In the previous chapter, we learned how to use reasoning in a formal manner (formal logic). In this chapter, we will apply what we’ve learned and we’ll shift our focus from formalizing arguments to identifying their content and structure.
‘Main idea’ questions are about identifying the conclusion or the main point of a passage. These questions are easy to identify, as they will explicitly ask for you to answer which of the choices best represents the idea of a passage.
How to solve
- Understand the passage carefully.
- Anticipate a possible conclusion.
- Evaluate option statements and find the correct answer by elimination.
- Properly identify the premises and conclusion.
Avoid trap choices such as choices that only restate facts and those that are true but not the main idea.
‘Method of reasoning’ questions ask you to analyze the structure of an argument and identify its elements. The main difference between this type of question and other logic questions is that the focus is on the argument structure – on sentences and their relationships, not on the validity of the argument.
How to solve
- Identify the conclusion.
- Find the evidence supporting the conclusion.
- Describe how the evidence relates to the conclusion.
- Anticipate what an answer would sound like. This becomes easier once you familiarize yourself with questions of this type.
- Identify common trap answer problems to eliminate incorrect answers.
- Your priority is to look for certain keywords that will help you determine which are the premises and conclusion. This is also why learning the terminologies covered in logical reasoning is very important.
- Remember that your concern is the structure of an argument, not its validity.
- Avoid trap choices such as irrelevant generic argumentative techniques and choices that incorrectly describe some parts of the argument.
Common argument styles
- Make an analogy
- Ignore or focus on possible causes
- Use an example or counterexample
- Use reasoning to draw an absurd example
- Undermine a premise or conclusion
- Appeal to a general principle or authority
‘Role’ questions ask you to describe the role of an argument in a passage. They are easily identifiable since these questions will explicitly ask you for the role of a claim.
How to solve
- Identify the conclusion. This is a vital step.
- Relate the arguments to the conclusion. Since the role of a claim is defined by its relation to the conclusion, it is important that you are able to identify how a claim relates to the conclusion to know its role in the whole argument.
- Use the information you get to anticipate what the answer would sound like.
Finally, carefully read the choices to find the best answer and be wary of common trap choices.
This chapter reviewed three question types:
- Main Idea
- Method of Reasoning
Test Taker, Beware!
Now that we’re deep into the Logical Reasoning chapter, we’re going to move into discussing trap answer choices. Test writing is an extremely time-consuming task, but test writers have an easy way out. On nearly every question you will see wrong answers that they pull out of a “bin” of typical junk answers.
(A) If you misread the passage, this looks right.
(B) Maybe right – close call with some subtle difference most students miss.
(C) Correct answer!
(D) The opposite of the correct answer.
(E) The BESTEST choice that uses INCREDIBLY strong language (like all, never).
A skilled test taker can identify trap answer types quickly and then use process of elimination to increase the chances of getting the right answer.
Beware: The Sentimental Favorite
These are answer choices that are out of the question scope but sound appealing on a superficial level.
The level of diabetes in the United States among those over 50 has been attributed to high levels of sugar usage. In Zaire, however, diabetes rates among those over 50 are nearly as high as those in the US and individual sugar consumption levels are much lower.
What is the most reasonable conclusion from the above passage?
- If most people used sugar-replacement sweeteners instead of sugar, the rate of diabetes worldwide would drop rapidly.
- There are other factors besides sugar usage that determine diabetes levels.
Choice (A) sounds nice. We approve of the sentiment, but answer choices that espouse high ideals or provide convenient explanations may not be correct.
Choice (B) is the correct answer because it gets to the flawed causal argument: sugar usage may not be the sole factor behind diabetes rates.
Next LSAT: June 3rd
Next LSAT: June 3rd