, if true, is the best criticism of the corporation’s plan?

(A) Employees will not be able to control which mutual funds the salaries will be diverted into

(B) The corporation cannot save money by cutting staff because it is already understaffed

(C) Some employees will not to borrow money to hold them over until the 30 days are up and they will consequently have 30 days of interest on these loans

(D) Some employees will not be affected by the rollover because they have savings

(E)The corporation’s budge was cut by 15% last year

*We know that it’s a plan and that the assumption is that the plan is going to work. Desired effect of the plan: to avoid the negative consequences associated with pitfalls. The correct answer is (C). The thing that will make the plan not work is that employees may want to borrow money. (A) is the wrong answer because it might cause a negative consequence. (D) is the classic trap answer because it’s a strengthener. (B) and (E) are completely outside the scope of the question.


Countries that legalized the drug X twenty years ago, because a significant percentage of the population had been using X on a daily basis without any apparent harm to the community at large, represent the benchmark for what is appropriate and proper behavior among their citizens. Since X’s legalization, there has been an increase in manic depression, suicide and certain kinds of cancer. In order for Andovia, a country that has not yet legalized X, to avoid the development of such undesirable tendencies and prevent the social problems stemming from broad usage of drug X, it should close its borders and not issue visas to any tourists from countries where drug X is legal.

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

(A) Drug X emits a faint smell that makes it very difficult for trained canines to identify at border control points.

(B) The detrimental side effects of drug X only become visible after several years of usage.

(C) Andovia is surrounded on three sides by water, but has excellent naval border police force.

(D) Drug X resembles several other designer drugs currently on the market.

(E) Drug X is very easy to extract chemically from certain consumer products and is taken in droplet size doses that can easily be camouflaged as items such as hairspray or nail polish remover.

*The argument is a plan/proposal type of special assumption. The proposal is to close the borders. The purpose of the plan is to avoid the development of undesirable tendencies and stop the usage of drug X. We need to weaken the argument. (B) is already stated in the argument. (C) is a strengthener. The correct answer is (E); it states that the plan will NOT work. (D) is a very tempting answer but it is wrong, it uses the word resemblance and that is too vague of a word. (A) states that the plan might not work.

2. Representative questions (all under special assumption questions)—you are looking at a study/survey or an experiment. As soon as you see study/survey, the underlying assumption is that it’s a fair study.


A study made by a psychologist shows that spending too much time in front of a computer causes insomnia. Two groups of adults took part in this study. During the study the first group spent 3 hours or less per day working on a computer; the second group spent 6 hours or more working on a computer. A greater proportion of the second group had trouble falling asleep during the period of the study than members from the first group.

Which of the following, if true of the adults in the study, most challenges the psychologist’s conclusion?

(A) Some adults who spent more than 6 hours per day working in a computer had fewer problems falling asleep than others in the same group

(B) Some adults who spent 3 hours per day working on a computer did not have problems falling asleep

(C) Some adults voluntarily stopped spending too much time in front of a computer after the study

(D) Some adults spent time working on the computer without any breaks, while others took frequent breaks

(E) Many of the adults in the second group had problems falling asleep before the study began.

*The correct answer is (E). In an experiment, we have a first group and a second group. Whenever you see this type of question, then the question hinges on whether group one is comparable to group two. The experiment here is undermined because group one was different from group two. (E) is correct because group one was NOT comparable to group two because group two had people with insomnia before the experiment started.

3. Cause and Effect (a special assumption question). In a cause and effect situation, we can assume that X causes Y (X > Y), that Y did NOT cause X, and we can also assume that there wasn’t a third factor causing Y. You’re either going to confirm that the relationship exist (strengthener) or to disprove it (weakener).


Bio-chemists at Perck Pharma Corporation have discovered a new type of allergy. Their research confirms that not only is it caused by pollen of a certain flower, as it was thought, but also the flower has to be pollinated by a certain kind of bee to cause the allergy.

Which of the following would most likely support the data’s implication?

(A) In the absence of the bee, the pollen does not cause allergic reactions

(B) The bee has been shown to be a critical element in the reproduction of the particular flower.

(C) Many cases of the allergy have been observed only in the presence of the bee

(D) In cases in which the allergy does not develop, the flower will grow without the presence of the bee

(E) The onset of the allergy is usually caused by the flower even if the pollen is not present.

*The correct answer is (A). We are looking at a strengthener here. X à Y. X= the pollen in the presence of the bee and Y = the allergic reaction. It is the presence of the bee that makes the pollen the causative factor.


Two different cages of rabbits were given injections of mild toxins. In addition, the first cage was also exposed to cold temperature; three-fourths of the rabbits in this cage became sick. Only one-fifth of the rabbits in the normal temperature cage became sick. The lab technicians concluded that cold temperature increases the likelihood of illnesses in rabbits.

The technicians’ conclusion logically depends on which of the following assumptions?

(A) the exposure to cold temperature acted as a catalyst for the toxins which made more rabbits in the first cage sick.

(B) The toxins given to the rabbits in the two cages were of varying strength.

(C) Injecting the rabbits with toxins made them sick.

(D) Even w/o the exposure to cold temperature, the rabbits in the first cage would have probably gotten sick.

(E) Even exposing rabbits to slight variances in temperature is likely to induce illness.

*The correct answer is (A). Cause = cold temperature and the Effect = illness.