July 17, 2017 at 1:37 pm #3164madisonParticipant
I’ve read and reread the two chapters about sufficient assumptions and necessary assumptions. I logically understand the process and how to correctly come to the right answer. However, I get a huge chunk of these types of questions wrong, even after reviewing the questions. What can I do to hone these skills and master them? Thanks!
July 19, 2017 at 6:27 pm #3166Mike KimKeymaster
Hey Madison —
Sorry to hear about struggles! — Here are some thoughts and suggestions — all stuff that’s already in the Trainer, but maybe it’ll be helpful to see it here —
— One thing to keep in mind is that even though the consequences are showing up most on these two q types, your challenges could be because of something more generalized — for example, maybe you struggle with identifying certain types of flaws that happen to show up a bit more on these two q types, or these two q types just happen to expose some issue you have with identifying arguments in general.
For every problem you struggle with, during your review, you want to make sure you
1) Understand the exact task presented in the question stem — are you 100% clear on what defines a sufficient assumption, and what defines a necessary assumption?
2) Know what the correct conclusion is, and what it means.
3) Know what the support is, and what it means.
4) Can recognize the link (argument) the author is trying to make being support and conclusion.
5) Can recognize why that link is not guaranteed (flaw).
*6) Can see at least one absolute reason why every wrong answer is wrong — based on mismatch with either the text (stimulus) or task (q stem).
*7) Can see very clearly why right answer is right — based on correct match with gap in reasoning and the given task.
The last two are especially useful and important for developing mastery.
In addition to understanding, you want to consider your actual actions in the moment relative to what you know you should have done — namely —
1) Did you recognize the q type and go into the right mindset?
2) Were you able to correctly ID and understand the conclusion?
3) Were you able to correctly ID and understand the support?
4) Were you able to correctly recognize how the author was trying to support his/her conclusion with support?
5) Were you able to see why support didn’t guarantee conclusion?
*6) Were you able to eliminate wrong answers with confidence based on mismatch with text or task?
*7) Were you able to confirm the right answer with confidence based on mismatch with text or task?
Again, the last two are particularly useful — not only as habits to develop, but as assessment tools — a lot of times, we think we understand the stimulus or have adjusted to the task better than we actually have — and our ability to see why wrong answers are wrong is a terrific gauge of whether we truly did understand and attack with the right mindset.
In terms of some tips for those particular q types —
1) Both N.A. and S.A. are q types for which right answers are, by nature, not predictable, and so they are both q types that, especially as they get harder, require strong elimination skills — see if maybe your elimination skills are what are holding you back, and, if so, work to get more practice at figuring out as clearly as possible why every wrong answer is wrong.
2) S.A. questions, by nature, tend to be conditional heavy — perhaps this is a cause of your troubles, and, if so, you want to work to strengthen your conditional logic skills and habits.
3) N.A. right answers can be verified using the negation technique — this is, in particular, useful when you are down to just a couple of choices or need to make the answer you didn’t eliminate is indeed right — make sure you are comfortable w/it and using it correctly.
A couple of final tips —
1) The above rubric and such give you a sense of how you performed relative to an ideal, but it also helps to think about, and prepare for, situations that are messier — where you can’t see the flaw correctly and so on — so, in those instances, try to think about ways you could have survived, alternative methods to the solution, etc.
2) One thing I didn’t talk about is the collection of other strategies that you could be using and adding on top of the things discussed in the Trainer — some of these could be helpful and some harmful — for example, some students will decide to notate Logical Reasoning problems to a much greater extent than what I suggest, and often these notations will cause more trouble than they are worth —
So, in addition to making sure you are doing the right things, think carefully about any extraneous things — steps you don’t need to take, or considerations that got you off track when you tried solving the q the first time — that you can work to minimize and eliminate —
Whew! Sorry for the length — got away from me there, but I hope at least some of that is helpful — wish you the best and if you have any follow-up or need anything else please let me know —
July 20, 2017 at 9:44 pm #3169LSAT DanParticipant
One of the things I notice with my students who have trouble with assumption questions is that even though they can often articulate the difference between the question types, when it comes to attacking the questions, it’s clear that they’re conflating the significance of the two types of assumptions. It’s very similar to a common mistake made on logic games, so let me address that first, by way of analogy.
Sometimes on a “Must Be True” question, (in the games section), you have to test answer choices – try to build a layout. So I’ll see a student test, for instance in a sequencing game, answer like, “Bob finishes last” by putting Bob last, just as they would on a Could Be True question. This is completely wrong, because even if it works (a valid layout can be created), that only shows that Bob COULD be last; it gets you no further toward figuring out whether Bob MUST be last. Instead, put Bob somewhere OTHER than last; if *THAT* works, then you know it’s the wrong answer; on a Must Be True question, you eliminate answers by finding counterexamples.
OK, back to LR and assumption questions. Let’s say an answer choice on a necessary assumption question is, “All dogs are dangerous.” When I ask them to articulate why they chose or eliminated that answer, they’ll say, “Well, because if all dogs are dangerous…”
And the problem is revealed. Because on necessary assumption questions, it’s completely irrelevant what happens if the answer choice is true. Necessary assumption questions ONLY care about what happens if the assumption is false (hence the negation technique). Specifically, which answer kills the argument (if false)
Conversely, sufficient assumption questions ONLY care about what if the assumption is true. Specifically, which answer guarantees the conclusion.
What makes some assumptions particularly tough is that sometimes, there’s an answer that would be right for the other type of assumption question (hence the popularity of answer choice (A) on “the rattlesnake question” (Google “LSAT rattlesnake question” if you’re unfamiliar with it). (A) would be right – if it were a sufficient assumption question. But it’s not.)
As Mike notes, sufficient assumption questions are much more likely to be based on connected-premises arguments, involving diagramming and conditional logic, so if a disproportionate amount of your trouble on assumption questions comes from sufficient assumption questions, that’s an important thing to work on. But the two biggest tips I can give you are –
1) Remember, an assumption is just an unstated premise.
2) Necessary assumption questions only want you to consider the implications of a false assumption (answer choice), and sufficient ones only want you to consider the implications of a true assumption. Therefore, while sufficient assumptions MAY also be necessary assumptions (and vice versa), it never matters whether or not they are.
Hope this helps.
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