It may be logical, but it is anything but elementary. You’ll need all the LSAT Logical Reasoning tips and tricks you can get to ace this section of the test.
The logical reasoning section of the LSAT is full of brain-teasers, head-scratchers, and straight-up puzzles. Before we get into some study tips and strategies for approaching this section, here’s how the questions work:
- You will be presented with a scenario, usually in a passage that is just a few sentences long.
- This passage will probably be a recognizable logical reasoning question type (more on that in a minute).
- You will be given five answer choices (A-E), only one of which can be correct.
It is up to you to determine which answer options can’t be correct and which one must be correct. You will probably have less than a minute and a half per question.
Scared? Don’t be. But you should be prepared.
Read on to learn some Logical Reasoning LSAT tips and strategies that actually work.
Logical Reasoning Question Types
Getting into law school means you’ll have to show an aptitude for arguments and reasoning. Scoring well on the logical reasoning section of the LSAT, all about argument analysis, is how you will demonstrate this skill.
As a working lawyer, analyzing legal arguments will be a daily activity. You will need to analyze, evaluate, construct, and refute arguments on a regular basis.
On the LSAT, you will have to tackle each logical reasoning question with great care. Short arguments will be presented from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats. You don’t have to get hung up on what the argument is actually about. Instead, consider what conclusions you are being asked to make.
There is a specific anatomy to logical reasoning questions, the two parts of which are:
- Stimulus: The prompt, passage, or sentences that contain the content argument.
- Question Stem: Where the question itself is presented.
Some LSAT logical reasoning tips recommend that you read one or the other of these first. Overwhelmingly, it is recommended that you read them in order. This, in and of itself, requires some skill, as you have very little time. Increasing your speed and efficiency is key to improving your LSAT score.
The goal is to train yourself to identify as quickly as possible what the stimulus means and what you are being asked to connect, relate, differentiate, or distinguish. A starting point for developing this skill is to learn the most common logical reasoning question types. Once you know the gist, you’ll have a firm foundation for answering questions efficiently and accurately.
LSAC has some logical reasoning sample questions on their website, which you may find to be helpful illustrations of what you’ll encounter on the test. Here are the most common types of logical reasoning questions on the LSAT:
Assumption questions in logical reasoning are about missing information. In other words, for an argument to be sound and defensible, it must contain certain elements. These can be claims, evidence, correlations, etc.
The goal of an assumption question is to find the missing element. What, in the stimulus content, is being assumed without being stated or defended? An assumption negates the validity of the argument, so that is what you must find and how you must answer the question.
Inference questions in logical reasoning mostly come down to identifying proof-positive claims. In other words, what is the passage claiming to be true and what has it proven to be true?
You will need to analyze stated principles, supportive information, the basis of claims, and what logically follows based on what you have read. Then, you make a judgment about what is reasonably being inferred.
Law overlaps heavily with philosophy. Paradox questions in logical reasoning are going to ask you to resolve apparent paradoxes.
Remember that paradoxes are apparent contradictions. You may approach these in a similar way to assumption questions, looking for missing information or a way to interpret facts differently. The stimulus itself will probably just state a few facts. You don’t need to make an argument of any kind, merely resolve the paradox.
Also known as generalizations or propositions, principle questions follow a few different formats. You may need to address a situation that conforms to a specific principle, match principles to each other, or apply general definitions or values (that constitute a principle).
These can get away from you, because many answers may appear to be right. It will be important to apply very basic logic and remember that there is only one correct answer and you do have all of the information you need to find it.
Strengthen questions in logical reasoning will ask you to select the right answer for a statement that most strongly supports the stimulus. Usually, the stimulus itself will be a full argument. The idea is to “pile on the evidence,” as it were, and add even more reasonable support to the conclusion.
This may be a question type in which you need to think of “most”: ie, which of the answers most adds value to the argument?
Conversely, weaken questions in logical reasoning will ask you to add another chink in the armor to the stimulus argument. Again, you will have to look for the answer that is “most” weakening.
Often, it will be important to dive into nuanced language here, even looking for assumptions in the stimulus that you can further undermine or attack. In both strengthen and weaken questions, the answer should fit as seamlessly impossible into the original argument.
A lot of people get told they should be a lawyer based on how combative they are or how much they love a good debate. And, truth be told, that is a big part of what litigators do. Even outside of court, the logical reasoning required to refute and defend are vital to the practice of law.
Many of the logical reasoning questions will be a presentation of an argument. In its simplest form, an argument is simply a conclusion that is well-supported by valid premises.
