Both the logical reasoning and reading comprehension sections of the LSAT have questions that ask for something like “the main point of an argument” or “the author’s main conclusion.”
This may seem straightforward. After all, most adults have plenty of practice skimming over an article to get the gist of it. You may be doing it right now!
However, one of the keys to mastering the reading comprehension section is to realize that reading on the LSAT is different from other kinds of reading. “Main point” questions are a great example.
[Learn to LSAT Reading Comprehension: What to Know]
The main point of an argument is different from what a written passage is about. It’s not necessarily the subject of an article or what the author talks about most.
For example, you’ve likely already figured out that the topic of this article is how to identify the “main point of an argument” and answer LSAT questions about it. But that is only the topic of this article, not the main point.
What’s the main point? You’ll have to keep reading.
Argument Construction of Main Point Questions
Arguments are composed of premises and conclusions. The premises are claims and evidence that support the conclusion, like pillars supporting a roof. The conclusion to one argument might support another conclusion, ultimately adding up to a complex tower of premises and conclusions.
[Read: What Is a Good LSAT Score?]
The main point of the argument is the roof at the tippy top of this structure, supported by all the premises and conclusions below it. Whether that roof is spectacular or easy to miss, what matters is that it rests on top of the construction.
The main point is the ultimate conclusion of the author’s argument, which all the other parts of the argument support. For example, take the following argument:
Everyone knows the LSAT is a stupid test. It is difficult and stressful. I know plenty of brilliant people who score poorly on it but go on to become great lawyers. The LSAT should be abolished, because it’s a pointless and arbitrary waste of time.
Clearly this author is no fan of the LSAT. But what is the author’s main point?
To start, the author lists a bunch of reasons why the LSAT is terrible. These support the conclusion that the LSAT is “a pointless and arbitrary waste of time.” And this supports a further conclusion — that the LSAT should be abolished. The main point of this whole argument is that the LSAT should be abolished.
Answering Main Point LSAT Questions
If an LSAT question asks for the main point of an argument, don’t get tricked by an answer choice that summarizes what the argument is about or expresses the author’s general attitude or viewpoint. Instead, review the argument carefully. Sift through all its parts and find conclusions that rest on the author’s premises.
If there are multiple conclusions, compare them to determine which one is the ultimate conclusion that the others support. It may help to try to mentally rearrange these conclusions into the most logical order. Then, find the answer choice that most closely matches the author’s ultimate conclusion.
Since this is a fundamental skill on the test, it may be worth going back over complex passages that appeared on the logical reasoning or reading comprehensions section of practice tests that you have already taken to practice identifying the author’s main point. Every logically valid argument has a main point, even if there is no specific question about it.
With practice, you may find that while the LSAT is certainly difficult and stressful, it isn’t a waste of time after all!
More from U.S. News