November 18, 2016 at 2:40 pm #2856
Match the Reasoning and Match the Flaw questions are some of the most time consuming in LR. I know that in The Trainer, you advocate using certain techniques for eliminating answer choices on these questions quickly, including strategies like: matching the strength of the conclusion (qualifier words), the type of reasoning (conditional, causation, etc.), and other qualifier words such as most, some, all, etc.
However, I’ve noticed that in recent exams (70’s), LSAC has made these questions (even!) more difficult and time consuming by including all of these features in most of the answer choices. (For example, if the stimulus uses “probably” in the conclusion, 4 out of 5 answer choices will all include the word “probably” too.) As a result, they’ve eliminated some of the ‘quick and easy’ tells that we had at our disposal to move through these questions faster.
Can you recommend other techniques/shortcuts to use in order to cut through the problem and eliminate wrong answers quickly?
November 21, 2016 at 9:05 am #2866
Hi Jessica —
Here are some thoughts —
I know you’ve been studying for a while and know the test well and know yourself well, so, as I often say, please feel free to use whatever you think might be helpful and to ignore the rest —
1) It’s worth noting that these q’s are not called match the stimulus.
And the point I want to make by saying that is that, in order to perform well on these q’s, one has to be able to focus in correctly on the flaw or the reasoning.
Matching problems really expose latent fuzziness in this regard, and, in my experience with students, not being able to correctly focus in on the flaw or reasoning is the most common and significant cause of trouble on matching q’s.
2) These q’s do not test your ability to memorize or hold a lot of information in your head.
That is, you are not expected to remember all the words used in the stimulus, hold them in your head, and compare them all against each of the answer choices. I think that sometimes students inadvertently make these q’s more difficult than they ought by thinking they have to do this.
3) Going back to a point I made earlier — the most important key to success is one’s ability to correctly focus in on and correctly understand the reasoning flaw or the reasoning structure (depending on the q).
One way to test this (not during the actual exam but rather in your review) — is to see if you feel comfortable describing the flaw / reasoning structure using simple language and in your own wording. Force yourself to say it outloud (I know how silly it feels but it’s worth it).
4) So when you go into the answer choices, you want to do so with a mindset of eliminating based on mismatches that reveal a different type of flaw or a different type of reasoning structure ––
On a practical level, you’ll do this by noticing differences in the type of conclusion reached (for example, the original argument reached a causal conclusion and the answer choice a conditional one), the structure of the premises (for example: the original just had one supporting piece and the answer choice has two different premises that need to be brought together) or the actual reasoning itself (ex: one equates apples to oranges and another jumps to a broad conclusion based on a small sample size).
(Note that the last of those requires the most thought, but it’s typically not necessary to go there — most wrong answers can be eliminated based on recognizing different types of conclusions or premise structures).
5) It’s certainly good to notice wording differences (such as some vs most) but it should be always be done in the context of bigger goals, and as a means to an end — a difference only matters if it impacts the flaw or the reasoning structure —
So, you don’t want to make looking for wording differences the end in and of itself — and, when you do notice the differences and want to consider whether they are important or not, you always want to do so by thinking about how that word impacts the flaw or the reasoning structure.
To summarize —
-The best way to get faster at eliminating wrong answers is to know how you ought to think about them / what parts you ought to focus on and perhaps evaluate critically.
-The best way to know what to focus on / think about is to have as clear a sense of the flaw or reasoning structure as possible and to try and keep your focus on that.
-However, these q’s do require you to jump from looking at the forest to looking at the trees and back and forth (from general to specific to general to specific) — and it is very, very easy to get lost in thinking about all the various details.
-The best to stay on track is to make sure you put all your effort into understanding the flaw or reasoning structure as clearly and correctly as possible, and, to, in evaluating the impact of specific components, do so by thinking about how they influence the flaw or overall reasoning structure.
That’s all that comes to mind for now — I know it’s pretty general stuff and stuff I’ve said elsewhere, but, just to repeat myself another time, I really put a lot of value into having the right priorities and right focus — and this close to test day, I think it can be useful for students to think about their studies on those terms —
I hope at least some of that is helpful and wish you the best — Mike
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