What is a Paradox? Invariably I begin teaching this Critical Reasoning Question type by posing this question to the class and am no longer surprised by the variety of definitions I receive- some accurate, others close to being so and still others far from even close to the right definition. How then is it best to get started with teaching the paradox to students preparing for the GMAT? I’d say by setting their understanding of what a paradox is right. Begin at the beginning; this rule invariably works to achieve effective training and sound learning.
So let us follow the typical route of a CR training module covering the Paradox Question.
Know the definition – a paradox is a seeming conflict of details.
What must be focused on here is the fact that a paradox is only a mirage or an illusion of conflict; the facts provided seem to be impossible to co-exist since they seem to be contradictory and this seeming conflict of detail must be identified as the Paradox.
Identify the crux of the Paradox based task:
The task based on a Paradox requires the test taker to ‘resolve’ the pardox. This clearly means explain how both the seemingly contradictory facts are actually not so and can therefore co-exist. As such the answer one selects as a resolution of the paradox must subsume all the concerned aspects of the paradox. It is incorrect to select an answer that focuses on explaining one dimension of the paradox and ignores the other. There will invariably be answer choices that do this and there will invariably be test-takers who walk into the trap the test has set! Once the crux of the paradox is vivid, all that needs to be done is to find the answer that explains how the conflict is possible in a seemingly impossible scenario.
Be familiar with the variations in the language of the ‘paradox’ task.
- Which on of the following, if true, best explains the paradox above?
- Which on of the following, if true, best resolves the discrepancy above?
- Which on of the following, if true, best accommodates the seemingly contradictory details above?
While finding a resolution for the conflict in the details, it is advisable to think out -of-the-box. Thinking this way is not the same thing as going off the point!!! As long as the out-of-the-box explanation leads to an explanation of the situation at hand, it is valid and must not be pushed aside on grounds of being off point. It is crucial to understand this difference and to exercise one’s understanding of the difference in the course of attempting paradox questions and other critical reasoning questions too.