Articles published in Logical Reasoning

#MovieFailMondays: Scream (or, How Movies Can Teach You About Logical Fallacies and Help You Ace the LSAT)

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MFM 7-Blog-ScreamEach week, we analyze a movie that illustrates a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who said Netflix can’t help you study? 

Before Dawson’s Creek, The Following, and Scream 2, Kevin Williamson forged a name for himself with the classic horror film, Scream. Read more

LSAT Lessons from an Ancient Windsurfer

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Blog-Windsurfer-BannerIf you go on one of those windsurfing web sites where the seasoned pros give advice to newbies, you see a lot of conversations like this:

Newbie: “I want to learn how to windsurf. I found someone selling a Ten Cate Sprinter windsurfer for $100. Is this a good board for a beginner?”

Pro: “No! That thing is over 30 years old. It will be too hard to learn anything with a board like that.”

So, there I was a few weeks ago, a total beginner who had never windsurfed before, paddling out into the Chesapeake Bay on an old Ten Cate Sprinter windsurfer. Why? Read more

#MovieFailMondays: Gravity (or, How Movies Can Teach You About Logical Fallacies and Help You Ace the LSAT)

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Gravity-Blog

Each week, we analyze a movie that illustrates a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who said Netflix can’t help you study? 

2013’s Gravity, also known as Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Film Fact Check, is a science fiction thriller from the mind of Alfonso Cuaròn. While not as scientifically rigorous as his earlier film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (NDT said, and we quote – “I have never seen a film with such obvious attention to scientific detail.”), Gravity did receive plaudits from the astrophysicist for the many things it got right.

Sadly, logic wasn’t one of them. Read more

Last-minute tips for LSAT prep from the owner of a perfect 180

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Matt_Shinners_SmallMatt Shinners scored a perfect 180 on his LSAT…on his first attempt. He then received his JD from Harvard Law School. Now? He’s an LSAT instructor and curriculum developer for none other than yours truly, Manhattan Prep. This isn’t just a shameless plug for Shinners’ LSAT prep services (trust us, he doesn’t need our help); Business Insider recently reached out to Shinners for any last-minute advice or tips he might have for soon-to-be LSAT test-takers. In true fashion, Shinners delivered. See what he had to say here.

This advice is perfect if you just so happen to be taking the test this Saturday, October 3. Who knows? It might even help you boost your score by 2.7 points (the test’s standard deviation).

Want more great LSAT prep help? Check out our free resources here.

Been there, done that, and can’t get enough? View our full range of options.

Happy prepping!
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#MovieFailMondays: Return of the King

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Every week we bring you a new movie that teaches us about a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who says Netflix can’t help you study? 

MFM-Blog-LotR

Wait a minute, Matt – don’t tell me there’s a logical fallacy in Return of the King!

Read more

#MovieFailMondays: Planet of the Apes

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Every week we bring you a new movie that teaches us about a logical fallacy you’ll find on the LSAT. Who says Netflix can’t help you study? 

MFM-Blog-PotA-2 (1)

Originally scripted by Rod “I don’t have a nickname because you should know who I am” Serling, Planet of the Apes is the tale of when a group of astronauts stop being polite and start getting killed by walking, talking apes.

Read more

Advanced LSAT Negation Techniques: Part I of III

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nonoYou’re several minutes into the logical reasoning section and on question five. It’s a necessary assumption question. Great! You know how to do those. You read the argument and boil the core down to:

Premise: Richie hates snails.

Conclusion: Richie will stomp on that snail over there.

You are relieved to spot the assumption immediately: If Richie hates something, he will stomp on it.

Reading through the answer choices, you look for one that matches. You get rid of C, D, and E easily. A and B remain, and they both look pretty good because they’re both about stomping and hating snails. Luckily, you know what to do at this point: Negate each answer to see what happens. If negating (making it untrue) wrecks the argument, that means it’s necessary, i.e. your answer!

But wait. B reads, “If Richie hates something, sometimes he kills it.”

You’re at a loss on how to negate that. Do you say, if Richie doesn’t kill something, he doesn’t hate it? Or if he doesn’t hate it, he’ll kill it? Or if he does hate it, he won’t kill it? How do you negate an “if” statement?

To negate a conditional, negate the necessary clause. Leave the conditional clause (the “if” clause) alone. In this case the correct negation would be the third one above: If Richie hates something, he won’t sometimes kill it (or he’ll never kill it, same thing).

What happens to our argument when we put it that way? Destroyed! Answer choice B is correct.

Come back to the blog next week for Part II of Advanced Negation Techniques.

Yet Another Way to Think about LSAT Inference Questions

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Adjust your thinking  LSATThe other day I was working with a student on an Inference question (PrepTest 57, Section 3, Question 13) and as I was describing the strategy for this question type, she said, “Oh, so it’s like Reading Comp!”

Well, isn’t that true.

In this particular question, the LSAT tells us a few things: that still-life painting is best for artists whose goal is self-expression, that this is because the artist can “choose, modify, and arrange” the objects, and that therefore the artist has “more control over the composition” than she would in painting a landscape or portrait. From this we’re asked to infer what’s most likely to be true. In other words, we’re basically being asked what’s most reasonably inferred from the stimulus. That does sound a lot like Reading Comp.