Here are the components of an argument that will be relevant for you when you do the logical reasoning portion of the LSAT:
- Background information: The questions on the LSAT logical reasoning aren’t going to have superfluous information or travelogue. Every word matters and is chosen with intent. That means that even background information and little details are essential to understand and use to answer the question.
- Intermediate conclusions: While most stimuli will resolve in an ultimate conclusion, there will be plenty of intermediate conclusions along the way. These may contain assumptions or evidence. It will probably be up to you to find out which they contain and use that knowledge to answer the question correctly.
- Evidence: The aforementioned “valid premises” are, in a legal context, called evidence. There will be a range of evidence presented in LSAT arguments. Part of the challenge is to learn if that evidence truly does support the conclusion. If it doesn’t, then you need to identify why not or what else the evidence means.
- Main conclusion: The main conclusion may show up after “it follows that” or “as a result.” It won’t always. LSAT questions are meant to be hard. Not all conclusions have leading keywords. Context is king and you should practice reading as many LSAT questions as possible to really learn what you’re looking for and when it shows up.
Even if you are an excellent arguer, the LSAT content requires a unique skill. The LSAT is difficult, and it’s tough to get a competitive score. You will need to develop test-taking skills and really unpack the structure of the test if you hope to do well enough to get into one of the top US law schools.
Keep reading for some LSAT logical reasoning tips that can help you succeed.
How to Improve Logical Reasoning LSAT
There are a few ways to improve logical reasoning for the LSAT.
Number one is to use one of the best LSAT prep courses. Make sure you choose one that includes plenty of practice material. Some courses also come with flashcards or an app to help you nail down logic concepts and terminology for this section.
You may also want a dedicated book on this section, which you can find in our roundup on LSAT prep books.
Some skills can be developed based on question type, but for any and every question type, you need to practice the following:
Carefully Read the Whole Question Before Jumping to Conclusions
During the LSAT, and as you prepare, you cannot let your brain be a runaway train. Especially if you’ve immersed yourself in practice tests and practice questions, it will be easy to start finishing sentences in your head.
If you’ve worked with enough material, you may think you know how each question ends and start answering it before you’ve even finished reading the stimulus.
Don’t make the mistake of jumping to conclusions. Force yourself to stop and read every single word. This is, counter-intuitively perhaps, a time-saving tactic. Every word is there for a reason. There is no throwaway sentence or non-essential detail in these questions.
Discipline yourself (especially on test day) to read every question thoroughly before you start formulating an answer, even in your own head.
Analyze What Type of Question It Is (If You Can)
Some question types are giveaways and pretty easy to identify. Others are more subtle. Spending the time to learn question types will actually help you a lot in time management, especially during logical reasoning.
It is most likely that you will get exposed to several different question types in this section of the LSAT. Knowing as many of them as possible, being familiar with their setup and what they’re asking for, will help you make more strategic decisions and more correct answers.
Understand All Terms
An elite vocabulary is something that the LSAT is going to demand of you. This doesn’t just apply to reading and writing portions of the test. In fact, the subtlety of language is on display throughout the entire language profession.
The last thing you want is to be stymied by a logical reasoning question because you simply don’t understand what it is saying. The more you work with LSAT materials through your studies, the less risk you take of that happening.
Many question types are identifiable through keywords. What’s more, the kinds of things you are being asked to do by the stimuli in logical reasoning may become evident by keywords.
For example, keywords that relate to conditional logic may be things like each, the only, must, if, then, all, etc. Keywords that relate to question stems may be vulnerable to criticism, most supported, etc. LSAT keywords will clue you in to what’s being asked and even what question type you’re facing.
Double-Check For Assumptions
We all know the dangers of assuming, but on the LSAT, assumptions are a huge part of untangling the stimulus. Some questions revolve around assumptions entirely. In others, making an assumption can cause you to miss the point of a question or get the wrong answer.
When in doubt, trace backward from your conclusion and make sure you didn’t make any assumptions along the way.
Review All the Answers Before Deciding
Don’t pick “A” unless you’ve read A-E. That’s a good rule of thumb for any test, but especially true with the LSAT.
In many cases, more than one answer choice could be argued into rightness. At the end of the day, though, there is only one right answer. You must be ruthless about accuracy, reviewing all possible options and picking the one that is most true.
As you study for the LSAT, you will learn how to pace yourself. This is enormously important. If you dawdle or linger on a question that you just can’t figure out, you’ll eat up valuable time and lose points.
Remember that on the LSAT there is no penalty for wrong answers. Your pacing should include a decided strategy for when to skip questions that are problematic for you and taking too much time.
If you develop and apply the right strategies, a high LSAT score is well within reach.