The LSAT doctors are in, and they’ve got the cure for what ails your Logical Reasoning scores . . . if you’ve been missing strengthen w/ sufficient/necessary premise questions, anyway.
Branden and Jelena teach you the techniques that are both sufficient and necessary for mastery of these challenging questions.
Listen and learn . . .
- How to tell the difference between sufficient and necessary assumption prompts
- When to diagram strengthen w/ sufficient premise questions
- How to use the negation test to answer strengthen w/ necessary premise questions correctly every time
- Why the ultimate question that unlocks everything about the LSAT might just be “How could all the premises be true, yet the conclusion be false?”
- How to eliminate multiple answer choices just by paying attention to new nouns in the conclusion of the stimulus
Hey, Branden, what's the best concert you've ever been to?
That's a tough one. I did Lollapalooza '94. That was a really good one. I don't think there's a better one.
Well, really? I thought, for sure, you'd have gone to see the Beatles at least once.
Is it really necessary for you to comment on my agent every episode?
Necessary? No, but it is sufficient for getting a rise out of you.
Well, then the jokes on you, because for all you know, I did see the Beatles live and Lollapalooza '94 was still the better show.
Good point. I guess old age and having seen the Beatles live are both necessary conditions in order to list the Beatles as your favorite concert ever, but even both of those conditions together aren't sufficient to ensure that outcome.
And with that, I've sunk the Yellow Submarine of your argument and it's going to be a Long & Winding Road for you if you plan to make me Twist & Shout with your age jokes. And I'm not singing Twist & Shout, just Long & Winding Road.
And I'm Branden. We are your companions on the road to the legal field, whether you just started thinking about law school or you've already passed the bar.
Max Fischer (Rushmore):
What? Are you a lawyer?
If you like today's episode, don't forget to subscribe and tell a friend.
After you're done listening, if you still have questions about today's topic, you can talk about it with a 99th percentile LSAT instructor by texting “LSAT” to 310-818-7743. Or if you'd like your question to be on the show, just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we might answer you on the air.
All right. Today we're talking about Strengthen with Sufficient Premise and Strengthen with Necessary Premise. These are two of the Logical Reasoning question types that I personally found the most confusing when I was studying for my LSAT. Honestly, I don't think I really understood how necessary premises specifically work until I actually already started tutoring.
How about you, Branden? When did strengthening with necessary and sufficient premises finally click for you? Or did you just have an easy time with these questions the whole time you were studying?
So I did not have an easy time with either of them the whole time I was studying. However, I was a philosophy major. And so I had, I think, familiarity with the concepts underlying these questions before I got to the LSAT. So neither one of them, I think, really threw me. Strengthen with Sufficient questions because they often take diagramming, I think I needed to get just a little bit better with my diagramming. But those ones took me a little bit longer, I think, to get used to. But I think at least the thing that my students come to me with is kind of, and what it sounds like you're talking about is a bit of a lack of understanding about what exactly am I being asked about here. I think that's especially difficult with necessary questions, but both of them, it's difficult. And I did have some struggle with them. Yes.
Well we can't all be philosophy majors. And if it's a little tough for philosophy majors, it's probably very tough for the rest of us. And that's exactly why we have chosen Strengthen with Necessary and Strengthen with Sufficient questions as our very first topic for our new LSAT prescription series. If these questions are making your PT scores look a little green around the gills, we've got the cure, take it away, Branden.
Yeah. So I think the first thing we should do, or maybe the first couple of things we should do is distinguish between these question types, so how to identify each one of them, as well as how to understand what you are being asked with each one of them and what is different that you're being asked with each one of them.
So first of all, just the prompts. So if you are being asked to strengthen something with a necessary premise, you'll very often be asked something that has the word “assume” in it, And also that often, although not always, has some kind of necessary language. So they'll say something like “which one of the following must be assumed for the conclusion above to be properly drawn.” Or “the argument above requires assuming which one of the following.”
All of those, when they're asking you about things that must, that are required, those are Strengthen with Necessary questions. Strengthen with Sufficient questions tend to have that word “assumed” as well or some version of it. And so the prompts are similar, but then they will give you what is sufficient or enough language. So they'll say like, “which one of the following, if assumed, would be sufficient to guarantee the truth of the conclusion above?” Or, “the conclusion above follows logically if which one of the following is assumed?”
