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Sample LSAT Question

Analytical Reasoning Question from PrepTest XI

DIRECTIONS: The following question is based on a set of conditions. In answering the question, it may be useful to draw a rough diagram. Choose the answer you think is best, then click "Answer" to find out if your choice is correct.

Eight camp counselors—Fran, George, Henry, Joan, Kathy, Lewis, Nathan, and Olga—must each be assigned to supervise exactly one of three activities—swimming, tennis, and volleyball. The assignment of counselors must conform to the following conditions:

If George and Kathy are two of three counselors assigned to supervise swimming, which one of the following could be true of the assignment?

A. Fran supervises swimming.
B. Henry supervises tennis.
C. Joan supervises volleyball.
D. Lewis supervises volleyball.
E. Nathan supervises tennis.

Explanation

This question provides additional information for the test taker to consider in addition to the information given in the passage. The test taker is asked to consider which one of the response options could be true if, in addition to what is given in the passage, it is true that George and Kathy are two of three counselors assigned to supervise swimming.

There are a variety of ways to solve this question. By a direct appeal to certain conditions several of the response options can be eliminated. A simple diagram will then suffice to display which of the responses could be true. In the following diagrams, "S," "T," and "V" stand for "swimming," "tennis," and "volleyball" respectively, and to indicate that a particular counselor is assigned to supervise one of the activities, the initial of that counselor's name appears beside the appropriate activity's abbreviation.

From the initial conditions we know that Henry supervises swimming, which eliminates (B), since counselors supervise exactly one activity. From the information given in the question, we know that George and Kathy also supervise swimming. The diagram below reflects these facts:

  • S: G, H, K
  • T:
  • V:

Since the original conditions state that no more than three can supervise any particular activity, we infer that Fran cannot also supervise swimming, which allows us to eliminate (A). Since George supervises swimming, we infer from the last condition given in the passage that both Nathan and Olga supervise volleyball. Adding this information to our diagram, we have the following:

  • S: G, H, K
  • T:
  • V: N, O

Nathan cannot supervise tennis as well as volleyball, eliminating (E), and since neither Kathy nor Nathan supervises the same activity as Joan (condition 4), Joan must supervise tennis, eliminating (C). This leaves only option (D), and under testing conditions one could choose it as the correct answer at this point. To verify the answer, however, complete the diagram and see that it is indeed possible for Lewis to supervise volleyball:

  • S: G, H, K
  • T: F, J
  • V: L, N, O

Even though Lewis could have supervised tennis, it is clearly possible for him to supervise volleyball. (D) is therefore the credited response.

This was classified as an "easy" question. Roughly 70 percent of those taking the test on which this item appeared answered it correctly.

What is an analytical reasoning question?

Analytical reasoning items are designed to measure the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw conclusions about the structure. The examinee is asked to make deductions from a set of statements, rules, or conditions that describes relationships among entities such as persons, places, things, or events. They simulate the kinds of detailed analyses of relationships that a law student must perform in solving legal problems. For example, a passage might describe four diplomats sitting around a table, following certain rules of protocol as to who can sit where. The test taker must answer questions about the implications of the given information, for example, who is sitting between diplomats X and Y.

The passage used for each group of questions describes a common relationship such as the following:

  • Assignment: Two parents, P and O, and their children, R and S, must go to the dentist on four consecutive days, designated 1, 2, 3, and 4 …
  • Ordering: X arrived before Y but after Z.
  • Grouping: A manager is trying to form a project team from seven staff members— R, S, T, U, V, W, and X …and each staff member has a particular strength—writing, planning, or facilitating.
  • Spatial: A certain country contains six cities and each city is connected to at least one other city by a system of roads, some of which are one-way.

Careful reading and analysis are necessary to determine the exact nature of the relationships involved. Some relationships are fixed (e.g., P and R always sit at the same table). Other relationships are variable (e.g., Q must be assigned to either table 1 or table 3). Some relationships that are not stated in the conditions are implied by and can be deduced from those that are stated. (e.g., If one condition about books on a shelf specifies that Book L is to the left of Book Y, and another specifies that Book P is to the left of Book L, then it can be deduced that Book P is to the left of Book Y.)

No formal training in logic is required to answer these questions correctly. Analytical reasoning questions are intended to be answered using knowledge, skills, and reasoning ability generally expected of college students and graduates.

Suggested Approach

Some people may prefer to answer first those questions about a passage that seem less difficult and then those that seem more difficult. In general, it is best not to start another passage before finishing one begun earlier, because much time can be lost in returning to a passage and reestablishing familiarity with its relationships. Do not assume that, because the conditions for a set of questions look long or complicated, the questions based on those conditions will necessarily be especially difficult.

Reading the passage. In reading the conditions, do not introduce unwarranted assumptions. For instance, in a set establishing relationships of height and weight among the members of a team, do not assume that a person who is taller than another person must weigh more than that person. All the information needed to answer each question is provided in the passage and the question itself.

The conditions are designed to be as clear as possible; do not interpret them as if they were intended to trick you. For example, if a question asks how many people could be eligible to serve on a committee, consider only those people named in the passage unless directed otherwise. When in doubt, read the conditions in their most obvious sense. Remember, however, that the language in the conditions is intended to be read for precise meaning. It is essential to pay particular attention to words that describe or limit relationships, such as "only," "exactly," "never," "always," "must be," "cannot be," and the like.

The result of this careful reading will be a clear picture of the structure of the relationships involved, including the kinds of relationships permitted, the participants in the relationships, and the range of actions or attributes allowed by the relationships for these participants.

Questions are independent. Each question should be considered separately from the other questions in its group; no information, except what is given in the original conditions, should be carried over from one question to another. In some cases a question will simply ask for conclusions to be drawn from the conditions as originally given. Some questions may, however, add information to the original conditions or temporarily suspend one of the original conditions for the purpose of that question only. For example, if Question 1 adds the information "if P is sitting at table 2 …," this information should NOT be carried over to any other question in the group.

Highlighting the text; using diagrams. Many people find it useful to underline key points in the passage and in each question. In addition, it may prove very helpful to draw a diagram to assist you in finding the solution to the problem.

In preparing for the test, you may wish to experiment with different types of diagrams. For a scheduling problem, a calendar-like diagram may be helpful. For a spatial relationship problem, a simple map can be a useful device.

Even though some people find diagrams to be very helpful, other people seldom use them. And among those who do regularly use diagrams in solving these problems, there is by no means universal agreement on which kind of diagram is best for which problem or in which cases a diagram is most useful. Do not be concerned if a particular problem in the test seems to be best approached without the use of a diagram.

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