Moving through the answer choices, I then noticed that the wrong answers were, indeed, wrong for Reading Comp-like reasons:

(A) “Most” isn’t supported = TOO EXTREME
(B) “Only” = TOO EXTREME
(C) “Nonrepresentational painting” = OUT OF SCOPE
(D) Correct Answer.
(E) “Rarely” and “background elements” = UNSUPPORTED

These are, of course, also often reasons why answer choices are incorrect to Inference questions. Certainly the comparison between Reading Comp questions and Inference questions in Logical Reasoning isn’t anything extraordinary (or even all that surprising to some of you), but it does seem worth noting for those of you for whom the Inference question strategy still hasn’t entirely clicked. Try treating them like an Identification or Inference question on Reading Comp. They’re essentially the same thing.

“Unless” Statements in 2 Minutes

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Notating Unless Statements in Two Minutes by Mary Richter

We incorporate the latest discoveries in learning science into our LSAT course to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your prep. Want to see? Try the first session of any of our upcoming courses for free.


Lately, I’ve been getting asked a lot about notating “unless.” I figured that with the LSAT is so close, it might be helpful to write up a quick-and-dirty how-to designed specifically for those of you who need to lock it in last minute.

The quickest way to learn how to diagram “unless” as a conditional is to translate it “if not.”

I can’t ride the ride unless I’m over 4 feet tall =

I can’t ride the ride [if not] over 4 feet tall =

Not over 4 ft –> Can’t ride ride

But wait! Didn’t “if not” appear in the middle of the sentence? Why does it leap to the beginning in our diagramming? Like with any “if” that appears in the middle of a sentence we are diagramming, we just pluck it up and place it at the beginning of our conditional. This is because the left side of the arrow is always the “if” side (the conditional side), regardless of how the original sentence is organized. So:

I will eat that banana if you pay me 10 dollars =

Pay me 10 dollars –> Eat that banana

Translating “unless” to “if not” fits right into this model. Try a few more, and I’ll put answers at the end of this post:

1. Don’t move unless I tell you to!

2. Ask unless I say otherwise.

3. Lean on me unless I’m not there.

Now, here’s a slight twist for plural conditionals, such as the one that appears on PrepTest 69, Section 4, Question 6. That question asks you to translate an unless statement but gives you two “unless” triggers. Like this:

She is going to return the blow dryer unless it starts working again or she can’t find her receipt.

If we apply the “if not” strategy, this sentence becomes:

She is going to return the blow dryer [if not] it starts working again or she can’t find her receipt.

So it seems we would diagram that:

If doesn’t start working OR can find receipt –> Will return

But what’s the problem with that? Think about it–does that actually reflect what we’ve been told? This sentence …

If doesn’t start working OR can find receipt –> Will return

… tells us that if either thing happens, that’s enough to guarantee she returns it. But that’s not true! If it doesn’t start working again, that’s not sufficient to know that she will return it, because she still needs to find her receipt. For this to make sense we have to change the OR to an AND:

If doesn’t start working AND can find receipt –> Will return

And the contrapositive would be:

Won’t return –> Does start working OR can’t find receipt

This means we have to add a second rule to our strategy for translating “unless” statements into conditional (if –> then) statements:

1. “Unless” becomes “if not.”

2. In the “unless” (“if not”) clause, “and” becomes “or” and “or” becomes “and.”

Answers to drill above

1. I don’t tell you to –> Don’t move [Contrapositive: Move –> I tell you to]
2. I don’t say otherwise –> Ask [Contrapositive: Don’t ask –> I said otherwise]
3. There –> Lean on me (Can be tricky, but “if not not there” just means “there.”)
[Contrapositive: Don’t lean on me –> Not there]


Don’t forget that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person LSAT courses absolutely free. We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Manhattan Prep LSAT Instructor Mary Richter

Mary Richter is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York City. Mary has degrees from Yale Law School and Duke. She has over 10 years of experience teaching the LSAT after scoring in the 99th percentile on the test. She is always thrilled to see students reach beyond their target scores. At Yale, she co-directed the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic for two years. After graduating she became an associate at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in New York City, where she was also the firm’s pro bono coordinator. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, and more. Check out Mary’s upcoming LSAT classes here.

Study the LSAT Everyday

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No, that’s not an order, but it is a great idea. Here’s the problem; there’s a limit to how many tests you can work through without completely tuning out and not getting anything out of it. lsat note takingThe good news is you can study the LSAT everyday while minimizing your exposure to the actual test.

Quick disclaimer: this is NOT a recommendation to ditch practice tests or strategies. This is a way to supplement your test studying so you are always in LSAT mode.

That said, consider what the LSAT is actually testing. It is a test that evaluates your ability to think logically. You are presented with chances to think logically all the time (though if you’re like me, you may not always live up to the potential). If you identify and use those opportunities, they become excellent chances to study.

Start with reading comprehension. Whether you’re in school or at work, you have to read, probably pretty often. We read for content – to find out what the article is saying. Start reading for perspective as well. As you go through your books and articles, ask yourself these questions: Read more