June 2007 LSAT

June 2007 LSAT, III, #21

Yesterday, I was yelling about one of the LSAT's dirtiest words: "Should." Today's lesson includes another LSAT profanity... a foul two-word combination that will--if you're attacking the test correctly--inspire in you a GlennBeckian level of outrage.

Here's the argument. Be critical, and see if you can get pissed! If you can get pissed, you're on the right track.

Ethicist: On average, animals raised on grain must be fed sixteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. A pound of meat is more nutritious for humans than a pound of grain, but sixteen pounds of grain could feed many more people than could a pound of meat. With grain yields leveling off, large areas of farmland going out of production each year, and the population rapidly expanding, we must accept the fact that consumption of meat will soon be morally unacceptable.

Put your personal political leanings aside. The point isn't whether you, personally, think meat is right or wrong. The point is that the argument's facts don't justify its conclusion. Tell me:  Where does the argument go completely off the rails?

If you said that the argument melted into a pile of steaming bullshit at the words "morally unacceptable," you are 100% correct. Morally unacceptable?  MORALLY unacceptable? By whose morals? Yours? Mine? Glenn Beck's? There are no general standards of "morals" on the LSAT. The argument provides no definition of what's "morally acceptable" or "morally unacceptable." Instead, it just concludes that something is "morally unacceptable" on the basis of facts about agriculture and human population. If you're doing it right, when you read "morally unacceptable," you said "oh, you can fuck right off with that."

If you're pissed, you're 90% of the way to answering the question. Let's see what that question happens to be:

Which one of the following, if true, would most weaken the ethicist's argument?

No sweat. We already know that the argument sucks because it uses "morally unacceptable" in the conclusion without providing any evidence that tends to define that term. This should be easy... all we have to do is pick an answer that points out this glaring flaw.

(A) Even though it has been established that a vegetarian diet can be healthy, many people prefer to eat meat and are willing to pay for it.

This answer provides evidence that people want to buy meat, but that's not the same thing as proving that meat is morally acceptable. Let's look for a more punishing weakener.

(B) Often, cattle or sheep can be raised to maturity on grass from pastureland that is unsuitable for any other kind of farming.

Interesting. This wasn't at all the direction I was going, but if this is true then "grass" is an alternative to "grain." Looking back at the argument, I can see that the entire thing was about grain. If there's an unexplored alternative that the argument didn't mention, then doesn't that tend to undermine the argument? This might be the answer.

(C) If a grain diet is supplemented with protein derived from non-animal sources, it can have nutritional value equivalent to that of a diet containing meat.

Huh? This is beside the point. Who cares if a grain diet, properly supplemented, can be nutrionally equivalent to meat? What's that have to do with the argument? And anyway, this could only be a strengthener, since it's pro-vegetarian. We're looking for a weakener. B is still best so far.

(D) Although prime farmland near metropolitan areas is being lost rapidly to suburban development, we could reverse this trend by choosing to live in areas that are already urban.

Metropolitan areas? Suburbia? WTF is this even talking about?

(E) Nutritionists agree that a diet composed solely of grain products is not adequate for human health.

Again, health is simply not the issue.

Our answer is B, because it's the only answer that tends to undermine the argument's conclusion that "meat is morally unacceptable."

The point of this lesson isn't that arguing with the speaker will allow you to predict the answer to every single question. The point is that arguing will allow you to understand the argument. Once you understand the argument, most questions are pretty easy to answer.

June 2007 LSAT, III, #20

Section 3, #20 of the June 2007 LSAT starts out with a swear word. Well, it's not a swear according to your mom, but if you've been listening to me yell about the LSAT long enough, the word should go off like an effbomb every time you read it. Here's the argument... can you spot the dirty word? We should accept the proposal to demolish the old train station, because the local historical society, which vehemently opposes this, is dominated by people who have no commitment to long-term economic well-being. Preserving old buildings creates an impediment to new development, which is critical to economic health. 

Hint: The dirty word starts with "s."

To an LSAT expert, the word that jumps off the page in the above argument is the word should. Every time you read the word "should," I want you to immediately think "don't fucking tell me what I, or we, or anybody else 'should' do."

The word "should" almost always indicates the conclusion of an LSAT argument, and that argument is almost always bullshit. An aversion to the word "should" will help you criticize the argument. Being critical leads to understanding. Understanding leads to correct answers.

The argument tries to convince us that we should demolish the old train station. Since we're skeptical of being told what we "should" do, we're going to demand some reasons. If you're going to tell us what we "should" do, then you better explain why. So, what are the reasons that the argument provides? I see two reasons, one better than the other:

1) "The local historical society, which vehemently opposes this, is dominated by people who have no commitment to long-term economic well-being." This is an "ad hominem" attack against some people who disagree with the desired action, and this would never be acceptable on the LSAT. Even a broken clock is right twice a day! Simply saying "this clock is broken" doesn't prove that the clock isn't giving you the correct time. Let's see if the other reason is any better.

2) "Preserving old buildings creates an impediment to new development, which is critical to economic health." This is a better reason, but it assumes that we give a shit about "new development" and "economic health." What if we don't care about development and economic health? If we don't, then why wouldn't we preserve the old train station?

So the argument presents two reasons, one completely bogus and the other incomplete, in support of a conclusion telling us what we should do. We understand the argument! Now we can look at the question:

The flawed reasoning exhibited by the argument above is most similar to that exhibited by which one of the following arguments?

OK, this shouldn't be too tough. Let's look for an answer choice that presents two reasons in support of a conclusion that tells us what we should do. Ideally, the two reasons will be an ad hominem attack and a reason that requires an assumption. That's two flaws. A perfect answer would have both of them.

(A) Our country should attempt to safeguard works of art that it deems to possess national cultural significance. These works might not be recognized as such by all taxpayers, or even all critics. Nevertheless, our country ought to expend whatever money is needed to procure all such works as they become available.

This argument looks circular to me. "We should safeguard works of art... because we ought to." I don't see an ad hominem attack here. And I don't see a reason that requires an assumption. The argument is certainly flawed, but I don't think it's flawed in the same way as the given argument.

(B) Documents of importance to local heritage should be properly preserved and archived for the sake of future generations. For, if even one of these documents is damaged or lost, the integrity of the historical record as a whole will be damaged.

This argument doesn't have an ad hominem attack, but it does require the assumption that we care about "the integrity of the historical record as a whole." Let's look for something better.

(C) You should have your hair cut no more than once a month. After all, beauticians suggest that their customers have their hair cut twice a month, and they do this as a way of generating more business for themselves.

This argument does contain an ad hominem attack (those dirty beauticians are trying to rip you off!) and it further requires an assumption that you care about minimizing the amount of business you give to beauticians. I like it.

(D) The committee should endorse the plan to postpone construction of the new expressway. Many residents of the neighborhoods that would be affected are fervently opposed to that construction, and the committee is obligated to avoid alienating those residents.

Nah. There's no ad hominem attack here, and there's no assumption.

(E) One should not borrow even small amounts of money unless it is absolutely necessary. Once one borrows a few dollars, the interest starts to accumulate. The longer one takes to repay, the more one ends up owing, and eventually a small debt has become a large one.

There's no ad hominem attack here, but at least there's an assumption (that we care about avoiding large debts.)

