Law School Discussion

New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)


Logical Reasoning Notes:

Intermediate Level Study Points

Hi, my name is Matt, and I attend the University of Alberta.  I'm writing the LSAT in October (04') and I thought offering up my study notes on key points would be helpful.  The purpose of these notes is two-fold:

1) To help solidify my own understanding of what I know in a more formal, organized manner.
2) To share with others things I have learned while studying.

Why do I feel qualified to write about logical reasoning?  Because logical reasoning sections seem to be what i do best on, and I feel knowledgeable enough to discuss it.  I'm not a freelance learner, so if my points seem familiar, perhaps you read it somewhere in a study guide...I have used several. I did not take a class.

Everyone has an intuitive sense of how to approach a question...I'm not going to delve into anything too fancy here.  All this offers are what I feel are truly learnable techniques or rules for approaching certain types of arguments.

Ive wrote 18 past LSAT logical reasoning sections now...during the last 12 the lowest ive scored is 3 wrong, with an approximate average score (based on a 25 question test) of 23.5.  (I've aced 3 of the last 4 from prep tests 24 and 26.)

This list of tips is designed for people scoring in the range of 16-20 out of 25 on the logical reasoning sections...these are not advanced tips but they are not for people with core deficiencies in logic either. 

Down to Business.

1.  Embedded Conditionals (aka If-Then statements)

It is very important to understand these.  Recognizing formal logical statements within the English language is imperative to answering at least 3 questions per section.  Mastering only these can not only give you 1-2 points directly on any section, but can indirectly gain you a point elsewhere by saving you time.  Symbolize the following statements: (use the capitalized letter as your symbol)

a) no Monkey is an Ape. 
b) anyone who is an Ape will not be a Monkey
c) every Child is a Girl
d) All Children are Girls
e) only Apes are Monkeys
f) you are an Ape unless you are a Monkey
g) if you are not a Girl, you are a Child
h) there is no Ape but Michael
i) there is no Ape except for Michael
j) if a Girl comes to school it is necessary that a Teacher comes.
k) no one but Apes are Teachers
l)  Apes are there only if Monkeys are
a) If Monkey then not Ape    M  -->  ~A   

(Do NOT write this as a contrapositive.  (  A  -->  ~M  )  If you do, when you are comparing logical structures, you could end up choosing one that is not the MOST similar, and you will get the question wrong.

b) If Ape then not Monkey    A -->  ~M
c) C  --> G
d) C  --> G
e) M -->  A 

(You might think this is backwards.  It is not.  Whenever you see the word "only" or "only if" besidea logical noun, it is the other noun that is the antecedent.  (In this case, it is Monkey)

f) ~M -->  A
g)  ~G -->  C
h) A  --> M
i)  A --> M
j) G -->  T
k) T --> A  (Contrast a with k)
l)  A -->  M (refer to e)

2.  Conclusions vs Inferences

What you can conclude from a passage is very different from what you can infer.  Inferences allow you to look outside the explicit content of a passage.  (As long as there is reasonable evidence from the passage.)  Anything concluded most come DIRECTLYfrom the passage.  (This is perhaps a point even more relevant for verbal comprehension.) 

3. Parallel the Reasoning

Symbolize the main argument.  But unless you have time, dont symbolize every answer choice.  You can always knock 2 or 3 answers off the top because their logical structure is not even close.  Your brain has a natural intuition for these passages.  Try and reason them intuitively first...choose two, and symbolize their logical structure.  Practice examples that use complicated, nested ifs thens. Doing more than three is a waste. 

4. Weaken questions

I find these questions easy using a method i called "However."  Whenever I read the passage, i then prefix each answer choice with the word "however".  If "however" added to the answer makes intuitive sense, it weakens the argument.  If it didnt, youll go "wtf?" because it wont sound right. 

This method requires that you UNDERSTAND the passage and what the authors view is.  It really doesnt work without that. 

5.  Strengthen questions

I used to add the word "because".  I don't now, because I find them extraordinarly easy to figure out.  However, they helped me in the beginning when I was getting a couple wrong.

6.  WORK through (almost) each answer choice, and mark up your test questions.  The start of my improvement came from stopping to try to find the right answer. This is NOT a method for deductive questions...refer to symbolization above.

a) Try and cross out four answers. 
b) Never cross out an answer unless you are sure its wrong
c) Never circle a possible answer, just leave it. 
d) If you have two answers left, look for reasons why one of them could be wrong, irrelevant, making unsubtantiated claims, etc.
e) Choose your answer, mark it down.

If you become good at this, you can properly evaluate every answer.  In the beginning, you may want to only skim the other choices after you find one that is possibly correct, in order to save time. 

If you come to a point where you have 1 minute left per question, the first answer that seems to fit all the criteria of a right answer should be selected, and you should move on.
Why do this at all???  Security.  Having what you think is the right answer is peachy, but having the security of having debunked the other four answers gives you a real sense of score achieving.  You stop worrying if you missed the "other possible" answer...and can have stretches of near certainty once you get good at it.  This part of the test is not highly timed, so reviewing every answer is possible.

