Reply To: Match the Flaw and Match the Reasoning Questions

April 5, 2016 at 3:11 pm #1666
Mike Kim
Keymaster

Hi Bryce —

In my experience, a lot of students, especially after a certain amount of study, end up finding these to be some of the hardest q types, and I’d certainly agree with their assessment, so, not that it helps you any, do know that it’s to be expected that you find these to be tough —

Another point I’d love to mention up front is that these problems test the very same skills that other q’s do, but do so in ways that push you a bit more — so, you may be able to get away with a 80% correct/clear understanding of a certain type of flaw when you solve certain types of q’s, but a matching q may expose these issues a bit more —

So,
a) you can expect a “rising tide” effect where, as you get better and better at various parts of the problem solving process for all q’s, matching problems should just naturally start to feel easier and easier and
b) if you are already very strong at a lot of other q types, and don’t have a lot of misses to work with in order to get your score up, matching q’s are great “naturally extreme” tests of various LR abilities and it can be really useful to focus extra attention on these q’s during your studies.

In terms of the Q types themselves, obviously I tried to say the most important things in the Trainer, but here are some thoughts from a slightly different perspective, and I hope these help add a little color to your understanding —

First I’d like to talk about these q’s in a meta-sort of way, and then I’ll circle back and offer some more practical advice —

So, if we think very carefully about the task of matching the reasoning in an answer choice with the reasoning in a stimulus — if we get very literal about what it is that we are matching — what it is, exactly, that we want to be the same or similar — and what it is that we don’t need to worry about matching — what could be different between a stimulus and an answer choice that still we deem to “match,” how, exactly, could we define this?

1) We need to match the reasoning (duh) — that means that we have to have commonality in terms of the thought process the author lays out for how various subjects or ideas connect to one another —

So —

All the desks are made of wood. &

All the clothes are made of cotton.

Have commonality not in the subject matter, but rather in the thought process the author lays out for how the subject matter connects —

Every one of a certain type of thing (whether it be desks or clothes) is made of another sort of thing (wood or cotton) —

What does not impact the reasoning (not directly at least), and thus what does not have to match — is the subject matter — desks, wood, clothes, and cotton.

So again – to summarize, there are certain terms that are important for reasoning and others that are less so — these terms important for reasoning are the ones that need to match, and for not just these q’s but all LR, these are the terms you want to work focus on most and try to understand best.

2) Now let’s continue thinking about match the reasoning q’s, but from the test writer’s perspective — if you wanted to take the same two statements from above (the desk statement and the clothes one) and wanted to make the problem a bit more difficult — if you wanted to make the match a bit more difficult to see — how would you do it?

One way, the most basic way, is to change around the wording — so, we could have —

Every desk is made of wood. &
All the clothes are made of cotton.

So, knowing this, you want to make sure that you get to know very well the various terms used to define reasoning relationships on the LSAT, and you want to work to get better and better at focusing on these important words during your study and drilling.

And I know all of that is fairly obvious stuff, but here’s the big point I want to make with it —

On a macro-level, your ability to focus in on the wording/terms that matter to the reasoning relationships, and your ability to correctly understand the reasoning relationships that they happen to reveal, are the biggest keys to your success on matching q’s, and these also happen to be skills fundamental to success on all LR q types — so, when you are planning what you want to get out of your matching prep/trying to figure out how to get better — I think those are the considerations that should be at the apex —

Now let’s talk math!

Picture a type of math problem where you are given a certain equation, and then asked to find an answer that best matches that equation in terms of the mathematical relationships between certain given numbers:

5 x 2 + 3 = 13

(A) 1 + 10(4) = 41
(B) 9 – 3 = 2 + 4
(C) 3(5(2)) = 30

(the correct answer is A.)

Here are a few points I’d love to make using the above as a black and white analogy for LSAT q’s, which are obviously far messier —

1) The numbers don’t matter — the math relationships do — the better you can see, focus in on, and understand the relationships the easier it is to see what the best match is.

2) The order of elements can be changed without altering relationships (as A does).

3) You can work to identify differences by noticing that you have a different type of conclusion, or different structure to the support.

Those first three points were fairly obvious — here are a couple more that I think you might find a bit more interesting —

4) Notice that it would (I would argue) be a bit of a mistake to do some of the work of combining numbers (akin to combining premises or making inferences) involved in actually solving the math problem — so, for example, if you saw 5 x 2 + 3 = 13 and immediately converted it into 10 + 3 = 13, suddenly you are at a disadvantage when it comes to matching the math steps —

In the same way, we can, often even without thinking about it, take the information given in a matching q, bring it together in our heads a bit more completely than we ought, then make it a bit harder on ourselves to make a match —

So you want to keep that in mind and try to catch yourself when that happens to hold you back.

5) Also notice that the best way to compare the answer choices to the original argument is part-by-part — you can think of them in terms of reaching similar types of conclusions (or not), using similar organization of premises (or not), etc. — and, again, this is typically easier than trying to retain and compare two “complete” or “total” assessments of the stimulus and the answer choices.

Okay — that’s it in terms of the advice — I know I often say this but I really mean it here — all the above just represents one particular way of viewing things that I happen to believe can be helpful — if it doesn’t connect with you or if you don’t find it helpful, please feel free to ignore me and I’ll see if I can help in a different way —

If the above does resonate with you, I ask that you try a little exercise that I think might really help these points hit home —

Take a bunch of matching q’s (either match the reasoning or a mix of both m the r and m the flaw) — and don’t worry about solving them completely (if you are worried about wasting q’s feel free to reuse ones you’ve already seen before) —

Instead, see if you can detach yourself a bit and kinda “float” in your reading so that all you really pay attention to are those few important words that determine reasoning — all, every, must, can, some, most, tend to, causes, and so on — and, though of course you want to understand the conclusion and the structure of the support as clearly as possible, make sure you don’t “overwork” (making 5 X 2 into 10).

One extra LSAT-specific tip not well represented by the math example I gave is to pay extra attention to what I could best describe as something akin to “positive/negative” switches —

So having something in the argument like —

“Since some of the children ordered chocolate chip ice-cream, at least some of the children must love chocolate”

To

“Since none of the children ordered vanilla ice-cream, at least some of the children must love chocolate” (with the subject matter switched out for something something different, of course) —

There are, of course, ways to get clever with double negatives and so on, but what you’ll find is that far more often than not, seeing a “positive-negative” flip, or vice-versa, between stimulus and answer choice —  is very suspicious and typically a sign that the answer does not match the reasoning of the stimulus.

And again, without doing the other eight million things you have to do during the actual process of solving such a q — practice just kind of “floating” through the answer choices looking for the same basic structural components in the same way — like you are looking for math symbols in a sea of numbers —  and focus on trying to recognize reasons why the answers don’t match up w/the stimulus.

The above exercise may accomplish nothing other than frustrating you — in which case, I’m sorry to waste your time and effort! — but, I also figured that this different way of viewing the q’s might help you see some things that  you find to be useful —

As always, if you have any follow-up, just let me know —

Mike