June 2007 LSAT, II, #12

Section 2, number 12 of the June 2007 LSAT is an obvious beast.  It takes up its own column on the page, for Chrissakes!  Once in a while a question like this will be easy, but usually a question that has twice as many words is going to 1) take twice as long as a normal question, and 2) be twice as hard.  So, let's see here.  This question is likely to be much harder and much more time consuming than the other questions in the section.  But it only counts for one point, just like everything else.  If time is a concern for me (like it is for almost all test-takers), then what should I do?  Hmm--I think the answer is obvious. Skip the motherfucker!

The LSAT is your test.  You are the boss of the test; the test is not the boss of you.  It's rare that you can tell which questions are going to be nasty, but this one is a prime suspect just based on its sheer length.  So circle it, bubble in a guess on your score sheet, and move on.  Save your time and energy for easier targets.  If you have time at the end of the section, after completing all the other questions, then you can go back and tackle this one.  Why would you do it any other way?  There's no shame in this approach--it's just being sensible.

Of course this advice doesn't apply to you if you're in the lucky ~10% of test-takers who always finish the LR sections with time to spare.  If that's your situation, then you should calmly answer this question, in order, just like you'd answer any other question.  And if you did skip it, and if you DO have time to go back, then here's the approach I'd recommend:

1)  Like always, read the argument with a very critical eye.  Try to argue with the speaker.

My objection here is something like "well, why did you promise to keep the confidence in the first place?"  It's definitely possible to answer all questions truthfully AND keep your promises IF you don't promise to keep confidences.  I don't think the logic is BAD necessarily, but I don't think it's all that great either.  I agree that IF I promise to keep confidences then I'm probably not going to be able to always answer truthfully and keep my promises.  But if I didn't make the promise to keep a confidence in the first place, then I think I could always answer truthfully and still keep all my promises.

That's not very satisfying, but it's the best I've got.  I'm not sure the logic is bad, but it's not perfect either.  My specific objection has been stated.

2)  Read the question.

I've already been attacking/weakening the logic, so I'm well-prepared for any question the LSAT might ask.  Here, the question is "Which one of the following arguments is most similar in its reasoning to the argument above?"  This is our first Matching Pattern question.

3)  Predict an answer.

I can't precisely predict the correct answer here, because it's likely to be about a totally different topic from the argument presented.  What I'm looking for is a matching pattern of reasoning.  Sometimes it helps to try to generally state the logic on a question like this.  I think the logic of the argument was basically "two things (always answering truthfully and always keeping promises) are incompatible because one thing (always answering truthfully) makes the other thing (promising to keep a confidence) impossible.  This isn't watertight, because nobody said you HAD to promise to keep a confidence in the first place.  I'm looking for an answer choice that "feels" the same.

4)  Pick an answer.

When I finally go to the answer choices, I am going to spend very little time on each of them.  I'm looking to immediately discard any answer choice that doesn't seem right on the money.  I am wary of traps here, because I know that 80% of all answer choices, by definition, are wrong.

A)  This superficially sounds the same, but I think the logic is tighter than the argument we were given.  I had an objection to the argument given:  "Who's to say we HAD to promise to keep a confidence?"  I don't have that same objection here.  If it's true that civility requires us not to always say whatever we want, then if we have the duty to be civil we cannot always say whatever we want.  It's hard to explain, but this logic sounds slightly BETTER than the argument given.  So I don't think it's the answer.

B)  This answer is simply not the same pattern of logic.  I was looking for "two things are incompatible" and instead I got "two things must sometimes occur simultaneously."  I don't think this can possibly be it, and I think A was a better answer.

C)  This answer isn't the same pattern either.  This one is like "if we do A we're screwed, and if we do B we're screwed, and we have to do either A or B, so we're screwed either way."  Not what I was looking for, and I think A is still the best so far.

D)  This is an A-->B-->C, so if not C then not A pattern of conditional reasoning.  There was no such pattern of if-then and contrapositive used in the argument we were given, so my favorite is still A.

E)  This one says A will cause either B or C, but B and C would each cause D, and we can't afford D.  So we can't do A.  That's not the pattern I was looking for, so this one is out.

I don't love A, but I have specific objections to B-E.  So I think our answer is A.  But I'm not 100% sure--probably 85%.

This is not the question to start your LSAT preparation with.  Go harvest the lower-hanging fruit first.  Nine out of ten LSAT students would do better by skipping this question.