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Reading with Precision

We are not accustomed to reading and thinking with the degree of precision required for the games. If I ask you to count from one to four, you will probably respond with: one, two, three, four. But is this the correct response? I said to count from one to four, not from one through four. So, the correct response actually is one, two, three. This may seem like “splitting hairs”, but it is precisely this degree of precision which must be exercised when reading the conditions of a game.

Typically, when reading, we skim the words looking for the gist of what the writer is trying to convey. However, the conditions of a game cannot be read in that manner. They must be read slowly and carefully, taking each word for its literal meaning—and making no unwarranted assumptions.

It may seem at times that the wording of a game is designed to trick you. It is not (except for what will be discussed later in the section Obfuscation). A game is a logic puzzle that must be solved by applying the fundamental principles of logic—that is, common sense—to the given conditions. If a word has two different meanings, then two different answers may be possible. For this reason, ambiguity in a game cannot be tolerated.


Note: To avoid ambiguity, the LSAT writers always use the literal or dictionary meaning of a word.

To illustrate, take the little, nondescript word “or.” We have little trouble using it in our day-to-day speech. However, it actually has two meanings, one inclusive and one exclusive. In the sentence “Susan or John may come to the party” we understand that both may come. This is the inclusive meaning of “or.” On the other hand, in the phrase “your money or your life” we hope that the mugger intends the exclusive meaning of “or.” That is, he does not take both our money and our life.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, the meaning of “or” on the LSAT is inclusive.

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