There are some questions that just ask you something like, “the argument assumes which one of the following?” If they're asking you what the argument assumes without giving you any necessary or sufficient language, then they're asking you what is necessary to the argument. Because if the argument itself assumes something, they're asking you what is necessary to that argument.
So those are the kind of ways that you can distinguish between the prompts. And I'll just sum it up here. They almost always, both versions, have the word assumed or some version of it. Necessary questions have words like “needs”, “requires”, “must”. And Strengthen with Sufficient questions has things like “follows logically”, “properly inferred”. Those are also . . . and maybe we should jump into this in a second. That language with Strength with Sufficient actually often also shows up in Must Be True questions. And that tends to throw people off.
So maybe since I've been talking for as long as people can stand, I'll throw it over to you, Jelena. I often have students confuse Must Be True and Strengthen with Sufficient into questions. So do you have an easy way to distinguish between those since they use “follows logically” and “properly inferred”?
Yeah, I do. Although I think you may be underestimating our listeners' tolerance for your voice because when people tell me they listen to the show, the first thing they always say is, and Branden has such a great podcast voice. Like, thanks. Yeah. As your friend who is talking to you, who is not Branden, I really appreciate that. That's so kind of you.
As long as they're not accusing me of having podcast face, I'll take it.
I think we've both got a case of that. And so does everybody after 2020.
Fair enough. Fair enough.
Nobody's on top of the beauty routine right now.
We are not going anywhere. Back to you necessary and sufficient or specifically Sufficient Strengthen questions versus Must Be True questions. The easiest way to differentiate them is that typically you will only have a conclusion in the Strength with Sufficient version. You will not have a conclusion in a Must Be True. The conclusion in it Must Be True comes in the answers for base and you are providing it. That is your task as someone who is solving that question, is to choose which conclusion must be true based on the premises above.
Whereas any Strengthen with Sufficient Premise question, you've got a full argument in the stimulus. So a full argument consists of at least one premise and at least one conclusion supported by that premise. And you now have to find another premise from the answer choices to insert into that arguments to make that conclusion valid or as close to valid as you can make it. So I think, with that, it's helpful to talk a little bit about how you actually find the conclusion in an argument.
Now, with the LSATMax method, figuring out if an argument has a conclusion or not, we refer to that as, is this an argument or is it a set of premises? So only if there's a conclusion is that question considered to be an argument. Finding the conclusion you might want to look for keywords like “therefore”, “so”, “thus”, “in conclusion”, sometimes they literally say it. “With that in mind”, “the result must be”, “any educated citizen must therefore understand”, “thus, we can see” . . .
Any of those things where you have an abrupt change in tone from the premises, you have something that usually a coma comes after that introduces the conclusion. You have something that is tied into the premises, receiving support from them. Then you have something that you could say. My favorite trick for the conclusion is just to ask myself if I were the person who wrote this argument in the stimulus, what do I want the person who read this argument to come away believing? Whatever we want the reader to believe, that's our conclusion. So even if there are none of those signifier words like “henceforth”, “therefore”, “in conclusion”, if it is what the writer wants you to believe, and if it is something that is supported by at least one premise, then it is a conclusion.
Now, there are subsidiary conclusions versus main conclusions. You usually don't get those in this question type, so we won't spend time on them today, but just acknowledging that is a thing. There can be multiple conclusions in an argument.
Then last thing, if you are still struggling to differentiate the premise from the conclusion, ask yourself, why am I supposed to believe this? If the answer to why am I supposed to believe this thing is simply because the author said so, that is a premise. A premise is a thing that the only reason you have to believe it is because you're taking the LSAT. And on the LSAT, we take the author's word for premises.
A conclusion is something that you are supposed to believe because they have laid out an argument for it that includes support from at least one premise. So if the only thing that you can figure out for any of the sentences in a stimulus is that you are supposed to believe it because the author said you should, then that is probably a Must Be True stimulus or some other stimulus in the category of stimuli that do not have conclusions, because if you are taking the author's word for it on every single sentence in the stimulus, they are all premises.
So, now that we've figured out that these are both argument type questions, they should both have a conclusion that we are, in some way, dealing with support for, let's talk about what you brought up with diagramming and non-diagramming. We are always diagramming when we come across conditional logic in Logical Reasoning, but especially for those strength questions, which, by the way, are the ones that tend to be diagrammable.