Our answer is C, because it contains both of the flaws we were looking for.


June 2007 LSAT, III, #18

If I could teach you just one thing about the LSAT, it would be this: These arguments are sooooo stupid. Stop believing everything you read! Listen to this nonsense, from Section 3, Question 18 of the June 2007 LSAT: Editorialist: In all cultures, it is almost universally accepted that one has a moral duty to prevent members of one's family from being harmed. Thus, few would deny that if a person is known by the person's parents to be falsely accused of a crime, it would be morally right for the parents to hide the accused from the police. Hence, it is also likely to be widely accepted that it is sometimes morally right to obstruct the police in their work.

Are you effin kidding me?

The argument goes from "moral duty to prevent members of one's family from being harmed" to "hide the accused from the police" and "obstruct the police in their work." Jesus Christ! Why don't they just go the next step, to "abduct a highway patrolman" and "plant a bomb at City Hall"?

If you recognize how extreme the argument is, you're on the right track. If you say to yourself "hmmm... might there be other ways to protect my family members, that don't include obstructing the police?" you're getting even closer. Hell, I haven't even looked at the question yet, but I'm pretty sure we've answered it, whatever it may be, just based on arguing with the speaker. Let's see:

The reasoning in the editorialist's argument is most vulnerable to criticism on the grounds that this argument

Shouldn't be too tough. This question is asking us to identify a flaw inherent in the argument. I think the answer is going to be something like "makes a huge leap from protecting family members to obstructing the police." Now, on to the answer choices.

(A) utilizes a single type of example for the purpose of justifying a broad generalization

This would be the answer if the argument had said "Jews in Nazi Germany were justified hiding family members from the police, therefore all families are justified hiding family members from the police." But that's not what it said.

(B) fails to consider the possibility that other moral principles would be widely recognized as overriding any obligation to protect a family member from harm

OK, maybe. It's not exactly what I predicted, but it's at least on the right track. This one can be read to mean "sure, you have an obligation to your family... but you might also have an obligation not to obstruct the police." I like it.

(C) presumes, without providing justification, that allowing the police to arrest an innocent person assists rather than obstructs justice

Justice? Who said anything about justice? Furthermore, the argument seemed to be in favor of obstructing the police, not allowing police to arrest someone. This answer is backward at best, and irrelevant (because of "justice") at worst. No way.

(D) takes for granted that there is no moral obligation to obey the law

The law? Who said anything about the law? This answer, like C, seems outside the scope of the argument. And anyway, even if D were true, it wouldn't devastate the argument. It's possible that you DO have a moral obligation to obey the law, but the moral obligation to protect your family could override all other moral obligations. Or, maybe the law says it's OK to hide a falsely-accused family member from the police.  (Probably not, but it's possible since "the law" was never discussed in the argument.)

(E) takes for granted that the parents mentioned in the example are not mistaken about their child's innocence

Nah. The argument was theoretical. It said "IF" a person is known... to be falsely accused. The "IF" means that we can fairly assume, for the sake of argumentation, that the person was actually innocent. So the objection "they might be mistaken" is irrelevant.

Our answer is B, because it's the best expression of the outrage we felt after reading the ridiculous argument.


June 2007 LSAT, III, #17

Section 3, Question 17 of the June 2007 LSAT is easy if you argue, and impossible if you don't. Let me show you what I mean: When exercising the muscles in one's back, it is important, in order to maintain a healthy back, to exercise the muscles on opposite sides of the spine equally.

Oh reeeeeeeeeallllllly?!?! You might be right about that, but you also might be completely full of shit. Maybe I like working out just one side of my back, and maybe my back is in perfect shape. What's your evidence for your assertion that I need to exercise both sides equally? Huh buddy? Let's hear it.

After all, balanced muscle development is needed to maintain a healthy back, since the muscles on opposite sides of the spine must pull equally in opposing directions to keep the back in proper alignment and protect the spine.

Yeah, well, I still don't believe you. What does "balanced muscle development" have to do with exercise? I mean, sure, it might be reasonable to think that working out affects muscle development. But "reasonable" doesn't cut it on the LSAT. I didn't see any evidence on that. Where's your proof that exercise affects muscle development? Your argument is incomplete until you can prove that point.

The question asks,

Which one of the following is an assumption required by the argument?

Through arguing, we've already answered this Necessary Assumption question. The argument has left something out: "Exercise affects muscle development." That's necessary because if exercise does NOT affect muscle development, then the argument can't possibly make any sense. We know exactly what we're looking for, before even looking at the answer choices. Piece of cake.

(A) Muscles on opposite sides of the spine that are equally well developed will be enough to keep the back in proper alignment.

We have a really strong prediction here, and this doesn't match that prediction. We don't even need to give it a second thought, unless we look at all five answers and don't find what we're looking for.

(B) Exercising the muscles on opposite sides of the spine unequally tends to lead to unbalanced muscle development.

Bingo. This answer bridges the critical gap between "exercise" and "muscle development." If this answer is untrue, it would ruin the logic of the argument. That means it's a Necessary Assumption of the argument, and is going to be our answer.

(C) Provided that one exercises the muscles on opposite sides of the spine equally, one will have a generally healthy back.

No way. The argument never said anything about "general health." This answer can't possibly be something that's required by the argument. Plus we've already found a perfect answer, in B.

(D) If the muscles on opposite sides of the spine are exercised unequally, one's back will be irreparably damaged.

This is wrong for the same reason as C. The argument never said anything about "irreparable damage." This answer can't possibly be something that's required by the argument.

(E) One should exercise daily to ensure that the muscles on opposite sides of the spine keep the back in proper alignment.

Same thing as C and D. The argument said nothing about "daily exercise."

Our answer is B, because it must be true or else the argument will fail. That's the definition of "Necessary." We're not always able to predict the answers so easily, but it's awful nice when it happens. Remember to slow down, in order to allow yourself to make the connections more frequently. You'll pick up time in the long run.

June 2007 LSAT, III, #16

Section 3, Question 16 of the June 2007 LSAT contains an incomplete argument: Philosopher:  Nations are not literally persons; they have no thoughts or feelings, and, literally speaking, they perform no actions. Thus they have no moral rights or responsibilities. But no nation can survive unless many of its citizens attribute such rights and responsibilities to it, for nothing else could prompt people to make the sacrifices national citizenship demands. Obviously, then, a nation _______.

It's not an easy argument to swallow, so I'll do my best to nibble at it piece by piece. The first two sentences seem to contain an assumption. Evidence: Nations are not literally persons. Conclusion: Nations have no moral rights or responsibilities. Assumption: If you aren't literally a person, then you have no moral rights or responsibilities. OK, I'm following along so far.

The third sentence also seems to contain an assumption. Evidence: If citizens don't attribute moral rights and responsibilities to their nation, they won't make sacrifices national citizenship demands. Conclusion: No nation can survive unless citizens attribute moral rights and responsibilities to their nation. Assumption: Citizen sacrifice is necessary for a nation to survive.

I'm not exactly thrilled to be reading this argument--actually, I'd rather be getting kicked repeatedly in the nuts--but I think I have a handle on the evidence (and missing evidence) so far.

The question says,

Which one of the following most logically completes the philosopher's argument?

