A Painless Approach to Parallel Questions
- Jul 26, 2018
Parallel questions are among the most hated question types on the Logical Reasoning section of the LSAT, and for good reason — each question contains a total of six separate arguments (the original argument in the stimulus, and one argument in each of the answer choices), which means that all together, this question type can be a huge time-waster.
If you’re truly pressed for time on a section, it’s often wise to skip Parallel questions and come back to them later, time permitting. But when you are ready to tackle this question type, it’s also imperative to make sure you’re working through the question as efficiently as possible.
1. Stay focused on structure
Parallel questions try to trick you into caring about the actual text in the argument, but that’s just another way that LSAC tries to waste your time. When you look at these questions, you should be forcing yourself to stay focused as much as possible on the way the original argument is structured.
For instance, when I read the stimulus for a Parallel question, I’m thinking about how the premises relate to the conclusion. The argument could, for example, start with a phenomenon, present a potentially contradictory fact, and then resolve the two. After I’m confident that I understand how the argument works, I’m looking for an answer choice that works in the same way.
Blueprint’s strategy for Parallel questions is to create a “motto” for the argument that encapsulates, as briefly as possible, the way the argument works. That’s another way of trying to get you think more about the structure of an argument, rather than what the argument says.
Most people know that the topic of Parallel questions does not relate to the topic in the right answer. But taking the extra step of forcing yourself to focus on the structure makes it far easier to distinguish between answer choices that, at a more surface level, might seem very similar.
2. Look for reasons to eliminate the answer choices
As soon as you see something in an answer choice that doesn’t match the original argument, that sucker is off the table. So, when you’re looking at the stimulus, you should be making a special mental note about anything that will need to be matched exactly in the correct answer.
For instance, if the original argument uses a quantifier (like “most,” “some,” or “never”), then you’ll need to see that exact same thing in the correct answer. If the original argument contains two pieces of information that are combined to reach the conclusion, the correct answer will need to do the same thing.
For some Parallel questions, noticing these types of characteristics will help you immediately eliminate some of the answer choices, without having to waffle over whether the answer could be right or even — in certain circumstances — without having the read the full answer choice.
Parallel questions are often difficult, and they’ll always be more time-consuming than other, shorter question types — but they don’t have to be painful. Keep these tips in mind in order to make sailing through Parallel questions a breeze.
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