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Postby blk418 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:36 pm

I hate weaken questions with a passion right now. I can understand strengthen better, but for some reason I just cant wrap my head around weakening an argument. All of your advice helped me a lot on main point, I don't miss any now, but I thought I would see if you guys had any personal advice/ tricks you use for weaken questions. I know you should weaken the conclusion blah blah blah but that thought process isnt working. So I guess what I would like to know is how you think through weaken questions when you get to them and other other small tricks you like to use.

Also, feel free to comment on strengthen as well. Those are a little easier but I still hate them too.



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Postby Obelisk18 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:54 pm

I'm having the same problem. Weaken questions make me feel uncommonly dull. I was going through the Manhattan LR book and doing their drills for the first few chapters, and with all the drills they give you a time suggestion. You know, take no more than 6 minutes to do these questions or something like that. Well, with the first few types of questions I was finishing the set in HALF the time they were suggesting, with reasonable accuracy. And I couldn't figure out why, if I could do a representative set of problems in half the allotted time, I was only finishing the LR section with a few minutes to spare on PT's. Until I hit the weakening section. They'd say, "hey, take 20 minutes on these questions" and I'd finish, look down at my watch, and notice that 24 minutes had passed- and I STILL had like 20% of the questions wrong. I think if could just learn to crack weaken/strengthen questions quickly, I'd have so much free time at the end of a section, I could go back and spend 2 or 3 minutes on every difficult problem. Given how comparatively simple much of the rest of LR seems to me (except parallel reasoning, sometimes) I'm wondering if I have some sort of mental defect.


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Postby SanDiegoJake » Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:56 pm

Yeah, the reason your process is not working is that it's wrong. You're absolutely not simply trying to weaken the conclusion. You're trying to weaken the entire argument, in other words, the power of the evidence to force the conclusion. Weaken the connection between the evidence/premises and the conclusion and you'll find that your success greatly increases. You're looking for an answer choice that functions in such a way that DESPITE the truth of the evidence given, the conclusion drawn from that evidence is illogical. The right answer will do that.

For example, in a causal argument (an argument that confuses correlation with causation), you are looking for either some alternative cause or some indication of reverse causality.

Common ways that answer choices weaken arguments are to 1) weaken by introducing new evidence 2) weaken by attacking the integrity of the evidence (e.g. the sample is unpresentative of the group it claims to represent) and 3) weaken by providing an alternate explanation or other consideration.

P.S. Strengthen arguments work the same way. You're strengthening the power of the evidence to prove the conclusion as stated. Common ways to strengthen include 1) Strengthening by introducing new evidence 2) strengthening by bolstering the integrity of the evidence and 3) (the trickiest in my opinion) strengthen by removing a possible weakness.

I say 3) is the trickiest because it doesn't seem to strengthen very much on 1st glance. But consider this argument: Last night, I saw a stork fly over my neighbor's house. And this morning, the neighbors had a new baby boy. From this evidence, I conclude that the stork brought the baby. I could strengthen this argument with something as seemingly innocuous as "Santa did not bring the baby." Sure, it doesn't seem to do very much, but by removing a possible alternate cause, I have strengthened this arg by default.

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Postby Ocean64 » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:21 pm

SanDiegoJake wrote:Common ways that answer choices weaken arguments are to 1) weaken by introducing new evidence 2) weaken by attacking the integrity of the evidence (e.g. the sample is unpresentative of the group it claims to represent) and 3) weaken by providing an alternate explanation or other consideration.

in addition to these, as you read the stimulus look for assumptions that the argument makes and exploit them. making unwarranted assumptions (aka flaws/gaps) and expecting you to spot them is one of the ways LSAC cranks up the difficulty on weaken questions. but in any case, its always a good idea to look for tacit assumptions being made in the argument, they are central to the LSAT logic.


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Postby caminante » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:34 pm

One trick that registered with me in prepping for weaken questions is to personalize the argument. Read the argument and imagine that you disagree with the person who is making it. How would you go about refuting him? Likely, there will be many different ways that you could attack the argument. Having these in mind, read the answer choices. One will most likely align with an idea you would think of on your own in order to "argue against" the stimulus.

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Postby bp shinners » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:10 pm

Also, weaken and strengthen questions are, as far as the logic's concerned, the exact same question. You're figuring out the conclusion, what's used to back it up, and the flaw that prevents it from being valid. Then, you're doing something to that flaw. For strengthen questions, you're fixing it, at least a little bit. For weaken questions, you're pointing it out or making it worse. If you gave me a strengthen/weaken question, though, without a prompt, I'd deal with both of them in the exact same manner, and only approach the answer differently.

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