• Nathan Fox

Ep. 305: Acing LSAT Sufficient Assumption Questions

If you’re not already predicting the answer to every Sufficient Assumption question on the LSAT, you’re wasting time and leaving easy points on the table. Nathan and Ben explain why these questions are so predictable and how you can learn to master them. Today’s action-packed episode also includes updates on the August LSAT, Pearls vs. Turds, a discussion about law schools paying students to defer enrollment, and a question about whether you should care more about a school’s overall ranking or their ranking in a specialty program.

2:48 – August LSAT Updates

First up, LSAC has some updates on the August test. Registrants will be able to schedule the test for August 14, 15, or 17. The “unscored variable section” (better known as the experimental section) is coming back. It’s used to validate new test questions, and it won’t affect your score. But there’s no way to know which section it is, so don’t bother trying to figure it out. Do your best on all four sections.

According to LSAC’s email, the test will continue to be administered in an online, live remote-proctored format through June 2022. But, strangely, the FAQ page (linked in the same email) says, “We plan to use this format for a minimum of 2-3 years, so it is the new LSAT format that candidates and schools can rely on.” LSAC is consistent in their inconsistencies.

15:20 – Sufficient Assumption Questions

Question 10 from PrepTest 73 starts off with an actor declaring that Brecht’s plays are not genuinely successful dramas. This sounds like a conclusion to Ben, and he anticipates that the actor will go on to offer some evidence to back this claim. There’s a lot packed into the next sentence. Basically, some incongruity in Brecht’s plays makes it hard for actors and audiences to discern the characters’ personalities. Ben and Nathan promptly push back: Why does that make the plays unsuccessful? For all we know, people may like the challenge of difficult-to-discern character personalities.

The final sentence of the passage says that for a play to succeed as a drama, audiences must care what happens to at least some of its characters. Again, accept the premises, but fight the conclusion: Caring about what happens to characters isn’t the same thing as discerning their personalities. There’s not enough evidence here to prove the conclusion.

It turns out to be a Sufficient Assumption question. The goal is to find an answer choice that, in combination with the two premises above, proves the conclusion. Sufficient Assumption questions are very easy to predict. Why? Because there are only so many ways to fix a broken argument and make it win. The problem with this argument is that it jumps from discerning characters’ personalities to caring about what happens to them. The correct answer needs to fix that problem. Ben predicts an answer accordingly: If you can’t discern characters’ personalities, then you can’t care about them. The answer may be phrased differently, but its meaning perfectly matches Ben’s prediction.

Nathan reiterates the importance of predicting the answers on Sufficient Assumption questions. Once it clicks for you, you’ll realize that it’s very formulaic and there’s usually just one way to bridge the gap in the argument. If you don’t get every Sufficient Assumption question correct, you’re leaving points on the table that you could easily be earning. They’re essentially freebies, once you know what you’re doing.

38:10 – Pearls vs. Turds

The guys take a gander at a list of LSAT “secrets” that Cooley Law School sent to prospective students. But first, Nathan checks the 509 report and confirms his suspicion that Cooley is not a great law school. They appear to have abysmally low admissions standards. Their 75th-percentile LSAT score is 149—below the average score of all test-takers. In other words, the best of their admitted students scored worse than the average potential applicant.

Right off the bat, the headline is atrocious: “Admissions’ Secrets to Conquering Your LSAT Prep.” It’s not technically wrong, but did they really have to include that possessive “Admissions’” (with an apostrophe after the s)? And the goal should be to conquer the LSAT, not to conquer your prep. Anyway…

Their first tip is to devote “big blocks” of time to studying, five to six days a week. How long is a “big block” of time? They don’t say. Ben worries that some people may interpret this to mean that they should study for the LSAT full time. Suggestions like this are counterproductive because they scare people away from doing the little bit of work every day that would actually lead to progress. As an analogy, imagine a coach telling you that you need to work out at the gym eight hours a day, five to six days a week to get in shape. You might just not even show up. Ben and Nathan recommend only one to two hours of focused studying per day for most students.

Next, Cooley’s guide recommends focusing on weak areas identified during your practice tests. They specifically mention practicing logic games and writing. Logic games are important—they count for a third of the test. But the writing sample isn’t scored and shouldn’t be at the center of anyone’s LSAT prep. Yet here it is highlighted right alongside logic games, as if the two sections were equally important.

What else? They say to read things like textbooks and investigative news articles to improve your vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Nathan and Ben say the best way to improve your LSAT score is to practice the actual LSAT. If you need to get better at reading, read LSAT reading comprehension and logical reasoning passages. There are ninety-something official LSATs available to study. That’s plenty of reading material. After three strikes, the guys decide that Cooley’s list of LSAT secrets is one big turd. On to the next submission.

The next one comes from a new Demon student who previously used the LSAT Trainer. According to this student, “a drill was suggested to go to old tests and mark the conclusion and support on LR as quickly as possible.” Nathan immediately questions why anyone would do this instead of just practicing logical reasoning questions the way they’re meant to be practiced. Ben says he could see people being tempted by this kind of suggestion as a way to get faster. But deliberately training yourself to identify the conclusion and support as quickly as possible isn’t going to help you understand the argument. It’s the other way around: Understanding the argument leads you to identify the conclusion and support. Focus on understanding the passage.