So it's our job to fill in the end of the argument. "Obviously, then, a nation _______."

If I were to summarize the argument so far, I'd say something like "Nations have no moral rights or responsibilities," and "Nations can't survive unless citizens believe nations have moral rights or responsibilities.' That seems to indicate a problem for nations, doesn't it? If citizens realize that their nations don't have rights, they'll stop making sacrifices and their nations will fail to survive? So I'm thinking it's logical to conclude something like "Nations can't survive unless their citizens are misinformed about whether nations have moral rights or responsibilities." Let's look at the answer choices.

(A) [Obviously, then, a nation] cannot continue to exist unless something other than the false belief that the nation has moral rights motivates its citizens to make sacrifices.

Nope. Nations don't need citizens to believe in "something other than" the false belief that the nation has moral rights. Nations can only survive if citizens believe that particular false belief. A substitute won't do.

(B) [Obviously, then, a nation] cannot survive unless many of its citizens have some beliefs that are literally false.

Exactly. Remember that the word "some" just means "one or more." So all we need is one example of a false belief that needs to be held by citizens in order for nations to survive. And we have it... if citizens don't believe the falsehood that their nations have moral rights, then nations will fail to survive. This is logical, conservatively stated completion of the argument.

(C) [Obviously, then, a nation] can never be a target of moral praise or blame.

Praise and blame were never mentioned in the given facts. Since we're looking for something that's supported by the given facts, we can't possibly choose this answer.

(D) [Obviously, then, a nation] is not worth the sacrifices that its citizens make on its behalf.

We can dismiss this one just as easily as C. The facts simply weren't about anything being "worth" making sacrifices. The facts did mention sacrifices, but only that they wouldn't be made in certain circumstances... there was no mention of whether or not making sacrifices is "worth" anything.

(E) [Obviously, then, a nation] should always be thought of in metaphorical rather than literal terms.

They saved the worst answer for last on this one. These Complete the Argument questions are super-similar to Must Be True questions... ideally, we're going to pick an answer that has been proven by the given facts. "Metaphorical" and "literal" isn't even in the same ballpark as the facts we were presented. Terrible answer.

The argument was difficult, but the correct answer was actually pretty easy to pick. Patience really pays off here. Make sure you're taking plenty of time with the argument, before you waste time looking at the answer choices. If you don't know what's in the argument, the question is going to be impossible anyway. If you slow down, you'll find yourself getting many more questions right, and you'll also go faster in the long run.


June 2007 LSAT, III, #15

Section 3, Question 15 of the June 2007 LSAT presents this stinker of an argument: A consumer magazine surveyed people who had sought a psychologist's help with a personal problem. Of those responding who had received treatment for 6 months or less, 20 percent claimed that treatment “made things a lot better.” Of those responding who had received longer treatment, 36 percent claimed that treatment “made things a lot better.” Therefore, psychological treatment lasting more than 6 months is more effective than shorter-term treatment.

Ideally, you'll be able to poke holes in this one before proceeding to the answer choices. This isn't the only way to do the test, but it's the best one. Can you tell me why the above argument is bullshit?

Ask yourself:  What's the evidence?  What's the conclusion?  Does it add up?

I think the evidence basically boils down to "those who received treatment for longer than 6 months were more likely to report that the treatment helped than those who received treatment for 6 months or less." The conclusion is "psychological treatment lasting more than 6 months is more effective than shorter-term treatment."

It's not unreasonable, but it's not proven either. Imagine if the argument had said "people who buy $300 bottles of wine are more likely to report that the wine they drink is excellent than are people who buy Two Buck Chuck, therefore wine that is more expensive is clearly better wine." Wouldn't you argue with that? I'd say something like "well of course douches who waste $300 on a bottle of wine are more likely to say the wine they drink is excellent. If they didn't say that, why the hell would they buy the wine? That doesn't mean they are right though." In other words, it's likely that people who think $300 wine is good are those who will buy it. This doesn't prove it's actually good though.

Same deal with the argument presented in question 15. It's likely that people who think a psychologist is helping them tend to stay in treatment longer. So when they report their own results, it appears as if people who stay in treatment longer get better results. But actually, all that might be happening is selection bias.

The question asks,

Which one of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

Great, because I've already been arguing. I'm not 100% certain that my hypothesis above will be related to the correct answer, but it certainly could be used as a weapon. Something like "people who think therapy is working are more likely to stay in therapy for a longer period" would be a pretty devastating weakener. Time to look at the answer choices.

(A) Of the respondents who had received treatment for longer than 6 months, 10 percent said that treatment made things worse.

This would neither strengthen nor weaken the argument, because it doesn't provide any comparison with the group who received treatment for less than 6 months. If only 5 percent of those who received treatment for less than 6 months said the treatment made them feel worse, then yes this would be a weakener. But if 50 percent of the shorter-term patients said treatment made them feel worse, then this answer would actually strengthen the argument. So this one is out.

(B) Patients who had received treatment for longer than 6 months were more likely to respond to the survey than were those who had received treatment for a shorter time.

Tricky, but no. The raw number of responses isn't at issue at here. The only thing that's at issue is the results of the survey. Why did those who had longer treatment report better results? Was it because of the quality of the treatment, or was it because of something else?

(C) Patients who feel they are doing well in treatment tend to remain in treatment, while those who are doing poorly tend to quit earlier.

Bingo. This matches our prediction, above. If this is true, then the survey isn't proving that longer treatment is better, just that people who feel they are getting benefit out of treatment tend to stay in treatment longer. I'm 99% certain this will be our answer, but I'll always read D and E just in case.

(D) Patients who were dissatisfied with their treatment were more likely to feel a need to express their feelings about it and thus to return the survey.

Almost the same explanation as B. The argument was trying to explain a qualitative difference in the responses from two different groups of patients. The quantity of responses doesn't help with that.

(E) Many psychologists encourage their patients to receive treatment for longer than 6 months.

So what? How does this change the given argument?

Our answer is C, because if C is true it would seriously interfere with the conclusion that the argument attempted to make.

June 2007 LSAT, III, #14

Section 3, Question 14 of the June 2007 LSAT is a reading comprehension question in disguise. The argument provided is a beast, and the first, most important thing to do here is simply to stay awake and pay attention. Ready?  Here it comes:

Commentator: In academic scholarship, sources are always cited, and methodology and theoretical assumptions are set out, so as to allow critical study, replication, and expansion of scholarship. In open-source software, the code in which the program is written can be viewed and modified by individual users for their purposes without getting permission from the producer or paying a fee. In contrast, the code of proprietary software is kept secret, and modifications can be made only by the producer, for a fee. This shows that open-source software better matches the values embodied in academic scholarship, and since scholarship is central to the mission of universities, universities should use only open-source software. 

This question should be manageable, as long as you're still conscious. The enemy here is letting your eyes glaze over, losing focus, and "reading" without really reading. Do you understand the basic gist of what the argument says? If you can't recap it for me in a sentence, then you don't really understand. Read it again if you need to... make sure you understand the basic point of the argument.

OK, here's my understanding of the argument. Basically, the commentator is saying "since open source software matches the same values as those embodied in academic scholarship, universities should use only open-source software." You don't have to articulate it in exactly that way, but you do need to get pretty close. Otherwise, you didn't read closely enough, and you don't really understand what the commentator is saying.

