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Introduction of Arguments

The arguments (logical reasoning) form the only part of the test that is similar to what a lawyer does. After all, a lawyer argues his client’s case before the court or criticizes the argument of his opponent. Nevertheless, you will not be asked to analyze any legal arguments on the LSAT. The arguments come from disparate sources—including sociology, philosophy, science, and even popular culture. The richest source, however, is the Op/Ed page of newspapers.

An argument, as used on the LSAT, is a presentation of facts and opinions in order to support a position. In common jargon, an argument means a heated debate between two people. While the LSAT will offer a few of these arguments, most will be formal presentations of positions.
There are two argument sections; together they comprise one-half of the test. Each section is 35 minutes long and contains roughly 24 questions. This section is not as highly “timed” as the games, so it is reasonable to set as your goal the completion of the entire section. Unlike with games, determining the level of difficulty of an argument is itself difficult, so just start with the first question and then work through the section.

Many arguments will be fallacious. And many correct answers will be false! This often causes students much consternation; they feel that the correct answer should be true. But the arguments are intended to test your ability to think logically. Now logic is the study of the relationships between state­ments, not of the truth of those statements. Being overly concerned with finding the truth can be ruinous to your LSAT score.
Many books recommend reading the question before reading the argument. This method, however, does not work for me; I find it distracting and exhausting. Remember the test is highly “timed”, and it is three and one-half hours long. Reading the questions twice can use up precious time and tax your concen­tration. It seems as though many books recommend this method because it gives the readers a feeling that they are getting the “scoop” on how to beat the test. Nevertheless, you may want to experiment—it may work for you.

We will analyze the arguments from four different perspectives. First, we will study how the answer-choices are constructed to obscure the correct answer. The LSAT writers rely heavily on obfuscation in this section. Next, we will study the structure of an argument—the premises, conclusions, counter-premises, etc. Although the questions are designed so that they can be answered without reference to formal logic, some knowledge of the foundations of logic will give you a definite advantage. Then, we will study how to diagram certain arguments. Many of these arguments look like mini-games, and solving them requires techniques similar to those used to solve the games. Finally, we will classify the major types of reasoning used in arguments and their associated fallacies.

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