June 2013 LSAT, LR2, Q9, archaeologists analyzing plant remains

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project I met Chris Borland through the Bay Area Tutoring Summit, a networking and educational group for San Francisco's boutique tutors. Chris is such a smart, thorough and geeky guy that he went through my first LSAT book for fun. LSAT isn't even his area of expertise; he's a math guy who's just up for the challenge.

Guest blogger: Chris Borland

We're given a set of facts, and asked to find an answer that is "most strongly supported," by those facts.

A. Wrong answer. There's is simply no indication given that the archeologists must be successful in determining with certainty that the plant remains they're studying were either wild or cultivated. We're told only what will be known if such a determination can, in fact, be made. Certainly, even if the scientists have the requisite skill, technology, methods, and time to make such a finding, something might still go wrong that would prevent a final determination from being made (who knows ”¦ maybe the archeologists will forget to put the plant remains away, and they'll get eaten by a wandering Wildebeast while everyone's sleeping.)

B. Ding ding ding! "B" is the correct answer. We're given that plant remains were found at the site. Plants are either cultivated or not cultivated, i.e. wild (there is no other alternative). If the former, we're told that these people were the earliest known cultivators of plants; if the latter, we're told that these people ate a wider variety of wild plants than any other people at that time. In either case, these people were unique in the way humans used plants 10,000 years ago. So, there's no alternative but to conclude that these people used plants "in ways that no other people did at that time."

C. This statement is the converse of the implication stated in the last sentence of the paragraph. A given conditional statement and its converse are not logically equivalent; just because A leads to B, we have no idea whether or not B leads to A. (Editor's note: This is the LSAT's most commonly-tested logical flaw. --nathan)

D. Wrong answer. It's easy to think of a counter-example that disproves this implication. Suppose the culture being studied did cultivate plants way before anyone else is known to have engaged in agriculture, but they had a belief that storing their harvest for long periods would poison the food. Without robust ways to process and store their harvest, it's certainly possible (indeed likely) that none would remain for archeologists to discover 10,000 years later. The counter-example disproves the statement, so we know it's false. True statements (e.g. the given ones) cannot "strongly support" a false statement. Therefore, this is the wrong answer.

E. Wrong answer. We're given no information whatsoever about probability, here. Thus, we have no way of determining which of the two possibilities is "more likely." So the statement here is false, once again, since true statements cannot "strongly support" false ones.

From Chris: I help students to learn and love mathematics, produce outstanding results on standardized tests, and thrive as productive, successful scholars. Students of mine go from D's and F's to A's and B's, raise their SAT scores by as much as 450 points or more, and dramatically increase their confidence and competence as thinkers and problem solvers.  Since 1978, it's been my privilege to serve as academic coach, tutor, and mentor to private students of all ages, helping them to reach the pinnacle of their abilities, attain ambitious educational goals, and achieve enduring success as students and young people.

For more into, go to:  http://www.borlandeducational.com/

Please ask questions and/or suggest corrections to anything that seems confusing... we want to make this the best resource we can for LSAT students. We'll have all the June 2013 explanations up as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading. Tell your friends! --nathan

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project