Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Logical Reasoning Zen Task Standard: LSAT Main Conclusion

Today we'll introduce one of the requisite skills to answering a great deal of other LSAT questions: identify the main conclusion

This Zen task is fairly easy to recognize, and plays a large part in the whole strand of analyzing argument structure. The answer choice will be a restatement of the conclusion translated into "LSAT speak." Unlike other tasks for the argument structure strand, only the conclusion clause can be included in the answer; any other element of the argument could be restated as a very convincing distractor.

Zen of 180 clients break down a logical reasoning stimulus into the following parts:
  • Premise
    • A flat statement that presents the situation and provides the impetus for an argument 
    • Most often, the premise is the first clause of the stimulus--HOWEVER, for main conclusion stimuli, be very cautious about following this maxim as the arguments purposefully jumble the structural elements
  • Evidence
    • All the facts used to prove the veracity of the conclusion
    • Typically, the evidence is more specific than the premise and often provides key definitions and limiting language such as "every"
  •  Bridge
    • Joins the key pieces of evidence with the conclusion statement
      • Typically the bridge will be close to the conclusion, and thus can be used to identify the crux of the argument.
    • Can be as complicated as a conditional dependent clause or as simple as a conjunctive adverb such as, "however," "thus," or "comparatively."
  • Conclusion
    • The crux of the argument, what should ultimately be remembered, implemented, or considered
    • Typically an opinion clause
      • states what should be/have been done
      • compares/contrasts two or more qualities
      • establish cause and effect
All the free Zen of 180 explanations are for the two sample PrepTests, from June 2007 and October 1996, although the 96 test didn't have any main conclusion questions. The question stem for this task is about as straightforward as they come, so you should be actively reading the stimulus and marking it with both highlighter and pencil.

Above is a gallery of the logical reasoning sections that have a greater than average density of the task, and below is the frequency that this task has been asked on modern LSATs and the percentage change in frequency from pre-2007 LSATs. It averages 4.4% of the points on a modern LSAT, and you can reasonably expect at least one point to be devoted to exclusively finding the main point.
    20 times
    on LSATs since 2007
    4.4% of LR
    (2 per LSAT, range 1-3)
    0.6% growth from pre-2007
While the two points don't sound like a big difference along a 100 raw score scale, the entire task strand of analyzing argument structure is crucial to use while completing almost all the other tasks. After all, if you can't determine the crux of an argument, how can you evaluate its evidence use or identify parallel structure?