June 2007 LSAT, II, #20

Having reached question 20 in section 2 of the  June 2007 LSAT, we are well into the realm of the more-difficult questions. These questions aren't impossible, of course, but we can expect that the questions at this point in the section are going to be quite a bit more difficult than the questions at the beginning of the section. A reminder about section strategy is in order here: Whatever you do, get most of the questions in the beginning of the section right. If you have to guess on a few at the end of the section, so be it. The worst strategy I can imagine is to rush through the beginning of the section, making careless mistakes on easy questions, so that you'll have time to devote to the far more difficult questions at the end of the section--questions you're more likely to miss even with unlimited time. So slow down and get the earlier ones right. If you make it to the end of the section that's great, but it's not necessary to get a solid score. (I see students all the time who finish the section, but only get 10 right. These people would obviously benefit from slowing down and focusing on accuracy, even if they end up guessing on a few at the end.)

Anyway, let's see if we can figure out what's going on in the argument in question 20. Gamba is the speaker, and he's trying to argue with Munoz.  Munoz claims that since the Southwest Hopeville Neighbors Association "overwhelmingly opposes" the new water system, there must be citywide opposition as well.  Gamba says not so fast--not enough of the Neighbors Association members voted, and some of those who did vote actually voted for the plan. Since there wasn't a big enough sample, Gamba says, we can't make any conclusion about the entire population. This makes sense to me--I think Gamba's logic is reasonable.

The question says "Of the following, which one most accurately describes Gamba's strategy of argumentation?"  I might not be able to exactly predict the wording that the testmakers will use to describe the strategy employed by Gamba, but I'll take a crack at it: I think Gamba "claimed there was too small a sample to make any general conclusion." Let's see if we can find that, or something similar to that, in the answer choices. Note: I will be hyper-critical of the answer choices on a Strategy of Argumentation question. I must, at a minimum, choose an answer that describes a strategy actually employed by Gamba. So if an answer choice says Gamba did anything that Gamba did not actually do, then it can't possibly be the answer.

A)  No, Gamba didn't ever claim that some people are more likely to vote than others. This is surely true in real life, but that's not the angle Gamba took. This is out.

B)  No, Gamba didn't ever claim that the data could have been "manipulated." This might also be true in real life, but this is also not the angle Gamba took. No way.

C)  I like this answer. Gamba doesn't disagree with Munoz's evidence--he seems to agree that the Neighbors Association did vote in the way Munoz said it voted--but he disagrees with Munoz's interpretation of that evidence.  Munoz thinks his evidence means something, whereas Gamba thinks the evidence, even if valid, is too small a sample to draw any real conclusion. I'm 95% sure that this will be the correct answer.

D)  No, Gamba didn't ever claim that Munoz's evidence would be impossible to disprove. This would be the answer if Gamba had said "your premises are untestable"--but Gamba didn't say that. So this is out.

E)  Whoops! I was in love with C, but having read E I'm in a bit of a pickle. This answer choice is exactly what I was looking for. So I have to reread C, even more critically this time, and see if I can find fault with it. And I think I can. Answer C says "contrary to what has been claimed, the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion." The problem with this is that Munoz did not guarantee that there was citywide opposition; Munoz only cited the study as evidence of citywide opposition. This is a fine shade of meaning, but I think C goes a step too far in alleging that Munoz said something he didn't necessarily say. Since I know for sure that Gamba did claim the sample was too small, and since E describes exactly that, I'm forced to go with E.

A couple notes:

1)  It's critical that you read all five answer choices on the Logical Reasoning.  I really thought C was the answer, and it would have been very tempting to try to cleverly shave off a few seconds by skipping D and E.  Had I done so, I would have not-so-cleverly shaved one point off my score.

2)  Again, the questions are getting much tougher at this point in the section. The later questions aren't just a little bit tougher--they can be a lot tougher. Like 10 times tougher. Make sure you slow down and get the earlier questions right.