LSAT Ten Commandments

Thou Shalt Pay Attention to the Type of LSAT Question

question-mark-1238622No matter what type of question you're looking at on the LSAT Logical Reasoning section, it's critical that you argue with what you're reading. But that's only half the battle. Once you've argued with the speaker, and made sure you've comprehended what they're saying, it's critical to figure out what kind of question you're dealing with. There's no point in looking at the answers until you know what you're looking for. This Commandment applies to all sections, but particularly to the Logical Reasoning. I'm shocked when a student says, "I didn't pick A because it seemed too strongly worded," on a Sufficient Assumption question. Sufficient Assumption questions love strongly stated answers! Stop being so formulaic, forget everything you learned from whatever gimmicky LSAT book you read before this, and pay attention to what the question is asking. You are smart enough to figure this out. Read every word on the page, figure out what they are asking, and answer the question. If you're not open to the possibility that you're smart enough to do this, then you really shouldn't even attempt it. I believe in you.

Here are examples of what various "question stem" wordings sound like for any given type of question.

FLAW:

-- Which one of the following most accurately describes a way in which the reasoning above is questionable? -- The reasoning in the argument is flawed because the argument -- Which one of the following most accurately describes a flaw in the reasoning above?

WEAKEN:

-- Which of the following, if shown to be a realistic possibility, would undermine the argument? -- Which one of the following, as potential challenges, most seriously calls into question evidence offered in support of the conclusion above? -- Which one of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the support for the arguments conclusion?

STRENGTHEN:

-- Each of the following supports the arguments reasoning EXCEPT: -- Which of the following, if assumed, most helps to justify the reasoning above? -- Which one of the following, if true, most strengthens the columnist’s reasoning?

SUFFICIENT ASSUMPTION:

-- Which one of the following, if assumed, would allow the conclusion above to be properly drawn? -- The conclusion drawn follows logically from the premises if which of the following is assumed? -- The conclusion is properly inferred if which one of the following is assumed?

NECESSARY ASSUMPTION:

-- Which one of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends? -- The argument makes which one of the following assumptions -- Which one of the following is an assumption required by the argument?

MUST BE TRUE:

-- Which one of the following must be true if the statements above are correct? -- The above statements, if true, most strongly support which one of the following? -- Which of the following is most strongly supported by the information above?

MAIN CONCLUSION:

-- Which one of the following most accurately expresses the arguments conclusion? -- Of the following, which one most accurately expresses the conclusion drawn above?

AGREE/DISAGREE:

-- “Robert” and “Sarah” have committed to disagreeing on which of the following? -- “Beth’s” and “Carmen’s” statements provide the most support for the claim that they would disagree about whether -- The dialogue most strongly supports the claim that “Chris” and “Joe” disagree about which one of the following?

EXPLANATION:

-- Which one of the following, if true, contributes most to an explanation of the puzzling situation described above? -- Which of the following, if true, most helps to resolve the apparent discrepancy above? -- Which one of the following, if true, contributes to a resolution of the apparent paradox?

IDENTIFYING A GUIDING PRINCIPLE:

-- Which one of the following principles best justifies the above actions? -- Which one of the following principles is best illustrated by the information above? -- The reasoning above conforms most closely to which one of the following propositions?

APPLYING A PRINCIPLE GIVEN:

-- Which one of the following would be a proper application of the principle stated above? -- Of the following, which one conforms most closely to the principle illustrated by the situation described above? -- Which one of the following best illustrates the proposition above?

COMPLETE THE ARGUMENT:

-- Which one of the following most logically completes the argument? -- The conclusion of the argument above is most strongly supported if which one of the following completes the argument? -- Which one of the following most reasonable completes the argument?

STRATEGY OF ARGUMENTATION:

-- Which one of the following most accurately describes the method of reasoning used in the argument? -- “Which of the following most accurately describes the role played in the Philosopher’s argument by the claim that “…” -- The editorial undermines the conclusion of the causal argument by

MATCHING PATTERN:

-- Which one of the following arguments is most similar to the reasoning in the argument above? -- The reasoning in the argument above is most paralleled by the argument that there is -- In which one of the following is the pattern of reasoning most similar to that in the Doctor’s argument?

MATCHING FLAW:

-- Which one of the following arguments exhibits flawed reasoning most similar to that exhibited by the argument above? -- Which one of the following exhibits both of the logical flaws exhibited in the arguments above? -- The flawed pattern of reasoning in which of the following most closely resembles the flawed pattern of reasoning in the actor’s argument?

This post is excerpted from "Introducing the LSAT” (available on Amazon). Please drop me a line in the comments, or at nathan@foxlsat.com.