Of course, I will try to argue with this point because arguing helps me predict answer choices in advance and more deeply understand the argument. I don't think the argument is horrible here, but I don't think it's rock solid either. What if there is a critical piece of software that is simply unavailable as open source? You've said "universities should only use open-source." Does this mean the university should just shut down, or go old school and use pencil and paper, maybe an abacus, whenever it can't find an open source solution for every problem?

Now I can proceed to the question. Here it is:

The commentator's reasoning most closely conforms to which one of the following principles? 

In other words, the question is asking us to identify a principle that underlies, or matches, the commentator's argument. Again, the commentator is basically saying "since open source software matches the same values as those embodied in academic scholarship, universities should use only open-source software." Let's find an answer that matches.

(A)  Whatever software tools are most advanced and can achieve the goals of academic scholarship are the ones that should alone be used in universities.

Not even close. This would be a perfectly reasonable strategy--let's just use whatever software is best!--but that's definitely not what the commentator was saying. The commentator wants to use only open source, regardless of how advanced the software is. 

(B)  Universities should use the type of software technology that is least expensive, as long as that type of software technology is adequate for the purposes of academic scholarship.

Again, not even close. "Least expensive" might, in the real world, mean "open source." But you're not allowed to bring in that outside information. The commentator didn't say "let's choose open source because it is the cheapest"... she said "let's choose open source because it matches the values of academic scholarship."

(C)  Universities should choose the type of software technology that best matches the values embodied in the activities that are central to the mission of universities.

Yep, exactly. This matches our prediction. Let's just skim D and E quickly, so we can move on.

(D)  The form of software technology that best matches the values embodied in the activities that are central to the mission of universities is the form of software technology that is most efficient for universities to use.

Nah. The commentator never spoke about what is "most efficient" for universities to use. This answer is overly convoluted, and misstates the commentator's proposal.

(E)  A university should not pursue any activity that would block the achievement of the goals of academic scholarship at that university. 

Again, this just doesn't match the commentator's statement. She didn't say "let's not do things that block academic scholarship." Rather, she said "let's pick software that embodies the values of academic scholarship." Our answer is C, because it's the best match.

June 2007 LSAT, III, #13

LSAT arguments frequently don't make sense, but sometimes they can be made to make a bit more sense by rearranging them slightly. Section 3, Question 13 of the June 2007 LSAT is a good example. Here's the argument as it was presented on the test: Therapist: Cognitive psychotherapy focuses on changing a patient's conscious beliefs. Thus, cognitive psychotherapy is likely to be more effective at helping patients overcome psychological problems than are forms of psychotherapy that focus on changing unconscious beliefs and desires, since only conscious beliefs are under the patient's direct conscious control. 

That's probably not how I would have structured my argument. Would you? I doubt it. With the exact same facts, and exact same conclusion, the argument is a lot easier to follow if it's rearranged like this:

Therapist: Only conscious beliefs are under the patient's direct conscious control. Cognitive psychotherapy focuses on changing a patient's conscious beliefs. Thus, cognitive psychotherapy is likely to be more effective at helping patients overcome psychological problems than are forms of psychotherapy that focus on changing unconscious beliefs and desires.

To me, that makes a lot more sense... it's easier to follow an argument when it starts with the evidence, and finishes with the conclusion. The conclusion of this argument is "cognitive psychotherapy is likely to be more effective at helping patients overcome psychological problems than are forms of psychotherapy that focus on changing unconscious beliefs and desires." Why does the therapist believe this? Well, "only conscious beliefs are under a patient's direct conscious control, and cognitive psychotherapy focuses on changing a patient's conscious beliefs."

The argument, rearranged, is now easier to follow. But that doesn't mean it's a good argument. There's a hole here, isn't there? I think so... I think this argument is bullshit, actually, because it assumes that "conscious control" is required, or at least helpful, for patients to overcome psychological problems. Imagine if I were arguing with the therapist, and I said something like this:

Bullshit! Many psychological problems have nothing to do with conscious beliefs, or things that are under the patient's direct conscious control. Therefore hypnotism, and other forms of psychotherapy that focus on the unconscious, are every bit as effective as cognitive psychotherapy, and in many cases even more effective than cognitive psychotherapy.

I think that's a pretty strong attack. Having said that, I now feel equipped to see what the question is asking:

Which one of the following, if true, would most strengthen the therapist's argument? 

OK, no problem. Since we've already come up with a strong attack against the argument--we know why the argument is bullshit--we can strengthen the argument by defending it against that attack. Our attack basically boils down to "conscious beliefs and conscious control are unimportant when it comes to overcoming psychological problems." So a great defense against that attack would be "conscious beliefs and conscious control are necessary in order for a patient to overcome psychological problems.  (Stated in a somewhat different way, "conscious beliefs and control are the only way for a patient to overcome psychological problems."

Let's see if we can find something like that in the answer choices:

(A) Psychological problems are frequently caused by unconscious beliefs that could be changed with the aid of psychotherapy.

This would weaken the argument, and we were asked to strengthen it. So this is out.

(B) It is difficult for any form of psychotherapy to be effective without focusing on mental states that are under the patient's direct conscious control.

I love this answer. It is very similar to "conscious control is necessary"... it's a great fit with our prediction.

(C) Cognitive psychotherapy is the only form of psychotherapy that focuses primarily on changing the patient's conscious beliefs.

Nope... not as good as (B). This answer, if true, does nothing to show that conscious beliefs are important when trying to fix psychological problems. So this answer doesn't protect the argument's major weakness.

(D) No form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing the patient's unconscious beliefs and desires can be effective unless it also helps change beliefs that are under the patient's direct conscious control.

This is a bizarre answer, because it mixes the two different types of psychotherapy (conscious and unconscious) that were being compared in the argument. This is just a mess... what do hybrid forms of therapy have to do with the therapist's argument?

(E) All of a patient's conscious beliefs are under the patient's conscious control, but other psychological states cannot be controlled effectively without the aid of psychotherapy. 

This answer is another mess... it takes lots of concepts from the therapist's argument, puts them in a blender, and pours out a bucket of mystery slop. I don't see how this statement, if true, would eliminate unconscious forms of psychotherapy.

Our answer is B. The best way to get past D and E on this question is to positively identify B as something that would strengthen the argument by defending it. I've said it a million times... you must predict the answers in advance. If you find yourself spending a lot of time in the answer choices, comparing one against the other, you are doing it wrong. You must engage with the arguments deeply enough to be able to understand what's missing. If you can do that, then only one (or sometimes perhaps two) answers will look attractive at all... the others can be easily skipped. This is a much faster, and much more accurate, way to attack the LSAT.



June 2007 LSAT, III, #12

Onward through the June 2007 LSAT. Section 3, Question 12 very simply asks us to identify the main conclusion of an argument. Like this: Which one of the following most accurately expresses the conclusion drawn in the argument? 

Shouldn't be too tough.

To answer a main conclusion question, ask yourself "why is the speaker wasting my time with this?" Your answer to that question will be something like "well, the author was trying to prove XYZ." From there, all you have to do is pick the answer choice that best matches your prediction.

