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GRE Critical Reasoning Question: The Logic of “Except”

EXCEPT questions can be very time consuming. The key is not to get too hung up on one answer choice. Instead, eliminate the ones that are obviously wrong. On the ones in which you are unsure on, come back to them later. Sometimes, there will only be a couple of answer choices left. Then you can focus on each one, choosing the one that works best.

Practice Question

The number of mountain lion sightings in the Rockridge Mountain Park, a popular park in Redwood Country, reaches it peak in the months of April and May. All of the following could account for the increased number of mountain lion sightings EXCEPT

  1. During April and May, which feature the best hiking weather of the year, more people visit the park than during any other time of year.
  2. Throughout the year, local newspapers report any mountain lion sightings, and most reports come during the months of April and May.
  3. The red-tailed deer, the mountain lion’s primary food source, is most abundant during these months and tends to favor hiking trails.
  4. The trail conditions are best for mountain bikers, who, because they make less noise than hikers, are more likely to startle mountain lions.
  5. Creek beds high in the mountains tend to dry up in spring, so mountain lions often descend into the lower elevations, where hikers are more common.


We are looking for an answer choice that could explain why people are most likely to see mountain lions in April and May.

  1. This answer choice provides a good reason: the weather is better so more people are hiking in the mountains. If more people are hiking, then there will be more people to possibly spot the animal.
  2. This answer choice simply restates the premise, which says that mountain lions are most common in April and May. It DOES NOT provide an explanation that could account for why most mountain lion sightings happen during these months. Therefore (B) is the answer.
  3. If the red-tailed deer is feeding near where there are hikers, mountain lions are likely to be near by.
  4. Mountain bikers are more likely to spot mountain lions. Most mountain bikers enter the park in April and May, a fact which explains the increase sightings.
  5. Mountain lions are usually at higher elevations where hikers are less common. During this time of year, mountain lions, in order to find water, come to where hikers are more common. Thus (E) provides a reason for increased sightings.

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