I know that many of you are just getting started with your LSAT prep, so to kick things off, I will be providing free LR explanations for one of official LSAT preptest compilations that you’ll be working out of. I thought we’d start things off slow, so here are 5 “easier” question explanations from preptest 29, the first preptest in The Next 10 Actual Official LSATs.
That book is required study material (it’s 10 official, real LSAT preptests. What could be better for studying the LSAT than that?), so if you don’t have a copy yet, grab it. Logical reasoning is the most natural place to start your studies, so do these problems with me and see how you stack up. I will add the rest of the problems from preptest 29, section 1 to this post in the coming days, so check back on it.
PREPTEST 29 – SECTION 1 – QUESTION 1
Question Type: Point at issue
With this question I could lie to you and say that I did a whole bunch of thinking before I went to the stimulus, but the truth is that I didn’t. Why? Because there just isn’t a whole lot going on. Politician says we should do this for X and Y reasons, and smoker says, “But this situation is exactly the same, and doing what you propose would be unreasonable there.” The best approach is to try and take some note of what the two authors are trying to say (their main point) and move on to the stimulus. I think an experienced test taker does nothing more than note this — the form of the argument — on some kind of a semi-conscious level.
As it turns out, this is a pretty common pattern on the LSAT, so learn to spot it: Speaker A offers one conclusion, and Speaker B says that those same “facts” could support another conclusion. Our Smoker doesn’t really disagree with the Politicians facts, just his conclusion. Once you’ve seen this pattern enough times, it’s easy to recognize. In law school, this pattern of argument is a favorite of gunners, so learn to recognize it now.
Now we are asked what these two are disagreeing about…
(A) This looks pretty good. My only hangup is that Speaker B, the smoker, doesn’t come right out and say, “I disagree with your conclusion.” Still, we have to imagine that’s what he’s getting at when he gave his little counterfactual. He’s saying, “you are stupid, it’s the same thing with fatty foods, yet doing what you propose wouldn’t be reasonable in that situation.” Right? I’m still maybe an inch shy of 100% confident in this, so I check the other answers (which I always do anyways). Still, (A) looks like a fit. Rather than overthinking it, move on and head into elimination mode.
(B) Even though we are talking about an awareness campaign, awareness isn’t at issue, like, at all. Typical trap answer that should be crossed off quickly. We have no idea whether smokers are more aware. If this was the point at issue, you can bet it would get a little more discussion time.
(C) This might be something the Politician brings up later in their conversation, but they aren’t talking about it yet, are they? Cross off the bad answer, and note the pattern whereby incorrect answers on point-at-issue questions are often just stuff that seems like it might be discussed.
(D) I bet everyone will either pick this or A. D is pretty hard to make a decision on (you might notice that the first question in a LR section is often a little harder than the other first ten questions — I think they do this just to mess with you). Here is why I am inclined to eliminate it: Exactly who are these people who don’t benefit from certain gov programs? We aren’t talking about them directly certainly, and you can argue that maybe everyone benefits from the proposed campaign unders discussion. We just don’t know either way, because we aren’t discussing these people. When we aren’t discussing something, that’s a trap answer on a POI question.
Hopefully you see now that this answer is just like (B) and (C). Though it’s more subtle, it’s just bringing up something that sounds like it might be under discussion. Your goal is to articulate some reason why that is not actually being discussed so you can eliminate it.
(E) No no no. After dealing with (D), (E) should look like a total joke. Efficiency is definitely not under discussion, so how can it be the point at issue.
(A) is the correct answer
Takeaway: Decide whether something is actually under discussion or not. If it’s not, how can it possibly be the point at issue/main point? Learn to confidently dispose of these trap answers.
PREPTEST 29 – SECTION 1 – QUESTION 2
Question Type: Method Of Reasoning
This question is a pretty easy warm up to much harder method of reasoning questions. Use questions like these to build your question vocabulary and recognize the patterns of arguments. When I read the question stem here, I would probably go straight to the answer choices without rereading the stimulus. This is common enough to do when two questions share a stimulus, and question 1 and 2 do here. I have a pretty good grasp on the stimulus already, so why go back to review unless it’s needed?
