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Three Tips for Diagramming Conditional Statements


Conditional statements are one of the most powerful tools in your LSAT tool belt. They allow you to properly understand the logical implications of complex statements and to determine what other conclusions can be properly drawn.

Needless to say, becoming a master diagrammer is an important part of your LSAT success (dare we say it’s even…. necessary?!), so here are three quick tips to help you on your way.

1. Use abbreviations that you can easily remember.

If you’re struggling to remember what a string of incomprehensible letters refers to, your diagram isn’t going to do you any good or save you any time. Represent your diagram in whatever way necessary to help yourself remember what the heck the conditional statement is about; personally, I usually stick with using the first letter of a key word or phrase, but sometimes I’ll write out entire words if the diagram is getting complex and I want to make sure I’m keeping track of everything.

2. Represent phrases that mean the same thing in the same way.

When jotting down several conditional statements, it’s important that phrases that mean the same thing are abbreviated in the same way. For instance, the phrase “the crisis will be overcome” means the same thing as “the crisis will abate,” so you’d want to use the same phrase to represent both of those things.

The reason this is important is because it enables you to combine phrases with like terms transitively; if you have the two terms abbreviated differently, they won’t appear to be like terms, and you’ll think there aren’t any additional conclusions to be drawn.

Be careful to ensure that the phrases actually have the same meaning, though — if there is a subtle but important difference in the meaning of a phrase, as in the difference between “lying to” someone and “being lied to” by someone, you’d need to use different abbreviations for those things.

3. Don’t forget the contrapositive.

The LSAT looooves to test your understanding of conditional relationships, and one of the ways it does so is by providing the right answer in the form of the contrapositive. So when you find, say, a conclusion or the missing statement that would allow the conclusion to be properly drawn, your work isn’t quite done yet. Make sure you’re also taking a moment to jot down the contrapositive of that conclusion or missing assumption, because you’re very likely to see that sneaky little guy in the answer choices.

Need more practice? See our free LSAT flashcards.