Most questions on the LSAT revolve around arguments. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what an argument is and how to break one into its component parts. V2 of the 7Sage Core Curriculum teaches you everything you need to know about arguments. 

Understanding arguments begins with identifying the main conclusion. The main conclusion is the ultimate point of an author’s argument—it’s the claim the author is trying to convince you to believe.

Identifying the conclusion is one of the most fundamental skills for Logical Reasoning. This is why our curriculum tackles Main Conclusion (MC)—also called Main Point (MP)—questions first.

With this type of question, the test writers are handing you a label with “main conclusion” printed on it. They’re telling you to go slap it on the part of the stimulus that you think is the main conclusion. 

The stimulus in MC questions are often confusing for two common reasons:

  1. The stimulus contains statements that are contextual to the argument. Sometimes context serves to fill us in on background information or to state someone else’s views before launching into what the author really wants to say. Other times, context is used to contain information that the conclusion statement will refer to; or
  1. There is a complex argument structure, i.e., there are multiple conclusions, where one of those conclusions (called a subsidiary conclusion) supports the main conclusion.

In examples of (1), often the passage will begin with context. Think of that as a “setup” where the author is trying to get you situated before advancing her argument to persuade you of her conclusion. The setup can take the form of a report of other people’s views, e.g., “Most experts believe such and such...” or “It is now commonly said such and such...” or merely a statement upon which the author will later offer commentary. Either way, the point of the context is to set you up to receive the argument. It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that within the context the author is only reporting to you someone else’s position or getting you ready to receive her argument. She has not yet staked out her position.

Consider this example:

Tom believes that cats make for better house pets than tigers. But, he's wrong. The major advantage that a tiger can offer over a cat is that of badassery.

Here, the first sentence – “Tom believes that cats make for better house pets than tigers.” – is context. This sets us up to receive the author’s argument. The conclusion is that Tom’s wrong; in other words, cats do not make for better house pets than tigers. Why? Because tigers had the advantage of badassery over cats.

In examples of (2), the stimulus will drop the main conclusion on you in the first sentence or hide it in the middle somewhere without any conclusion indicators so as not to draw attention to it. Conversely, some other sentence (perhaps the last sentence) will be preceded by an obvious conclusion indicator like “therefore” or “thus.” But—you guessed it—that sentence will not be the main conclusion. Usually, it will merely be a subsidiary conclusion, i.e., a statement which receives support but is itself used to give support to another statement.

Consider this example:

Athena likes head scratches. Athena is a cat and all cats are fluffy. Thus, Athena is fluffy. And surely all fluffy animals like head scratches. 

The statement following “Thus” – “Athena is fluffy” – is merely a subsidiary conclusion. It is not the main conclusion. It is used together with the last sentence – “And surely all fluffy animals like head scratches” – to support the main conclusion that “Athena likes head scratches.” Here, the main conclusion is the first sentence.

Be very careful not to confuse subsidiary conclusions for main conclusions.

On the test, there are many different types of arguments, each with its own kind of conclusion and support structure. Understanding these relationships is a major key to success on the LSAT. 

The above lesson offers a glimpse into the new V2 7Sage Curriculum. Check out a mini-lesson on arguments in V2 of the 7Sage Curriculum here.