Here, the author has said three things:

1) Novel X and Novel Y are both semiautobiographical novels and contain many very similar themes and situations, which might lead one to suspect plagiarism on the part of one of the authors.

2) However, it is more likely that the similarity of themes and situations in the two novels is merely coincidental...

3) ...since both authors are from very similar backgrounds and have led similar lives.

The order in which the elements are presented is irrelevant to the logic. The main point can be first, last, or in the middle. But some of the things the speaker says provide support for the other things the speaker is says. The thing that is supported by the other things will be the answer. Like this:

"Both authors are from very similar backgrounds and have led similar lives" tends to support the idea that "the similarity of themes and situations in the two novels is merely coincidental." So the author seems to disagree with anyone who suspects plagiarism.

The conclusion of the argument is "it is more likely that the similarity of themes and situations in the two novels is merely coincidental," since that's what the author was trying to prove.

A)  This doesn't match our prediction. We need "coincidental," or a synonym, in our answer.

B)  This was the first sentence of the argument, but the speaker went on to say "actually, it's probably just coincidental." So this can't be the author's main point.

C)  This was evidence that supports the author's main point, but not the main point itself.

D)  This is the best answer so far. It comes closest to matching our prediction.

E)  This goes further than the speaker actually went. The speaker says "it's probably not plagiarism," but that doesn't mean that the author thinks suspicion of plagiarism is unwarranted. Furthermore, the facts already state that the two authors are from very similar backgrounds, so this answer is nonsensical when it starts off with "if they are from similar backgrounds, then..." We already know they are from similar backgrounds!

Our answer is D, because it best matches the author's main conclusion. This is a very basic type of question. Master this one first, before proceeding to other, more difficult, types of questions.

June 2007 LSAT, III, #11

Section 3, Question #11, of the June 2007 LSAT presents yet another ridiculous argument. "Feathers from birds stuffed in the 1880s contain only half as much mercury as feathers recently taken from living birds, and mercury comes from fish, therefore today's fish must have more mercury than they did in the old days." No, your results do not indicate what you think they indicate. STFU... I will be back to deal with you in a minute.

Dear students:  I yell about this constantly, but no more than necessary. It's the most important thing I can teach you about LSAT Logical Reasoning. If you don't argue with the speaker when you're doing LR, you are doing it wrong. The argument above is asinine, and your primary task is to tell the speaker why he is full of shit. If you can tell the speaker why he is full of shit, the LSAT will become easier than you ever thought possible. If you can't, the test will remain a mystery.

So think about it for a second, before looking at the answer choices. Start by accepting the speaker's facts as true. It's a fact that the old birds contain less mercury in their feathers than modern birds do. And it's a fact that mercury in feathers comes from fish that are eaten by the birds. The part we're going to disagree with is the speaker's conclusion:  "These results indicate that mercury levels in saltwater fish are higher now than they were 100 years ago."

Why might the old birds have less mercury in their feathers? The speaker has proposed one explanation. It's possible that today's fish have more mercury. Sure. But that's not proven, nor is it the only explanation. If we can come up with another explanation, we can show the speaker to be full of shit. So,

  • How does the speaker know that mercury in feathers doesn't degrade over time? Maybe yesterday's fish had exactly the same amount of mercury in their feathers, or even more mercury in their feathers, but the mercury has evaporated in the last 130 years since the bird died.
  • Or maybe there's something in the "stuffing and preserving" process that removes mercury?
  • Or maybe seabirds from the 1880s didn't eat as much fish? Maybe they also ate crabs or bugs or something, that didn't have mercury?

And on, and on, and on. Any of the above, if true, would destroy the argument's assertion that today's fish must have more mercury in them than fish in the 1880s. We're 90% of the way to our answer.

So now, let's go ahead and look at the question. It says

"The argument depends on assuming that"

This is a Necessary Assumption question. For your reference, here's a post on what Assumption means, and here's a post on what Necessary Assumption means. In short, our job is to find an answer that must be true or else the argument will fail. I bet the correct answer will be related to one of our objections above. Here's what I mean.

Above, I predicted that if mercury in feathers evaporates over time, the argument makes no sense. So the argument has assumed, necessarily, that mercury in feathers does not evaporate over time.

Above, I predicted that if something in the stuffing and preserving process removes mercury from feathers, the argument makes no sense. So the argument has assumed, necessarily, that the stuffing and preserving process does not remove mercury from feathers.

Above, I predicted that if seabirds in the 1880s didn't eat fish, the argument makes no sense. So the argument has assumed, necessarily, that seabirds in the 1880s did eat fish.

Are you picking up what I'm laying down? For each one of my objections, I can phrase it in the form of a Necessary Assumption. Every weak spot in the argument can be phrased as an attack "1880s seabirds didn't eat fish!" or as a Necessary Assumption that defends against that attack:  "1880s seabirds did eat fish."

The point I'm trying to get at is this:  No matter what type of question you're dealing with, you can always benefit from attacking the logic of the argument.

This one is fully cooked... I'm extremely confident that we've already identified the correct answer. Let's jump into the answer choices:

A)  This answer would weaken the argument. It matches one of my attacks, above. On a Necessary Assumption question, we need to find an answer that helps the argument. Frequently, the correct answer will help the argument by defending against an attack. But it will never be the attack itself.

B)  Pollution? I don't see how pollution can be relevant to this argument. The point wasn't why there is more or less mercury in fish... the point was whether there is more mercury in today's fish. This isn't the answer.

C)  Nah. Feather growth is also irrelevant.

D)  This, like A, would weaken the argument. If this answer is true, it points to another potential explanation for why the 1880s feathers had less mercury. We need an answer that supports the author's given explanation.

E)  Yep, exactly. This matches our second prediction above, about the stuffing and preserving process. If this answer is untrue, the argument is in serious trouble. If the stuffing process does remove mercury from feathers, then how can the speaker possibly conclude that today's fish have more mercury? E is a Necessary Assumption that defends the argument from a devastating attack. So it's our answer.

June 2007 LSAT, III, #10

Onward through Section 3 of the June 2007 LSAT. Here, we're presented with an incomplete argument. It basically says "people are more likely to change their mind about something they dislike if they are linked in advertisements with pictures, rather than just prose, to things about which they have positive attitudes.  Therefore, advertisers are likely to ________." The question says "Which one of the following most logically completes the argument." So our task is to fill in the blank. Hmm. Let's think for a second. What's something people dislike? Well, some people dislike Obama. Others dislike Romney. So what would an advertiser do, if he was trying to change your mind? Fairly straightforward, according to the argument above. All you have to do is this:

Show a picture of Obama cheers-ing with a beer!

Definitely works for me. Or, you know, this:

Show a picture of Romney happily holding a visibly terrified baby!

OK, maybe that one one didn't work out so well. But you get the point.

According to the argument, advertisers can get you to change your mind about something by associating a picture of something you like with the thing you hate.

With that, I'm pretty sure we've already answered the question. Let's see:

A)  Huh? Nah... the point of the argument wasn't "don't use words." The point of the argument was "use pictures in addition to words." Those aren't exactly the same thing, so this answer is probably a trap.

B)  Again, no. The point wasn't "advertisers should choose products that are photogenic." The point was "associate happy pictures, not just words, with whatever ugly thing you are trying to pump up."

