Tackling Assumption Questions: LSAT vs. Real Life

by Sue

For those who are unfamiliar with the LSAT, it is essentially made up of 5 sections: 2 logical reasoning sections, 1 reading comprehension section, 1 logic games section, and 1 unscored experimental section.  So by doing a little simple math, logical reasoning makes up 50% of your score; if you do poorly, then you’ll be SOL (no law peeps, not statute of limitations…)!  According to PowerScore’s Logical Reasoning Bible, the most difficult type of problem within the section is the assumption question.  Granted, your particular exam won’t have an entire section dedicated to assumption questions, but it’s still an integral question type to grasp because other question types build upon assumptions, i.e. weakening and strengthening questions, but I digress…

The basic task of an assumption question is to bridge the gap between the evidence and the conclusion, and you’re probably thinking, “Well, gee, how can it be that hard?  We already do that almost every minute of the day!”  It’s true, thus making it difficult; the difference between the LSAT and real life is that in real life we don’t have to figure out the purpose of the author’s argument or understand his mindset; we’re usually our own authors.  Additionally, in real life we usually don’t have to deal with concrete evidence; facts can change.

Let’s take a look at this ridiculous scenario as an example:

Jack is running really fast on a trail.  Due to a recent thunderstorm, a tree has fallen down on Jack’s trail.  Jack will, therefore, face plant really soon.

What’s the assumption here?  To make the conclusion of Jack face planting true, Jack can’t avoid the tree.  Obviously, you’re now thinking, “what the hell are you talking about?  He can simply jump over the tree like a hurdle or stop or run around it!”  That thinking is what will get you into trouble on the LSAT.  You have to take the facts and the conclusion at face value.  Jack is running.  Tree is in Jack’s path.  Jack face plants.  That’s it; you can’t just change it all willy nilly like real life.

Now, take a jab at this next example:

Boy and girl have fun times together and share intimate moments with one another often.  For Christmas, boy gives girl a book titled “I Like You” by Amy Sedaris.  Girl actually likes boy.  Boy and girl officially becomes an “item.”

If this particular argument were on the LSAT, the author’s conclusion is set: boy and girl will end up together.  The assumption here is that boy actually likes girl enough for them to become a couple or that boy actually likes girl THAT way, period.  In real life, for this to be true, you have to account for not only girl’s feelings but also boy’s feelings, especially regarding what his mindset or intention was while giving the gift, and a whole jumble of other extraneous factors.

But despite these two blatant differences between LSAT and Real Life assumptions, there’s one similarity:  you can make a wrong assumption.  On the LSAT, you can mistake a piece of evidence as the conclusion or just not understand the argument at all.  In real life, you can misread the other person’s words and actions or read something that isn’t even there at all.