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Arguments (logical reasoning) test your ability to understand the validity, or invalidity, of a line of reason­ing. On the LSAT, an argument is a presentation of facts and opinions in order to support a position. The style of the arguments varies from informal discussions to formal dissertations.
Some of the reasoning tasks required by these problems include:
  • Identifying the author’s main point
  • Recognizing an argument’s logical structure
  • Identifying base assumptions of an argument
  • Detecting flaws in reasoning
  • Drawing conclusions
Some arguments are intentionally poorly written and many are fallacious.
This portion of the test looks as though it came right out of a logic book—hence the name “logical reasoning.” Now, logic is the study of the connections between statements, not the truth of those state­ments. On the LSAT, many students hurt themselves by tenaciously pursuing the truth—favoring answers that make true statements over those that make false statements. Although there will be cases where the truth of an argument is a factor, there will be as many cases where it is irrelevant.

Example: Argument

In the game of basketball, scoring a three-point shot is a skill that only those with a soft-shooting touch can develop. Wilt Chamberlain, however, was a great player. So, even though he did not have a soft-shooting touch, he would have excelled at scoring three-point shots.
Which one of the following contains a flaw that most closely parallels the flaw contained in the passage?
  1. Eighty percent of the freshmen at Berkeley go on to get a bachelor’s degree. David is a freshman at Berkeley, so he will probably complete his studies and receive a bachelor’s degree.
  2. If the police don’t act immediately to quell the disturbance, it will escalate into a riot. However, since the police are understaffed, there will be a riot.
  3. The meek shall inherit the earth. Susie received an inheritance from her grandfather, so she must be meek.
  4. During the Vietnam War, the powerful had to serve along with the poor. However, Stevens’ father was a federal judge, so Stevens was able to get a draft deferment.
  5. All dolphins are mammals and all mammals breathe air. Therefore, all mammals that breathe air are dolphins.
The original argument clearly contradicts itself. So we are looking for an answer-choice that contradicts itself in like manner. Notice that both the argument and the correct answer will not be true—again searching for truth can hamper you.
Choice (A) is not self-contradictory. In fact, it’s a fairly sound argument. This eliminates (A).
Choice (B), on the other hand, is not a sound argument. The police, though understaffed, may realize the seriousness of the situation and rearrange their priorities. Nevertheless, (B) does not contain a contradic­tion. This eliminates (B).
As to choice (C), although the argument is questionable, it, like (B), does not contain a contradiction. This eliminates (C).
Choice (D), however, does contain a contradiction. It starts by stating that both the powerful and the poor had to serve in Vietnam, but it ends by stating that some powerful people—namely, Stevens—did not have to serve. This is a contradiction, so (D) is probably the answer.
Finally, choice (E), like the original argument, is invalid, but it does not contain a contradiction. This eliminates (E).
The answer is (D).

The two argument sections, each with about twenty-five questions, make up one-half of the test. This is good news because as we analyze these problems you will develop an ability to uncover their underlying simplicity.

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