Critical Reasoning - Resolve the Paradox

GMAT® CR Concept Review & Practice

This GMAT practice question is a verbal critical reasoning question. Concept: Resolve the paradox in the argument.


In 2009, there was a sharp increase in the number of people who were reported to have died in the country during the first week of the year, compared with the first week of the previous ten years. There seems to be no reason to explain this disproportionately high number of deaths especially because the reports were widespread in the country and there was no epidemic spreading through the country at that point in time. Moreover, most of the deaths were not among the young and could not even be attributed to binge drinking in celebration of the new year.

Which of the following can then explain the discrepancy?

  1. The government announced in 2008 that estate taxes, payable by the heirs on someone's death, would be abolished effective from the new year.
  2. Astrologists predicted that 2009 was a good year to die in, for salvation of the soul.
  3. The statistic is an anomaly that has no logical explanation.
  4. The price of some cancer drugs and chemotherapy increased by 10% in January 2009, making treatment more expensive than before.
  5. An earthquake in one of the cities during December 2008 made hospital care availability more difficult for regular illnesses.

Explanatory Answer

Video explanation will be added soon.
  1. Step 1: Analyzing the Argument

    For no apparent reason, there seems to have been an increase in the number of reported deaths in the first few weeks of 2009. The argument eliminates some likely reasons, such as spreading epidemics. The correct option must explain the reason for the abnormal number of reported deaths.

  2. Step 2: Eliminating Options

    • Option (B) does not seems to imply that people voluntarily died to satisfy the astrological predictions. Even if we were to accept that to be true, it does not explain why there was an increase in people dying right after the year begins. If the entire year is a good year to die in, why not die in December 2009?
    • The question asks for an explanation and saying that there is no valid explanation is no good. Option (C) can be eliminated.
    • Option (D) is an interesting, attractive option. However, the problem with the option is the timeline. If treatment became expensive only that year, why are people dying immediately? Could they not have done something to improve their health or sought other options?
    • Option (E) discusses only one city while the argument clearly states that this phenomenon was widespread and observed throughout the country. The option therefore, does not justify why the numbers went up in other parts of the country.
    • To understand why Option (A) works, understand that the argument does NOT state that the number of deaths went up but rather that the REPORTS went up. If option (A) is true and legal heirs do not have to pay any taxes from January 1, 2009, that would explain why the reports of deaths have gone up. Some people could have died in the last few days of 2008 and the heirs could have waited to report it. Also notice that the argument indicates that the reports were primarily about the older population.
Option A is the correct answer.

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