# The LSAT for Visual Learners: A New Approach to Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning Questions

We all learn differently, so some of us need a slightly different approach to get the most out of our LSAT studies. In this series, we’ll cover LSAT techniques that work particularly well for visual learners. Rather than learning and memorizing rules, these techniques will put your pencil and paper to work, allowing you to map out and visualize the correct answer.

No matter what kind of a learner you are, Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions are a formidable part of any Logical Reasoning section. Both question types appear exactly once on each LR section. And both question types function like massive speed bumps as test-takers barrel down these sections. Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions are loooooong. Most Logical Reasoning questions feature one argument in the passage and a few extra statements in the five answer choices. Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions feature six arguments — one in the passage and one in each answer choice. These questions take time to work through.

And for visual learners, Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions can be annoyingly abstract. Parallel Reasoning questions task us with finding the answer choice with the same argumentative structure as the argument in the passage. Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions ask us to find the answer choice that commits the same flaw as the argument in the passage. So, these questions ask us to put a name to something that is sort of hidden in the argument, something invisible. Neither the argument’s structure nor its flaw is a word or phrase we can pick out from the argument. It’s something abstract we have to put into words. Our descriptions of the structure or flaw must also be precise enough to help us quickly eliminate four of the five answer choices.

This is difficult for anyone, but especially for visual learners. Mapping an argument’s structure or flaw in our heads and keeping that map legible as we read and evaluate five new arguments is not the visual learner’s forte. It’s no wonder many visual learners skip these questions, guessing at random. Unfortunately, this isn’t a viable strategy for test-takers who want to earn scores in the high 160s or 170s, especially when the LSAT re-introduces two scored Logical Reasoning sections in August 2024.

So, scratch paper is the visual learner’s best friend on Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions. Fortunately, roughly half of Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions lend themselves naturally to scratch paper. This half will feature "if-then,""most," or "some" statements. We can and should diagram these statements on our scratch paper. The resulting diagram will visually represent the argument’s structure or flaw, helping us examine the answer choices.

But what about the other half? Can visual learners use their scratch paper to efficiently diagram the argument’s structure or flaw even when there aren’t any "if-then," "most," or "some" statements?

Our curriculum whizzes at LSATMax devised an easy, efficient solution to diagramming such Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions. They’ve taken their inspiration from big-box retailers, of all places. This strategy can benefit any type of learner — visual learners very much included.

We like to call this the "Kirkland" strategy. This strategy will help us look beyond the passage’s explicit subject matter and discern its underlying structure or flaw. To use the "Kirkland" strategy, we'll simply remove any reference to the subject matter and replace it with a generic descriptor. (Like how Costco replaces brand-named items with generic "Kirkland Signature" versions of those products. If you prefer a different house brand name — Great Value, Simple Truth, Signature Select, 365, Market Pantry, Good & Gather, Safeway Select — go with your preferred generic label.) We can replace these subject-matter references with simple variables like “A,” “B,” and “C.”

This strategy’s value will become more apparent when applied to an actual LSAT question. So, let’s take a look at a real Parallel question. This one is from Prep Test 93, Section 3, Question 24, which is available for free on Law Hub if you want to play along:

A smaller number of short documentary films than of full-length science-fiction films are commercially successful, even though there are more short documentary films than there are science-fiction films. Therefore, a higher proportion of full-length science-fiction films than of short documentary films are commercially successful.

Which one of the following arguments is most similar in its pattern of reasoning to the argument above?

This is a Parallel Reasoning question, as the question stem just asks us to find the argument that is “most similar” in its “pattern of reasoning” to the passage’s argument. The question stem didn’t say the reasoning was “flawed,” so it’s not a Flawed Parallel Reasoning question.

First, we’ll break down the argument, finding the premises and conclusion. Fortunately, they’re not trying to hide the conclusion. It’s the last sentence, introduced by the big, bold conclusion word “Therefore.” And the premises — the evidence that supports the conclusion — are found in the first sentence.

But, to dial in the argument’s “pattern of reasoning,” we’ll need to get rid of the references to “documentary films” and “science-fiction films” and being “commercially successful.” That subject matter is irrelevant to the argument’s structure or “pattern of reasoning.” So, we don’t want that content distracting us as we assess the answer choices.

So, we’ll use the Kirkland method, replacing these references with generic variables. Let's replace "short documentary films" and "full-length science-fiction films" with the generic "As" and "Bs."* We'll also replace "commercially successful" with "C." The phrases "smaller number" and "a higher percentage" are generic already, so we can leave them in.

The Kirkland version of this argument is:

*There's a slight difference between the two premises — one discusses "full-length science-fiction films" and the other just "science-fiction films." This distinction doesn't affect the argument's validity — if there are fewer science-fiction films in general, there are definitely fewer full-length science-fiction films — so we'll ignore this difference in our Kirkland version.

