Reply To: Weird LR Stems

November 21, 2016 at 11:09 am #2869
Mike Kim

Hey Jacob —

Great Q — I think, especially if you are going for a top score, it’s really important to recognize when Q stems stray from the norm, as you have —

First some general thoughts —

1) Just as with unusual logic games, I think it’s helpful to think of unusual LR q stems as variations on the norm — as twists on what is standard.

2) And just as with other issues on the LSAT, it’s helpful / important to think of q stems in terms of what they have in common and what is unique about them (that is, you want to understand similarities between stems and use this to your advantage, but you don’t want to think of think of all q stems as having to fit into absolute and specifically defined categories).

3) So (and it seems this is what you are doing but I just want to emphasize it) — when you recognize a q stem is unique in some way, it’s healthy to think about what general categories it relates to, but also you don’t want to lose sight of the actual wording used in the given stem (that is, you don’t want to miss the problem because you miscategorized it, especially when categorizing it maybe wasn’t necessary in the first place) — you want to use what you know of common q stems characteristics and categories to clearly and correctly understand the specific stem you are given as it is worded by the test writers.

4) On a conscious level, it’s not necessary to deliberately go through all that I mentioned above in a step-by-step process — I think that all naturally happens mostly behind scenes if you can consistently focus on reading the specific q stem as it is given (which you seem to already be doing well) and if you can correctly connect it to the fundamental challenges that are presented by all question stems (your ability to see an argument correctly, your ability to critique the reasoning, your ability to expose gaps in reasoning, or to help support the reasoning, and so on — keep in mind that though there are many different types of q’s, the issues that underlie all q’s are entirely common and consistent — ) —

So, that’s the mindset I recommend for when you run into something strange — on a conscious level — you want to try to make sure to understand the significance of every single word and make sure you understand as best you can how the particular q stem relates to the fundamental challenges (“Okay, I have to find the argument and then an answer that will weaken it,” or “I have to find the argument, then an answer that weakens a premise” (as in the first example you brought up)), and, in the context of that, you may very well end up thinking about, and finding it useful to think about, what a more standard q would be like, and how a particular stem is similar but also different, and so on.

Remember, when they give you a unique stem, they are testing your ability to adjust — don’t be afraid to.

5) Not sure if you’ve checked it out already, but I offer a questions by type tool here — — the booklet is a little bit more specific than the online tables, but you can use either as a reference in case you want to see how I categorize a question.

6) And, if any categorizations stump you or you don’t feel comfortable with your understanding of a stem — keep track, and don’t hesitate to come and ask (just as you’ve done!) — and I’ll be happy to help —

Okay — so, with all that said, here are some thoughts for the specific q stems you brought up —

60 – 1 – 6 – I think of this as a weaken q, in that it doesn’t represent something wrong with the given argument (directly) but, rather, works to expose a weakness in the argument (by attacking the validity of a premise).

What is unusual about this stem is exactly what you correctly noticed and mentioned — they are asking us to consider the validity of a premise, which, normally, we are not asked to do.

61 – 2 -23 – I think of this as a weaken q overall, because, like the previous, our task is to find an analogy that weakens the argument — having said that, we certainly need an answer that matches in terms of the flaw, so it really is an amalgamation of those two things (“you are weakening by showing an analogy with the same reasoning flaw” is a more complete explanation of task), and if you think of it as match the flaw I think you’d be in great shape for evaluating answers.

61 – 4 -1 — this is most akin to conform to principle.

67 – 2 -12 — this is kind of an advanced reasoning structure question that looks at the issue from the perspective of the role played by the premise in question — that is, they are testing whether you can correctly recognize the overall reasoning structure, and they are testing it by seeing whether you can correctly recognize the role played by the part in question.

74 – 1 – 21 — “Useful to know” is a different way to ask you to think about the gap between the given premises and the conclusion — this is a somewhat common type of rare question (sorry for the oxymoron) and you can find similar ones in the booklet.

Sorry for the length but again, important issue and I hope at least some of that was helpful —

As I often say, please feel free to utilize whatever you do find helpful and to ignore the rest —

Take care and let me know if you have any follow-up —