No, GMAT questions won’t overwhelm you with details of your parent’s honeymoon or divulge the details of a recent bowel movement, but TMI (short for too much information) is a real threat on inference questions.
Correct inferences must be true without too much information
Critical reasoning and reading comprehension inference questions ask you to derive a logical conclusion based on the information contained in an argument or passage. In other words, they ask you to take a logical next step given that the argument or passage’s information is true (and inference question stems will always tell you to accept the prompt as true).
For example, take the statement Tomorrow, it’s going to snow. Given that this statement is true, we could infer that it will also be cold tomorrow (since it can’t snow in warm weather) and that it will be cloudy (since clouds produce snow).
We could also infer that due to the snow, traffic will be worse than normal and that the subway will be more crowed because less people will walk to their destinations.
All of the above inferences are reasonable, but only the first two, that it will be cold and cloudy tomorrow, would be considered correct on the GMAT. That’s because correct inferences must be true given the information contained in the prompt.
Even though they’re reasonable, the other inferences require additional information and assumptions in order to guarantee their veracity. For example, we can’t definitively conclude how traffic will be affected without knowing more about the severity of the snowfall. The same applies for subway crowds.
Each of these inferences requires information beyond the scope of what’s given; they require TMI.
How to spot inferences that require TMI
Inferences are a dime a dozen. From any set of facts, you can generate countless reasonable inferences and often many true inferences. This makes tackling CR and RC inference questions difficult because, unlike other question stems, you cannot always predict the correct answer before looking at the answer choices.
Instead the best course of action is to read the prompt and then examine the answer choices one by one. For each answer choice, ask if the statement is guaranteed to be true based off the prompt’s information alone. Even if the inference seems reasonable, if it requires information missing from the prompt, label it TMI in your head and eliminate it.
Often, but not always, the closer an inference is to the prompt’s information, the more likely it’s correct. By their nature, inferences cannot take a large leap away from the information contained in the prompt and remain definitively true. Think of the snow example in the beginning of the article. The correct inferences made conclusions directly related to the original fact while the other inferences veered further away and made more interesting but less certain conclusions.
Spotting TMI can help you make educated guesses
No one makes it through the GMAT without having to guess – not even test-takers who score a perfect 800. It’s just how the GMAT’s adaptive algorithm works. Therefore, spotting inferences that require TMI can help you take educated guesses when you have no idea what the correct answer is or when you are running out of time.
Inference questions are a great place to practice this skill, and on the new version of Prep4GMAT, you’ll be able to eliminate answer choices by simply swiping them to the left. This new question functionality is designed to help you answer questions strategically and give you a better shot at answering correctly on difficult or rushed questions.
Check it out on the new Prep4GMAT due to be released next month. Want to be one of the first people to get the new release, click here to receive an email notification as soon as the new app is out.