This isn’t the only Kirkland version of this argument you could come up with. You’re free to use variables different from A, B, and C. You could make this even more formulaic if you'd like:

For this question, we’ll go with the first option. We’ll use this option to assess each answer choice. The correct answer choice will also be reducible to that generic Kirkland version of the argument. One premise will have a different “A” than “short documentary films,” a different “B” than “full-length science-fiction films,” and a different “C” than “commercially successful,” but it will compare the number of As and Bs that are Cs, whatever they are. The same principle will apply to the other premise and the conclusion.

We can also expedite our review of the answer choices if we take a conclusion-out approach. We should compare each conclusion to the Kirkland version of our conclusion — that "a higher percentage of Bs than As are C." If an answer choice's conclusion doesn't resemble that, we can eliminate it without bothering with the answer choice's premises.

Let’s take a look at the (A):

1. A greater number of small modern apartments than of large Victorian apartments have freestanding bathtubs. Hence, a smaller percentage of large Victorian apartments than of small modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs.

We’ll start with the conclusion, which uses another obvious conclusion word (“Hence”). It’s talking about large Victorian apartments, small modern apartments, and freestanding bathtubs, which are the A, B, and C variables for this answer choice. Comparing it to the Kirkland version of our conclusion, it resembles the claim that "a higher percentage of Bs than As are C" (it says "smaller percentage," but that's close enough for this stage of analysis).

Since (A)’s conclusion is close enough to the Kirkland version’s, we’ll take a closer look at the rest of the answer choice to see if it matches the full Kirkland version (which, again, is "Fewer As than Bs are C. But there are more As than Bs. So, a higher percentage of Bs than As are C.")

Checking out the premises, we can't find any equivalent to "But there are more As than Bs." That's enough reason to cross off (A). Without that premise, this argument is flawed, unlike the passage. Even if there is a smaller number of large Victorian apartments with freestanding bathtubs, there may still be a larger percentage of large Victorian apartments with freestanding bathtubs — especially if there are far fewer large Victorian apartments than small modern apartments.

We’ll move on to (B):

1. A greater number of large Victorian apartments than of modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs, even though there are more modern apartments than there are Victorian apartments. Thus, a higher proportion of large Victorian apartments than of modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs.

This conclusion resembles the claim that "a higher percentage of Bs than As are C." It again refers to modern apartments, large Victorian apartments, and freestanding bathtubs, which are the A, B, and C variables for this answer choice. It says a higher proportion of Bs (Victorian apartments) than As (modern apartments) have Cs (freestanding bathtubs). So, it matches the Kirkland conclusion, and we’ll take a closer look at the rest of the answer choice to see if it matches the full Kirkland version of the passage (again, "Fewer As than Bs are C. But there are more As than Bs. So, a higher percentage of Bs than As are C.")

We'll have to be careful with how we assign our A and B to this answer choice. The first premise says that a "greater number of large Victorian apartments than of modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs." To line up with "Fewer As than Bs are C," we'll have to make "small modern apartments" our "A" variable (the smaller variable), "large Victorian apartments" our "B" (the bigger variable), and "freestanding bathtubs" our "C." So, with some re-arranging, the first premise sounds like "Fewer As than Bs are C."

The second premise establishes that there are more As (modern apartments) than Bs (Victorian apartments), which aligns with "But there are more As than Bs."

And, as discussed, the conclusion establishes that a higher percentage of Bs (large Victorian apartments) than As (modern apartments) have Cs (freestanding bathtubs). This matches the Kirkland conclusion that "a higher percentage of Bs than As are C."

Like the passage, this is a valid argument. If there are more large Victorian apartments with freestanding bathtubs despite the fact that there are fewer Victorian apartments overall, there would need to be a greater percentage of Victorian apartments with freestanding bathtubs. By analogy, if you and I were both eating a pie, and I ate more pie than you even though my pie was much smaller than yours, I would have consumed a greater percentage of my pie. The same reasoning applies to films and apartments in this question.

In short, the Kirkland version of the passage’s argument provided a key to assess (B). Rather than trying to remember the passage’s argument structure, we could just compare it to the Kirkland version we wrote out. This gives visual learners something concrete and visible to work with as they analyze the answer choices. Even though it takes a little bit of time to write out the Kirkland version, we often get that time back in the answer choices. In this case, we can select (B) and move on to the next question without even looking at (C), (D), or (E).

But, just for practice and/or kicks, take a look at those answer choices and try to figure out why they don’t match the Kirkland version of this argument. Remember, you can save time with a conclusion-out approach!

1. A smaller number of small modern apartments than of large Victorian apartments have freestanding bathtubs. For even though there are more small modern apartments than there are Victorian apartments, a higher proportion of large Victorian apartments than of small modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs.
2. A greater number of large Victorian apartments than of small modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs, so there are more small modern apartments than there are large Victorian apartments, since a higher percentage of large Victorian apartments than of small modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs.
3. A smaller number of modern apartments than of Victorian apartments have freestanding bathtubs, even though there are fewer modern apartments than there are large Victorian apartments. This establishes that a higher proportion of Victorian apartments than of modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs.