Diagram necessary questions are not unheard of, but they are so rare we're not even really going to talk about them on this episode because there's only been like two or three of them, I think. So on those Strength with Sufficient, how do you differentiate between the ones that are truly diagrammable, that you should be diagramming, and those that are just strong arguments, which sometimes, I don't know about you, but sometimes I find it tempting to diagram when I'm just running across a strong argument, even if it's not one that truly is fully conditional?
As you were saying, it's almost always Strengthen with Sufficient that will require you to diagram. Almost never will Strengthen with Necessary questions require you to diagram. There's kind of a couple of things that I'm checking for in the stimulus when I'm thinking about whether or not to diagram. First is just what kind of question is it?
The most commonly diagrammable questions are Strengthen with Sufficient, Parallel Reasoning questions, and Must Be True questions. Those are the ones that I think I'm going into with it in my mind that I'm likely well . . . not likely, but there's a very good possibility I will have to diagram. So when I see Strengthen with Sufficient, I'm already thinking I may need to diagram. Likely, you will see some conditional language; “if”, “only if”, “unless”, “until”, “without”, “except”. There are many, many, many of those keywords. And those indicate that you have a conditional statement.
There are also, and sometimes the argument is not that strong because there is a weaker yet still diagrammable statement, a “some” statement, a “most” statement. And so as I'm seeing those statements, I'm getting closer to diagramming. And then I'm thinking, do I see these statements linking up somewhere? And does it look like the way that the argument works is that the conclusion is like collapsing what's going on in the stimulus.
So in the stimulus, if you were to take a step back, it often looks something like this. If A then B, if B then C, if C then D and then they'll say something like, if A then E is the conclusion. And what you're missing is the end of a conditional chain that would lead you all the way from if A to then E. And what you're missing there is the end that conditional chain, which is if D then E.
I know listening to somebody diagram is difficult rather than seeing them write it out in diagram. But basically the way these very often work, especially the diagrammable ones, is that there's just some link in a chain missing. And it's generally a link in a conditional chain. And so if I see those things, I see this as the kind of question I want a diagram or I'm likely to diagram, I see diagram things, like some, most in all statements, conditional statements. And then importantly, I see that the conclusion looks like it's linking things together. Then likely what is going on is that step is missing somewhere in there. And that means that I need to diagram in order to figure out where is the step that's missing.
Before I do that, however, one of the other things that these questions really do a whole lot is they equivocate. So they'll say something like, all airplanes have wings, therefore all airplanes can fly or something like that. And having wings and flying those things are related to each other, but very often what's going on is that the author makes a subtle shift between two things. And the right answer choice in that case will just link those things that the subtle shift is being made between together.
And so if it looks like something like that is happening, like equivocation is happening, then what I'm going to do is even if it looks diagrammable, I'm going to see if my fixing equivocation answer is there. And the answer would look something like, for the example that I gave, everything with wings can fly. Something like that. And what it does is it just links those two related things together. And you were uncertain whether or not they were identical things. And now they tell you, yes, those are identical things.
I know that's kind of a long thought process, but I do think it's important to have an approach and also to be able to execute that approach, obviously on test day, under timed conditions. And deciding the diagram, I very often recommend to my students, when you come to a diagram question, it doesn't matter what it is, save it for last. Because if it takes two minutes to diagram the question, then you might be hurting yourself overall by doing question early on when it needs to be one of those harder points to get to.
That's how I determine whether or not to diagram. But it's important to know what you're diagramming for. Almost always there is a chain and there's a link in the chain missing somewhere. And so you have to find that. That's how I identify diagrammable sufficient questions. And like we talked about, diagrammable necessary questions are very rare.
I gave a little bit of my thoughts on non-diagrammable, but what do you think we should be doing when we're looking at these Strengthen with Sufficient questions that are not diagrammable? Often, people will just kind of paralyze and get lost. So how do you attack those?
Really, the task that you're doing on a Strengthen with Sufficient premise question is you're doing the same thing that you would be doing on a Weaken question in terms of finding the flaw in the argument. But in the case of Strengthen with Sufficient Premise, you are going to try to completely fix that flaw, not just point out that flaw or add a premise that makes that flaw even worse.
So really, these are almost like a flaw or even a Weaken question, just that you are going to pick a different answer choice, you're going to pick an answer choice that does something different. And in fact, literally, I don't think that I've ever seen any Strengthen with Sufficient premise non-diagrammable stimulus that I could not take and just put a different question stem and different answer choices on and make it either a Weaken question or a flaw (Errors in Reasoning) question, one of the two.
