Logical Reasoning is a multi-faceted LSAT section with many, many different things going on.
Logical Reasoning is also a highly repetitive section with very few things going on.
Dickens I’m not.
What do I mean by this apparent contradiction? Well, there are many different question types and a variety of strategies that show up on the LR section. At the same time, there are patterns that repeat on the section, and there are only a handful of them. If you can pick up on the patterns, you can fly through the section with a very high level of accuracy.
Today, I want to look at a higher-level pattern that shows up in the Assumption family of questions.
While the gaps in arguments that define this section are varied in their intricacies, they also tend to fall into one of two much larger categories: Linking Assumptions and Potential Objections.
What are each of these?
A Linking Assumption shows up in an argument that illicitly jumps between two (usually similar) terms.
For instance, the argument might talk about weight loss in the premises, and then draw a conclusion about fat loss. While these two terms are related, the linking of them as if they mean the same thing is a flaw. These assumptions tend to show up in Sufficient Assumption questions and some Necessary Assumptions. They’re also the reason that a lot of Inference answers are wrong – in picking the answer, you “wrote in” a linking assumption.
A Potential Objection is when the situation described in the argument has more than one explanation, outcome, or reason, and the argument picks one as correct. For example, the argument might say that a certain type of snake only lives in pine trees, and pine trees have a special chemical in their sap, so that must be the reason the snakes prefer to live there. While it’s possible, there are other potential reasons the snake could prefer pine trees, and each of those serves as a potential objection to the conclusion.
These tend to show up in Necessary Assumption questions, and Strengthen/Weaken questions.
How can you use this to get points? Well, if you see a new term show up in the conclusion (like “fat loss” in our example), the argument is probably guilty of a linking assumption, and you should focus on answers that talk about the connection between the new idea and the idea from the premises. If, however, the conclusion is trying to explain something or pick one option, it’s probably committing a Potential Objection flaw, and you should brainstorm what else could explain the premises.
Big picture? Very. But knowing what general gaps show up in the different “flavor” of conclusions can make your journey to discovering the flaw a lot faster. If you can save just 10 seconds on each question finding the assumption, you’ve got an extra couple minutes for the section. And who wouldn’t want that? 📝
Matt Shinners is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York City. After receiving a science degree 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! Your first class is always free.