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As described in the passage?

Stephanie Turaj
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We recently received the following question from a student. An instructor will respond below. Thanks!

I came across another question that made me scream out loud. I managed to get it right, but again, in my mind the working is highly inaccurate. It’s in the 2017 edition of the Reading Comprehension Bible, page 253, question 3, which reads:

“As described in the passage, re-creating an accident with a computer-generated display is most similar to which one of the following?”

What I – and most logical folks – would take “As described in the passage” to mean is “Find the specific analogy the author used in the passage.” So I looked for the answer that was included in the passage, only to discover none were.

So, in my professional writing mind, what the LSAC folks should’ve written was, “As the author describes its use (or application), re-creating an accident with a computer-generated display is most similar to which one of the following.”

Again, the phrase “As described in the passage” had me going back to look for the description in the passage.

I’d love to hear Dave’s thoughts on this one. Thank you!

Dave Killoran
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Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the question! Yes, you've gotten half of the equation right here, so you've made a solid start. Let's go over what's happening here and see what you missed.

As you rightly observe, the "As described in the passage" sends you to the passage to discover what it was that the passage is discussing. That's the first half of the question stem, and so getting the idea behind the idea in the passage at that point is key, as you noted.

The remainder of the question stem references "most similar to which one of the following," which I think is clear in asking you to find an answer that matches what happens in the stimulus with one of the answers. I don't see that it needs rewriting on their part, and they will hide behind the "is most similar to" in the question stem to say the idea is clear enough to be defensible (and I agree). Thus, you aren't looking for an answer that talks about re-creating an accident with a computer-generated display, but rather one that is similar in it's general features. Thus, the answer could be about anything at all, from gardening to banking to, yes, a museum exhibit.

Please let me know if that makes sense. Thanks!
Dave Killoran
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Thanks again for the great reply. I am finding your books incredibly helpful.

And yes, what you said does make sense if you think in terms of LSAT reality - which bears no resemblance to any reality I've ever encountered in real life.

I am right in that, as a professional writer, it is a very poorly worded question, and it's very hard for me to get past poor writing. The irony is, legal writing is so much more specific, explanatory and leaves very little to the imagination. Having covered many court cases as a journalist, I'd make mincemeat out of that kind of writing or verbiage in court or in an opinion column. (For example don't pepper your motion with the word "salacious" when you're facing a female attorney.)

But you're right, too, because the test creators are always right. Again, I still got that question right, so on some level I must've gotten your point before emailing PowerScore. The good thing is, thanks to you, just like the last time, I'm now appropriately armed if I come across anything like that question on Dec. 2.

Per the part of my email that didn't make it here, though I'll likely never take the LSAT again, I would be thrilled if you had authored a book that was just sample test questions with answer keys containing your analysis of the correct and incorrect answers. I got the 10 LSAT sample test book, but there's no answer analysis.

I think we older folks, who may not need all of the diagramming background, would benefit from that. Meanwhile, keep up the good work sir!