So let’s figure out what the smoker’s response is doing:
(A) This looks like exactly the right fit for a the smoker’s method of reasoning, so I would already be 99.9% confident it’s the answer. In fact, the smoker’s argument is a pretty emblematic example of a “counterexample,” so burn it into your brain that this is what one looks like. A counterexample gives similar facts that lead to different conclusion.
(B) No, it doesn’t do that. While it might seem that the smoker is suggesting that an alternative solution is more appropriate, he hasn’t gone that far yet, so that’s clearly not the best way to characterize his response.
(C) No way. This one should be rejected without much thought. After you find a good answer, you should be using that a bludgeon to knock out other bad answers.
(D) No, in fact, he pretty much concedes that the information is well-established. Cross this one out.
(E) Nope nope nope. Still clearly inferior to answer choice A. This seems to be a “reasonable” issue. It’s damn hard to see how making smokers pay would “aggravate” health problems. Our smoker isn’t talking about this at all.
(A) Is the correct answer.
Takeaway: This is what a counterexample looks like. Look out for more of these so you are confident saying “that right there is a counterexample” whenever you see one. If you want to remember it better, try to sound like a hick, and say it like: “Now that right there is what we call a counterexample.” Kind of weird right? I don’t think a hick would actually use the word “counterexample.”
PREPTEST 29 SECTION 1 QUESTION 3
Question type: Strengthen EXCEPT
This is the type of question where you can expect to have a very strong prephase (an idea about what aspect/s of the stimulus the answer will test). However, you might want to note that this argument is potentially subject to a lot of attack. There might be a lot of reasons why gasohol is no good or, alternatively, a lot of things can strengthen this argument by defending against any potential criticisms.
Arguments like this are frequently found in strengthen EXCEPT or weaken EXCEPT questions.
Since the range of things that could strengthen the argument is so great, you don’t want to bother trying to dream them up. Just head straight to the answer choices. There you’ll find 4 things that can strengthen this argument, and only one of them that doesn’t not strengthen it. That will be the correct answer.
To know whether something is strengthening the question or not strengthening it, you have to know what exactly you are trying to strengthen. The answer is always the same: the conclusion. What’s the conclusion here? That gasohol should be used more. It’s an easy question, so it should be relatively straightforward to see which answer choices strengthen that conclusion and which one doesn’t.
(A) Another reason to use more gasohol. That’s a strengthener. Cross it off because we are looking for a non-strengthener.
(B) That looks like a good reason to use more gasohol. It’s common sense that you want to avoid an energy shortage. You are allowed to use common sense on the LSAT. Cross this bad boy off.
(C) Okay, that looks like a reason that we might say “hold up, maybe gasohol isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” It doesn’t necessarily make it so that gashol is worse, but it doesn’t strengthen the argument for gasohol either. Remember, the opposite of strengthen is NOT strengthen (rather than weaken, which a lot of people think is the opposite of strengthen when they first start out studying for the LSAT). This looks like our answer, but check the other.
(D) Damn, at this point I’m pretty sold on using more gasohol. It’s cheaper too? Cross this one of the list.
(E) Slightly harder to see how this strengthens the argument, maybe, but if you have to, look back at the argument. Gasohol only adds enough emissions so that plants can take care of it, gas doesn’t. A strike against gas strengthens the argument for it’s alternative, gasohol.
(C) is the correct answer.
Takeaway: The opposite of “to strengthen” is “to NOT strengthen”. The correct answer here doesn’t have to weaken the argument, just not help it.
An answer that weakens it could be the correct answer (weakening is one way to not strengthen, after all), but it doesn’t have to weaken it.
