Critical Reasoning: Inference vs Conclusion

Critical reasoning requires systematic thinking, analysis of each part and understanding the elements of reasoning. Questions based on critical reasoning frequently feature in a number of competitive exams. Students often get confused between ‘drawing conclusions’ and ‘making inferences’. Let’s understand the difference between the two.
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Inference: Inference is something that uses facts to determine other facts. It is done by examining the facts of a given situation and determining what those facts suggest about the situation. For example, if you come with a knife in your hand, I probably would infer that you mean to do some harm to me. Inference can be accurate or inaccurate, justified or unjustified, logical or illogical.
Conclusion: A conclusion is the next logical step in the information series. A statement requires two conditions to serve as a conclusion. First, it must be logically derived statement from the information given. Second, It must not be inferred from the given statement. For example, if you see that my watch is broken, it can’t be repaired now and I know the shop that has the same watch. So, conclusion would be that I would buy that watch.
So, inference is an educated guess while conclusion is more about logically deriving the next step.
Similarity between the two is that both require figuring out what is not specifically stated in the text.
Let us understand with the help of an example:
Ram took a deep breath and dried his sweaty palms on his jeans. He looked down the ramp and shivered. It was a steep drop. But he had to go through with it. Everyone was staring straight at him. He put his skateboard down and got ready. He could do it!
Q: What evidence helps you to infer that Ram was nervous?
  1. He put his skateboard down and got ready.
  2. His palms were sweaty.
  3. He looked down the ramp.
  4. He could do it.
Solution: 1 and 4 are positive statements which mean that he was not nervous. 2 and 3 statements seem to be the correct answer choices but statement 3 only says that he looked down which cannot be the correct fact to infer. Hence, statement 2 is the only fact to infer that Ram was nervous.
Q: Based on the evidence, it can be concluded that Ram will do what?
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  1. He is probably not going down.
  2. He is probably going to get on his skateboard and go down the ramp.
  3. He is probably going to look at his friends and ask them what to do.
  4. He is probably going to fix his skateboard.
Solution: Looking at the above scenario, it can be concluded that he will go down the ramp i.e. the next logically derived step. Hence, statement 2 is the answer.
So, keep this basic difference in mind while solving questions based on critical reasoning.
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