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Jumping to Conclusions

Posted in Test Prep on August 27, 2009 by

Emily Holleman is a Content Developer at Knewton, helping students with their LSAT preparation.

As the name suggests, the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT tests your ability to digest and understand different forms of reasoning. For this very reason, the majority of LR prompts are presented as arguments. The ability to quickly and easily identify (or “jump to”) conclusions will allow you to deconstruct the argument and improve your score.  Of course, since this is the LSAT we’re talking about, these conclusions are often presented in confusing or distracting ways. Fortunately, you can usually locate the main idea of an argument by keeping your eye out for certain key words and phrases.

Here are some common words and phrases that introduce the conclusion of an LR argument:

  • Thus/therefore/so/hence
  • It appears that/it follows that/it is clear that/there is evidence that/it must be true that

The conclusion of the argument is typically the phrase that immediately follows one of these words or phrases.

For example:

The miniature schnauzer is a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Dog Lovers Monthly publishes descriptions of all AKC-recognized breeds except those belonging to the hound group or toy group. Miniature schnauzers belong neither to the hound group nor to the toy group; thus, Dog Lovers Monthly publishes a description of miniature schnauzers.

Conclusion: Dog Lovers Monthly profiles miniature schnauzers.

Conclusions can also be introduced by the words however and but. This happens in arguments where a belief is refuted by the speaker. For example:

Many people believe that dolphins do not use language to communicate. Groups of dolphins use a system of sounds and movements to convey ideas to one another, but this method is thought of as a communication method rather than an actual language. However, this system does indeed constitute a language. After all, it shares many of the structural qualities of human language. Furthermore, this system allows dolphins to communicate abstract emotions, just like human language does.

Conclusion: The system of sounds and movement that dolphins use does constitute a language.

Words such as since, because and although can help you indirectly identify an argument’s main point, because they point out key evidence linked to the conclusion. But be careful: The clause immediately following one of these key words will never be the conclusion; rather, the conclusion is typically the independent clause that proceeds or follows the subordinate clause introduced by one of these words (don’t worry, this is not nearly as complicated as it sounds).

For example:

Many foreigners have wondered why Country X’s citizens elected Martin as president. However, Martin was the only candidate in the election who promised that, if elected, he would maintain peaceful relations with Country X’s neighbors. Since Country X’s citizens elected Martin, the majority of citizens in Country X must have wanted to maintain peaceful relations with Country X’s neighbors.

Conclusion: Most of country X’s citizens wanted to maintain peaceful relations with their neighbors.

Looking out for these key words and phrases will let you quickly identify the conclusion in most LR prompts.  This skill will help you with almost all LR question types (including Role of Statement, Main point, Assumption, Strengthen/Weaken, Parallel Reasoning, and Logical Flaw questions).

Good luck and always remember to jump to conclusions!