7. Do parallel the reasoning questions last if you dont finish (on average) with 3-5 minutes left.

These questions take time, if you do them in the middle of the exam, you might feel rushed and not end up doing any quality work.  If you have spare time left after these them saves time in flipping around and losing/regaining trains of thought.

That's it for now.  Hope this helps a couple people score a point or two higher.

Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2004, 10:12:34 PM »
Thank you very much, sir.

Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2004, 11:24:56 PM »
Yes, thank you.  Will you accept a check?


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Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2004, 01:02:51 PM »
Thanks for all the tips!  They are perhaps one of the better ones I've seen on this board.

Well put: "The start of my improvement came from stopping to try to find the right answer."

Do you have any suggestions on how to be more careful when reading the argument passages and the choices?  I am finding that I make really careless mistakes during a timed practice test.  Either I totally misinterpret the passage or dismiss an answer choice too quickly.  Currently, I am scoring about 16-20 corect in each LR section and I seem to be hitting some kind of block.  I can't seem to improve beyond this point -- it's really frustrating!  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2004, 02:00:23 PM »
Reading is a really subjective thing.  However, I found for myself there is no substitute for understanding a passage REALLY well.

With arguments, especially the inductive ones, this means reading the sentence once, and evaluating comprehension. (Do you know what is going on?) This can be a lightning quick calculation, if you do.  If you are unsure, read it again.  Dont wait until later. If it takes a second read, underline key words that help your understanding.

Arguments are generally 3-5 sentences its not too time-consuming provided you are only getting comprehension stuck on 1-2 sentences per passage.

I have DISCIPLINED myself to never leave a passage and look at answer choices until i know what is being said. It can be frightening at first, because you feel time stressed, but i feel  even worse when I start trying to eliminate answers without REALLY knowing what is being said.  It will work enough of the time that gasp, youll only get 25% of them wrong due to missing the passages point.  There are enough questions that are specific enough that not fully understanding what the passage is saying will cost you. 

If you are completely stuck, move on.  2 minutes is what a question gets for me...and then ill choose two best answer i can make a guess at the end if i have no extra time.  Dont completely leave the question, what you have at that moment in your brain is probably more accurate than a 30 second run-through at the end of the section.

Above all, if your work is sloppy for 23 questions and there are two parallel the reasoning questions at the end, give those only a cursory amount of time.  Look for bad answer choices and try and induce the answer.  Some people I find do better on these by following a "hunch" rather than symbolizing them quickly or flow charting them.

So, in summary:

1) read for comprehension sentence by sentence
2) 2nd pass through of a sentence, underline key words
3) never look at answers before you understand the passage reasonably well
4) If you are making sloppy mistakes due to time constraints try and freelance the two long, parallel questions
5) Don't spend more than two minutes with a question, but dont skip it altogether, choose two answer choices for later.

If that doesnt help, then your problem might be something different.  My question would be then:  If you spend 45 minutes on a LR section, do you get 22-25 right consistently?  If not, then there is a completely different problem.  Let me know.



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Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2004, 02:17:09 PM »
Thanks Matthew.
I'll have to practice with your suggestions in mind.


Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2004, 03:48:08 PM »
Great post! Thanks a lot!!

cm burns

Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2004, 04:19:52 PM »
This is a great post.

Another thing I would add to what Matthew has said is that I improved on my LR sections by categorizing the questions into three columns: the questions you know how to do, the questions you have no idea why you got them wrong, and "2 out of 5" questions.

2 out of 5 questions are the ones you will most likely improve upon quickest by focusing in on why you got it wrong. I found that I was missing 4-7 questions per LR section simply by choosing an answer that had too broad or too narrow of a scope for the argument. ("All" instead of "many" for example).

Whenever you get to a question that you have narrowed down to what you consider to be two reasonable answers, when you answer it make sure you circle it in the booklet just in case you miss it. That way you can categorize all three question types.

By using this data, I went from a diagnostic of 148 to consistently testing between 162-165 (Not great but much better). Once you get your thinking narrowed down on the questions you should be getting right, then you can move to why you missed the really difficult and time consuming questions (the ones you did not circle that you missed).

By breaking your score down like this you may start to get a feel for how well you could be doing in a week or two:

Score: 156

2 out of 5 score: 161

I don't know if that will help anyone else, but I hope it does. 


Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2004, 05:01:32 PM »
Good point CM Burns. I find it is important to become very familiar with qualifying language and how the LSAT uses it. 

cm burns

Re: New here: writing October 2004, Logical Reasoning Tips (my own tips)
« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2004, 06:38:18 PM »

I know this is a LR thread, but I was curious how you attack the AR sections. Did you get any books (LG bible for example) for it? Thanks