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Road to 170+: "Down to 2, What do I do?" (Long Read: Strategy on how to choose between two LR AC's)

Michael.CincoMichael.Cinco Alum Member Sage
edited February 2020 in General 2106 karma

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar. You are humming along in a Logical Reasoning question. You think AC D might be the right answer choice and then you get to AC E and it looks equally as promising. You furl your brow and try to decide which one of them is correct but you are drawing blanks. 5 seconds turns to 10, and all of a sudden a spike of anxiety hits. You are sure AC’s A, B and C are non contenders but for the life of you, you just cannot decide between D and E. You’re down to two, what do you do? (D2TWYD?)

I would say this happens to a lot of us as we progress through our LSAT Journey. Often times people on forums or group chats even mention this directly when they are seeking advice on how to improve their LR Scores. They will offer some variant of the following statement: “I’m often stuck between 2 answer choices and I tend to pick the wrong one” as a reason for their lack of improvement. I’m writing this post for the many people who find themselves in this situation. I want to outline some strategies on how to maximize your chances of getting the right answer.

One Unique Correct Answer:

Say you are in your school library, trying to study for the LSAT when all of a sudden you hear a little squeak. You look at the floor and you spot a rat trying to eat your backpack. As the good conscientious student that you are, you grab a piece of your lunch and you lure the rat outside of the library where it can be free to harass the annoying philosophy majors sitting outside staring at clouds. Taken in isolation, what you did here is a good thing. You found a rat, and you dealt with it. But if this happens 5 or 10 times,you’ve got real issues. Your library is infested with rats and you probably contracted the bubonic plague. Compare that to D2TWYD? The two scenarios share a similarity in that dealing with one or two may be fine, but dealing with them consistently is a symptom of major foundational problems.

There is one unique correct answer to every LR question on the LSAT. So, if you tell me there here are 2 equally tempting answer choices, that tells me that your understanding of the question and stimulus is severely lacking. The best way to deal with D2TWYD is to NOT put yourself in this situation to begin with. If you find yourself consistently here what you may want to do is to devote extra time to studying the stimulus, coming up with potential pre-phrases ( this is your best attempt at trying to come up with a plausible solution to the question ) before you head to the Answer Choices. I understand the temptation, the answer choices are where the points are after all. Why wouldn’t you want to tackle them right away? The issue is, if you haven’t fully analyzed the stimulus in your head and digested all the implications then you are basically doing a POE exercise. POE is always your last resort, it is not an efficient use of time and can lead you to being seduced by attractive wrong answer choices. Take the time to study and fully understand the stimulus before proceeding to the answer choices, an extra 15-20 seconds spent upfront can save your minutes of pain down the road.

Down to two, what do I not do?

Despite our best efforts we will occasionally still find ourselves in the precarious position of having to choose between 2 equally temping answer choices. Before we tackle the specific strategies, I think it is wise to go over something we should not do. If you are DT2WYD what you SHOULD NOT DO is get inside your own head. What do I mean by this? You shouldn’t spend too much time THINKING OF REASONS about which answer choice is right. Instead if you are unsure you should be SEARCHING FOR EVIDENCE to back up either of the two answer choices. The correct answer choice is not going to reveal itself in your brain . The key to finding the right answer lies either in the STIMULUS or through dedicated and specific analysis of the ANSWER CHOICES. Retreating into your own head will result in precious seconds lost, and these losses are insidious because unless you video record yourself doing the PT chances are you may even not even notice you did it. If you do this enough times over the course of a section, 15 seconds here, 20 seconds there, the rats start to pile up and all of sudden you are completing one or two questions less per section. If you are down to 2 answer choices, what you don’t do is just mindlessly think of a reason why one or the other is correct…I want you to be actively searching for evidence to support an answer choice!

So what DO I do?

Now that we’ve gone over what you shouldn’t do let's talk about what we should be doing. There are generally two reasons why you are DT2WYD? The first is you’ve not fully understood the stimulus or one of the answer choices. Either you rushed through the stimulus and missed something or this is a curve breaker question and the stimulus and answer choices are intentionally misleading. Regardless of which scenario you find yourself in, you will have two choices at this point. You can realize your predicament and skip the question (which if you read my last post in this series you know I always support) or you can take this as a sign that you should go ahead and re-read the stimulus to see what you’ve missed. If you decide to take the 2nd option you should have a general idea of what to look for. Here’s a list that may help if you don’t.

