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Acing the Critical Reasoning Tasks on the ISAT

Critical Reasoning is one of the two aspects tested on ISAT— the 3-hour online examination for entry to med-schools in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. As described in the official website, Critical Reasoning (CR) “involves comprehending and analyzing information; understanding, applying and extending ideas; drawing appropriate conclusions; and evaluating arguments. These questions use material from the humanities and social sciences.” So, how should you prepare? What are the important things to take note of? Here are some useful tips to help you ace the Critical Reasoning tasks!


  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Question Types!


No one likes surprises in an exam. The types of questions that you can expect to see during the exam are a must-know. Judging from the sample tests provided on the ISAT official website and my own testing experience, I’ll broadly classify Critical Reasoning questions into the following types:


i. Logical Reasoning: These questions deal with drawing logical conclusions based upon certain given preconditions or premises which can be either textual or graphical.


ii. Reading Comprehensions: Questions based on reading passages.


iii. Debate Statements: These questions deal with classifying a given statement as ‘for the topic’, ‘against the topic’, ‘both for and against’ or ‘irrelevant’ for a given debate topic.


iv. Interpretation of Quotations: Several quotations on a topic are given. Questions are asked to test the student’s understanding of the quoted remarks.


  1. Beware of ‘Absolute Terms’ and ‘Recycled Information’!


Absolute Terms refer to answer options that are too specific. For a question, answer choices that are very assertive or have words like ‘must’ and ‘only’ should be treated with skepticism. Also, learning to differentiate between ‘what can be true’ and ‘what must be true’ helps eliminate some incorrect answers! Options that have subtle words like ‘maybe’ are most of the time better answer choices.


Recycled Information is another trap to look out for. Answer choices that restate the same information as mentioned in the question and don’t say anything new are never the correct answers!


  1. Be Cautious about Negatives in Debate Statements!


Negative words in the given debate topic can be confusing sometimes. For example, let’s look at the topic—‘Science has not helped in the development of humanity’. In this question, statements against science are ‘for the topic’ whereas statements for science are ‘against the topic’. Make sure to outline the difference before you proceed to answer!


  1. Read All Answer Options!


You must read all the options before answering a question. Often, in these types of aptitude tests, two answer choices can seem correct. They can be quite tricky and can have potential traps! Thus, don’t be hasty and verify your answer against the question. Additionally, use the process of elimination to narrow down to the correct answer. Also, if time permits, rechecking the answers is always a good practice!


  1. Use Scratch Paper!


During the test, you’ll be given a laminated scratch paper, markers and an eraser. Writing small notes while reading the questions helps you stay focused and prevents you from drowning in the pool of information that you are bombarded with!


  1. Keep a Time Check!


This applies throughout the test. Keep an eye on the time on the right-hand corner of your test screen. If you are taking more than two minutes to solve a question, you should make a guess (a must-do as there is no negative marking!) and move on to the next question. Alternatively, you may mark a question to review it later.


  1. Stay Focused, Stay Sharp!


Needless to say, the more focused you are, the better are your chances to score higher! Practice lots of logical puzzles and reading comprehensions before the test to stay sharp.


All in all, there is no alternative to hard work and timed practices. Keep these tips in mind and start preparing! Good Luck!

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