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.
Typically, the passages in MP questions are confusing. Usually, it’s because these passages contain either (1) sentences which do not belong to the argument or (2) a complex argument structure where there are sub-conclusions and a main conclusion.
In examples of (1), the stimulus begins with context. Often, the context is a “setup” where the author reports to you “Most experts believe that a recession…” or “It is now commonly said…” Be very sensitive to the fact that the author is only reporting someone else’s position to you. He has not revealed his position yet. When he does, his position will be in disagreement with the position taken in the setup. The setup is not a part of the author’s argument. It’s the setup. It’s context. Often, the setup is elaborate enough to contain its own premise–conclusion structure, meaning that often, the setup is someone else’s argument. Other times, the setup is a statement, standing alone without support. The context indicators which you learned about will help you figure out where other people’s arguments end and where the author’s argument begins.
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 to draw attention to it. Conversely, the last sentence of the stimulus will usually be preceded by an obvious conclusion indicator like “therefore.” But – you guessed it – the last sentence will not be the main conclusion. Usually, it will be a major premise/sub-conclusion, i.e., a statement which has support/premises in the stimulus but is itself used to support another statement. Consider this example.
Luke likes carrots.
All Jedi are powerful and Luke is a Jedi.
All powerful beings like carrots.
Therefore Luke is powerful.
What’s the main conclusion? Luke likes carrots. Why? Because everything else supports this statement directly or indirectly. What’s the sub-conclusion/major premise? Luke is powerful. Why? Because it has its own support/premises (namely that Luke is a Jedi and all Jedi are powerful) but is itself used to support the claim that Luke likes carrots (because all powerful beings like carrots). Be very careful not to confuse major premises/sub-conclusions for main conclusions. As a rule of thumb, if you spot a conclusion indicator like “therefore” preceding the last sentence in a MP question, do not label that last sentence as the main conclusion. It is likely only a sub-conclusion masquerading as a main conclusion.
Some example MP question stems include:
Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main conclusion of the economists argument?
Which one of the following most accurately expresses the conclusion of the surrealist’s argument?
Which one of the following most accurately expresses the conclusion of the argument as a whole?
Being able to take on MP questions is the first essential step to understanding the rest of the Logical Reasoning. The passages in MP questions will often try to confuse you by contextual information which obscures and draws attention away from the author’s argument or through use of sub-conclusions pretending to be main conclusions.