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   II-D. Eliminate wrong answers and then select the right one.
 

Coming up with the right pre-phrase of the answer is only half of the battle. You have to then pick the answer choice that most closely resembles your pre-phrased answer. As we discuss in the Reading Comprehension section, there is rarely "one true" answer on the hard LSAT questions. Instead, there are usually several answer choices that are "good", with a small nuance distinguishing them.

If you jump at the first choice that looks "good", you might get the question wrong because there could be other choices that are better. The best way to handle this is to narrow down answer choices using the process of elimination until you get the best choice.

Beware of trick question types!

Test writing is an extremely time-consuming task. One of the most difficult parts of test writing is generating the "junk" wrong answer choices. Here is an example of what the given choices for a question might look like:

  1. If you misread the passage, this looks right.
  2. Maybe right -- close call with some subtle difference most students miss.
  3. Correct answer!
  4. The opposite of the correct answer.
  5. Something completely off topic, but it sounds impressive.

Test writers have an easy way out. On nearly every question you will see wrong answers that they pull out of a bin of "typical" junk answers. These wrong answers do not do much to test ability; they are simply there to fool inexperienced and unskilled test takers. Test writers like to use them because they take a few seconds to write and fool most students, thereby making the question "harder."

If you have gone as far as to be able to identify and assess an argument, don't fall into a trap when picking an answer.

On the positive side, a skilled test taker can quickly identify trap answer types and then use process of elimination to increase the chances of getting the right answer.

Trick Question Type #1: The Sentimental Favorite

The LSAT will have answer choices that will appeal to our better angels. Remember that just because a LSAT choice is sweet-sounding, it doesn't mean that it's correct.

The level of diabetes in the United States among those over 50 has been attributed to high levels of sugar usage. In Zaire, however, diabetes rates among those over 50 are nearly as high and sugar consumption levels are much lower.

What is the most reasonable conclusion from the above passage?

  1. If most people used sugar-replacement sweeteners instead of sugar, the rate of diabetes worldwide would drop rapidly.
  2. There are other factors besides sugar usage cause diabetes levels.

Choice A sounds good, but answer choices that espouse highly idealistic expressions may not be correct.

Choice B is the correct answer because it gets to the flawed causal argument: sugar usage may not be the sole factor behind diabetes rates.

Trick Question Type #2: Scope Trap

If you've found the main point, you must also identify what is in the range of the argument. Scope is related to more than just the general topic being discussed, it is the narrowing of the topic. Is the article about graduate-school admissions, MBA admissions, or helping international students get into the business school program of their choice? Each step represents a narrowing of the scope.

Here is a critical reasoning question that illustrates scope.

Apartment building owners argue that rent control should be abolished. Although they acknowledge that they would increase rents in the short term, owners argue that in the long term the rent increases would lead to greater profitability. Higher profits would lead to increased apartment construction. Increased apartment construction would then lead to a greater supply of residences and lower prices as the potential apartment residents have a better selection. Thus, abolishing rent control would ultimately reduce prices.

Name an assumption made by the owners: (hint: this is a difficult question, but can eliminate 4 of the 5 answers as outside the scope of the argument).

  1. Current residents of rent control apartments would be able to find new apartments once their rents increased.
  2. The fundamental value of any society is to house its citizens.
  3. Only current apartment owners would profit significantly from market deregulation.
  4. New apartment construction will generate a great number of jobs.
  5. The increase in the number of apartments available would exceed the number of new potential apartment residents.

Which possible answers are outside of the scope? The scope is the argument that deregulation will increase supply and lower prices. "Name an assumption" means find a direct assumption of the supply/demand argument.

  1. Current residents of rent control apartments would be able to find new apartments once their rent increased.
    Is this outside of the scope?
    This sentence expresses a nice sentiment for the welfare of renters, but it has nothing to do with our argument, which is about a supply/demand dynamic.

  2. The fundamental value of any society is to house its citizens.
    Is this outside of the scope?
    Again, nice sentiment, but this does not directly tie into the argument. This is a "Sentimental Favorite" trick answer choice.

  3. Only current apartment owners would profit significantly from market deregulation.
    Is this outside of the scope?
    The problem is that profits made by "Only current owners" is not the issue at hand; it is the prices of apartments. Why wouldn't future owners profit? Again, as previously mentioned, answer choices that use words such as only tend to be outside the scope of the question. "Only" is too restrictive.

  4. New apartment construction will generate a great number of jobs.
    This is clearly outside of the scope.

  5. The increase in the number of apartments available would exceed the number of new potential apartment residents.
    Aha! This is an argument about supply and demand and we are looking for an answer about supply and demand. This is clearly within the scope of the argument, and it is the correct answer. If demand rose with new apartment construction, then prices would not decline, invalidating their argument.

Trick Question Type #3: Trick Opposites

This trap involves contradicting the question stem. This trap is very common on Strengthen/Weaken questions where the answer choice does the opposite of what the stem wants:

Here are examples of these deliberate tricks intended to catch students who rush through questions:

  1. All of the following may be inferred from the passage EXCEPT:
    Then Mr. LSAT gives one answer that absolutely may be inferred from the passage (which someone picks automatically if they forget the "EXCEPT").

  2. Ask for an assumption in an argument, and then give an answer choice that is a summary.

  3. Which of the following weakens the argument above, and then give an answer choice that obviously strengthens the argument.

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    On test day, expect to run into a stem that looks like this:

    All of the following are true, EXCEPT.

    The translation of "EXCEPT" is that of the five choices, all of them fit the condition EXCEPT one of them.

    All of the following are reasons to go to business school EXCEPT:

    1. Networking with future powerful executives
    2. Eager to learn accounting
    3. Increase your income
    4. Impress your friends
    5. Hone your poetry skills
     
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