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 article is the first in a series of articles that discusses Parallel Reasoning Questions on the LSAT test. The series includes the following articles:
Most of the time in parallel questions you will have to paraphrase the stimulus argument and five arguments in the answer choices for a total of six arguments. That’s a lot of work, but it’s easy work.
A typical parallel reasoning question stem reads:
Which of the following most closely parallels the kind of reasoning used in the argument above?
Note that the question asks to find an answer that “most closely parallels” the stimulus argument. It does not ask you to find an answer with identical reasoning. The correct answer will be the most similar to the stimulus, although it may not be an exact match.
Parallel Reasoning: Late in the Game
Parallel reasoning questions are actually quite easy, especially when you become adept at paraphrasing arguments. You may even find that you rarely miss a parallel reasoning question. Still, skilled TestSherpa students do not tackle parallel reasoning questions until late in the game after racking up basic points such as conclusion, assumption, and strengthen or weaken questions.
There are two reasons for not going after parallel reasoning questions right away. First, there are only one or two parallel reasoning questions per Logical Reasoning section. Second, even if you find this type of question easy to do, parallel reasoning questions tend to eat up a lot of time. This is because the answer choices are separate arguments. You might have to read six different arguments to find the right answer. Since the right answer “most closely” matches the stimulus argument and does not have to match perfectly, the right answer doesn’t pop out at you like it does for conclusion and assumption questions.
Remember, on the LSAT, minutes are like dollars. Parallel reasoning questions might cost three dollars for a single point. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy that point when the time is right. But you should get those one- and two-dollar points first.
Parallel Reasoning Question Stems
The basic method for parallel reasoning is the same as any other Logical Reasoning question, with a special interest in the paraphrase of the stimulus.
The following are examples of parallel reasoning questions. When you recognize a question as parallel reasoning, decide if it is worth your time, or if you should skip the question for later.
- Which one of the following uses the same pattern of reasoning as the argument above?
- Which of the following most closely parallels the argument above?
- Which one of the following arguments contains a flaw that is most similar to the one in the argument above?
- The logic of the above argument is most nearly paralleled by which of the following?
Parallel Reasoning Assumptions and Red Flags
If you’re good with assumptions or finding the flaws and red flags in arguments they can help you with parallel reasoning questions as well. If two arguments are parallel in their reasoning, the assumptions or flaws they make will be similar. Consider this simple argument with similar flaws.
The government should pay for college tuition. Better educated workers are less likely to go to jail which would save us money in the long run.
Do any Red Flags pop up in your head?
There are a lot of assumptions made in this argument and a lot of red flags pop up. Is it cheaper to pay for college than jail? Is it necessarily true that college educated workers are better educated? The following argument makes similar assumptions. See if you can see the parallel reasoning between the two arguments.
Scientists should spend more time on cancer research. Cancer research often leads to other discoveries which would reduce the time involved in researching other cures.
Red flags might include:
- Why would it reduce time in researching other cures?
- If we spend more time on cancer research but less time on other cures, will there necessarily be a net savings?
Now that you’ve seen some of the skills invovled in Parallel Reasoning, we’ll get some practice with LSAT Parallel Reasoning Questions.