So one of the first things that I think it's important to do when you get to any question that is an argument rather than simply a set of premises is find the conclusion. We already talked about how to do that. So once you found the conclusion, figure out how it is being supported. If that's diagram, then obviously the support with conditional logic, you diagram. If that is not diagram, you think about why is that premise supposed to support this conclusion?
And generally you will find that either there is a common fallacy in the stimulus, something like percent versus number comes up a great deal. You could have a stimulus that says “more people are being treated for knee injuries while playing basketball than were 30 years ago, therefore basketball must be worse on the knees than it was 30 years ago.” And of course, the fallacy in there is that perhaps more people are playing basketball, perhaps the rate of knee injuries playing basketball is exactly the same as it was 30 years ago, but more people are getting treated because more people are playing.
Or, of course, you could go to that there's another causal factor just like if you were in a Strengthen or Weaken causal (i.e., Cause & Effect) question. Maybe more people are getting treated for any injuries because older people are playing basketball or people are not stretching properly before playing basketball. All sorts of ways to find a flaw in these arguments.
What you're going to do that is different from a simple Strengthen question is you're not just going to nudge this conclusion a little bit towards validity on kind of the spectrum from a completely invalid to a completely valid argument. You're going to try to give it a big shove. So, ideally, you would like completely fix the flaw that you just found. Whatever the leap and logic that there is, you're going to basically build a bridge with the correct answer choice to get completely across the chasm between the existing premise or premises and the conclusion, and make it as close to a completely valid argument as you possibly can.
So for my basket example, what you would want to look for in the answer choices is something that says exactly the same number of people play basketball as did 30 years ago. Or even there are fewer people in the United States playing basketball each year than there were 30 years ago. That would work too. Whatever you're looking for, it is going to be very strong.
So if you are really, really stuck on a Strengthen with Sufficient Premise question, if you have already left it to the end, now you're at the end, you've got your last two minutes and you're trying to wrangle it, you could, if you are truly, truly stumped, just look for the strongest answer choices—the ones that have the greatest force—and pick between those.
Obviously, we would like to have you doing each question properly, anticipating the correct answer before even looking at the answer choices, finding the correct answer in the answer choices on your first try, but in a pinch, you can look for strong, strong answer choices, and you are likely to at least have a better chance of getting a correct answer than you would if you were just picking randomly among five answer choices.
Very, very frequently with non-diagrammable Strengthen with Sufficient Premise questions, three to four of the incorrect answer choices are incorrect for the reason that they are simply too weak bridge that gap between premises and conclusion and validate the argument and the stimulus.
All right, so that's sufficient non-diagrammable. I'm surprised that you let me take that part of the prescription, Branden, considering that you are the author of 33 Common LSAT Flaws.
I am an author of 33 Common LSAT Flaws.
An author, but you are the author in my heart.
Oh, that's very sweet of you, Jelena. I don't want the episode going of the path.
Now it is necessary.
I want that to be the coded to this episode. But I know that we have not even told people about necessary questions yet. So I guess we can't do that.
You just don't want to find out what I'm setting you up for with that unexpectedly nice comment.
That is true. I sense another shoe about to drop. So lay it on me.
Another shoe. Yes. Well, what I will lay on you right now is in fact that necessary category, because very, very different. In fact, if you were in a Strengthen with Necessary premise question and you looked for the strongest answer choice among the answer choices, you would almost certainly get the question wrong. Why is that?
So Strengthen with Necessary questions are asking you something very, very different and a Strengthen with Sufficient question. I think they're two sides of the same coin, but heads and tails are very different. And so this is why I think it's good to put them together because they're similarities, but it's also, when you are thinking of things from first principles, it's important to understand just how incredibly different these questions are.
So sufficient questions are asking you, which of these is a premise, that if you added it to the argument in the stimulus the premises would guarantee, if true, that the conclusion was true? What they're asking you in a necessary question is which one of the following statements is something that if it were not true, this argument wouldn't work?
This often is treated by people as meaning something like, well, if it wasn't true, then the conclusion would be false. We're going to talk about negating statements in a little bit and how to start to test this concept. But I think it's a very difficult concept to relate. And so I'll do my best to explain what's going on here.
The right answer is something that, like I said, if it were not true, even if the premise were true, the premise would not support the conclusion. And so in order to kind of point out the ridiculousness of these questions, I give this example to my students. So here's an argument. And I think it's a very simple argument and it's simple to see some of the things that are necessary to it.