Learn more about my LSAT prep class and how they can help you conquer the LSAT.

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Thou Shalt Not Confuse Correlation with Causation

Confusing sufficient with necessary is the LSAT's most common flaw, but this one is close on its heels. If you can master these two issues, you've probably nailed 1/3 of the questions on the LSAT's logical reasoning. This is the second concept that I teach to every class, and it's also very simple. I'll give you two examples of dumbass arguments that appear on every single LSAT. Ready? OK.

Dumbass argument one:  Scientific studies have shown that people who got laid the night before tend to have more hangovers, on average, than people who did not get laid. Therefore getting laid causes hangovers.

The problem with this argument is, I hope, obvious. First, correlation doesn't prove causation. Second, specifically, how do we know that booze didn't cause both the getting laid and the hangover? There's an additional factor here that the argument simply ignores.

Dumbass argument two: Scientific studies have shown that people who eat poutine--that's french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curd, in case you've never been to Canada--tend to have more heart disease than people who do not eat poutine. Therefore, heart disease causes people to eat poutine.

The problem here is also, I hope, obvious. First, correlation doesn't prove causation. But specifically, how do we know that the poutine didn't cause the heart disease? Isn't that a more reasonable explanation?

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Know the Difference Between Sufficient and Necessary

Most LSAT books tend to define "sufficient" by using the word "necessary," and then define the word "necessary" by using the word "sufficient." This is shitty teaching, plain and simple, because a student would never be able to understand one term without already understanding the other term. Don't worry, this concept is a lot easier than you might think. It's really just common sense. This is the first concept I teach to every class, and it's very simple. I need my head to live. My head is necessary to live. If I don't have my head, you know that I can not live. That's what "necessary" means.

If you see me come into the classroom and teach a four-hour LSAT class, then you know that I am alive--you have "sufficient information" to know that I must be alive. Seeing me teach a class is sufficient, i.e. enough, to know that I am alive. That's what "sufficient" means.

The LSAT will frequently confuse a necessary condition for a sufficient condition. Like this: "Nathan has his head, therefore we know he is alive." Uh, no. Nathan could very well be dead will still having a head. (As a matter of fact, he would strongly prefer to die that way.) Having a head is necessary for life, but it is not sufficient.

The LSAT will also frequently confuse a sufficient condition for a necessary condition. Like this: "Nathan wasn't in class tonight, therefore he must be dead." Uh, no. Nathan could be on the golf course somewhere, or he could be in a drunken stupor. Or, ideally, both! Being in LSAT class is sufficient for life, but it is not necessary.

I swear to God, that is all there is to the whole sufficient vs. necessary thing. It's easy, and it's the most commonly-tested flaw on the entire LSAT. Many students will pick up 5-10 points just by understanding this one simple concept.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Sometimes Eliminate All Five Answer Choices

Just because you have to read all five choices on Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension doesn't mean you have to like them. As a matter of fact, you should probably hate most of them. If you don't occasionally dislike all five answer choices, you're not being critical enough. High scorers are super-critical of everything they read on the test, especially  the answer choices. (Four out of five of them, after all, are wrong by definition.) Don't settle for an imperfect answer unless you've already eliminated all five. When this does happen, you'll have to lower the bar a little bit, start back at the beginning, and choose the best of a bad lot. It's a hassle, but if it doesn't happen once in a while then you're doing it wrong.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Read All Five Answer Choices

This one's simple, but critically important for LSAT Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. After you've done all the work of arguing with the speaker and predicting an answer based on question type, it's tragic to miss a question because you simply didn't read all five answers. Don't spend forever going through the answer choices, but definitely at least skim all five. Sometimes one of the earlier answer choices will be a very seductive trap, or almost indistinguishable from a later, better answer choice. If you don't read all five answer choices, you're going to get tricked. Go ahead and take the time to read B through E, even if you already love A. Most of the time, your first impulse will be correct. But once in a while, you'll realize that your first choice was actually second best. On the LSAT, there are no points for second best.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Remember that the Answer Choices are Not Thy Friend

My sixth excerpt from "Introducing the LSAT" talks about a huge difference between LSAT experts and LSAT novices. Folks who are bad at the test usually spend way too much time comparing all five answer choices against one another. It's an understandable mistake... the answer choices have to be a good place to look for the answer, right? Well, not really. On the Logical Reasoning and the Reading Comprehension, if you're not occasionally eliminating all five answer choices, you're not being critical enough. Remember that four out of five of the answer choices--eighty percent--are professionally written traps and time-wasters. Most students read the arguments way too quickly, and spend way too much time comparing the answer choices to each other--three or four, or even five of the answers might look good to these students. This is exactly the wrong approach. A high scorer will always read the arguments and passages very carefully, make a prediction, and skim fairly quickly through the answer choices. Only one, or perhaps two, answers will even be remotely close to correct. But you can't easily eliminate the bad answers if you don't have an idea what you're looking for.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Put a Gun to Thine Own Head

