1. Riding a bike. Okay, I couldn’t resist the cliché, but it is applicable to the LSAT in an essential way: once you learn logic, you aren’t going to forget it. You’ll be calling your husband out on his illegal reversals when he’s 85, and he’ll still be irritated, and—if he hasn’t ever learned conditional logic himself—confused, and tell you to stop.
2. Doing dishes. You approach the sink, where they’re stacked high. You hate your life for a moment, facing down this mountain of greasy ceramic. If you’re really unlucky, someone has already dumped a full plate of leftovers into the drain, and there is no disposal. But you get started, and the water is warm, and you find yourself humming because you’ve gotten into a rhythm. Suddenly, you’re done, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought. Getting into the LSAT zone can be like this. In fact, the more you let it consume your full attention, the more it will be…and the better your studying will be.
3. A very mature break up. The elusive “good break up” may be impossible, but a mature break up, as in one that is rational, reasonably polite, and over quickly is not. What’s an immature one? Screaming, yelling, kicking, crying, maybe a dash of lying. The LSAT is like handling an unwanted situation with composure and rational thinking. It’s about maintaining your intellect when what you want to do is tear it in half. Don’t. Be calm and LSAT on.
4. Talking to your best friend’s boyfriend. Talking to him is more one-way than talking to Siri. He is a mute. He likes terrible music, hates his job, and is gluten intolerant so he can’t even eat anything delicious. But you love your best friend, and she loves him, and so: you must find common ground. You set aside your dislike, put on a smile, and find yet another new line of inquiry where all others have failed. Getting stumped on the LSAT isn’t so different—don’t panic. Look for a new way of thinking about the question, and if it’s still not working, leave it and come back only if you have time. It’s her boyfriend anyway, not yours. He’ll survive a few minutes alone.
5. Watching your favorite show. You’ve been an avid fan for four seasons, and you’re happily buried under a blanket and a tub of General Tso’s Chicken, watching your forty-fifth episode, when your favorite character does something so, so out of character, you have to press pause to gain your composure, i.e. g-chat anyone with a green dot. It’s blasphemy! FREDDY WOULD NEVER! You speculate about whether the writers were high, or new, or if they all had a stroke at the same time, and then you resume watching with half as much zeal. You’ve caught an error because you are an expert. Become an expert at the LSAT, and you’ll begin to see the logical gaps in the same way (but maybe with less excitement…or more!).
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Last week I wrote about how to negate extreme answer choices, and this week we’re going to talk about mild statements that appear in answer choices.
The key with mild statements is, just like it was with extreme statements, to make them untrue but without seeking their polar opposite.
An example of a mild statement: “There’s some milk on the floor.”
How would we make this untrue? We’d say there’s no milk on the floor. There was some, and now there’s none. We mopped it up.
Mop up this:
“There might be a chance of rain tomorrow.”
How do you mop up that chance of rain?
There’s no chance of rain tomorrow.
Notice what I’m doing here? Think about it.
If I negate extreme statements by poking a hole in them, then it makes sense that you would negate mild statements by the inverse, that is, by using extreme language to mop them up. Try a few below and then check your answers. (And, as with all rules of thumb when it comes to the LSAT, please understand this a guideline only—as a way of thinking about negation—and not a hard-and-fast rule that will get you to 180. High scores don’t come by simply memorizing and applying rules; they come from learning the strategies, techniques, and concepts that enable you actually understand, analyze, and apply logic. Now I’ll get off my soapbox.)
1. Jackson Pollock may be one of the best painters that ever lived.
2. On occasion, Jillian will take a nap between 3 and 5 or sometimes 3 and 6.
3. Often, but not always, Jim likes to take pictures of rainbows.
4. The early bird sometimes gets the worm.
1. Jackson Pollock is not one of the best painters that ever lived.
2. Jillian never takes a nap between 3 and 6. [Notice this covers the 3-5 period.]
3. Jim either never likes to take pictures of rainbows or always does.
4. The early bird never gets the worm.
What if we wanted to negate just the standard saying, “The early bird gets the worm.” Would we say, “The early bird never gets the worm?” Think about it for a moment before reading on.
Okay, if you answered no, you’re correct. “The early bird gets the worm” is an “extreme” statement in the sense that we interpret it to mean the early bird always gets the worm. So, harking back to the last post, we poke a hole in it: The early bird sometimes doesn’t get the worm.
For much more in-depth explanation and practice, turn to the negation section of the Manhattan LSAT Logical Reasoning Strategy Guide.
I LOVE Beyoncé. I want to sing like her and be like her, and last month I was supposed to fly to Dallas just to go to her concert with my sister. But instead, my flight was canceled and I was stranded in Queens watching You Tube clips while my sister and brother-in-law tried repeatedly to Facetime me from the rafters of the enormous theater. My self-pity video marathon included “All the Single Ladies,” and later, when I was thinking about this series and how best to describe negation technique, I thought of the song. While putting a ring on it is what Beyoncé wants for all you single ladies, what I want for you is this: When you’re facing an extreme statement (“all” “none” “best” “worst”)—not unlike my adoration for Queen B, herself—what I want you to do is put a hole in it.
For a quick refresher, we’re discussing how to “negate” an answer choice to a necessary assumption question on the logical reasoning section of the LSAT. You do this in order to test it. If negating the answer choice makes the argument fall apart, it is necessary. (If negating the answer choice doesn’t destroy the argument, or if you can’t tell what it does, look for a better answer.) Last week I wrote my first post of three on negation techniques. Today, we keep going.
What do I mean by “put a hole in it?”
If the answer choice reads, “All birds fly,” you negate it by poking a hole in it: not all birds fly. Or some birds don’t fly. Same thing. Either way, notice what we’re doing. If the statement were a big hot air balloon, we’d be pin-pricking it. We aren’t, in other words, trying to melt it down then mold it into something else completely: “No birds fly.” That’s not negation. That brings me to the DON’T of this post, what my friend calls roofing it.
Roofing a joke is when people are discussing a subject and someone takes it too far. A classic example is when someone calls you Hitler when you express your view that a local park needs a thorough mowing. Or when everyone is discussing how annoying skunks are, and someone suggests we just blow up all the skunks.
When it comes to extreme answer choices to necessary assumption questions, don’t negate the sweeping statement with an opposing sweeping statement—don’t roof it.
Suppose (A) reads, “Dr. Seuss is the best children’s author ever.” You could negate this by saying, “There was another children’s author who was as good as Dr. Seuss.” You wouldn’t say, “Dr. Seuss was the worst children’s author ever to walk on earth.” That would be roofing it.
Say (B) reads, “Dr. Seuss wrote faster than any other writer in history.” Negate it: He didn’t. Or, someone wrote faster than him. Yes, and yes. Roofing it: He wrote as slow as your granny backing out of her driveway. Too far.
In sum, when it comes to extreme statements in answer choices, poke it, don’t roof it.
Next week we’ll be discussing my rule for negating mild statements, courtesy of Destiny’s Child.