The LSAC charges for the use of its released tests, but it makes one fairly recent exam available for free: June 2007. Before you do anything else, you should go grab yourself a copy of that test. We're going to do it together, you and me. Since the best way to learn is by making mistakes, I strongly recommend you attempt the questions and games on your own before reading my explanations. It's probably easiest to start with Logical Reasoning, since they are bite-sized. So go ahead and see if you can answer Section II, Question 1 on your own now. It might take you as much as five minutes. Here's what I mean by "answer the question":
1) Carefully read the argument you are presented.
2) Argue with that argument... most arguments on the LSAT are bullshit! See if you can find something wrong with the argument.
3) Read the question you are being asked to answer.
4) See if you can predict the answer before you look at the answer choices.
5) Pick the best of the five answer choices. If you find your prediction, that's probably the answer. If you can't find your prediction, then eliminate the truly horrible answers first, and if you're left with just one answer then that's probably it. If you're left with two decent answers, then pick the better of the two.
Ready? Okay, go. When you think you've got an answer, come back.
Okay. I hope you've picked an answer, and I hope you can tell me WHY you picked the answer you picked. Here's my thought process:
The economist's conclusion seems to be "Not all efforts to increase productivity are beneficial to the business as a whole," because the rest of the argument seems structured to support that assertion. Ask yourself: Why is the economist wasting my time with this? The answer to that question will almost always be the conclusion of the argument: She wants to tell us that not all efforts to increase productivity are beneficial to the business as a whole.
So we know what the economist's conclusion is. Next, ask yourself: What information has the economist provided to back up her conclusion? Here, the economist has said efforts to increase productivity can increase profits and the likelihood that the business will survive. Do those facts help prove the conclusion? I don't think so... I actually think they would seem to disprove the conclusion. So what other evidence has the economist provided? Oh, there it is: "Often attempts to increase productivity decrease the number of employees, which clearly harms the dismissed employees as well as the sense of security of the retained employees."
Hmm. Now wait a minute. That last bit (the dismissed employees no longer have a job, and retained employees have a reduced sense of security)... does that really mean that the decision was bad for the business? There seems to be a big assumption here. I think the economist has assumed that what's bad for former and current employees is bad for the business as a whole. That's a necessary part of the argument, but it's not presented as evidence. So it's an assumption.
The question simply asks us to identify the conclusion of the argument. After all the above, I think this is a super-easy question. My predicted answer is "Not all efforts to increase productivity are beneficial to the business as a whole."
A) Hmm. The argument does seem to assume this, but I don't think this is the conclusion of the argument. This assumption is part of the argument, but it's not the main conclusion of the argument. I don't think this is it.
B) This almost exactly matches my predicted answer, so I think this has to be the correct answer.
C) What? The economist was certainly not talking about the benefits of an owner-operated business.
D) This was presented as evidence in the first sentence of the argument, but it's not the conclusion of the argument.
E) This was presented as evidence in the last sentence of the argument, but it's not the main conclusion of the argument. Because B matched my prediction, and because it does such a good job of answering "why are you wasting my time with this?" it's a great answer for this Main Conclusion question.
Stay tuned to this blog for a complete question-by-question response to the June 2007 LSAT. I'll try to post an answer a day... no promises, of course.