Like most daunting challenges, the LSAT is best approached by breaking the test down into manageable parts.
The most common way to divide the logical reasoning section is by question type. Different test prep companies vary in how they categorize these questions, but there are roughly a dozen basic types of logical reasoning questions.
Each question type can be mastered through focused, methodical practice, reducing the grueling exam into a series of small steps.
Another way to divide logical reasoning questions is by the method of argument used in the question. The two forms of logic that appear most often are conditional and causal reasoning. But they are not the only ways to make an argument.
LSAT test-takers should also understand how to identify and work with arguments by analogy.
How Analogy Arguments Work
A logical analogy compares two similar things in order to show that what must be true of one must be true of the other.
Analogy arguments are common. They are even a useful shorthand in everyday speech. For example, we use terms like the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Russian Revolution to describe events that were similar in critical ways — despite clear differences — to help make sense of historical patterns.
Without such arguments, it would be hard to make conclusions about anything outside of one’s direct experience. I’ve never personally trained for a triathlon, but I often compare studying for the LSAT to training for a triathlon because I can make assumptions about the discipline, endurance and skill required by both events.
The LSAT is not exactly like a triathlon, however. The test requires only mental exertion — no helmets or goggles — and accuracy is more important than speed. Nevertheless, it is possible to draw lessons about the LSAT from triathlons as long as you stick to areas in which the two are alike. Triathletes must skillfully manage their focus and energy. They must train in the same basic activities over and over, and carefully consider how to change their habits to conserve energy and achieve greater results.
The key to LSAT analogy arguments is to focus on the relevance of the similarities and differences in the two things being compared. It doesn’t really matter that the LSAT is indoors and the triathlon is outside. But it might matter that one is a race while the other is a timed test.
Using Analogy Arguments on the LSAT
Once you have found an argument by analogy on the LSAT, look for similarities and differences in the analogy that are relevant to the type of question being asked. Analogy arguments are most often found in questions that ask about logical flaws as well as necessary and sufficient assumptions.
[Read: What Is a Good LSAT Score?]
For example, if the question is asking about a flaw in an analogy argument, look for pertinent ways that the two things being compared are different. It is a flawed argument to say that revolutionaries are willing to use violence, so Pablo Picasso must have used violence in his revolutionary art. This assumption is not relevant in the case of Picasso’s creative revolution.
If the question is about a necessary or sufficient assumption, look for an unstated premise that would show a similarity between the two objects of comparison. In the case of a sufficient assumption, the premise must show that the two things are similar in enough ways to make the argument valid. In the case of a necessary assumption, one crucial similarity would suffice.
Mastering analogies can be tricky because they are not as clear-cut as other kinds of logic. But, like a triathlon, the LSAT requires a range of skills. An LSAT test-taker who can’t recognize and evaluate analogies will be as disadvantaged as a runner who cannot handle hills.
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