Commandment Four is the second-most valuable thing I can teach you about the Logic Games... the critical importance of answering the questions with 100% certainty. Slow down, dammit. On the Logic Games, you should be a be to say, "The answer is B, and I would be willing to say this with a gun to my head," or with your house on the line, etcetera. The Key to the Logic Games is understanding that there is a single, objectively correct answer to every question. There should be zero guessing involved. On the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension, sometimes the answer will turn on a fine shade of meaning, and sometimes even an expert will be forced to say, You know, I'm not 100% sure, but D just feels better than E." This never happens on the Logic Games. Answer every question with 100% certainty, even if this means devoting the entire 35 minutes to the first (of four) Logic Games and guessing on the remaining 16 or 17 questions. If you don't slow down and focus on getting them all right, you will never make any improvements. If you do slow down and focus on getting them all right on Game One, with 100 percent certainty, you will soon be on your way to getting them all right on Game Two. Students can make huge leaps on the Logic Games, but only if they focus on accuracy ahead of speed. You should be certain that your chosen answer is correct. If not, you're doing it wrong.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Combine the Rules Together

Commandment Three is the most important thing I can teach you about the LSAT's Logic Games. If you'd just do this one thing, I am certain that your scores on the Games would dramatically improve. Most LSAT books talk about "making inferences," as if it's some sort of mystical secret that you can only learn on top of a mountain from a hairy dude who reeks of goat and patchouli. This shit is not magic! "Inferences" always come from combining the rules together. It's really that simple. Look at Rule 1, and see if you can combine it with Rule 2. Or Rule 3. Or Rule 4. If you don't see any connections there, then try to combine Rule 2 with Rule 3. Etcetera. Example:

Rule 1: X comes before Y Rule 2: Y comes before Z

Mystical, magical inference combining Rule 1 and Rule 2: X must come before Z.

Did that hurt your head? I didn't think so. But most of your competition wouldn't take the time to see it! Most inferences are just like this: baby steps. Combine the rules together, and you'll be way ahead of the Logic Games.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Be a Dick

Yesterday, I started through my "Intentionally Blasphemous 10 Commandments" of the LSAT. Commandment One was Thou Shalt Not Rush. Commandment Two is a strategy to help you slow down and make sure that you really grasp the content of what you're reading.

The most important thing I can teach you about the verbal sections of the test (LR and RC) is that you should argue with the speaker. On the Logical Reasoning, at least half of the arguments are incomplete, if not outright bogus. As you read, try to call "bullshit" on the speaker. You can't do this too much with your friends and family, or they'll think you're a dick. But on the LSAT, you're allowed to let your dick flag fly. On the Logical Reasoning, ask the speaker: Oh yeah, asshole? What evidence do you have for that position? This super-critical approach will allow you to see the holes in every argument. If you can see the holes, you can answer the questions. On the Reading Comprehension, ask the author: Hey, you're boring the shit out of me. Why are you wasting my time with this? This super-aggressive-approach will allow you to cut through the bullshit and get to the author's main point.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT”¦ available on Amazon. Please drop me a line in the comments, or at fox.edit@gmail.com.

Thou Shalt Not Rush

Students tend to make the LSAT a lot harder than it actually is, but a little basic wisdom can dramatically simplify things. Over the next two weeks, I'll publish my "Intentionally Blasphemous Ten Commandments." Commandment One: Thou Shalt Not Rush.

The biggest mistake most students make on the LSAT is trying to go way too damn fast. Each section has 22-27 questions, with a 35-minute time limit. You do not need to finish the sections in order to get a good score. As a matter of fact, most students (except those already scoring 165+) will hurt their score if they do try to finish. The earlier questions in each section are much easier than the later questions in each section. So if you try to rush, you are guaranteed to make silly mistakes on the earlier, easier questions. And the only upside is saving a few minutes to use on the later, harder questions, which are missable even with unlimited time! Go ahead and guess at the end of each section. You'll still get one out of five right! Slow down, and invest your time making sure you get the earlier, easier questions right. A score of 160 is easily attainable without ever attempting the last five questions in each section. So if you're not already at 160, why the hell are you trying to finish the sections? Speed comes from accuracy. Not the other way around. If you slow down, and concentrate on getting them right, your mastery of the test will grow. And from mastery, you'll actually end up going faster. If you rush, you'll never improve.

Excerpted from Introducing the LSAT... available on Amazon!