How to Identify Premises, Conclusions on the LSAT

The LSAT includes three main sections: logical reasoning, reading comprehension and analytical reasoning. Each of these sections relies on specific skills or strategies. For example, the analytical reasoning section requires you to know how to set up a logic game.

And to do well on the analytical reasoning section, you’ll also need to understand common questions the LSAT asks about logic games, as well as advanced tactics tailored to specific logic game scenarios.

On the other hand, some skills are useful across multiple sections. One of the most fundamental skills LSAT takers need to master is how to divide an argument into premises and conclusions.

How to Identify Premises and Conclusions

A logical argument is a series of claims that make a point. A conclusion is the point an argument is making, and the premises are claims that support that point.

[READ: How to Build LSAT Skills With Deliberate Practice.]

There are two main ways to find a conclusion to an argument. The simplest is to look for indicator words. Words that indicate a premise include “because,” “since” and “for.” Words that indicate a conclusion include “therefore,” “thus” and “consequently.”

However, some words and phrases can indicate either a premise or a conclusion depending on the context, like “but,” “although,” “yet,” “however,” “nevertheless” and “after all.”

Some premises and conclusions don’t start with an indicator word at all. Writing would be clunky and repetitive if writers had to signal every point they made. Instead, indicator words are used judiciously to add clarity or emphasis.

Be careful. Indicator words may lead you to a conclusion that is not necessarily the main point of the argument.

For example, consider the following argument: “Don’t play with your pet turtle in the snow. Turtles are reptiles. Reptiles are cold-blooded, therefore so are turtles.”

This argument has two clear premises: Turtles are reptiles and reptiles are cold-blooded. The claim that turtles are cold-blooded is a conclusion that follows from these premises, as indicated by the word “therefore.”

[Read: What Is a Good LSAT Score?]

But notice that the argument doesn’t end there, even though it is the end of the paragraph. The author’s conclusion that turtles are cold-blooded is just a step toward the author’s main point, stated in the first sentence: Don’t play with your pet turtle in the snow.

If all that you took away from the argument is that turtles are cold-blooded, you would have missed the author’s main point. That would be upsetting for both the author and your poor turtle.

This leads to the second, more abstract way to identify a conclusion: Think about the argument’s ultimate claim, which the other claims are meant to support.

If you identify two conclusions in an argument, decide which one supports the other one. Try to imagine which conclusion would make more sense after the word “because.” In this case, “Don’t play with your pet turtle in the snow because turtles are cold-blooded” makes more sense than “Turtles are cold-blooded because you shouldn’t play with your pet turtle in the snow.”

This test will help you distinguish a subconclusion from the author’s main point.

Using Premises and Conclusions Knowledge on the LSAT

The LSAT may ask you to do a range of things with an argument in both the logical reasoning and reading comprehension sections. You may have to strengthen, weaken or find hidden assumptions or flaws in an argument; compare the argument to other arguments; or explain how the argument works.

In all these cases, you will need to find the argument’s premises and conclusions.

[Read: LSAT Test Day — What to Expect and Do]

Let’s take a new sample argument: “Law school applicants can learn a lot from U.S. News’ Law Admissions Lowdown. It is one of the best blogs about law school admissions, enjoyed by tens of thousands of readers.”

What’s the conclusion? Law school applicants can learn a lot from U.S. News’ Law Admissions Lowdown. What’s the premise? It is one of the best blogs about law school admissions.

What about the other claim, that the blog is “enjoyed by tens of thousands of readers”? This might be considered supporting evidence, helpful but not necessary to the conclusion.

Now, imagine an LSAT question that asked you for an assumption that the argument depends upon. In this case, you need to find an unstated premise that connects the other premise to the conclusion: Law school applicants can learn a lot from one of the best blogs about law school admissions.

If an argument in the logical reasoning section seems to lack a conclusion, don’t panic. The question may ask you to draw your own conclusion by asking “what must be true” based on the prompt.

Learning to spot premises and conclusions on logical reasoning questions quickly and flawlessly is one of the best things you can do to boost your LSAT score in a short time. While tricky at first, with focused and rigorous practice, it will become second nature.

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How to Identify Premises, Conclusions on the LSAT originally appeared on usnews.com

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