Last Friday the LSAC released the June LSAT scores and the latest test. We've been busy evaluating its features and preparing our analysis for you. In this article, we will break down the Logical Reasoning (LR) sections, point out the most important features, and compare them to other recent LR sections and LSAT norms.
What were the most notable features of the June LR sections?
- Continued importance of Point at Issue questions
- Difficult conditional reasoning. The first LR section had a hard Must Be True question that tested a precise interpretation of a necessary condition. There was also a challenging contrapositive on a Parallel the Reasoning question.
- Conditional reasoning also more common in June than in December.
- Average number of Weaken and Strengthen questions. Continued importance of Principle-Strengthen questions.
- Two Main Point questions, but a couple Must Be True questions that tested an implicit main point.
- 25 questions in the first LR section
- 25 questions in the second LR section
By the Numbers
|Must Be True||4||0|
|2||Two Main Point-Fill-in-the-Blank (MP-FIB) questions|
|Point at Issue/Agree||1||3||1st LR was Agree; others all Point at Issue|
|Method of Reasoning||2||0||Both were Argument Part Questions|
|Flaw in the Reasoning||3||5|
|Parallel the Reasoning||1||1|
|Cannot Be True||0||0|
|Strengthen||4||5||5 Principle-Strengthen; 1 EXCEPT|
|Resolve the Paradox||1||2|
|Justify the Conclusion||1||1|
|Weaken||2||2||Twice as many as in December, One Weaken structured similarly to a Point at Issue|
|Evaluate the Argument||0||1|
Principles of Argumentation and Fallacies
Number of Occurrences
|Cause and Effect||13|
|General Lack of Evidence||1|
|Error in the Use of Evidence||7|
Based on my initial evaluation, the first LR section was on average more challenging than the second LR section. It included a couple medium-difficulty questions in the first five, and this can cause students to feel off-balance from the outset. In addition, the first LR section featured three especially tricky examples of conditional reasoning.
Let's illustrate by examining these three questions in more detail:
20. This was a Must Be True question that included the following facts:
- When facing a philosophical paradox, your intuitions suggest the conclusion is false AND that conclusion follows from true premises.
- To solve a philosophical paradox, you must accept one of three possibilities:
- The conclusion is true.
- A premise is not true.
- The conclusion does not follow from the premises.
Symbolically, this can be understood as:
- If Philosophical Paradox, then Intution says NOT True Conclusion AND Conclusion Follows from True Premises
- PP → I → NOT TC & TP & CF
- If Solve Philosophical Paradox, then accept either True Conclusion OR NOT True Premises OR Conclusion NOT Follow
- Solve PP → (TC) OR (NOT TP) OR (NOT CF)
Notice that I split up bullet point 1 above to show "true premises" and "conclusion follows" separately. I did this to keep my variables consistent.
You must infer that to solve the philosophical paradox, you must accept something that goes contrary to your intuition. You can see this is because in order to solve the paradox, you will wind up with one of three outcomes:
- A true conclusion. This is contrary to your intuition, which suggests that the conclusion is false.
- A false premise. This is contrary to your intuition, which suggests that the premises are true.
- The conclusion does not follow. This is contrary to your intuition, which suggests that the conclusion follows from the premises.
22. The second challenging conditional structure was on a Parallel the Reasoning question.
The initial conditional was a somewhat straightforward contrapositive in the conclusion. However, it was difficult to match the conditions in the answer choices with the conditions in the stimulus in large part because of a time shift in which the stimulus discussed possible conditions in the future while the answer choices all discussed conditions that had already occurred. Thus, finding the most similar argument required tracking the implications of a time shift.
The stimulus was structured thus:
- If writers make more realistic characters, then smaller viewership will result.
- RC → SV
- Conclusion: The writers don't want want smaller viewership, so they won't do more realistic characters.
- NOT SV → NOT RC
The credited response was structured thus:
- If executives were responsible, then the losses would have been bigger.
- ER → BL
- Conclusion: The losses were smaller, so the executives weren't responsible.
- NOT BL → NOT ER
Symbolically, it's a pretty straightforward match, but you had to translate first from what appeared to be different kinds of circumstances because of the time shift.
24. The third challenging conditional was on another Must Be True question.
The stimulus presented information about the acceptability of two alternatives, while discussing the latter in greater detail. You had to make an inference about the former of the two alternatives by assessing a necessary condition for its acceptability. Basically, you might find yourself looking for something you think you know about one possibility while the credited response was talking about something else entirely.
The stimulus included the following facts:
- The only acceptable theories could be retributivist and rehabilitationist.
- AT → Retrib OR Rehab
- The only acceptable retributivist theory conforms to proportional punishment principle.
- AT Retrib → PP
- Retributivist theories that give longer sentences for repeat offenders violate proportional punishment principle.
- Longer Repeat Sentences in Retrib theory → NOT PP
Equipped with this information, you would likely seek an answer choice that included a valid inference about retributivist theories, such as "retributivist theories that give longer sentences for repeat offenses are not acceptable."
However, the LSAT threw a curve ball here. The credited response included the following statement:
- AT with Longer Repeat Sentences → Rehab
You had to infer that if you had an acceptable theory with longer sentences, then this theory must be rehabilitationist.
This statement follows from the premises because you know that such a theory, if retributivist, must violate the proportional punishment principle which is a prerequisite for an acceptable retributivist theory. Any such retributivist theory would not be acceptable. Therefore, if such a theory with longer repeat sentences is acceptable, it must be rehabilitationist!
This inference is challenging on its own, but the question also threw in some difficult to follow conditional language that really upped the ante!
Overall, conditional reasoning was more heavily tested on the June exam than it was last December. This need not be indicative of a trend, but you do need to have a strong grasp of conditional reasoning to succeed.
A few other observations in brief:
- Point at Issue questions remain significant. These have been essentially as common as Weaken questions in the past couple tests. Prepare accordingly.
- Make sure you know how to do the Assumption Negation Test™. There were a couple Assumption problems with clever trap answers. The Assumption Negation Test ensures you don't fall for these traps.
- Sometimes bad arguments can be among the most difficult to parse. Work on strong prephrases on Flaw questions to describe the fallacies in advance so that you don't muddle through incorrect answers.
- Cause and effect reasoning remains as significant as conditional reasoning. These two principles of argumentation remain the foundation of Logical Reasoning on the LSAT. Master them both.
- Center yourself and establish strong focus from the outset. The first LR section threw a couple curve balls right off the bat. Don't get caught unprepared.
Conclusions and Next Steps
This LSAT featured fewer minor fallacies than had the previous released LSATs, and the conditional reasoning tested was relatively more difficult. The point is that there are fluctuations between LSATs. Sometimes an LSAT will test an esoteric fallacy. Other times you will encounter a hard cause-and-effect Strengthen question. Other times you may be faced with a couple hard Except questions or an unusual, minor question type. It is impossible to anticipate in advance exactly what will be tested on a given LSAT and at which level of difficulty. To prepare for LR, master the fundamentals and recognize and deal with the idiosyncrasies of any given test when you come across anything weird. This is also where your pacing comes in. You don't know when exactly you will encounter a challenge. Make sure that you're confident and focused as you progress through an LR section. Leave yourself extra time to figure out the harder problems, or if you're truly stumped, don't be afraid to make an educated guess and move on.
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