3 Things You Need To Know About LSAT Arguments

LSAT FreedomWorried about the LSAT? We’re delighted to welcome back Robert M. Fojo from LSAT Freedom to share and explain three things you should know about LSAT arguments that will help you build a strong foundation for doing well on the LSAT. Good luck!

Here’s Robert . . .

The LSAT is built on arguments. On the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections, students will see a lot of arguments. For example, the stimulus of many Logical Reasoning questions will contain an argument. Students will have to evaluate that argument. They may have to find a flaw in the argument, describe the structure of the argument, or identify a missing assumption.

Similarly, on the Reading Comprehension section, most of the passages will consist of individuals making some kind of argument or, at the very least presenting a thesis and some evidence to support it in an effort to convince the reader of something.

Because arguments comprise the foundation for the LSAT, students must understand (1) what arguments are; (2) how they function; and (3) how arguments appear on the LSAT.

What are Arguments?

An argument is comprised of two things: (a) a premise or several premises, and (b) a conclusion.

A premise is a proposition that is offered in support of a conclusion. The key words here are “in support of.” A premise is basically a reason for why a conclusion is true or accurate. It performs a supporting role in an argument. It is not, however, the main event.

A conclusion, on the other hand, is the main event. It is a proposition that is supported by one or more premises. The key words here are “supported by.” The proponent of an argument will usually make a claim and then support it with reasons. The conclusion of that argument is the claim being made.

Here is an example of an argument:

“In January, the price of silver will decrease by 3% on each Thursday. Tomorrow is the first Thursday in January. Therefore, the price of silver will decrease tomorrow.”

In this argument, we have two premises and a conclusion. Assuming you accept both premises and the conclusion as true, this is a logically valid argument. (It is important on the LSAT not to quibble with these premises. Accept them as true, and then evaluate the argument.)

Students should also understand that some arguments can be comprised of more than one conclusion. Instead of the lone conclusion identified above, such an argument will contain a subsidiary conclusion and a main conclusion.

  • A subsidiary conclusion is a conclusion in an argument that also supports another proposition within that argument.
  • A main conclusion is a conclusion that is supported by at least one premise in an argument but does not support any proposition.

Here is an example of such an argument:

“It is accepted that, if there are no recorded hurricanes in a given month, then it is impossible for a hurricane to form during that month in the future. There has never been a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean during the month of April. Thus, there will be no hurricanes beginning tomorrow, April 1st, and for the next month (April). Therefore, we can take a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean during April.”

In this argument, we have two premises, a third premise/subsidiary conclusion, and a main conclusion. We will break it down below. For now, all you need to know is that it is also a logically valid argument (again, assuming you accept everything as true).

How do Arguments Function?

To understand how an argument functions, you must dissect it into its component parts. Let’s dissect the first argument above:

  • Premise 1: In January, the price of silver will decrease by 3% on each Thursday.
  • Premise 2: Tomorrow is the first Thursday in January.
  • Conclusion: The price of silver will decrease tomorrow.

Both premises above support the conclusion. Note that the conclusion does not support anything that precedes it. Rather, it is supported by the two premises.

Let’s now dissect the second argument above:

  • Premise 1: If there are no recorded hurricanes in a given month, then it is impossible for a hurricane to form during that month in the future.
  • Premise 2: There has never been a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean during the month of April.
  • Premise 3/Subsidiary Conclusion: Thus, there will be no hurricanes beginning tomorrow, April 1st, and for the next month (April).
  • Main Conclusion: Therefore, we can take a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean during April.

The first two premises and the third premise/subsidiary conclusion all support the main conclusion above. Both the third premise/subsidiary conclusion and the main conclusion are conclusions. So how do you distinguish them? Unlike the third premise/subsidiary conclusion, the main conclusion does not support anything that precedes it. Rather, it is supported by everything that precedes it. On the other hand, the third premise/subsidiary conclusion is supported by the first two premises, but it also, in turn, supports the main conclusion.

How Do Arguments Appear On The LSAT?

Once students understand what arguments are, and how they function, they must learn to apply these principles on the LSAT and identify premises and conclusions.

On the LSAT, a conclusion will usually be preceded by one or more of the following words or phrases (otherwise known as “conclusion indicators”):

  • Thus
  • Therefore
  • Hence
  • Accordingly
  • Consequently
  • So
  • It follows that
  • It must be true that

These indicators represent easy ways to identify conclusions in arguments. For example, the arguments above contain two of these indicators: “Therefore” in the first argument, and “Therefore” and “Thus” in the second argument.

Premises will also contain specific indicators, such as the following words/phrases:

  • Because
  • Since
  • For
  • Seeing that
  • Given that

These indicators represent ways an argument will introduce a reason or factual support for a conclusion.

Of course, students should never assume that the indicators above will always introduce a conclusion or premise. The indicators above are merely tools that can aid a test-taker in evaluating an argument. They are examples that have appeared on the LSAT in the past. Students should understand what premises and conclusions are and how they function and not rely exclusively on indicators like the ones above.

These three concepts are crucial for learning about and understanding arguments on the LSAT. Students should take the time to become familiar with them because arguments comprise such a large part of the LSAT. To do well on the LSAT, students must take the time to master these concepts and, in turn, become one with arguments.

— – —
Thanks, Robert! Got an LSAT question? Feel free to leave it in the comments!

More about Robert and LSAT Freedom
Robert M. Fojo from LSAT Freedom writes about tips and strategies for doing well on the LSAT. For helpful tips about the LSAT and to begin your LSAT preparation, sign up to get LSAT Freedom’s free LSAT logic guide and free LSAT logic course.

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  1. […] To get started here’s some great advice about the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT: https://thegirlsguidetolawschool.com/12/3-things-need-know-lsat-arguments/. […]

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