Theory and Approach

The most fundamental skill for Logical Reasoning is your ability to identify the main conclusion (or main point) of an argument.

And so we tackle 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. This is the first and necessary hurdle to overcome on the long road toward achieving Logical Reasoning mastery.

The passages in MC questions can be confusing for two common reasons:

  1. The passages contain 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
  2. There is a complex argument structure, i.e., there are minor premises supporting sub-conclusions or major premises which in turn support a 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.

If it’s the case that she’s responding to someone else’s position, then her response will most likely be in some degree (often strong) of opposition. Even though the context is not really a part of the author’s argument, it is always relevant. And nearly always, it will be the target of a referential phrase in the author’s argument.

Sometimes, the setup will be elaborate enough to contain its own premise–conclusion structure, meaning that sometimes, the setup is someone else’s argument. Other times, the setup is a solitary statement, standing alone without support.

The context indicators like “however” and “but” will help you figure out where other people’s arguments end and where the author’s argument begins.

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.

While contextual indicators are convenient, be careful not to become overly reliant because they are not necessary to indicate the transition.

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 sub-conclusion or major-premise, i.e., a statement which receives support but is itself used to give support to another statement.

Consider this example:

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

“Athena is fluffy” is merely a sub-conclusion. It is further used together with “All fluffy animals like head scratches” to support the main conclusion that “Athena likes head scratches.”

Be very careful not to confuse major premises/sub-conclusions for main conclusions.

Some example MC question stems include:

  1. Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main conclusion of the argument?
  2. Which one of the following most accurately expresses the conclusion of the argument as a whole?
  3. Which one of the following most accurately expresses the overall conclusion of the argument?


Being able to take on MC questions is the first essential step to understanding the rest of the Logical Reasoning. Pay attention to the use of contextual information, referential phrasing, and complex argument structures.

Step 1: Read the question stem and identify it as an MC question
Step 2: Read stimulus
Step 3: Identify context, premises, conclusion
Step 4: Hunt for conclusion paraphrasing in answer choices. The correct answer will likely utilize referential phrasing.
Step 4 Fallback: Process of Elimination

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