C) This answer makes no sense, because both TV and magazines have pictures. Next please!

D) This is probably a good idea... "hey! Look how ugly our opposition is!"... but it's not the point of the argument. I sure hope E makes sense...

E)  Yes, exactly. If you want to attract my vote, show Obama with a beer. I like beer. Mmmm... beer. Our answer is E, because it's the best description of the overall point of the argument. Too easy!

June 2007 LSAT, III, #9 -- or, Curt Schilling is a douche

I hope you're not tired of reading it, because I'm not going to stop saying it: You must argue with the speaker, and you must try to predict these answers in advance. The arguments are largely bullshit, and your job is always to figure out why they are bullshit. You must cultivate an adversarial attitude. Put a chip on your shoulder, and try your best to disagree with the speaker. On question #9 in Section 3 of the June 2007 LSAT, the naturalist concludes that the Tasmanian Tiger is extinct. The evidence to support this assertion is as follows: 1) The Tasmanian Tiger's natural habitat has been taken over by sheep farming, and the Tiger has been systematically eliminated from this area. 2) Naturalists have found no hard evidence of the Tiger's survival. That's the evidence in support of "the Tiger is extinct." The argument then acknowledges, but dismisses, some "alleged sightings" of the Tiger that have been reported, but not confirmed to the naturalist's satisfaction. (Obviously, these sightings go precisely against the Naturalist's conclusion.)

Why is the argument bullshit? Well, for one thing--and this is will almost certainly be related to the eventual correct answer, no matter what type of question this turns out to be--couldn't the Tiger have moved to a different habitat? The argument basically says "Because Curt Schilling went bankrupt making video games, and has now been evicted from his house (this hasn't actually happened yet, but I can dream), Curt Schilling is therefore dead." Now, as much as I wish Curt Schilling were dead--I have always hated that blowhard, and his downfall pleases me greatly--the fact that we can't find him at his house doesn't mean he is dead.

What does this have to do with the Tasmanian Tiger? Am I babbling, or did I just answer the question? Let's see.

Which one of the following is an assumption on which the naturalist's argument depends? 

Yeah, too easy. My dumbass example has assumed that if Curt Schilling isn't at home, then Curt Schilling is dead. Our dumbass naturalist has assumed that if the Tasmanian Tiger isn't in its natural habitat, then the Tasmanian Tiger is extinct. Are you picking up what I'm laying down?

A) Not what I'm looking for. When I have such a strong prediction, I'll quickly dismiss all other answers, looking for the one that's perfect.

B) Also not what I'm looking for.

C) Also not what I'm looking for.

D) Yeah, exactly. If Curt Schilling has moved from his mansion into a van down by the river, then he can still be alive. If the Tasmanian Tiger has moved from its natural habitat into Curt Schilling's foreclosed mansion, then the Tasmanian Tiger might not be extinct. This is a perfect answer.

E) Not what I'm looking for.

Our answer is D. If you'd like to make a case for A, B, C, or E... feel free to email me! I'd be happy to tell you specifically why each one of them is not the answer. But I honestly wouldn't waste time on the real test trying to figure out what's wrong with each of them. We knew why the argument was bullshit, and D points it out. Simple as that.

June 2007 LSAT, III, #8

If there's any Logical Reasoning question that should teach you how to properly call "bullshit," it's this one. The key is the very first word:  "Advertisement." If you can't learn to argue with ads--which everyone knows and expects to be bullshit--you simply might not be cut out to be a lawyer. You must argue! Section 3, question number 8 on the June 2007 LSAT talks about a supposed "test" conducted by the Fabric-Soft corporation. They used over 100 consumers -- which seems like a decent sample size -- and asked them which towel they preferred: A towel washed with Fabric-Soft, and a towel washed without Fabric-Soft. Surprise surprise, the consumers preferred the towel washed with Fabric-Soft! Therefore, the advertisement concludes, Fabric-Soft is the best. Aren't you surprised that they reached that conclusion? You're shocked, right? Tell me you're shocked.

No, of course you're not. It's fairly obvious here that Fabric-Soft has gamed the test in their own favor. How do you think they did it?

I have a couple ideas here: First, maybe they washed one towel in Fabric-Soft, and washed the other towel in horse urine. We aren't told that that didn't happen, which means it's possible. And if they really did wash the other towel in horse urine, the study only proves that people like Fabric-Soft better than horse urine--not that Fabric-Soft is actually the best.

Another possible trick, and this is something more subtle, is that the 100 consumers in the study might have been used to Fabric-Soft. Their grandmothers had used it, their mothers had used it--they'd been smelling Fabric-Soft every day of their lives for 50 years. If that were true, might it also be true that they'd prefer Fabric-Soft even if it smells like ass to anyone who isn't used to it? In this scenario, the test hasn't proved that Fabric-Soft is objectively the best; rather, it has proved that these 100 people are used to Fabric-Soft and therefore prefer it to other fabric softeners.

Armed with a couple objections, it's time to read the question. The question says

The advertisement's reasoning is most vulnerable to criticism on the grounds that it fails to consider whether...

This is a Flaw question. We need an answer choice that points out a reason why the test might not really prove that Fabric-Soft is best. No problem, since we've already spelled out two objections above. Time to check out the answer choices.

A)  Nah, I don't think allergies are relevant here. And even if allergies were relevant, this answer choice wouldn't show whether Fabric-Soft specifically gives people allergic reactions... this answer choice is only about the broad category of "fabric softeners." Even if all fabric softeners, including Fabric-Soft, gave people immediate outbreaks of hives all over their bodies, Fabric-Soft could still be the best fabric softener.

B)  This is a trap. The fact that you believe that the environment is important doesn't mean the environment is relevant when deciding on the most effective fabric softener. The argument specifically used softness and smell to argue that Fabric-Soft is the best. I'd really prefer an answer that points out that the test might have been slanted in some way, so that Fabric-Soft might not actually be the softest or the best-smelling.

C)  Same explanation as A and B. Cost isn't relevant, if cost wasn't used in the argument.  Anyway, who is to say whether cheaper or more expensive is better? I'd prefer something cheaper, all else equal, but then again more expensive things might be more expensive because they are better quality.

D)  No, the argument is not about the use of fabric softeners vs. no fabric softeners at all. It's about whether Fabric-Soft is the best fabric softener.

E)  Ahhh... finally. The advertisement said one towel was washed with Fabric-Soft, and the other one was washed "without." This means the other towel might have been washed in plain water, or in horse urine. If either of those two things are true, then how could we possibly know that Fabric-Soft is the best fabric softener? Our answer is E, because it points out a devastating hole in the argument.

Quick note: If you enjoy these explanations, and you'd like a whole bunch more of them, don't forget to check out my books! They go on sale periodically on Amazon... make sure you grab them when you see a deal. Also, if you need help with logic games, consider purchasing my DVD. It's four hours worth of me explaining logic games from 2011. It's as good as being in the classroom with me, except you can pause, rewind, rewatch, and watch in your underwear. Give it a shot.





