Boldface questions : How to solve them like a pro!

The Boldface questions on GMAT and GRE are well known for bringing down even the cleverest test takers and are infamous for being notoriously complex.

The predominant reason for their perceived difficulty is that the details in the answer options are worded in a very “unfriendly” way. Being able to read the data efficiently and using methodical deliberation instead of intuition can help overcome these.

Stage 1: Read this Strategy Articles

In this we discuss basic heuristics that help avoid some of the most common (and devastating) inefficiencies in GMAT test-taking. We recommend that you read this article, since solving the Boldface questions require having the competencies needed to think critically and make decisions on underlying patters (which I discuss in the article).

Stage 2: Watch the concept video of ‘how to find assumptions’

The following concept lesson discusses:

1. What are arguments?
2. What are they made of? How does one deconstruct arguments?
3. How to find underlying / hidden assumptions?

These are very important skills and form the basis of most critical reasoning questions on the GMAT and GRE. You will also need to have a good grasp of these skills to be able to solve the boldface questions in CR.

Stage 3: Understand what’s tested on Boldface questions

Try this boldface question

Editorial: An arrest made by a Midville police officer is provisional until the officer has taken the suspect to the police station and the watch commander has officially approved the arrest. Such approval is denied if the commander judges that the evidence on which the provisional arrest is based is insufficient. A government efficiency expert has found that almost all provisional arrests meet standards for adequacy of evidence that watch commanders enforce. The expert therefore recommends that the watch commander’s approval should no longer be required since the officers’ time spent obtaining approval is largely wasted. This recommendation should be rejected as dangerous, however, since there is no assurance that the watch commanders’ standards will continue to be observed once approval is no longer required.

Question: In the editorial, the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?

A. The first is a recommendation made by the editorial; the second acknowledges a potential objection against that recommendation.

B. The first is a proposal against which the editorial is directed; the second is a judgment reached by the editorial concerning that proposal.

C. The first provides evidence in support of a recommendation that the editorial supports; the second is the conclusion reached by the editorial.

D. The first is a position that the editorial challenges; the second is a judgment that was made in support of that challenged position.

E. The first is a recommendation that the editorial questions; the second provides evidence against that recommendation

Confusing isn’t it?

Let’s break-down the stimulus and work from there.

What does a stimulus of a Boldface Question break into?

Well, consider this. The questions asks “the two portions in boldface play which of the following roles?” It only wants you to ID the role that the explicitly stated (and bold) sentences play. This means, you don’t have to concern yourself with finding assumptions.

What are the explicitly stated parts of the stimulus?

Editorial’s Argument (Main Argument)

“This recommendation should be rejected as dangerous, however, since there is no assurance that the watch commanders’ standards will continue to be observed once approval is no longer required.”

This is the argument that the Editorial ultimately makes. For ease of comprehension let’s call this the ‘Main Argument’.

Expert’s Argument (Counter Argument)

“An arrest made by a Midville police officer is provisional until the officer has taken the suspect to the police station and the watch commander has officially approved the arrest. Such approval is denied if the commander judges that the evidence on which the provisional arrest is based is insufficient. A government efficiency expert has found that almost all provisional arrests meet standards for adequacy of evidence that watch commanders enforce. The expert therefore recommends that the watch commander’s approval should no longer be required since the officers’ time spent obtaining approval is largely wasted.”

This is the argument that the expert makes. This argument is ‘countered’ by the main (editorial’s) argument. For ease of comprehension let’s call this the ‘Counter Argument’.

Let’s dissect this a bit more

As you probably already learned, an Argument (on the surface) consists of two parts: The Conclusion and The Evidence. Let’s see what the Stimulus above can split to.

Boldface ICounter Conclusion: The expert therefore recommends that the watch commander’s approval should no longer be required since the officers’ time spent obtaining approval is largely wasted

Counter Evidence: … A government efficiency expert has found that almost all provisional arrests meet standards for adequacy of evidence that watch commanders enforce.

Bold Face IIMain Conclusion: This recommendation should be rejected as dangerous

Main Evidence: there is no assurance that the watch commanders’ standards will continue to be observed once approval is no longer required.

Let’s make a prediction

1. The First Boldface is an Opinion / Claim / Conclusion that the Argument (Editorial) discredits.
2. The Second Boldface is the Option / Claim / Conclusion of the Main Argument (Editorial).

You might have noticed that the answer options were worded quite trickily. You might have also noticed that the options were bifurcated into two parts: one about the first boldface and the second about the second boldface.