The argument I give them is this. I'm studying for the LSAT, therefore I will be a lawyer. So the premise is I'm studying for the LSAT, the conclusion is therefore I will be a lawyer. And when I ask my students, okay, what's necessary to that argument? They've already thought all this stuff through. They're going to law school, they say, oh, I know. Well, I've got to do well on the LSAT. I've got to get accepted to law school. I've got to pass the bar exam. I've got to get hired or put out my own shingle to be a lawyer.
And any one of those things, if they gave you that argument in the stimulus, would be the correct answer to a necessary question. It is necessary that you get accepted to law school if you want to end up being a lawyer. It is necessary that you pass the bar exam if you want to be a lawyer. But sometimes the answer choice on a necessary question seems like it just comes out of nowhere.
And so another thing that would be necessary to that argument, another thing that would be the right answer is something like this. The world will not be destroyed in the next three years. And when people hear that, they're like, I was talking about going to law school, and now all of a sudden you're talking to me about Armageddon. These things have nothing to do with one another. So why would that be necessary to this argument?
The reason it would be necessary to this argument is that, and we're going to get into how, again, flaws are very important here, is that there is a huge flaw in this argument. It doesn't mean that the argument is untrue, but my premise is about what I'm doing now, I'm studying for the LSAT now, my conclusion is about something that's not tomorrow or even next year. It's something that's three, or really if you're studying for the LSAT, more than three years in the future.
That a temporal flaw. That doesn't mean you should never make that argument. But what a temporal flaw assumes, what is necessary to that argument is that nothing is going to change between the time in my premise, which is now, and the time in my conclusion, which is the future. That's going to destroy that argument. The world being destroyed in that time would destroy that argument.
And so it's really important to understand all they're asking you is what would break the link between premise and conclusion if the statement were not true. So if you negate that statement, the world is not destroyed in the next three years. And that's how you test whether or not an answer is necessary to an argument, you negate it.
It would look something like this. The world will be destroyed sometime in the next three years. That ruins my argument. I can no longer get from my premise about the present, to my conclusion about the future if that statement is not true. What's kind of difficult about that is that I gave a statement that already had the word not in it. And then I add to take away the word not to negate that statement.
What you were saying about weak answers for a . . . Well, we'll get to it in a second. Weak answers are very commonly the right answer to necessary questions. Strong answers, you should be skeptical of. I think except for the answers that have the word not in them or some version of it, those negating answers. Because a lot of times what these necessary questions are doing is they're testing your ability to find the flaw in the argument. And the right answer choice strengthens by knocking out that flaw.
So the flaw in my argument was a temporal flaw. I ignored the fact that something might change between now and three years. And all the answer is doing is strengthening the argument by throwing out that possibility. It's saying, no, this thing that you are worried about about this argument is not going to happen.
That said, I think the idea of necessity is very difficult. The kind of formulation that I have, the way that I think is, or at least if I were to be asked what are the makers of the LSAT? What is their definition necessity? I think it's something like this. Something is necessary to an argument if it must be true in order for the premises to support the conclusion. Another way to look at that is that if this thing is not true, then the premise and the conclusion are not related to one another. And that's what negating a statement does, is it lets you test whether or not you can break the link between premise and conclusion. And if you can, by negating that statement, that is the right answer.
So I know that was very abstract and hopefully helpful to the people who listen into abstract stuff. But we want to help people answer questions. And so I think getting past the abstract stuff, there is I think a great way to answer these questions. You have something, and I'm going to pull back the veil on the podcast so we have notes often that we refer to.
Are you worried? Don't worry. This can be edited out.
Oh, this is opening the door to our inner sank stuff.
So you have this question in here which is great for necessary questions, but I think if you can answer question to any argument on the LSAT, and I do this for basically every question that has an argument, it's going to answer 95% of questions for you if you can answer this question. It is really tough to do, and it takes some practice, but you ask yourself to identify the flaw, what is wrong with this argument? You ask yourself, how could the premises be true and yet the conclusion still not be true?
So do you want to walk people through why that's like the core of argumentation or at least the core of what they're testing on the LSAT? Because I really think it is.
Well, I will take that compliment. I had not even thought of it that way, myself. This is something that I typically teach on necessary questions. But now that you say it, yeah, actually, if you can do this for a weekend, if you can do this for a flaw question, anything that's an argument, so anything other than really like the must be true or simply the argument analysis where you're just finding how the person is making the argument. So anything where you're dealing with argumentation, yeah, actually now that you say it, this could be very helpful for any of that.
