When reading your logical reasoning questions keep an eye out for any words expressing amounts. These words can be crucial to finding your correct answer. In a moment we’ll look at a sample LSAT question that uses amount words but first here’s a few examples of the words to look for:
Sample Amount Words for the LSAT
- few / a few
- not all
There are more but these are the basics. For all amount words you should have a clear idea as to what they represent in numerical terms or percentages. For example a few means more than one, most means more than half or greater than 50% and all, well it means every single one or 100%.
It seems a simple concept but many students get tripped up by these words or worse yet, don’t pay them the attention they are due when reading logical reasoning questions on the LSAT.
The correct answer often turns on these words and they can be far more important than the specifics of the stimulus or question scenario. Focusing on these words can often allow you to quickly eliminate or select answer choices.
Here’s an example of a simple LSAT question, taken from the June 2007 Official LSAT prep test. It’s not particularly difficult but give it a try and then we’ll take a look at the amount words in it.
Economist: Every business strives to increase its productivity, for this increases profits for the owners and the likelihood that the business will survive. But not all efforts to increase productivity are beneficial to the business as a whole. Often, attempts to increase productivity decrease the number of employees, which clearly harms the dismissed employees as well as the sense of security of the retained employees.
Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main conclusion of the economist’s argument?
(A) If an action taken to secure the survival of a business fails to enhance the welfare of the business’s employees, that action cannot be good for the business as a whole.
(B) Some measures taken by a business to increase productivity fail to be beneficial to the business as a whole.
(C) Only if the employees of a business are also its owners will the interests of the employees and owners coincide, enabling measures that will be beneficial to the business as a whole.
(D) There is no business that does not make efforts to increase its productivity.
(E) Decreasing the number of employees in a business undermines the sense of security of retained employees.
So we are asked to find the main conclusion. If you need more help with this, a complete analysis of how to do this for questions like this and much more complex ones is included in our LSAT prep course. For now let’s simply say that your main idea will be the part of the argument that is supported, directly or indirectly, by each other part of the argument. Here we have four parts:
- every business tries to increase productivity
- productivity increases profits and chances of survival
- not all efforts to increase productivity are good for the whole business
- often attempts to increase productivity decreases employees which harms employees
So where does the support flow to? Our second sentence receives support from the other areas of the argument. But not all efforts to increase productivity are beneficial to the business as a whole.
From the points above:
1. sets up the situation – many arguments provide some background information to set up the situation. This is not the conclusion because the other parts of the argument do not all support this idea that ALL businesses try to increase profitability.
2. This explains why all businesses try for increased productivity, while it does support 1. that does not make 1. our conclusion as 1. still goes on to support the other parts of the argument
3. this is our conclusion. it does not support other parts of the argument and is supported by the other parts.
4. this demonstrates why 3. is the case by giving us specific examples it clearly supports 3. which is our conclusion.
Looking at our stimulus and answer choices now to find our amount words we see a number of them and each can help us in understanding the question and finding the correct answer.The amount words are highlighted in red here. I have also highlighted some other words that are important to look for. Blue represents some changes in amounts. Green represents a level of certainty e.g. are we certain or somewhat less than certain about an idea.
For now we’ll focus on the amount words in red.
Our conclusion tells us that NOT ALL efforts are positive to the whole business. If not all are positive than some must be negative. And we see that expressed in our correct answer choice (B) “Some measures taken by a business to increase productivity fail to be beneficial to the business as a whole.” This expresses the same idea as our conclusion. They have just switched the amount words from “not all” to some.
The other words we have highlighted can also help you in understanding and interpreting the argument and answer choices. In other questions these words can mean the difference between an incorrect and correct answer. Focus on not only the words of amount but also certainty and it will help you increase your logical reasoning scores.
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