  1. If there is a conclusion focus on how the conclusion and the premises are related to each other.
    Often times the gap between the premise and conclusion is the key to unlocking the correct answer choice. Look for key modifier words that you may have missed that changes the meeting of a premise or conclusion just enough that it made one of your answer choices seem attractive when it’s really a dud. The LSAC will lay traps like this all the time, it punishes careless reading with trap answer choices designed to capture those who are not 100% on task when reading the stimulus.

  2. Focus on any assumptions you may be bringing to the question.
    When we are stuck on a question, sometimes the culprit is not necessarily what’s in the stimulus. It’s what’s not in the stimulus or answer choice that we are bringing in with our heads. If it’s not in the stimulus or in the answer choice we cannot (with very few exceptions that are tied to ‘common sense’ type assumptions) bring it in as evidence to support an answer choice. If you can identify an assumption you bring in (and this will be hard in real time) that will help you eliminate one of your choices.

Special Situation: Necessary Assumption

If you are DT2WYD on a necessary assumption question there are a couple things to look for.

  1. Be weary of answer choices which are Sufficient but not Necessary. These answer choices tend to use powerful language like superlatives and go above and beyond what you NEED to make the argument work.
  2. Do not forget to run the negation test, it will help eliminate sufficient answer choices.
  3. If in doubt, choose the more subtle answer choice of the two. The nature of necessary assumptions is that they are subtle, so if pressed choose the more subtle option.

Special Situation: Twins

Sometimes you get DT2WYD and the two remaining answer choices seem very similar. This tends to be a good sign because usually (unless the LSAT is being ESPECIALLY Tricky) this means you are on the right path towards finding the correct answer to this question. In this scenario what I suggest you do is to hone in on the DIFFERENCES between the two answer choices. Remember there is one unique answer choice. So it’s in how the two are different from each other, and how that difference RELATES BACK TO THE STIMULUS AND QUESTION AT HAND where you’ll find the evidence for support/elimination of one of the answer choices.

Special Situation: Conditionals:

If both your answer choices contain conditionals chances are they may even be contrapositives of each other. Go back to the stimulus and figure out which version you need. DRAW THEM OUT. Some people think diagramming conditionals takes too much time, but the alternative s trying to figure it out in their head and for the vast majority of people this process is slower and much more prone to error. If you are not confident enough to draw out conditionals, I question whether you are truly in a position to be writing the LSAT. Drill Drill Drill until you are.

Ace in the Hole: Loophole

I saved this for last because not everyone has read Ellen Cassidy’s Loophole. If you haven’t and you are trying to improve your performance on the LSAT I highly suggest you pick it up. But if you have read the book, you can also apply Ellen’s Provable/Powerful dichotomy to the answer choices. Based on the question type, you can see if you can eliminate a provable answer choice to a powerful question or vice versa. This is something you want to pull out if you get stuck, it will do in a pinch if you are running out of time. This is a tool that people who did not read Ellen’s book do not have, so use it to your advantage! It's a valuable tool in your tool kit.

So there you have it, a rough guide on how to handle the dreaded down to 2, what do I do Scenario. You can also use this on it’s much meaner cousin: Down to 3, woe is me scenario. This is by no means a complete document, and I welcome anyone else who has tips to post them below. Let’s make this a living and breathing post guys so that future 7sagers can make use of our knowledge.

Comments

  • EveryCookCanGovernEveryCookCanGovern Alum Member
    edited February 2020 401 karma

    A tip I'd add is people should consider Occam's Razor for the harder LR questions when they are stumped. Often we are told throughout our test prep is that our bringing assumptions into the argument should be avoided and answer choices that require assumptions to function correctly should be treated with suspicion as us making those assumptions for the author of the argument are unwarranted. However, sometimes all of the answer choices will require assumptions to work, and the correct answer choice will be that choice that fulfills the function and requires the least amount of assumptions.

  • aa_248506aa_248506 Monthly Member
    82 karma

    Super helpful, thank you for sharing!

  • Hopeful9812Hopeful9812 Legacy Member
    872 karma

    Thanks so much- very helpful!

  • Michael.CincoMichael.Cinco Alum Member Sage
    2106 karma

    @EveryCookCanGovern said:
    A tip I'd add is people should consider Occam's Razor for the harder LR questions when they are stumped. Often we are told throughout our test prep is that our bringing assumptions into the argument should be avoided and answer choices that require assumptions to function correctly should be treated with suspicion as us making those assumptions for the author of the argument are unwarranted. However, sometimes all of the answer choices will require assumptions to work, and the correct answer choice will be that choice that fulfills the function and requires the least amount of assumptions.

    This is absoloutely true. I will add it to the list!

  • wwwtttttwwwttttt Monthly Member
    171 karma

    So helpful! Thank you so much.

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