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Gabby_teixeira on April 1, 2020

Relevant vs. Irrelevant

Hi! I'm struggling to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant answer choices on those that are more subtle i.e, in question #12, I chose the answer about the variation in the songbird species, but I guess that was unrelated since the stimulus talks about the general population. Yet, there've been other correct answers where a sub-group in the answer choice WOULD be relevant... That said, does LSATmax have an office hour session or somewhere in its course that addresses how to differentiate between relevant, and irrelevant questions?

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Gabby_teixeira on April 7, 2020


Gabby_teixeira on April 7, 2020


SamA on April 7, 2020

Hello @Gabby_teixeira,

Your reassessment of answer choice B is correct, because we are talking about songbirds as a whole. The egg-laying variations of the different subspecies would have already been factored into the averages, and would not explain a sudden decrease in recent years.

However, you make a good point that we should not automatically eliminate an answer choice about a sub-group. Sometimes they are relevant. What if we were given an answer choice that said, "A few years ago, a virus emerged among sparrows that affects their reproduction." This only affects a sub-species, and yet it is relevant to songbirds as a whole. It weakens the argument because it presents an alternative explanation to the magpie hypothesis. So, what is the difference between my example and answer choice B? Consider the timeline. The egg-laying variations have occurred for an indefinite period of time, but my virus coincides with the recent population decrease. Time frame is an important factor to consider.

Here is another factor in determining relevance. What does variation mean? It could be more eggs or fewer eggs depending on the species, but we do not know! We do not want uncertainty in our answer choices. We want to be confident that it weakens the conclusion.

As of now, we don't have lessons or office hours dedicated to "relevance" as its own concept. I can't think of any standard rules when it comes to relevance, but there are video lessons that can help you. Consider the cause and effect weakeners that Mehran discusses in this example. As you see more question types, you will start to get a better sense of what is relevant and what isn't. I hope that my explanation gave you a better idea of how to determine relevance. Remember to consider the group in question, but also the timeline and the specific wording of the answer choice.

Gabby_teixeira on April 11, 2020

Thanks so much!