The BriefA Blog about the LSAT, Law School and Beyond
Think you know what the word "or" means? You might not! Check out this video to find out more about one of our favorite LSAT fundamentals.
“OR” is a Very Confusing Word In English
The word “or” and the often interchangeably used phrase “either or” are ambiguous. That means they have more than one meaning. Sometimes “or” means “or, but not both,” sometimes it simply means“and,” and sometimes, it means “and/or.” Context will tell you which meaning is intended and let me save you a lot of trouble and tell you right now that the meaning that the LSAT summons most often is “and/or.” That’s why we included “or” as a Group 3 logical indicator.
SUFFICIENT ASSUMPTION (SA) QUESTIONS.
Sufficient Assumption questions are like Inference Must be True (MBT) questions, in reverse.
In MBT questions, you’re given all the premises and asked to find the conclusion that would make for a valid argument. Here, you’re given the conclusion and all the premises (minus one). You’re asked to supply that missing premise which will make the argument valid. So really, they can easily turn any MBT question into a SA question by switching out the right answer choice for a premise in the stimulus. Or vice versa.
TRUTH IS NOT VALIDITY.
Truth and validity are two concepts that are as different from each other as football is from origami. Truth and validity are not the same. You should never, ever, confuse the two—especially on the LSAT.
Truth is a property of sentences (or to be more precise, declarative statements). I think we all know the definition of truth and yes, it’s what you think. For a statement like “all dogs go to heaven," it’s true if all dogs go to heaven. It’s false when it’s not the case that all dogs go to heaven. False statements are sometimes called lies.
TO STRENGTHEN ARGUMENTS, STRENGTHEN THE SUPPORT RELATIONSHIP.
For LSAT Strengthen Questions, you want to strengthen the support relationship between the premises and the conclusion. That means you make the beam thicker. (Remember Goku's Kamehameha from the lesson on Weakening Arguments?) You can do that by either adding additional premises – the analogy there would be to appeal to Goku’s friends to also fire up some beams. Or you can add information that makes the existing premises more relevant to the conclusion – the analogy there would be to feed Goku some magical beans that make him stronger.
THIS IS THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL SKILL FOR THE LSAT.
We tackle LSAT Main Point (MP) or Main Conclusion questions first because these questions test the most fundamental of your LSAT skills: Can you identify the main conclusion of an argument? It’s that simple. Here’s a label with “main point” printed on it. Go slap it on the part of the passage that you think is the main point. If you can’t do that, then you have no business doing any other type of question in the Logical Reasoning section.
REMEMBER, THE LSAT TESTS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF RELATIONSHIPS.
The relationship is called support and the relata are called premise(s) and conclusion.
When you take an LSAT containing even a few questions that you've already seen before, your resulting score will be inflated. Your score will be an overestimation of your true performance.
There are at least two factors that play a role in this. Continue reading
DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE QUESTION STEM.
That means there is only one correct answer choice and four very wrong answer choices. This question type, despite what its name may suggest, is not actually asking you to decide between some marginal differential in the intensity of support between two answer choices. Which answer choice is better supported is the wrong question to ask. Rather, the right question to ask is which answer choice has some support and which four have no support whatsoever. Continue reading
LSAT Logic Games is the easiest section of the LSAT to improve. The marginal returns on this section compared to the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension are huge. But, most people are still hard pressed to see improvements. Why? Because they're studying for it the wrong way. The right way to improve on Logic Games is through repetition and memorization, in other words, by "foolproofing." Watch this video that will teach you our Fool Proof Method for improving on Logic Games and get those extra points!
The first factor establishes a range of scores that you could get on the test, say 155 – 168. The second factor – studying – determines how close to the upper bound of your range you approach. Since the first factor is largely out of your control, your LSAT potential is mostly determined by the second factor: studying. To make sure that your studying is pushing you closer to your LSAT potential you need to make sure that 1) you are studying the right way and 2) you have studied for long enough.
Are you studying the right way?
First, the theory you learn to tackle the LSAT may not be powerful enough. A couple of thousand years ago, all the smartest people thought everything in the universe went around the Earth. That was their theory. It's fine for explaining some stuff, like "Why does the sun rise in the East and set in the West?" Well, cause that's how it goes around the Earth, duh! But, it break apart when we try to explain other, harder to explain things, like retrograde motion, or why certain planets are brighter when they are opposite the sun. The geocentric theory kind of suck for those things.
So, a couple hundred years went by and more smart people came along and proposed a different theory: the heliocentric theory. We all take this for granted, but at the time, it was pretty cool. This new, more powerful theory could explain everything that the older, weaker earth centric theory could explain but also things that the older, weaker theory could not explain. That's what makes it better.
That's what I mean when I say that the theory you are using for the LSAT may be too weak. It may be a theory that explains the easy questions fine, but breaks down and is useless or even misleading for the harder questions. How do you know if you've been taught a weak theory or a strong theory? Well, take the hardest LSAT questions you can find and see if the theory you learned is able to explain why the right answers are right and why the wrong answers are wrong.
Second, assuming you learned the correct theory, you still have to be able to apply it. That's why we encourage our students to use the Fool Proof Method for Logic Games, the Blind Review Method for Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension while taking as many proctored, simulated LSAT practice tests as they can.
Training through the Blind Review Method and the Fool Proof Method is like going to the gym. You have to work hard. But, as long as you keep pushing and don't give up, you will win.
Have you studied for long enough?
Fewer, but still a good number of students tell us that they have been studying with the right theory and they have been applying it consistently, but they are still not hitting their target score. Have they peaked? Or do they need to study longer?
This question is a lot more subjective. Think about it this way – if you had the next 10 years to do nothing but study LSATs, your score would improve dramatically. You'd probably get a 180. (The first factor is not really out of your control.) But why would you want to do that? Please don't. Life is precious.
My point is how long you want to study is a personal decision. It depends on many things, including your goals, free time, finances, and determination.
If you have the summer to study for the LSAT, do it because that's the best time to study with the fewest distractions. Don’t take that for granted. Lots of students have to study during school or concurrently with a job. That just makes something already hard even harder.
If your LSAT tolerance has reached saturation, then call it. You've hit your LSAT potential. You gave it all and did the best you could. There are other things in life that matter way more than this test.