Parallel reasoning questions ask you to identify arguments with similar logic. The argument in the stimulus contains certain patterns that you will match to the arguments in the answer choices. The skills you need in parallel reasoning are similar to other types of Logical Reasoning questions, with a particular emphasis on your ability to paraphrase arguments.
This is the final in a series of lesson articles about conclusions on the LSAT test. The series includes the following articles:
- LSAT Conclusions: an Introduction
- Finding Conclusions on the LSAT Test: Advanced Techniques
- Conclusion Questions on the LSAT Test
- LSAT Secrets for Conclusions
LSAT Secrets for Conclusions
Here are the TestSherpa secrets to figuring out conclusions.
Look for clue words. Clue words are everywhere on the LSAT and they’re always used correctly so you can feel safe that a conclusion is safely behind words like: so, thus, therefore, in conclusion, clearly, as a result, and hence. Similarly you can weed out evidence that follows words like: because, since, and for.
Paraphrase. The simplest paraphrases are usually centered on the conclusion. Can you sum up the argument in a single sentence or phrase? If so, you’ve probably got your head around the main idea and thus the conclusion. Conclusions are often hidden in a sea of meaningless words and phrases in LSAT arguments. A simple paraphrase is your best bet for understanding the author’s main idea.
Who, What, Where answers are conclusions. Conversely, how and Why are evidence. Consider the argument: Sami likes to use a red pen on Thursdays because the red pen writes smoothly and Thursdays are hard enough as it is. The conclusion comes from Who, What and Where (Sami uses a red pen on Thursdays). The evidence comes from How and Why (the pen writes more smoothly and Thursdays are hard enough as it is).
Consider the Context for LSAT Conclusions
Even with all of the TestSherpa secrets to finding conclusions, some statements on the LSAT are just vague. Some sentences can function as conclusions or evidence depending on the context of the argument. For example, consider the phrase:
John is a teacher.
There are no key words, and although the statement in and of itself is the main idea, it is not an argument. It is at this point neither evidence nor conclusion. Now consider it in this passage:
John has three degrees. John is a teacher. John donates a portion of his salary to inner city schools. John is dedicated to education.
What’s the main idea or conclusion? That John is dedicated to education. Among the many reasons why we know this is the phrase used as evidence “John is a teacher.”
Now consider the same phrase used as a conclusion.
Mary said that John was an unemployed felon, but I saw him on the playground surrounded by children. John is a teacher.
In addition to being a little creepy, this passage shows that the same phrase can be used as a conclusion supported by different evidence.
In some cases, a conclusion can function as evidence for another conclusion.
John passed his exams and was hired by a school last week, so John is a teacher. Teachers like to grade homework, so John must like to grade homework, too.
The initial evidence is that John passed his exams and was hired, so we know he’s a teacher. Since he’s a teacher he must like to grade homework (the second conclusion).
Practice Makes Perfect
Locate the conclusions in the following arguments:
John would make a great newspaper editor because he really loves to read.
My company only promotes charismatic people with good hygiene. I guess I’ll never be a manager.
TestSherpa students get higher scores on the LSAT. Students who score higher on the LSAT get into better schools. Lawyers who graduate from better schools get better jobs with better salaries. I guess I should study all of the TestSherpa lessons.
Politics is becoming increasingly divisive. Just the other day the mayor accused the city council of harboring communist space aliens inside the capitol dome. What could be more insulting than that?
Jerry loves beef jerky, but beef jerky is full of sodium. His blood pressure must be sky high.
What were the conclusions?
John would make a great newspaper editor…
(Did you catch the evidence clue word “because?”)
…I guess I’ll never be a manager.
(Don’t get hung up on the wacky assumption that the author lacks good hygiene, assumptions come later.)
…I should study all of the TestSherpa lessons.
(In addition to being very, very true, it also seems to be the main point and a good, simple paraphrase of the entire argument.)
Politics is becoming increasingly divisive…
(What? Politics is divisive. Why? The mayor is making crazy accusations.)
…His blood pressure must be sky high.
(Chicken and egg, which came first, the jerky or the blood pressure?)
Learn the Structure of LSAT Arguments
Just about every LSAT Logical Reasoning question involves some sort of argument. And all arguments involve evidence and conclusion. No matter what the question is, your first step is to get your head around the argument and the sooner you can separate out the evidence from the conclusion and come up with a simple paraphrase, the higher you’ll score.
Look for arguments in your day-to-day life; they’re everywhere. Try to use every conversation as practice for separating out evidence and conclusion so it becomes second nature to you on test day and more importantly in your law school career.
Summary LSAT Tips for Conclusions
This concludes the lesson series on LSAT Conclusions. Let’s review what we’ve learned:
- The conclusion is the main point the author wants to make. It is often a call to action
- The conclusion can be located anywhere in an argument, not just the first or last sentence.
- Learn the clue words that signal conclusions.
- Don’t trust answer choices that deal with analogies. The analogy is never central to an argument.
Now, return to TestSherpa’s main LSAT page to chose another lesson series to study.