And the reason for that is that, just like in real life, pretty much every argument on the LSAT is flawed. There are no, other than the occasional perfect diagram transitive, there are no perfect arguments on the LSAT. In fact, they are mostly very, very bad arguments since the only question is where do they range on the spectrum of bad? And are you supposed to weaken them, strengthen them, or tell the test why it's bad?
The question, how could all the premises be true and the conclusions still be untrue kind of gets to the core of what a flaw in an argument is. And also why it is so hard to make a sound argument because even . . . especially thinking about, let's back out of the specific question type for a moment and remember what we have learned or at at least, hopefully, if you are far enough along in your course, you have learned about causal arguments. Which is that if anybody makes a causal argument, there are some very specific ways that it is easy to attack that argument. For instance, a alternate cause, or to find same cause no effect, or no cause same effect.
All of those are ways that the premises could be true. So let's hypothesize that . . . what shall we hypothesize? Let's hypothesize that people with red hair, let's say that we have that people with red hair have a higher rate of sunburn than people with other hair colors. And the conclusion that our author is drawing from that is that people with red hair are inherently more susceptible to sunburn than people with other colors of hair.
Now, you might introduce an alternate cause. Perhaps people with red to hair spend more time in the sun on average as a group. Maybe they're all trying to get a tan because they're very pale, so they're just spending way more time in the sun. And that's why they have more sunburns.
So whenever you're introducing an alternate cause or in any way attacking an argument, essentially, you are suggesting a way that all of the premises could be true. It can still be true. You never challenged that red-haired people have more sunburns than people with other hair colors. You just said, hey, maybe that's for a different reason than the reason you are concluding author of this argument. And that is a way that the premise could be true, but the conclusion could be invalid.
So bringing it back to necessary and why I teach that particular question as an anticipation to have in your head while reading the stimulus on necessary is that if you can figure that out, then you can flip it and figure out what the argument is assuming. So for our red hair sunburn example, that could be a weakened question. But if you make it a Strengthen with Necessary Premise question, then what you're looking for is something that says those easily anticipated ways to attack that argument don't work. You want to find in the answer choices something like there is no difference in behavior between red-haired people and non red-haired people that would otherwise account for their higher rates of sunburn.
Then to test whether or not that works, you simply negate that entire answer choice. So flip it from there is no other difference to there is another difference between people with red hair and people with other hair colors that does account for their higher rate of sunburn. If that were to be true, the entire argument would fall apart. Because if you know that there's something other than inherent susceptibility to sunburn, like maybe staying outside in the sun longer or wearing less sunscreen, then you know that it is not their red hair that is making them get sunburns. The argument now has the premise divorced from the conclusion.
So while that is a little bit of, it feels like at first, anyway, when you're doing it, feels like kind of the long way to get to the correct answer anticipation to have to anticipate essentially how you could destroy this argument by allowing the premises to be true, but the conclusion to be untrue, then you have to negate that to get your answer anticipation, find that in the answer choices, and then negate it again just to make sure that the answer choice you are about to choose, once negated, destroys the argument in the stimulus.
That feels like a lot of steps, but it's actually a lot less steps than testing three or four or five answer choices using the negation test, which is probably what you're going to do if you do not anticipate how you could destroy the arguments. So if you are looking to get these questions right in the shortest time possible, as you are reading the stimulus, remind yourself that just as with every single question on the LSAT, you take the author's word for the premises. So you are not going to anticipate any attack on the premises. You are just going to look for, how could I take the author's word for all of these premises? Those are all absolutely true, but that conclusion is not valid. It doesn't follow from these premises. What wedge can I put in here to pry the premises off of the conclusion and leave the conclusion standing alone unsupported? And this is, again, across the entire test. You always take the premises for granted. You never question a premise unless the question prompt specifically tells you to do so, which it very rarely well.
So this really is the key to logical reasoning, even though I didn't really even think about it that way till Branden just said that, but I'm realizing he is right. If you know where you would have to put a lever, and what lever you would have to put in to pry the premises off the conclusion, then that is proof that you have not only understood the argument, but you have understood it in the specific way that you are supposed to understand and analyze arguments on the LSAT, which is essentially to be an appellate court. You are not going to question the facts of the case. You are only going to question the argument that was made. Though, that Harkin's back now to our legal careers episodes, where we talked about the difference between appellate law and other forms of litigation.
