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The Strategies and Methods of Argument for the LSAT

by Nick Robinson, studioD

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a notoriously difficult exam. It challenges would-be lawyers to read accurately and think logically under immense time pressure. According to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), logical reasoning questions compose roughly half the exam. Law school applicants can improve their scores by understanding the types of logical reasoning questions the LSAT uses and a few quick strategies for answering them. The key is to understand the various methods of argument used in the section.

The Structure of Logical Reasoning Questions

It's important to understand the structure of the logical reasoning section before strategizing about how to attack the section. Logical reasoning questions on the LSAT always follow the same format, according to the Law School Admissions Council. They begin with a short prompt, typically in the form of an argument or statement. Sometimes, instead of a single argument, the LSAT offers up a short dialogue between two or three fictional characters containing competing arguments. After the prompt, the exam asks a question about the argument. There are only a few types of questions, making it relatively easy to study for this part of the test.

Identify the Question Type

The LSAT uses a limited number of question types, and accurately identifying question types can make the test much easier. According to LSAC, questions in the logical reasoning section hinge on the method of argument used in the prompt or some flaw in the argument in the prompt. Some questions ask test takers to identify the conclusion in the prompt, find the statement that would most strengthen or weaken the argument in the prompt or highlight an assumption hidden in the prompt. Other questions asks test takers to identify the flaw in an argument, or to highlight the underlying principle supported by the argument. Correctly identifying the question can help improve scores by narrowing the possible answers.

Underline Key Words in the Question

One of the LSAT's many clever tricks is asking questions and providing answers that depend on an extremely close reading of the prompt. One sample question provided by LSAC, for example, asks readers what can be inferred from a prompt about bridge construction. At first glance, at least three of the choices seem like reasonable inferences. A closer examination, however, shows that one answer is incorrect because it includes the word "only" when the correct inference might have said "often." Another answer was incorrect because it was explicitly stated in the prompt and thus was not an inference. Underlining key words ensures that test takers don't miss small but important points.

Carefully Note the Conclusion

An astute test taker should be able to break every LSAT prompt down into two parts: evidence and conclusion. LSAC states that the goal of the logical reasoning section is to: "evaluate the ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language." The distinction between evidence and conclusion is important because so many LSAT questions deal with the relationship between evidence and conclusion within the prompt. The LSAC's sample questions for the section includes six uses of the word "conclusion" in the answer to a single question, so correctly identifying the conclusion is extremely important.

Answer Every Question

Most people who take the LSAT find themselves stumped by at least a question or two in the logical reasoning section. It's often tempting to leave those questions blank, but the smarter move is to guess. According to LSAC, incorrect answers and blank answers count exactly the same in the final score. Since there is no penalty for guessing, leaving an answer blank is passing on free points. A savvy test taker may be able to eliminate one or two of the options, increasing their chances for a correct answer.

About the Author

Nick Robinson is a writer, instructor and graduate student. Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, he worked as a teacher and administrator at three different colleges and universities, and as an education coach for Inside Track. Most of Robinson's writing centers on education and travel.

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