June 2007 LSAT, III, #7

Onward through the June 2007 LSAT. Section 3, number 7 presents a conversation between two people, Antonio and Maria. The question asks "Antonio and Maria disagree over," so the task here is to figure out what Antonio and Maria are really fighting about. Are they fighting about the evidence? If so, which part of the evidence? Or do they agree about the evidence, but disagree about what that evidence means, i.e., the conclusion? Let's see. I can usually predict this sort of question in advance with a reasonable degree of certainty, since the question only makes sense if the two speakers' statements prove that they disagree about something. Here goes: Antonio says moderation causes one to "lose the joy of spontaneity" and "miss the opportunities that come to those who... take great chances or go too far." Maria says that the kind of moderation that causes one to never risk going too far is actually a failure to live moderately; she concludes that "one must be moderate even in one's moderation."

This conversation greatly bores me, but I still think we can answer the question. Basically, they are arguing about the nature of moderation. Antonio says one can be moderate by never taking risks, Maria says one must take some risks to be moderate. Actually, let's make it more interesting by pretending they're talking about beer.

Even as an atheist, I still believe this is evidence that God loves me and wants me to be happy.

Antonio thinks one can be "moderate" by never drinking any beer at all. Maria thinks one can NOT be "moderate" with this kind of teetotaling. Maria would advise that to be "moderate" a person should have a beer now and again (but don't go too far and end up in the gutter).

Make sense? Let's see if we've predicted the answer:

A) Nope. All they're arguing about is the definition of "moderation." Neither speaker has taken a position on whether or not moderation, or taking chances, is desirable.

B)  I think this is probably it. This basically means "they are arguing about the definition of moderation."

C)  Definitely not. Neither speaker talks about the compatibility of "other virtues" (honestly, perhaps) with moderation.

D)  Nope. Same explanation as A.

E)  Nope, same explanation as D and E.

Predict the answer to this type of question in advance! Don't look at the answer choices until you've got a very good idea what the real argument is about.


Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

June 2007 LSAT, III, #6

Section 3, #6, of the June 2007 LSAT is about a car dealer who donates cars to driver education programs "because she wanted to do something to encourage better driving in young drivers." This is just about the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard. Car dealers do things for one reason, and one reason only: TO SELL MORE CARS. As it turns out, huge shocker, "some members of the community have shown their support for this action by purchasing cars from Jablonski's dealership." What a bunch of suckers.

The question asks "Which one of the following propositions is best illustrated by the passage?" I'll try to predict it before looking at the answer choices. I think a good answer would be "Sometimes you can pretend to be altruistic even when you're an obvious sleazeball, and idiots will believe you and do nice things for you. Because people are just THAT stupid." Let's see:

A)  The given facts do not say that driver education is the ONLY way to reduce traffic accidents. Driver education is the only way that happens to have been mentioned here, but that doesn't mean there aren't also a million other better ways. This is not even close to a good answer.

B)  Yeah, this is probably it. I personally don't believe that Jablonski was even being altruistic in the first place, but if you do believe she was being altruistic, then the fact that people ended up buying cars from her as a result of her "altruistic" actions definitely qualifies as a "positive consequence." I hope C-E all suck so I can pick B.

C)  What? No. This answer is just as bad as A, for the same reason. Just because young drivers are ONE group that can benefit doesn't mean they are the MOST LIKELY group to benefit.

D)  This is almost certain to be true in real life. But the LSAT is NOT about what's true in real life. It's about answering the question that has been asked. On this question, we're asked to identify an answer choice that has been "illustrated by the passage." It's true that something good happened to Jablonski in this one instance, but that doesn't illustrate the proposition that it's USUALLY in one's best interest to do something good for others. Like A and C, this answer is way too bold... the given facts simply don't prove this to be true.

E)  What? No way. The facts don't even mention "broad community support." We have "some members of the community" supporting an action, but that's not necessarily the same thing as "broad" support. And even if it was, all we would have is ONE INSTANCE of support for an action, which wouldn't mean that support is necessary for EVERY successful action. Not close. Our answer is B, because the given facts are a clear illustration of an "altruistic" action resulting in benefits to the actor.



June 2007 LSAT, III, #5

Just ARGUE. That's all you have to do. The conclusion in Question #5, Section 3 of the June 2007 LSAT is "the ants were not bringing food to their neighbors." The evidence is "the ants were emptying their own colony's dumping site." The problem with this logic is that it's possible that the ants were feeding their garbage to their neighbors.

That's nasty, but it's possible. If it were true, the argument would make no sense. Since I've identified the huge hole in the argument, I've already answered the question--even though I haven't seen what the question actually asks yet.

The question says "Atrens's conclusion follows logically if which one of the following is assumed?" This is a Sufficient Assumption question.

I've done a lot of writing about Sufficient Assumptions recently:  Here's what "sufficient" means. And here's what "assumption" means. Put those two together, and here's what "Sufficient Assumption" means. Master the basics and this is a very easy type of question.

Basically, all I have to do is take Atrens's evidence, add one piece of additional evidence (the correct answer) and PROVE the conclusion of Atrens's argument. I can usually predict the answer on a question like this before looking at the answer choices. And I'll always try, because predicting answers makes it a lot easier to avoid traps and distractions.

I think a perfect bridge between Atrens's evidence and Atrens's conclusion would be "no creature feeds its garbage to its neighbors." If that's true, then the hole in Atrens's argument has been perfectly plugged. Let's see if that's it.

A)  This isn't what I'm looking for. And I don't see how, if it were true, it would prove that the ants weren't feeding garbage to their neighbors. (Humans don't feed garbage to their neighbors, do they?)

B)  Again, not what I'm looking for. This is a problematic answer because if there is "only weak evidence" that means there IS some evidence which may or may not be good. This is so wishy-washy that I doubt it could be used to conclusively PROVE anything.

C)  This is it. If this is true, then ants can't be feeding their garbage to their neighbors. I'm almost positive this will be our answer. Let's just glance and D and E to make sure one of them doesn't look really attractive.

D)  Nah. This wouldn't prove that the ants aren't receiving garbage as food.

E)  No, it's not relevant whether the entymologist retracted his conclusion. The only thing that's relevant is whether the entomologist was right or wrong. (You can retract a position that is wrong, or retract a position that is right.) Our answer is C, because if it is true then it PROVES Atrens's conclusion.



June 2007 LSAT, III, #4

Question #4, Section 3 of the June 2007 LSAT mentions motivational posters, which made me think of the far-more-awesome de-motivational poster, so I figured I'd make a de-motivational poster for my LSAT students. I proudly present you with this:

It's probably bad for business, but I honestly don't give a shit. If I can talk you out of law school, then you should never have been there in the first place. A recent private seminar student of mine kicked ass on the LSAT, then told me that he was taking an additional year before applying because he wanted an additional year to pursue Plan A, which is music--he's a music teacher by trade, and has musical aspirations. Law school is Plan B for him at best, and he's decided to wait at least a year before applying. My heart swells with pride. If law is your passion, then by all means go for it. Is law your passion?

Law is not my passion. Teaching is my passion. I was born to help people 1) kick ass on the LSAT and 2) make good decisions about whether or not to go to law school. I'm good at it, I love it, and I get paid for it. If you can say those three things about your current job, or about any other job, then don't go to law school. But if you're still here, and you suspect that law might meet those three criteria, then I'm here to help you with the LSAT. Let's get it on.