So before we go too far a field, do you want to wrap us up on necessaries with any other tricks and tips that you have to make sure that you have the right answer choice before you choose it?
Yeah. So I think talking about the negation test, we've talked about it a little bit, is helpful. Most statements, or at least on easier or necessary questions, most of the answer choices will just be declarative statements. And those, you can either add the word not to them generally. Or if they're already formulated in the negative, you can take away the word not.
So if an answer choice said something like it will rain tomorrow to, negate that would just be it will not rain tomorrow. If the answer choice said it will not rain tomorrow, to negate that would be to make it will rain tomorrow. Sometimes the answers, however, are those answers with logical force to them. So like conditional statements and quantifies. And there are actually, if you want to get very picky about them, there are different, well, not different, but there are specific ways to negate those statements.
So, first let's talk about conditional statements, because I think people often negate them and do it wrong and get the answer wrong because of it. So they'll say something like all dogs have tails. And you want to negate that. And so what you want to say is, well, it seems like the negation of that, or the opposite of that is no dogs have tails, or all dogs lack of tail, or something like that. And that's actually not the negation of that statement.
If I'm saying, and I think an easier way to translate that would be 100% of dogs have tails. In order to negate that statement would just be to make this claim. It is not the case that 100% of dogs have tails. In other words, some dogs don't have tails. To say no dogs have tails or all dogs lack of tail is much stronger than the actual negation of that statement. Because all you're saying is this very strong claim that every single dog has a tail is not true.
And so people will often negate that statement incorrectly. The negation of all dogs have tails is some dogs do not have a tail. It gets even more difficult when you're doing it instead of quantified conditional statements, if you're doing like an if-then statement.
So they'll often give you a statement that looks something like this. If you park your car there, you will get towed. And then what people want to do is like, well, I guess the negation is if I don't park my car there, then I will not get towed. If I do park my car there, I won't get towed. The negation of the statement, or at least the logical form of the negation of this statement is to say, there is no necessary and sufficient relationship between these things.
In other words, parking there is not sufficient to get you a ticket. The negation of that statement is once again and actually much less strong than the original statement. So the negation of that statement, the way I would negate something like if you park there, your car will get towed, would look something like this. Even if you park there, your car might not get towed. Because what I'm saying is, look, even if, so you change if to even if, you say, even if this sufficient thing or this allegedly sufficient thing happens, this allegedly necessary thing is not coming afterward. That's what it means to negate a conditional statement, to just say this sufficient doesn't always lead to the necessary. So my formulation of if A then B, to negate that is even if A, B might not happen.
There are those other quantified statements. These get even harder. Most statements . . . and these almost never show up as answers, but they do. And it might be helpful to just know what it means to negate a most statement. If I'm saying most cars have four wheels, I'm saying greater than 50% of cars have four wheels. To negate that statement is just to say, no, it's not more than 50%. And so the technical negation of that statement, and now we're getting very into the dry weeds of logic, is basically 50% or less. That's how you negate a most statement.
And these things can get, I think, confusing. And so it's good to practice and to understand them, and to understand how they work, but I've also seen a lot of students just fall down the rabbit hole of negating statement. I think if you are negating five-answer choices, you are almost guaranteed to get the answer wrong. And even if you get it right, you have sabotaged yourself because it probably took you much longer than it should have taken to do that question.
So when you're doing this negation thing, I think it's important not to miss the forest for the trees. And to understand once you start negating conditional statements, especially, and those are commonly, they're not super common, but those do end up being the right answer choice sometimes for necessary questions, it's important to understand exactly what it is you're saying.
I want to actually circle back. Because I wanted to say something and then I forgot. And this was at the beginning of the podcast episode when we were talking about finding the conclusion.
You were really, really setting me up for an age-related memory loss joke here, Branden. I hope you know.
Good thing I will forget that really mean comment as soon as we get out of here. What I was saying anyway
And for some jingle below, by Branden. Time for some jingle below. That's all I'm saying.
I think it's time for a sponge bath. That's just . . . I'm getting out. It's sponge bath time. Anyway, what I was saying before I forgot. No, what I was saying was that on the harder questions, the makers of the LSAT are likely to be very mean about those helpful ways of finding the conclusion.
I mean, what you're talking about understanding the relationship of support, that's always going to work. But a lot of times on the harder questions, they're not giving you therefore, they're not giving you thus. There are some statement types that are almost always the main conclusion of arguments that they show up in.
