Permissible Assumptions on the LSAT: Part II of II

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Last week, we took a look at non-permissible assumptions on the LSAT. For Part II, here’s a breakdown of what you CAN assume…

Permissible Assumptions Part II: What you CAN assume on the LSAT

Let’s contrast Part I’s ulcer question with Question 6, Section 4, from the February 1995 LSAT.

Outside knowledge is verboten on the LSAT, but you are allowed to use common sense. For instance, no person in the world would disagree that grass is green or that people would tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain. These sorts of common-sense assumptions can come into play on LSAT questions.

The question from PT 57 hinges on whether someone with an ulcer is going to get a prescription for it. Ulcers are painful, but it’s possible that someone with an ulcer would tolerate or ignore the pain rather than seeking treatment.

The question from the February 1995 LSAT, however, discusses heroin users being injured with automatic weapons. If a bunch of people get shot by an automatic weapon, it’s a safe assumption that those people are going to need some kind of medical treatment.

While we can’t assume that ulcer victims would seek medical treatment, we can assume that victims of automatic weapons are going to seek medical treatment. That’s because common sense tells us that being the victim of gunfire is much more serious and more like to be life-threatening.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that often, questions are asking you to make much smaller assumptions that you might be tempted to think. For instance, if you have a causal argument that you’re trying to weaken – say, that eating chocolate causes acne – the correct answer could introduce eating fried food as an alternate cause.

“But wait!” you might say. “We can’t assume that fried food causes acne!” And you’d be right – but that’s not what the LSAT question is asking you to assume. Instead, the question is asking you to assume that, if another variable is introduced, that other variable could potentially be the cause. Suddenly, that assumption doesn’t seem so big or scary at all.

So if the question is “What assumptions can I make on the LSAT?” the answer is this: Common-sense type assumptions that are usually very limited in scope (e.g. that A might affect B, rather than that A does affect B). And with that settled, I hope my students and I can move on to arguing about more pressing matters, such as the plural form of “mongoose.”

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