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There are certain LSAT keywords that people learn while prepping for the test, which tend to fall into a few categories:
Conditional Logic LSAT keywords: If, then, must, all, each, only, only if, unless, the only, etc…
Argument structure LSAT keywords: Since, therefore, thus, because, hence, so, however, but, etc…
Question stem LSAT keywords: Most supported, vulnerable to criticism, etc…
You probably need to spend some time solidifying the Conditional Logic words. You probably have a pretty solid handle on the argument structure words. And the question stem keywords have to be learned, but they’re relatively straightforward.
However, there’s a completely different set of “LSAT keywords” that don’t tend to be focused on nearly as much, even though I’d argue that they’re more important to focus on.
These “LSAT keywords” (or, really, key concepts) will help you quickly identify the key concepts in a Logical Reasoning question. Most are related to the classic flaws that show up again and again.
Each of the concepts below commonly feature in Logical Reasoning questions, and they lead me to ask a few follow-up questions to check to see if they’re relevant to the question.
Whenever a study is done, I check to make sure the sample is large, representative, randomly-selected or split, and has no reason to lie.
The most difficult concept in there, and the one that asks for an explanation, is the randomly-selected/split. When a group is split into two segments in a study, make sure that the two groups are split randomly. If the argument doesn’t specifically tell you this, there’s a chance that the two groups were split in an unrepresentative manner.
Premises that include language such as associated with, tends to, correlated with, also/and. Conclusions with language such as causes, factor, makes, results in, increases/decreases. These are the hallmarks of a correlation/causation flaw. In fact, as soon as I see a premise including associated with, I’m already 90% sure where the argument is going.
Most comparisons on the LSAT are incomplete. In order to make a valid comparison, the criteria over which the comparison would be made needs to be established, and those criteria have to be stated for both of the things being compared. Any comparison needs these parts, so when I see a comparison on the LSAT, I check to see which one is missing. Usually, the pros/cons of both sides won’t be fully explored.
See Conditional Logic? The LSAT’s probably testing your skills in that area. Practice!
In the real world, people commonly use logical force to make their argument sound stronger, even when the statements aren’t true. Think of the number of times you’ve said, “That’s the best movie ever!”
On the LSAT, they like to see if you can break out of this colloquial mold and notice that extreme language is almost always unwarranted. If you see cannot/always/impossible/all in a conclusion, the argument’s probably jumping too far from weaker premises.
If the conclusion features a recommendation, I automatically check to see if the criteria for determining the optimal outcome has been established and if all possible solutions have been explored. If either of those is missing, then the recommendation is flawed.
Just because someone believes something doesn’t make it true. Just because something’s true doesn’t mean everyone will believe it. And just because someone says something doesn’t mean it’s true; it doesn’t even mean they necessarily believe it.
This is an incomplete list, so try to find some more common concepts that repeat on the LSAT and how to work with them to get to a correct answer! Finding these patterns is something that’s common between almost all top test-takers, so put yourself in that category. 📝
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Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor and jdMission Senior Consultant based in New York City. After receiving a degree in Biochemistry from Boston College, Matt scored a 180 on his LSAT and enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s nothing that makes him happier than seeing his students receive the scores they want to get into the schools of their choice. Check out Matt’s upcoming LSAT courses here!