Getting started with Logical Reasoning

Anatomy of a Logical Reasoning question

A Logical Reasoning question is made up of these parts:
  • Passage/stimulus: This text is where we’ll find the argument or the information that forms the basis for answering the question. Sometimes there will be two arguments, if two people are presented as speakers.
  • Question/task: This text, found beneath the stimulus, poses a question. For example, it may ask what assumption is necessary to the argument, or what must be true based on the statements above.
  • Choices: You’ll be presented with five choices, of which you may select only one. You’ll see us refer to the correct choice as the “answer” throughout Khan Academy’s LSAT practice.

What can I do to tackle the Logical Reasoning section most effectively?

✓ Understand the task: Many students find it helpful—and time-saving—to read the question before reading the passage. This allows them to read with a purpose. Many students who read the passage first wind up re-reading the passage after reading the question—and that can use up precious time. Give this strategy a try and see if you like it!
✓ Understand the passage: For many question types, it’s useful to break the passage down into its conclusion and support. For other questions, it’s more useful to piece the claims together. For some questions, it’s most efficient to home in on the passage’s conclusion. There are many different Logical Reasoning question types, and we’ll show you what’s best to read for in each question type.
✓ Take time to think: For some question types, the most efficient approach is to make a prediction of what you think the answer will be—before you look at the choices. For other question types, it’s not as easy to predict the actual answer, but you’ll still want to stop to review what task you’re trying to accomplish.
✓ Evaluate the choices: Once you’ve set yourself up for success—either with a specifically-worded prediction, or with an otherwise clear idea of what you’re looking for— evaluate the choices by asking yourself, e.g.,“Does this choice match my prediction?” “Does this choice have to be true based on the statements above?”.
Top tip: Use Your Own Words
When you put what you’re looking for into your own words, you gain control of the task. Know what you’re looking for before you start looking.
Top tip: Don’t skimp on the thought process Many early LSAT students start reading the choices before they have a clear idea of what they’re looking for, and they waste valuable time looking for a choice that “feels right.” The choices can be very distracting—even dizzying—when you start to read them too early! Do a little bit of work up front, and you’ll actually save time.
Top tip: Skip questions All Logical Reasoning questions are not created equal. Questions are lower- or higher-difficulty for different reasons—some questions discuss relatively simple subject matter in the stimulus but have very tempting wrong choices, while other questions are high-difficulty due to the density of the passage. Still other questions are lower difficulty overall. Be prepared for a variety of challenges in the Logical Reasoning questions, and be prepared to skip when it makes sense to. When you skip, though, circle the question and return to it if you have time.
Top tip: Don’t leave anything blank There’s no penalty for wrong answers, so if you decide to skip a question, make sure to fill in a guess before time runs out!

Dos and Don’ts

The earlier you shed ineffective habits and adopt effective ones, the easier (and more enjoyable!) your road to success in Logical Reasoning will be. These lists are in no way comprehensive, but we’d like to start you out with some ideas to keep in mind:
  • Don’t panic: You’re not obligated to do the questions in any order, or even to do a given question at all. Many students find success maximizing their score by skipping a select handful of questions entirely, either because they know a question will take too long to solve, or because they just don’t know how to solve it.
  • Don’t be influenced by your own views, knowledge, or experience about an issue or topic: The LSAT doesn’t require any outside expertise. All of the information that you need will be presented in the passage. When you add your own unwarranted assumptions, you’re moving away from the precision of the test’s language and toward more errors. This is one of the most common mistakes that students make on the LSAT!
  • Don’t time yourself too early on: When learning a new skill, it’s good policy to avoid introducing time considerations until you’re ready. If you were learning piano, you wouldn’t play a piece at full-speed before you’d practiced the passages very slowly, and then less slowly, and then less slowly still. Give yourself time and room to build your skill and confidence. Only when you’re feeling good about the mechanics of your approach should you introduce a stopwatch.
  • Do read with your pencil: Active reading strategies can help you better understand logical reasoning arguments and prevent you from “zoning out” while you read. Active readers like to underline or bracket an argument’s conclusion when they find it. They also like to circle keywords, such as “however”, “therefore”, “likely”, “all”, and many others that you’ll learn throughout your studies with us. If you’re reading with your pencil, you’re much less likely to wonder what you just read in the last minute.
  • Do learn all of the question types: An effective approach to a necessary assumption question is very different from an effective approach to an explain question, even though the passage will look very similar in both. In fact, the same argument passage could theoretically be used to ask you a question about the conclusion, its assumptions or vulnerabilities to criticism, its technique, the role of one of its statements, a principle it displays, or what new info might strengthen or weaken it!
  • Do spend time on the fundamentals: The temptation to churn through a high volume of questions can be strong, but strong LSAT-takers carefully and patiently learn the basics. For example, you’ll need to be able to identify a conclusion quickly and accurately before you’ll be able to progress with assumptions or flaws (identifying gaps in arguments). Similarly, a firm understanding of basic conditional reasoning will be invaluable as you approach many challenging questions. Be patient with yourself!

Next steps

You can choose your own LSAT adventure on Khan Academy!
You may wish to take a diagnostic test or try a few practice problems on your own by heading into our skill practice area.
You might prefer to read more articles, or watch lessons and worked example videos in our Lessons tab.
If you found this article helpful, come back later if you’re feeling stuck!

imaran

Imraan is a Passionate Writer who loves to blog on Career Orientation, Jobs, and Education.

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