Step 1: Know what the question stem is asking you to do!
Although there are a myriad ways to ask the same question, there are only 13 basic question types on the LSAT. Take a look at the following example—all the question stems listed below belong to the same type of LSAT Logical Reasoning question (Justify the Conclusion), requiring you to identify an answer choice that proves conclusion of the argument:
- Which one of the following, if assumed, would allow the conclusion to be properly drawn?
- Which of the following is an assumption that would serve to justify the conclusion above?
- The author’s conclusion would be properly drawn if it were true that…
- The conclusion above is properly drawn if which of the following is assumed?
Sometimes, two question stems that sound alike do not necessarily belong to the same question type. For instance, differentiate the four question stems listed above from the four question stems listed below. While they do sound similar, below you will find Assumption questions (not Justify the Conclusion), asking you to identify an unstated premise upon which the argument depends:
- Which of the following is an assumption required by the argument above?
- Which of the following is an assumption upon which the argument depends?
- The position taken above presupposes which one of the following?
- The conclusion cited does not follow unless…
Step 2: Don’t read the answer choices (until you prephrase, that is)!
Instead, prephrase an answer that would conceivably answer the question. Indeed, the vast majority of LR questions lend themselves to prephrasing—you need to figure out for yourself how best to respond to the question presented in the question stem.
Don’t get us wrong: you need not prephrase the exact wording of the answer: as long as you know what the correct answer must do (not necessarily say), you will have an awesome filter through which you examine the five answer choices.
Prephrasing is the best way to avoid falling into a variety of traps. Remember—80% of the answer choices will be incorrect, and many of them would appear attractive to the test-taker who has no idea what she/he is looking for.
Step 3: Separate the answer choices into Contenders and Losers!
A Contender is answer choice that is sufficiently close to your initial prephrase and answers the question at hand.
A Loser is an answer choice that deviates substantially from your prephrase. Know the wording of the commonly presented incorrect answer choices, which vary according to the question type. Once you have identified an answer choice as a Loser, it is safe to eliminate it from consideration.
If you don’t know why a particular answer choice is wrong, do NOT eliminate it!
Step 4: After you identify all Contenders, compare them!
Usually, the most efficient way of comparing your Contenders is by applying the appropriate technique based on the question type you are working. For instance, in a Justify question, apply the “Justify Formula.” In an Assumption question, apply the “Assumption Negation Technique.” And so on.
Remember that these techniques are best applied as a means of differentiating between a handful of Contenders, rather than a way of separating the answer choices into Contenders and Losers. The latter would be too time-consuming for the purposes of the LSAT.
Step 5: If you eliminate all five answer choices, return to the stimulus and examine it more closely!
Chances are, if none of the five answer choices seems attractive, you either did not understand the information presented in the stimulus, or you did not know what the correct answer would do, i.e. you did not prephrase the answer.
Do not dwell on any particular question! Know when to say “when” and move on—if you keep a reasonably good pace, you may have enough time at the end of the section to return to that question.