Page 1 - Analytical Reasoning Study Guide for the LSAT
To score well on this type of question in the LSAT, you need to be able to:
- Take given information and propose a solution to a problem.
- Apply knowledge of “if-then” reasoning.
- Identify statements that could be true, based on given information.
- Make inferences based on given and new information.
- Recognize logically equivalent statements.
Although specific training in logic is not required, you must be able to isolate specific relationships within the passage and apply them to the questions in a meaningful way. It is also necessary to use only information that is in the passage or can be inferred from it. Inserting prior knowledge or information from other sources can negatively affect your ability to answer this type of question.
When answering analytical reasoning questions, it is often helpful to draw a visual representation of the “rules” stated in the passage. You will then have this as a reference and tool when answering the questions.
The LSAT Analytical Reasoning test requires you to decide if a statement could, or must, be true, according to a set of given facts. The passages used will involve some sort of organization or order of events. Practicing this type of reasoning will greatly enhance your chances of scoring well on this part of the LSAT. Consider the following as you are studying.
Terms to Know
Knowledge of certain terms will prove very helpful as you read and answer the questions. Be sure to understand the meaning and use of these.
If-then statements require you to make logical conclusions and inferences, based upon available information. An if-then statement is also called a conditional statement; the conclusion (then) is dependent upon the variable (if). For example, you might see a conditional statement saying, “If you work hard, you will go far.” Going far is dependent upon hard work.
Some if-then statements will not be accurate and may need to be identified as such. These are called fallacies. An inaccurate conditional statement might include something like, “If you follow the law, you are sure to wind up in a courtroom.” Following the law should preclude a crime-free life, not one filled with crime.
Logical equivalence is the state used to describe the equivalent logic, or truth content, of two different statements. This is exemplified in statement pairs such as:
A—If Stephanie is enrolled in school, she is regularly assigned homework.
B—If Stephanie is not enrolled in school, she does not receive homework.
Although the sentences are different, the logical conclusions are the same. Logical equivalences will not always be this simplistic, of course; but a basic understanding of logical arguments will reveal whether two methods of logic are equivalent or different.
Specific Skills to Practice
Being skilled in areas of reasoning is essential for a good score. Practice doing all of these things before the day of the test.
Making inferences requires you to take clues and other pieces of information within a text to come to a conclusion. In a story, this might mean coming to a conclusion regarding the nature of a character. With regard to the law, this typically means coming to a conclusion using pieces of a case history or coming to a conclusion regarding a law using its background and the nuances of its language.
When you are working to make inferences, read all reference material and the work immediately surrounding the conclusion to be drawn. This process requires you to be open to logical guesswork and filling in conclusions while missing concrete facts or evidence.
Revising Based on New Information
Law-based work is constantly changing. As such, you must be able to adapt and shift your understanding as you receive new information. Although it may be tempting (and may seem to be the only possibility) to plant your feet regarding an opinion or view without wavering, this is not the nature of law. As you receive new information, thoroughly read through everything you are given, and process this information in conjunction with existing information to form a holistic, evidence-based conclusion.
As you work to comprehend given information, first read through every piece of information you have available. Next, work to find commonalities or widely applicable bits of knowledge to tie a case or problem together. Finally, work to find a solution to the issues that are presented, such as how a case is to be presented, how a series of relationships are best portrayed, how to schedule shifts and tailor employee interaction, etc. If there is something you do not understand, delve deeper and seek out outside resources; leaving gaps in knowledge will prove troublesome in the future.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some ideas to make this test-taking experience more effective.
As you comb through the questions and passages found in the test, be on the lookout for keywords and significant phrases. Wording significantly impacts the meaning of a sentence―even a sentence that may seem straightforward. As you read, take note of any significant words or phrases and, if possible, jot down notes as you read to reference later.
Questions are not connected in this test. Although it may be tempting to draw parallels and create interdependence, each question should be viewed and evaluated as an island, rather than a web or series.
As you read and work through the questions, do not be afraid to use outside help. This can include many things, such as highlighters, diagrams, and notes. Although you should not waste an absurd amount of time on these implements, they can be extremely useful in synthesizing given information and drawing inferences in the text.