If you are studying for the quickly approaching December LSAT, you have probably reached a level of temporary insanity by this point. It is likely that you are accusing your significant other of committing fallacies during your intimate moments, you are having dreams in which you are actually one of the players in a game, and you are anticipating the primary purpose of each US Weekly article that you read at the gym. The good news is that you might be able to use this as a defense if you commit a crime in the next ten days. On the negative side, you are starting to smell pretty bad and your friends are avoiding your calls.
But screw it, I say we amp it up a notch. Let’s bring the LSAT to Thanksgiving.
Actual course books might not be acceptable at the dinner table, but that does not mean that you can’t get in a little practice while you are consuming your 8,000 or so calories. So I have designed the following exercises to help you use this wonderful feast to aid you in your studies.
1. Logic Games
If your family is like mine, Thanksgiving will be filled with lots of turkey, stuffing, conversation, and, most importantly, drinking. Lots of drinking. Mimosas to start the day off right, wine will start to appear around 10:30 (AM, that is), and we will be hitting the hard stuff before kickoff.
What some may see as alcoholism I see as a perfect opportunity. You can use these libatious festivities to create a Logic Game. I am visualizing an Ordering game in which you have to rank your family members according to whom will be the most shit-faced by the end of the night.
• Grandpa Joe will be more intoxicated than cousin Ed.
• Aunt Peggy is driving home, so she will not be among the three most intoxicated family members.
• Uncle Bob and Grandma Fran are going shot-for-shot, so they will finish the evening ranked consecutively.
At the end of the night, give yourself points based on how many of the family members you were able to accurately predict based on all of the rules that you outlined.
The next exercise is centered solely on the dinner table. We have all been through a number of turkey day feasts and you should know that the eating part of the day takes a good amount of planning. Your plate is only so big and there are many tasty options from which to choose. If you go big on the turkey early, you might miss out on the candied yams by the time some empty real estate reappears on your plate. And you always have to remember to save some room for pumpkin pie. Call me an LSAT-crazed lunatic, but this sounds like a Grouping game to me. Pick a couple relatives that are sitting in your vicinity and attempt to diagram their eating choices as though they are rules in an In and Out Grouping game.
• If stuffing hits the plate, then gravy is sure to follow (hence, no gravy implies no stuffing).
• Turkey is eaten if, but only if, cranberry sauce is still available.
• If one more serving of mashed potatoes is taken, then there will be no apple pie (thus apple pie requires no more spuds).
Who knew this holiday could be so complicated?
2. Logical Reasoning
Getting the family together can also be a great chance to work on your argument evaluation skills. As the wine flows, so will the fallacies. You should challenge yourself to spot as many flaws as you can during the course of the day.
• Cousin Cleetus: “Man, that Obama dude is in a heap of trouble. Can’t nobody find his birth certificate, so he musta been born somewhere else.” (flaw: absence of evidence)
• Sister: “You should really buy me a nice Christmas present this year because I just broke up with my boyfriend.” (flaw: appealing to emotion)
• Uncle Dwayne: “The Cowboys never lose on Thanksgiving, so they are obviously gonna win today.” (flaw: temporal; past vs. future)
• Aunt Doris: “Hoo-wee, my tummy got a little tipsy turvy right after I ate that cranberry sauce, so everyone else should stay away.” (flaw: correlation vs. causation)
• Grandpa Bob: “Don’t listen to that damn dirty hubby of yours. He is a bum.” (flaw: ad hominem)
And you always thought your family was so smart…
3. Reading Comprehension
You are going to hear a lot of stories on Thursday. Some of them will be true, others not so much. Some of them will be interesting, others not so much. Thus, these stories bear a strong resemblance to the Reading Comprehension section of the LSAT.
In order to get a little practice in this critical area of the test, you should pretend that each story that you hear is a different RC passage. Listen intently as you know there will be a number of questions to follow. Then, when the story wraps up, summarize the important parts of the story so you can anticipate the questions that would likely follow.
For example, when Grandpa Ralph begins his tale about saving the family dog, Rex, from a bear during a camping trip, here is what should be going through your finely-tuned LSAT brain:
• Main point: Grandpa Ralph is a hero for wrestling the bear with his bare hands and saving Rex from certain death.
• Primary Purpose: It would seem that Grandpa is attempting to entertain the family while also teaching the children an important (though dangerous to emulate) story about courage.
• Author’s Attitude: Enthusiastic about the tale, although definitely slightly confused over some of the details (that could be the booze).
• Other Viewpoints: Grandma is shaking her head in frustration (a likely sign that this story has been embellished over the years); the other family members range from intellectual interest to semi-conscious boredom (again, alcohol is likely a contributing factor).
If you are able to break down and comprehend the drunken ramblings of family members after engorging enough turkey to feed a small tribe, then reading your next passage about advances in the biotech industry will be a breeze.
And of course, don’t forget to have a Happy Thanksgiving.