Posted in Logical Reasoning

Tackling Assumption Questions

“Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make, if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble.”

This quote is in itself true to a large extent, but, when it comes to the critical reasoning section of the CLAT and other law entrance examinations, you should consider it to be the Gospel truth. You are most likely to find Assumption Questions in the form of a short paragraph followed by four assumptions, with you having to choose the assumption which is essential to make in order to reach the conclusion arrived at in the passage. They appear occasionally in the CLAT and are a regular in the AILET.

To successfully navigate through these questions, you should use the Assumption Negation Technique, which requires a negation of the answer choice to determine whether or not it was actually required. More than that, though, the correct answer choice must be within the scope of the question. An answer choice that goes too far will not be the correct answer to the question.

If you negate a statement, and it’s still possible to imagine that the conclusion is still true even with this negated statement, then that original statement is definitely not an assumption of the argument.  On the contrary, if you negate a statement, and this negated statement is such that it goes against the argument and makes the conclusion untenable, then that original statement is an assumption of the argument.

Here’s a very simple argument, with only three answer choices:

Statement: Rahul likes this ice-cream.  Therefore, Aradhna will like it.

Find the assumption of the argument.

A.Both Rahul&Aradhna liked the same ice-cream last year

B.Karishma didn’t like this ice-cream, and last year, she &Aradhna liked the same ice-cream.

C.Aradhna likes the ice-creams that Rahul likes.

This is a very easy question. We want the assumption, so let’s just apply the Negation Test to all the three possible answers:

The negation of the first option,i.e., Rahul & Aradhna didn’t like the same ice-cream last time may be true while it is still conceivable that the conclusion to this argument would hold.   Therefore, A is not an assumption of the argument.

The negation of the second option is, Karishma liked this ice-cream, and last year, she & Aradhna liked the same ice-cream or Karishma didn’t like this ice-cream, and last year, she & Aradhna didn’t like the same ice-cream. Either way, this answer just introduces the variable of another person.  We don’t know how fickle Karishma is, and whether her taste overlaps in any meaningful or consistent way with Aradhna’s.  Therefore, it is possible that either of these negations could be true and the conclusion would still hold.  Therefore, even B is not an assumption of the argument.

The negation of the third option is that Aradhna doesn’t like the ice-creams that Rahul likes. If this be true, and if Rahul likes this ice-cream, it seems to necessarily imply that Aradhna won’t like this ice-cream!  This directly contradicts the conclusion of the argument. Hence, negating C totally makes the argument invalid, so according to the rules stated above, C must be an assumption, which is the right answer.

Using this approach, one can easily breeze through the assumption questions in the Critical Reasoning section of the CLAT and can increase one’s chances of gaining those couple of extra marks.

Happy Preparations 🙂

-Suyash Ojha

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