Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Logical Reasoning Zen Task Standard: LSAT [Piece] Plays [Role] in Argument

Today we'll introduce one of the requisite skills to answering a great deal of other LSAT questions: [piece] plays [role] in argument.

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 an "LSAT speak" version of the [piece] of the stimulus highlighted in the question stem. Like the other tasks for the argument structure strand except for main conclusion, any element of the argument's structure could be a part of the answer.

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."
  • 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 two or more qualities
      • establishes causality for an event
All the free Zen of 180 explanations are for the two sample PrepTests, from June 2007 and October 1996. The question stem for this task is one of the more complicated in the logical reasoning section, as you must not only identify the task, but pay special attention to the [piece] that the stem is specifically referencing. You should be actively reading the stimulus and marking it with both highlighter and pencil, looking to identify the four structural elements of the stimulus and thus proactively categorizing the relevant [piece].

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 3.5% 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.
    16 times
    on LSATs since 2007
    3.5% of LR
    (2 per LSAT, range 0-4)
    0.1% 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 parts of an argument, how can you evaluate its evidence use or identify parallel structure?