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Bad to Imagine SA/PSA Questions as just strengthening?

321raymoney123321raymoney123 Alum Member
edited July 2018 in Logical Reasoning 49 karma

I did the SA/PSA lessons and seemed to be somewhat slow and only got about 85% of all the problems in the lessons correct. I've found that it helps to just think of them as strengthening questions at first and attempt to find an assumption that will strengthen the argument, then use logic if it seems too difficult. Is this a viable method or will it come back to bite me if I don't just learn to drill out SA/PSA questions with logic (i.e. will it lessen my chances of getting more difficult SA/PSA questions correct, slow me down with these problems, etc.)?


  • 200 karma

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems like a valid way to think about it. With SA and PSA questions you technically are adding a premise to make an airtight (well, with PSAs, almost) argument.

    As far as actually answering the questions, I've found it effective to practice doing these questions the way that JY explains it: by writing out the lawgic, predicting the answer, then attacking the ACs. Practice a bunch using this method, and you'll get faster and more accurate.

    After doing this for long enough, I found I started to develop an intuition which ACs are plausible vs. obviously wrong.

  • TexAgAaronTexAgAaron Alum Member
    1723 karma

    It can help but I wouldn't recommend it being your main pathway. SA questions fall under the "valid" category, they are completely valid and do not have holes. Strengthening questions only help the argument (there could be other holes) but are not completely valid. While there is some overlap, I'd hedge not treating them like a strengthening question. I can guarantee there will be SA questions that prey on this strategy and will present 2 AC that are not far off from each other, and if you do not have the correct approach the question will punish you for that.

    The great thing about SA questions is the mechanical characteristics that help you cut through the wrong AC's quickly. Vast majority of them are cookie-cutter and are repeating structures.

    Hope this helps!

  • BinghamtonDaveBinghamtonDave Alum Member 🍌🍌
    8689 karma

    I'm going to take the position and say that although an SA/PSA has the function of a strengthener: as long as we define "strengthener" as making the conclusion more likely to follow from the stated premise(s), I would avoid looking at SA/PSA as strengtheners prior to what specifically SA/PSA questions ask us to do.

    Let me try to put a couple of pieces in place to support that contention. The LSAT tests our ability to read close and follow lines of reasoning in a variety of ways. On SA questions, we are (the vast majority of time) going to be given a conclusion that does not immediately follow from the stated premise(s). The conclusion will fail to follow from the stated premise(s) because of several possible (reoccurring) gaps that the argument did not explicitly state. Our job is to bring to light these gaps and state them in a logically coherent way. By its very nature this process of bringing forth that gap and stating that gap in a logically coherent way strengthens an argument, but it does so in a more narrowly defined way than a typical strengthener. This means that if we choose an answer on the basis of strengthening the reasoning, we are quite possibly choosing something that does not complete the task of a SA question.

    My point can be more clearly illustrated by the use of some numbers, I'm just throwing these out there but I believe the proportions are ballpark correct:
    99/100 sufficient assumptions will indeed strengthen the reasoning (as long as we adhere to the definition of strengthen stated above).
    15/100 strengthen answer choices are sufficient assumptions

    So, if we go into an SA question choosing the answer that will strengthen: we might end up choosing an answer choice that strengthens by eliminating a possible alternative for instance, but not something that completes the job of an SA question asks of us.

    So, driving a layer deeper: what is the answer to SA questions? I get asked this quite a bit. I'm reminded here of a quote from the book "Blood Meridian": "The mystery is that there is no mystery."

    Formulaic SA questions should be drilled and reviewed dozens of times each: each time building a more and more complete understanding of the logical structure of the argument, an anticipation of the gap in the argument and the flexibility required to spot the answer in the contrapositive form. It was only through laborious, often frustrating work that I was able to finally get a deep understanding of them to make the vast, vast majority of them "freebies" on LR sections. In review, strive to really understand the logical structure of the argument. The words above do not complete capture my previous frustration with SA questions, I spent more than 40 hours on the 1 and 2 star ones, digging in, drawing out the logical chains, watching the videos, thinking of other ways to state the answer choice. I don't regret that.


  • 321raymoney123321raymoney123 Alum Member
    49 karma

    Thank you to all three of you! I will continue to work on improving my ability on SA/PSA questions using the lawgic method; they are the question type I have struggled with the most, but drilling some earlier has seemed to already help a little.

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