It goes without saying that some advice is better than other, but when it comes to the LSAT, unfortunately bad advice is quite common. This is largely due to the complexity of the exam itself, which does not lend itself easily to quick tips or easy shortcuts. More importantly, shortcuts can be circumvented, and test-makers often do just that. Guess what? They have access to the same test-prep materials as you do. If there is a shortcut they can trick you into using blindly, chances are the shortcut won’t get you very far.
Must Be True questions in Logical Reasoning, at the most basic level, ask you to determine an answer choice that logically follows from the information contained in the stimulus, i.e. that can be proven by reference to the stimulus. The following is a shortcut many students use to eliminate seemingly wrong answer choices:
- In Must Be True questions, beware of answer choices that contain keywords absent from the stimulus. Because you cannot prove “new information,” such answer choices are always incorrect.
The premise for this tip is valid, but the tip itself isn’t. Why? Because test-makers can easily craft answer choices that employ seemingly new terminology without failing the all-important Prove Test. Keyword matching is generally a bad idea. Take a look at June 2005 LR1, Question 12, or December 2000, LR1, Question 11. In both cases, the correct answer choice makes a declarative statement about a “new element” (“warm bath,” “alcohol”) which is nevertheless provable by the information contained in the stimulus. This is because the element is always defined in a way that falls within the parameters, or the “umbrella,” of the fact set. So, while the correct answer choice must always be proven by the stimulus, “new keywords” do not necessarily introduce “new information.”
It is arguably easier to follow a quick soundbite than an elaborate test of logical validity. And sometimes, shortcuts do work. But quite often they don’t, leading you down the wrong path. The goal for the next couple of posts in this series would be to examine a few such shortcuts in Logical Reasoning, and explain why they are either logically unsound, or frequently misunderstood.