June 2007 LSAT, II, #3

(Is this real, or something invented by the Onion?  Either way, I love that it's called "Mänland.") Anyway, let's continue our discussion of the June 2007 LSAT.  Go ahead and print yourself a copy of that test if you haven't already.  It's free!

My approach to Question 1 and Question 2 from this section was basically the same:  Above all, you must argue with the speaker.  If you're having trouble making sense of something, that's usually because the argument doesn't make any sense in the first place.  Your job is to explain why.

This question is a little different.  It's a relatively rare type of question--maybe it appears once per test.  Rather than containing a flawed or weak argument, it simply gives you the beginning of an argument and asks you to fill in the blank.  So rather than saying "this argument is bullshit because ____________," like we usually do, we're going to complete the argument in a way that is not bullshit.  So what do I mean by that?

Well, basically, I just want to complete the argument in a way that logically connects with the evidence provided.  I'm going to be conservative here.  I don't want to go further than what the evidence warrants.  I'm going to avoid huge assumptions.  I'm going to avoid wild or outlandish or speculative statements that aren't justified by the evidence.  If the evidence had said "A=B, and B=C, therefore _____________." it would be totally reasonable to say "A=C," because that's been proven by the facts and it kinda seems like that's where the argument was headed.  But I certainly wouldn't come with "A=D," or "Everything equals C" or "X equals Y," because if I did that then I'd be bringing in outside information and speculation and making shit up.  No great leaps of intuition are required here.  I don't need to be Sherlock Holmes.  All I need to do is 1) pay attention to where the argument seems to be going, and 2) complete the argument in a conservative and sensible fashion.

If you haven't done so already, please read the argument now and see if you can predict what a sensible completion of the argument might be.  In the next paragraph, I'll tell you where I think it's going.

The first two sentences of this argument introduce an analogy between "a century" and "a life."  Now, I think this is total crap.  One is an arbitrary period of time, and one is a person.  Superficially, you can make an analogy between just about any two things, even when in reality they are in no way similar.  So this analogy sucks, and I'm not buying it.  But, I'm going to let go of that because that's just not the point.  The point is this:  If you were forced to use this crappy analogy, what could you use it for?  Maybe this is like being an attorney with a useless client or a very lame case... sometimes you have to make the best of what you've got.

The argument concludes with "So just as people in their last years spend much time looking back on the events of their life, people at a century's end ______________."  Uh, okay.  Since the argument said that a century is like a life, I guess the blank has to be filled in with a similarity between a century and a life.  So I guess what this moron was going to say is "Just as people spend their last years looking back at the events of their life, people at century's end look back at the events of the past century."  Wow.  That's not exactly earth-shattering, is it?  But who cares.  I think that's where the argument was going, and it's justified if we accept the crappy analogy (which we must, because it's all we have to work with.)  I think my prediction is going to be very close to the correct answer.

A)  Not what I'm looking for.  This would be a good answer if it said "reminisce about the century."

B)  What?  Um... this definitely happens in real life, but it isn't what the argument was talking about.

C)  No.  This probably also sometimes happens, but it's not what the argument was talking about.  If you chose either B or C, you probably weren't paying close enough attention to where the argument was actually going.

D)  This didn't immediately look like a match to me, but "history of the century" is, of course, very similar to "the events of the past century."  This is probably the correct answer.

E)  This would be the correct answer if the facts said that old people tend to reflect on how they could have avoided unfortunate events in their lives.  But the facts didn't say that, it just said people "look back."  Remorse wasn't mentioned.  So D is our answer.

One final note on this type of question.  You have really got to predict this answer in advance, before looking at the answer choices.  The answer choices are not your friend.  They are mostly tricks, and traps, and time-wasters.  If you don't make a prediction, then several of the answers are probably going to look reasonable to you and you're going to 1) get confused and 2) waste a ton of time.  Slow down and invest a little time up front.  You'll end up going much faster overall, and with much greater accuracy.