[This is a lesson excerpt from our online course, for which we invite you to enroll.]
I cannot over-stress the importance of being able to identify premises and conclusions on the LSAT. Not only that, but to do it fast. But, we gotta start somewhere so slow is better than not being able to do it at all. Here are three distinctive slow ways that students have found very effective.
As a learning device, this is good. You can rely on these. But, take this caveat to heart. You can’t consciously rely on these three devices. At the end of the day, you have to internalize all of it. It has to be very, very quick. Intuitive. You read the passage and you just know that this is the premise and this is the conclusion. Somewhere in the back of your mind, one of these three devices is operating subconsciously and telling you what the premise is and what the conclusion is.
So, let’s get acquainted with these three methods.
The first method is to ask yourself, “What does the author really want me to believe?” I know he’s saying all this stuff to me. But, if I told him to shut up and get to the point, then, what would he say? What is it that he really cares about? What is it that he really wants to persuade me of? The answer to all those questions should be the same, i.e., it should be the conclusion. Now, of course, this method relies on your intuition. You have to intuitively know what’s being supported, what’s giving support and generally understand what the passage is saying.
2. Why should I believe this sentence?
The second method involves trial and error. Take the sentence that you think may be the conclusion (or at random) and ask yourself, “Why should I believe it?” What reasons has the passage provided to accept the supposed conclusion? Try to answer that question by referring to the other sentences in the passage. If those sentences give you a satisfactory answer to why you should believe what the conclusion sentence says, then you may have found the conclusion. Or, you could also be just very easily satisfied.
The third method is a very mechanical method which utilizes your understanding of conclusion or premise indicators. These are words whose role in the English language is to indicate support structure. Even if the above two methods work well for you, you should still familiarize yourself with these words.
Words or phrases usually followed by the conclusion:
3. as a result
6. it follows that
8. we may conclude
9. it entails
12. we may infer that
13. it must be that
14. it implies that
15. that is why
Words or phrases usually followed by premise(s):
1. given that
2. seeing that
3. for the reason that
4. owing to
5. as indicated by
6. after all
7. on the grounds that
Words or phrases that are usually followed by premise(s) but contain the conclusion:
There are three methods to identify premises and conclusions. Become familiar with and use them all – especially the third method.
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