Many Blueprint students are starting on the Operation family of the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT around this time. The Operation family is made up of Strengthen, Weaken, Sufficient, and Necessary questions, as well as a few others. What unites these questions is that you have change the argument in some way. This post is going to cover the strategy you should employ to succeed on this family of question.
The best way to approach Operation questions—as with almost every question on the exam—is to anticipate the correct answer based on the stimulus. For the Operation family, you’ll want to anticipate what’s wrong with an argument before figuring out how to fix it (or undermine it further).
When I was teaching, it was often difficult to impress upon students the importance of frontloading the work. Whether it was fully completing a set-up for a logic game or diagramming of complicated set of conditional statements, there is always a desire to jump right into the questions and answer choices. Hopefully, by this time, you’ve realized that spending more time upfront will save you time down the road. If it hasn’t become clear yet, hopefully this concept will be impressed upon you by the Operation questions. If you are confronted with a Strengthen question, and you can identify a weakness in the argument, it will let you breeze through the answer choices in a matter of seconds.
So, how do you apply this strategy? Let’s take a simple example. Assume you had the following stimulus:
“I practiced with a professional coach to prepare for my latest tennis tournament, instead of drilling on my own as I did for my previous one. I did very well in my latest tournament because of the coaching. I should definitely work with a coach to prepare for my next tournament so I can perform well again.”
The conclusion here—”I should definitely work with a coach . . . so I can perform well again”—is supported by a weak premise—”I did very well in my latest tournament because of the coaching.” While this might initially strike you as a plausible argument, there is a clear weakness here based on the assumption that my performance will be better if I work with a coach again. Knowing this weakness, you should look for an answer choice that says something along the lines of “athletes’ tend to perform better in every competition after they receive coaching.” Equipped with this kind of anticipation, you should be able to work quickly through the rest of the question.
The Operation family is well-represented on the LSAT. As a result, you should become familiar with identifying a weakness in an argument once you see a prompt from this question group. Although the strategy might seem counter-intuitive at first, it will help you with your confidence and speed as you proceed.