For (C), it’s important to recognize that the first sentence is the main conclusion. If you misread the last clause as the main conclusion, this argument is identical to the passage (and to answer choice (B)). However, the last clause is not this passage's main conclusion. The first sentence is the main conclusion.

Notice how the first sentence is followed by another sentence that begins with "For"? The structural word "for" almost always comes after a conclusion. Moreover, the word "for" always introduces a premise. And while the claim "even though there are more small modern apartments than there are Victorian apartments" comes immediately after the word "for," that claim is just a concession. The word "for" really introduces the claim that "a higher proportion of large Victorian apartments than of small modern apartments have freestanding bathtubs." So, the main conclusion is not that last claim, but the first one: "A smaller number of small modern apartments than of large Victorian apartments have freestanding bathtubs."

Since the main conclusion is about numbers ("smaller number"), it does not resemble our Kirkland conclusion that "a higher percentage of Bs than As are C." For this reason, we can cross off (C).

For (D), This conclusion appears halfway through the argument. The conclusion is introduced by the conclusion word "so" and is the first half of a two-part sentence with "since" in the middle. These structural clues tell us that "there are more small modern apartments than there are large Victorian apartments" is the argument's main conclusion.

Since the main conclusion is about numbers ("more"), it does not resemble our Kirkland conclusion that "a higher percentage of Bs than As are C." For this reason, we can cross off (D).

Taking a conclusion-out approach to evaluating the answer choices can also speed up our review and reduce the number of premises we have to read or assess. If we correctly identify the conclusion in (C) and (D), we can quickly eliminate both for this reason.

And for (E), this conclusion resembles the claim that "a higher percentage of Bs than As are C." So, let's take a closer look at this one to see if it matches the full Kirkland version of the passage (Again, "Fewer As than Bs are C. But there are more As than Bs. So, a higher percentage of Bs than As are C.")

We'll have to be careful with how we assign our A and B to this answer choice. The first premise says that a "smaller number of modern apartments than of Victorian apartments have freestanding bathtubs." To line up with "Fewer As than Bs are C," we'll have to make "modern apartments" our "A" variable (the smaller variable), "Victorian apartments" our "B" (the bigger variable), and "freestanding bathtubs" our "C." With that framing, the first premise sounds like "Fewer As than Bs are C."

The second premise says "even though there are fewer modern apartments than there are large Victorian apartments." This means the second premise establishes that there are fewer As than Bs. This doesn't line up with the second premise that "there are more As than Bs." That's enough to eliminate (E).

This Kirkland system works just as well for Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions. Here’s one you can try from Prep Test 71, Section 3, Question 15, which is also available for free on Law Hub:

Amoebas, like human beings, generally withdraw from stimuli that cause them physical damage. Humans do this because such stimuli cause them pain. Thus all microscopic organisms must also be capable of feeling pain.

Which one of the following exhibits flawed reasoning most similar to that exhibited by the argument above?

1. Poets, like people under hypnosis, frequently use language in odd, incomprehensible ways. People under hypnosis do this because their inhibitions are lower than those of most people. Thus all artists must have lower inhibitions than most people have.
2. Like nonprofit organizations, corporations usually provide some free public services. Nonprofit organizations do this solely because of their members' desire to make the world a better place. Thus this is probably also the main motive of most corporations.
3. Most professional athletes practice regularly for the same reason. Professional boxers spend several hours a day practicing in order to excel in competition. Thus professional skaters probably also practice in order to excel in competition.
4. Predatory birds, like many predatory animals, are generally solitary hunters. Some predatory mammals hunt alone because there is not enough food to support a pack of them in one area. Thus hawks, which are predatory birds, probably hunt alone.
5. Hiking trails in British Columbia, like those in New Mexico, are concentrated in mountainous regions. In New Mexico this is partly because low-lying areas are too hot and arid for comfortable hiking. Thus hikers must also feel less comfortable hiking in low-lying areas of British Columbia.

And if you want some extra help, here’s the Kirkland version of the passage that we made:

To recap, here’s the visually helpful “Kirkland method” for Parallel and Flawed Parallel Reasoning questions:

1. Identify the conclusion and premises in the passage’s argument
2. Diagram the “Kirkland” version of the argument on your scratch paper, replacing any reference to the subject matter with generic descriptors like “A,” “B,” and “C.”
3. Read each answer choice’s conclusion and compare it to the Kirkland conclusion; eliminate the answer choice if its conclusion doesn’t match the Kirkland conclusion
4. Select the answer choice with premises and a conclusion that matches the Kirkland argument’s premises and conclusion