And so what I tell my students is if you're having trouble finding the conclusion in a logical reasoning question, or even in a reading comp passage, because it's the same thing, these types of statements are almost always the main conclusion in the argument they appear in. A prescriptive statement, the idea that something should be done is almost always the main conclusion. Disputing a point of view, disputing someone else. So they'll commonly say something like, some people believe the sun goes around the earth, but they're wrong. Well, that statement, but they're wrong, is probably the main conclusion of that argument.
These things make sense because these are things that lawyers commonly do. You commonly argue that opposing counsel is wrong. That's like half your job. You commonly argue when you write a brief. Almost always the brief might be 15 pages long, but at the end of it you say, and therefore the court should rule for me. That's a prescriptive statement. Here's what should be done.
A couple of other things that are commonly conclusions, a prediction is almost always the main conclusion of an argument that it shows up in, a hypothesis, which is just a fancy way of saying an explanation of something. Very often they'll give you like, oh, the sun is three million degrees hotter than it was a million years ago. And then they go on to explain what caused that thing. These are often causal statements hypotheses. And when you see something like that, it's almost always the main conclusion of the argument.
So I just wanted to throw that in there. I do think that's helpful to people, although that's helpful in these questions and in basically all other questions as well. So that, I think, is what I had to say for that. Do you have any last tips on these questions? I think we've kind of covered what I wanted to cover with them.
Yeah. I've just got one final thought, which is just, it works for both the Strengthen with Sufficient and Strengthen with Necessary premise questions. It does not get you all the way to the correct answer, but it is what I to leave people with. Because if you're going to memorize one thing about these questions and just come back to it as a mantra, it would probably have to be, if there is something new in the conclusion, then it will be in the correct answer choice.
Because whether you are introducing a new diagram term in the conclusion of diagrammable sufficient premise stimulus, then in order to complete the transitive, the new term and the conclusion must be reflected in a premise, otherwise there is no way to finish that transitive. If you are introducing a new concept in the conclusion of either a necessary stimulus or a sufficient stimulus, and then this is I'm shortening Strengthen with Sufficient premise to sufficient and necessary there, sufficient and necessary concepts and many other questions. But in all of these, very, very commonly, there will be a new concept in the conclusion.
Like for instance, maybe you've got two premises about conditions under which it is likely to rain. And all of a sudden the conclusion is about, therefore, when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and there are clouds overhead, it is much more likely it will hail. Now, the correct answer choice is going to have to have the concept of hail in it. Because no matter what, you can never support a conclusion with an argument that does not mention or address a key term or concept that is in the conclusion. That's that's just common sense, right? Like I can't go make an argument for why a vegan diet is better and then have the conclusion of that entire argument be, and that's why you should eat steak. It doesn't work like that.
So, whenever, and it's very common in these types of questions, there is something new in the conclusion of the argument in the stimulus, you can eliminate any answer choice that does not have that new concept from the conclusion in it, and simply choose between the answer choices that do using the other techniques that we've discussed.
One point of caution on this, make sure that it is actually a new term or concept and not just a synonym for something that is already in a premise. Otherwise, if it is just say like somebody saying rain in the premises and then precipitation in the conclusion, you don't have a new concept, you just have the writer being clever and you will paint yourself into a corner using this trick too heavily. But that is my final trick for you for these questions.
Excellent advice. And I think an excellent prescription to end on. And that is our prescription for strengthening with sufficient and necessary premises. Take two of this episode please, listeners, and call us in the morning.
But remember even the most effective treatments for low LSAT scores take some time to work. So keep practicing. It is a necessary condition for success.
Jelena, if you were a true beetle maniac, you'd already know that all of life.
I am not.
Oh, I don't know if we can do this podcast anymore, man.
I'm so sorry to break it to you.
We should at least complete this one. If you were a true beetle maniac, and I guess you're not, you would already know that all of life has just one necessary condition.
Okay. Come on. How are you supporting that conclusion?
All you need is love.
I rest my case.
And that's our show for today.
Thanks for listening.
You can find all of our past episodes on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also send us a question at email@example.com. Or record a short voice message at 310-893-6303.
You can also check out the show notes for links to further reading and resources from today's episode.
Until next week, stay hydrated, study hard, and remember . . .
Branden & Jelena:
Plenty of heroes carry a briefcase!