The Law School Admissions Test (“LSAT”) – Arguments

The Law School Admissions Test (“LSAT”) helps law schools determine which students are most likely to be successful in law school; therefore, LSAT scores are used as a criterion for admission to every American Bar Association (“ABA”) approved law school. The test consists of approximately 100 multiple-choice questions and a thirty-five minute essay. Questions consist of arguments, games, and reading comprehension problems. In this article, we will examine an argument.

Law School Admissions Test

The Law School Admissions Test (“LSAT”) – Arguments

Arguments

Arguments test your ability to read closely and critically as well as to identify flaws in reasoning. A couple examples of an argument, from past LSAT exams follow.

1. Biologist: A recent study investigated individuals’ use of over-the-counter pain medicines and discovered a disturbing trend: Many people use these medications instead of seeking medical help for potentially serious conditions. Among those who used over-the-counter pain medications most frequently, the rate of disorders such as heart disease, cancer, and liver disease was nearly twice as high as it is in the overall population, even though these individuals were actually more likely to have adequate health insurance than the overall population.

Which of the following statements, if true, most seriously weakens the biologist’s argument?

A. Overuse of some over-the-counter pain medications is known to be a contributing factor in the development of liver disease.

B. At least some patients who have adequate health insurance consult physicians whenever they experience pain that others without health insurance would treat with over-the-counter pain medications.

C. Many physicians recommend the daily use of over-the-counter pain medications to patients who have been diagnosed with heart disease or certain types of cancer.

D. Among those who use over-the-counter pain medications either infrequently or never, the rate of most serious medical conditions is no lower than it is in the overall population.

E. Many patients with adequate health insurance are hesitant to seek medical help for conditions that are serious enough to require specialized care, which is often only partially covered by their insurers.

 

2. Over recent decades, average ocean temperatures on Earth have steadily risen, causing the destruction of much marine habitat. It has been established that the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere can increase average ocean temperatures, and over the past century, the emission of carbon dioxide by human industry has increased dramatically. Although many scientists believe that these emissions are responsible for the increase in average ocean temperatures, geological evidence shows that both carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and average ocean temperatures have fluctuated widely in the past with no human intervention.

Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main conclusion of the argument?

A.  Human industry is not responsible for the rise in average ocean temperatures over recent decades.

B. The effect of increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not reflected in increased average ocean temperatures until several decades after the increase in carbon dioxide levels has begun.

C. Although the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere can increase average ocean temperatures, there is no evidence that such emissions by human industry are responsible for the increase in average ocean temperatures over recent decades.

D. There is evidence of significant natural fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and average ocean temperatures in Earth’s distant past.

E. There is evidence that the beliefs of many scientists concerning the cause of recent increases in average ocean temperatures on Earth may not be correct.

 

 

Answers

 

1. The best answer to question one (1) is C. The ‘argument’ is that many people, who can otherwise afford medical treatment, use over-the-counter pain medication instead of seeking medical care, thereby suffering from a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, and liver disease than those who do not use over-the-counter pain medication. We can easily undermine this argument with the fact that many patients with the described illnesses are seeking medical attention and being told by their doctors to take over-the-counter pain medication.

We can eliminate choice A because it doesn’t provide the needed information. While is assumes a possible causal connection between the use of over-the-counter pain medications and one of the serious ailments listed, it does not relate to the question of whether these people sought medical attention.

We can eliminate choice B because it talks about people who actually DO consult medical professionals.

We can eliminate choice D because it does not even refer to seeking medical care and our argument revolves around who seeks care and who does not.

We can eliminate choice E because it provides more explanation of why a person with good health insurance may choose NOT to seek care for a serious medical condition, which strengthens the argument, not weakens it.

2. The best answer to question two (2) is E. The ‘argument’ is that while carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and average ocean temperatures have fluctuated widely in the past with no human intervention, some scientists still believe human intervention is the cause.

We can eliminate A because it overstates the conclusion.

We can eliminate B because it focuses on the time lag between changes, which is not the primary interest of this argument.

We can eliminate C because it overstates the arguments case. It would be more correct, for example, to say that the human industry may not be responsible for the fluctuation of carbon dioxide levels n the atmosphere and average ocean temperatures.

We can eliminate D because the arguments purpose is not to establish a conclusion, as D attempts to do.

Strategies for solving Arguments

Arguments on the LSAT are almost always flawed. This is due to the fact that they are given in  three to four sentences, making it impossible to present an air tight case. Keeping this in mind, read each argument with an eye for flaws and/or leaps in logic.

Assess the question carefully. Make sure that you understand exactly what you are being asked to find. Oftentimes you are not being asked to find the answer that must be true, but only the one that is most likely to be true.

Take notes. Jot down keywords, the order of the events, the numbers, statistics, or anything else that will help you keep everything straight.

Use the process of elimination. Read each answer choice carefully, looking for leaps in logic, information inconsistent with that given in the passage, or answers that fall outside the scope of information given in the passage.

Look for extreme language such as always, never, unequivocally, every, or all. Many times two answer choices will be very similar, but one will contain such strong language, and it can be eliminated as too demanding, strict, or hard to prove. Vague language, such as might, could, can, may, sometimes, and usually are generally safer choices that answers that contain extreme language.

Assume that all of the information presented in the original passage is true, even if it does not make sense or you are know it is not true.

None found at this time.
About Shelley Riseden

Shelley M. Riseden is a freelance paralegal providing research, document preparation, and writing services to both attorneys and non-attorneys. She is an expert at conducting legal research and has a natural ability to grasp complex legal issues.Phone: 765.667.5139, E-mail: smriseden@earthlink.net or shelley@virtuallylegal.net, Skype: shelley.riseden, Yahoo: Virtually_Legal

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