PREPTEST 29 SECTION 1 QUESTION 4
Question type: Resolve The Paradox
It’s a resolve the paradox question, so we just need to look for something that best explains why cats are muscular despite being some of the laziest of nature’s creatures. Maybe they get vigorous exercise when we aren’t looking at them? Don’t think about it too much, but rather head to the answer choices and use them to clarify your thinking. I don’t think of the answer choices as enemies, and neither should you. They in fact help you to think about the stimulus, often guiding you to a right answer.
(A) Who cares, that’s still doesn’t explain how they got the Schwarzenegger muscles. Easy eliminator. If the paradox remains intact after inserting the answer choice into the stimulus, than you didn’t resolve it, now did you?
(B) This is a tough one to eliminate, but if you again mentally tack it on to the end of the stimulus, I think you’ll see that it doesn’t resolve the paradox. Now we are still curious about how this class of animals is doing this, because we know many animals can’t do it (the stimulus told us as much).
(C) You’ll learn that on every question there are answer choices that are just ludicrous. When you view LSAC’s data breakdown of who got the question wrong, really bad answers like this get chosen a tiny fraction of the time. Usually there is only one really hard to eliminate answer choice and I think that was (B). Cross off (C). Unless sleeping weirdly helps them get muscles, it doesn’t help resolve the paradox. That is way too great a leap of logic to assume that it does help them build muscle.
(D) By comparison to (C), which was too great a leap, it’s not too great a leap to assume that exercise gives you muscles. In fact, the question basically tells us that exercise helps you acquire muscles. The stretching the cats do is giving them exercise, I guess they are building muscle during lazy time after all. This looks like our answer.
(E) Another “so what” type of answer. Does nothing to solve the paradox.
(D) is the correct answer.
Takeaway: if you need to, mentally add the new information from the answer choice on to the stimulus. If the paradox still exists, it’s not the correct answer on a “resolve the paradox” question.
PREPTEST 29 SECTION 1 QUESTION 5
Question Type: Necessary Assumption
This is a good intro to assumption questions. Assumption questions often test an assumption that is so natural in the context that your brain already makes it for you when reading the question. That’s dangerous because you might not be able to spot that it was merely assumed, not stated. Remember that an assumption is an unstated premise (to bone up on these questions, check out our FREE LESSON on assumption questions). So let’s make sure we see the assumption.
(A) This is the kind of answer choice that you don’t want to tie your brain in knots thinking about. I would circle it (rather than X it out) and move on. I’m thinking it’s a wrong answer, cause I don’t think we need to assume anything about other employees to judge these two, but I’m not sure. Efficient answer elimination often requires you to not think things through fully the first time you see them, so just move on.
(B) No, this actually cuts against the argument, giving a reason why maybe they do deserve their pay. An argument isn’t going to be relying on an unstated premise that hurts the argument. That doesn’t make sense at all. Use the assumption negation technique if you have to. “It is not because of the complex duties assigned that the two newest employees are paid more.” Does that destroy the argument? No. It helps it actually. We want an answer that, if negated, destroys the argument (check HOW TO MASTER LSAT ASSUMPTION QUESTIONS for more on the assumption negation technique).
(C) If these two are experienced, then why the heck would the author be arguing to reduce their salaries based on inexperience. It completely destroys the argument if these two are in fact experience. That makes us see that their inexperience is a necessary assumption of the argument. It’s so natural in fact to assume it that you possibly didn’t notice that the passage didn’t come out and say “these two are inexperienced.”
(D) Once you’ve got (C) in hand, it’s pretty easy to dispense with the other answer choices, especially this one. Who cares about Barne’s salary? It doesn’t affect his argument.
(E) No. In fact, Barnes seems to be arguing against this. This is a common trap answer type on assumption questions. LSAC is hoping that you’ll get things all flipped around in your head. Like (B), it’s just trying to mess with your head. Make sure you see why he wouldn’t assume this. It cuts against his argument, but it’s also really unrelated to his argument. We are talking about this company, not some other one.
At this point I would go back to (A) and make sure it’s bogus. Now that I’ve seen C, it’s pretty obvious that it’s bad. Use assumption negation to see why. It turns out that it’s a trap answer like (E) and (B).
(C) is the correct answer