The argument basically says "because a certain goal is already being achieved, it's not possible to make a new plan that would also work in the direction of this goal." This argument can fuck right off. This is like saying "because you've stopped eating donuts, which has already helped you lose weight, stopping eating cheeseburgers is unlikely to benefit your weight loss." That's obviously stupid. Just because you're already doing well at something does NOT mean that you can't do even better. Pushups will build your pecs, even if your pecs are already huge from the bench press.

The question asks "The reasoning in the argument is most vulnerable to criticism on the grounds that the argument"... fill in the blank. Well, I've already filled in this blank, way before looking at the answer choices. This is the key to the LSAT--you must CRITICIZE and ATTACK the horrible nonsense that the test is guaranteed to put in front of you.

GET PISSED OFF. The madder you get, the better you're likely to do on the LSAT.

A) Irrelevant. The argument is only about companies that have already started using the posters (which, as a group, already have productive workers.) Companies that have not started to use the posters are not subject of the argument, and are irrelevant.

B) No. "Corporations in general" aren't relevant either. I'm looking for an answer that basically says "our workers are already productive, but we can always do better."

C) No, "similar beneficial effects" aren't relevant. We're not looking for "similar beneficial effects" (such as, for example, the comedic effect of having these cheesy motivational posters around.) We're looking for "these posters will make our workers even more productive.

D)  No, productivity is the only relevant factor to this argument, since the conclusion is only about the intended purpose of increasing motivation.

E)  Boom. This is precisely what I was looking for. A-D didn't titillate me in the slightest, since I had already made up my mind before even looking at the answer choices. Our answer is E, because it best identifies the major flaw in the argument.

June 2007 LSAT, Game 3, #12

Onward through Game Three of the June 2007 LSAT. Here's our setup for this Game. Question #12 says "Which one of the following CANNOT be true about Freedom's schedule of voyages?" So the question is telling us that the four incorrect answers could be true. The single, correct answer must be false.

There's really no way to predict this one in advance, because I haven't been given any new information to work with. Instead, I'm just going to tackle the answer choices and see which one seems like it would be a problem.  

A) T in week 6... Wait, what? The second rule says "T will be the destination in week 7," right? And the last rule says "no destination will be scheduled for consecutive weeks," right? Well if those two things are true, then... how can T be the destination in week 6? Uhhhhhhh, well, it can't. I didn't think this question would be this easy, but I'm 99.99% sure this will be our answer.

B) M in week 5... I see no reason why this would be a problem. In reality, I wouldn't even test this since I am so certain that A won't work. But for teaching purposes, what if we started with this?

M G  J  __  M  __  T

Boy, it sure seems like that would work. I wouldn't test this any further.

C) J in week 6... I see no reason why this wouldn't work. As a matter of fact, I already penciled out the beginning of this scenario in the setup. I'm not going to bother testing this.

D) J in week 3... Again, I see no reason why this wouldn't work. Just like C, I already penciled out the beginning of this scenario in the setup. No need to test.

E) G in week 3... I didn't anticipate this in my setup, since I was really focusing on J there. But G doesn't cause problems--remember that G is a necessary precedent for J, but that doesn't mean G can't also go in other spots. I wouldn't actually test this, but for teaching purposes, what if we started with this?

__  __  G  __  G  J  T

I don't see any problem with that. Since A slapped me in the face with its obvious impossibility, and B-E all look possible, I'm very comfortable here. Our answer is A.

Image: Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

June 2007 LSAT, III, #3

Carolyn makes no conclusion, but she implies one. If it's true that Marc Quinn has put DNA fragments behind glass and called it a "portrait" of Sir John, and if it's also true that to be a portrait, something must bear a recognizable resemblance to its subject, then it's a short leap to "DNA doesn't look like Sir John, therefore Marc Quinn's 'portrait' is not actually a portrait." Arnold disagrees. He calls the work a "maximally realistic portrait." His rationale is that "it holds actual instructions" for creating Sir John.

Okay, so what have these two disagreed about? Make sure you make a prediction before looking at the answer choices. (By the way, we're on Section 3, #3, of the  June 2007 LSAT.)

The question says "The dialogue provides most support for the claim that Carolyn and Arnold disagree over whether the object described by Quinn as a conceptual portrait of Sir John Sulston..."

I think I can predict the answer here. Carolyn implies, pretty strongly, that Quinn's work is not a portrait. Arnold calls it a "maximally realistic" portrait. So if there's an answer choice that says "Quinn's project is a portrait," then that's the answer--there is no way Carolyn and Arnold agree on that proposition. Let's see:

A)  It is very difficult to see how this can be the point of disagreement, when neither Carolyn nor Arnold even used the word "art" in their statement.

B)  No way. They are not arguing about whether Quinn's project should be attributed to Quinn. They are arguing about whether it's a portrait or not.

C)  No, I don't think so. Carolyn suggests that the project does not resemble Sir John, but Arnold doesn't say "yes it does." Instead, Arnold says it is the instructions by which Sir John was created. Instructions for building something don't necessarily look like the thing itself (the code underlying Super Mario Brothers does NOT look like a video game), so I don't think John would argue with Carolyn on this point.

D)  Carolyn takes no position on this, so it can't possibly be their point of disagreement. I sure hope E says something like "Quinn's project is a portrait," otherwise I'm going to feel mighty stupid.

E)  Yep, this is exactly what I predicted. Carolyn says "no" to this, but Arnold says "yes." Therefore this is what they're arguing about--so it's our answer.

June 2007 LSAT, Game 3, #11

In my last post I created a setup for the third Game in the  June 2007 LSAT. I didn't make any huge brilliant inferences, but that's okay... I don't need to crush every game in order to finish four games in 35 minutes. I did crush Game 1, and I did well on Game 2. So if Game 3 ends up taking me a little longer, that's okay. I have plenty of time in the bank. Question 11 is a list question, which will enable me to check to make sure I understand all the rules properly. What I'm going to do here is test all the rules, in order, to eliminate answer choices. After testing all the rules, if I've done it correctly, I should be left with one and only one answer. If I am left with two answers, or if I eliminate all five answers, then that means I don't understand something properly. So I'm going to use this question to my advantage, to doublecheck that I'm on the right track.

(This will be the same technique I used on the first question of Game 2. This is an extremely common type of question... and it's an easy type of question, once you get used to it.)

Rule 1: J can't be fourth. This gets rid of D. I'll never have to look at D again on #11. All other answer choices pass this rule, so I don't have to think about this rule again on #11.

Rule 2:  T must be seventh. This gets rid of E. I'll never have to look at E again on #11. All the other answer choices pass this rule, so I don't have to think about this rule again on #11. I'm already down to just A, B, and C.

Rule 3:  M must go exactly twice, with at least one voyage to G between the two voyages to M. This gets rid of B. Answers A and C both pass this rule, and are the only two answers remaining.

Rule 4:  G must immediately precede every J. This gets rid of C. The only remaining answer is A. But before choosing A as my answer, I'm going to make sure I haven't effed anything up by checking the remaining rule.

Rule 5:  No destination scheduled for consecutive weeks. A doesn't break this rule. A has passed all the rules, and all the other answer choices have been eliminated. So A is our answer. Easy!