LSAT Logical Reasoning Section

LSAT Logic Reasoning Section Basics

Two of the four scored sections of the LSAT are Logical Reasoning sections, meaning Logical Reasoning makes up half the LSAT score. There are several types of questions in the Logical Reasoning Section, but they all have a basic structure in common. That is, they all begin with a brief passage of a few sentences that contains the facts upon which the question will be based. Following the passage, they all have a question stem. The question stem is followed by five answer choices.

Logical Reasoning Technique

It is critical to read the question stems carefully. The question stems ask test takers to do very different things with the facts in the passages upon which the questions are based. At its easiest, a question might ask a test taker to find the main idea. In other examples test takers might be asked to identify the unstated assumption; or select which statement among the multiple choice answers could be inferred from the question; or decide which multiple choice answer would weaken (or strengthen) the argument. It is essential to develop a solid system for how to answer each question type. But the first task is recognizing what type of question is being asked. That is where careful reading of the question stem comes in.

Another trick to the Logical Reasoning section questions is that there are often second best answers that are very close to correct. This is another reason why it is so important to read the question stems very carefully. Choice B, might make more logical sense as an answer, but it might not be exactly what the question is asking. The LSAT wants the choice that best answers its question, not the choice that best completes the story set forth in the short writing passage.

Logical Reasoning Skills

Perhaps part of the reason that Logical Reasoning makes up such a large part of the LSAT is that the types of skills measured in these sections are amazingly broad. Another reason why Logical Reasoning deserves extra study time is that its questions are considered the best assessors of future lawyering skills. The ability to recognize flaws in arguments; the ability to recognize which facts (or pieces of evidence) might strengthen or weaken and argument; the ability to make inferences from available information; these are all skills that are critical to a career in law.

Logical Reasoning Question Types

There are many ways that the wide variety of question types in the Logical Reasoning Section could be categorized. Depending on which reference book you read, you might find an entirely different way of classifying the type of questions in these two sections. Nevertheless, there are several distinct question types that come up again and again. Below are seven categories of questions that come up frequently.

Main Idea

This is perhaps the most basic and familiar type of question for test takers. Many students have some experience with these types of multiple choice questions as they usually appear following reading comprehension questions in other standardized tests. Some of these types of questions might ask directly for the main idea of a passage, others might ask about the author's objective. Still others might ask for the author's position on a certain issue. Often several answer choices will be similar to each other. It is important to look at each answer choice carefully and choose the one that summarized the point of the passage most completely.

Strengthening or Weakening an Argument

The strengthening or weakening an argument question types are very common on the LSAT and assess a skill that is essential for the legal profession. After all, any evidence used in a trial is admitted because it either strengthens or weakens a case. These question stems often ask which answer choice would most weaken (or strengthen) an argument. The key is the word "most." Several choices might weaken the argument somewhat. It is important to identify what is at the crux of the argument in order to decide how the argument would be most seriously undermined.

Other questions might ask, which of the following choices, if true, would most undermine the argument? In this case the words "if true" are key. Some of the answer choices might be completely implausable, but that doesn't matter. The test taker has to operate on the assumption that the answer choices are true, whether they seem credible or not.

Assumptions

The assumption questions all contain an argument and ask the test taker to identify the unstated details that must be true for this argument to work. Again, often there are several answers that are close to correct or close to each other in meaning. The correct answer often draws a connection between two details that have an implied relationship. When that is the case, a good technique is to look at which facts you are trying to draw together and make sure both facts are mentioned or connected in the chosen answer.

Be aware that sometimes the arguments seem flawed and might be based on flawed assumptions. What matters is whether the assumption supports the argument. How logical the assumption is might be irrelevant.

Inferences

In inference questions the author has pulled together several facts to suggest a likely conclusion or theory. The test taker is being asked what implied conclusions can be drawn from the series of facts. Sometimes, when several conclusions can be drawn from the passage, the question may ask "all of the following infererences can be made except:"

Inference questions are not necessarily asking for the main idea. The correct answer may be a parenthetical point that is clearly implied in the passage, particularly if the other choices can not be inferred from the facts in the passage.

Finding Flaws

Questions that ask test takers to find the flaw in an argument are quite common on the LSAT. The passage that precedes the question contains an argument that usually has an obvious flaw or makes a clearly unsubstantiated leap from a few facts to a conclusion. The test taker has to select the answer choice that best demonstrates why the argument is flawed.

Sometimes answer choices relate to the subject of the passage and list certain point made in the passage. Other times the answer choices strictly relate to the argument's form, such as "The argument draws analogies between completely different situations."

Argument Form

Questions about argument form present an argument and then ask test takers to select which choice best describes how the argument is constructed. The answer choices will not mention the subject of the argument at all. An answer choice might be, "The author presents the conclusion and then supports it with facts" or "The argument uses unrelated analogies to to support its premise."

These questions require that test takers step back and evaluate the purpose of each sentence in an argument. Test takers must evaluate each sentence in terms of its usefulness in furthering the argument. While reading the argument, the test taker should be thinking about how it is presented.

Parallel Arguments

Parallel argument questions essentially take the argument form questions one step further. After reading a passage, test takers are asked to select which answer choice is most similar to the argument. These questions are like argument analogies. In some cases the analogies might be easy to spot. For harder questions, consider the way the argument is constructed. Evaluate the argument like it is an "argument form" question, and then compare the argument structure to the answer choices and see how they match up.

These can be the most confusing questions of the test because not only do test takers have to keep track of the structure of one complicated argument, but they have to keep track of the structure of all the answer choices to see which best matches. While there is no scratch paper available during the LSAT (except for use with the writing sample) taking notes in the examination book is okay. Don’t hesistate to make marks in the examination book if it helps keep things straight.