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That ain't what "consecutively" means!

TheOldGuy
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I’m making my way through the PowerScore series of LSAT prep books and, In the 2017 edition of the LSAT Logical Games Bible, page 93, question 5, I immediately chose “C” as the correct answer. Since songs H and J must be played consecutively - in that order - songs H and R cannot also be played consecutively.

It did seem a bit too easy, but I was convinced that was the correct answer.

So, I was shocked when I went to the answer key which stipulated that “C” was wrong because R could be played first and H second. So what the book is saying (or those nefarious LSAT folks are saying) is the word “consecutively” has a commutative principle meaning which is clearly not the case in the real world.

If Cubs’ announcer Len Kasper said that Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are batting consecutively, everyone on the planet would automatically assume Rizzo is batting immediately before Bryant.

No one would take that statement to mean that it could be:

a. Rizzo – Bryant, or
b. Bryant – Rizzo

If those test makers firmly believe that “consecutively” means either a or b, then December 2nd is going to be a very long day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Jeff
Adam Tyson
PowerScore Staff
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"Consecutive" means back to back, in order, next to each other, etc., Jeff, but does not automatically imply "in the order mentioned". February and January appear consecutively on my calendar, but not in that order. The issue here looks to be in your viewing the LSAT through the lens of common sense as applied to the real world! In your explanation you even said "everyone on the planet would automatically assume" (emphasis added) that they meant "in that order". But you should assume nothing on this test!

I like to tell my students that the LSAT exists in an alternate universe, one that strongly resembles ours but which is a bit twisted and strange. In this universe, if I tell you that I am going to have either pie or cake for dessert, you know that I mean I will have just one of those things, but in the LSAT universe, one that is controlled by logic rather than common sense (and which therefore more closely resembles the study and practice of law, btw), it means that I am going to have AT LEAST one of them, and could have both.

If you are told that two things are consecutive, that only means that they are next to each other. If they neglect to add "in that order," then you must not assume it! They didn't leave it out by accident - it's a trap! They know that you are likely to apply common sense, rather than logic, and make a mistake. Those mistakes radiate a type of dark energy upon which they feed, like soul-sucking vampires. Don't feed the beasts!

One big clue that you were assuming too much there should have been that if your interpretation was correct, answer A would also have to be correct, because it would be impossible for the same reason - the rules create an "FG" block, so how could there also be an "FR" block? When two answers (three, really, since Q and R can also never be consecutive, regardless of order) look equally correct, you need to reevaluate your assessment of the scenario and rules and see if they can be viewed another way.

Get this idea of the twisted, alternate universe down pat now, and learn the rules of that universe, and December 2 won't be such a long day after all! Take it from THIS old guy - you can do it!
Adam M. Tyson
PowerScore LSAT, GRE, ACT and SAT Instructor
Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/66adamt
Stephanie Turaj
PowerScore Staff
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We received the following email from a student. An instructor will respond below. Thanks!

"Dear PowerScore,

As a 59 year-old non-traditional law student taking the LSAT December 2, I’m making my way through your series of LSAT prep books. In the 2017 edition of the LSAT Logical Games Bible, page 93, question 5, I immediately picked “C” as the correct answer because, songs H and J must be played consecutively, therefore songs H and R cannot be played consecutively.

It did seem a bit too easy, but I was convinced that was the correct answer.

So, I was shocked when I went to the answer key which stipulated that “C” was wrong because R could be played first and H second. So what you’re saying (or those LSAT folks are saying) is the word “consecutively” has no real meaning. If Cubs’ announcer Len Kasper said that Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are batting consecutively, everyone on the planet would automatically assume it means that Rizzo is batting immediately before Bryant.

No one on this vast planet would take that to mean it could be:

a. Rizzo – Bryant, or
b. Bryant – Rizzo

If those test makers firmly believe that “consecutively” truly means either a or b above, then December 2nd is going to be a very long day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts. Thank you.

Jeff
Dave Killoran
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Hey Jeff,

Thanks for the question! Here's the bad news: "consecutively" on the LSAT just means they are next to each other, and no specific order is implied. So, either of your two scenarios would be possible under their usage.

Second piece of bad news: this isn't the only word that is seemingly different on the LSAT when compared to how it is used in the real world. Two quick examples: "some" doesn't mean just a portion, it can mean "all;" "either/or" doesn't mean just one of the two, it means "at least one, possibly both." This all happens because the test tends to rely on the logical definition of terms, not the standard everyday usage we've become used to.

The good news: you've not only picked up on this early in the process, but you also have us to help you out learning where these things happen. It's our job to talk about things like this (and we do!), but just know that if you ever have any questions about anything in the books, you can come back here and we'll help out.

The second piece of good news: this doesn't happen on the test as much as you'd think (or fear), and once you've seen the prime examples of it, it becomes pretty easy to spot and avoid. So, by noting the existence of stuff like this, you've already started the process of mastering it.

Please let me know if that helps. Thanks!
Dave Killoran
PowerScore Test Preparation
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DaveKilloran
My LSAT Articles: http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/author/dave-killoran
TheOldGuy
LSAT Novice
 
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Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:59 pm
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Dave,

That answer helped immensely. At 59, and an 11-year journalist (former suburban Sun-Times opinion columnist), author and campaign manager, I'm looking for the gestalt of the LSAT test more than anything else. Once I catch on to the "logic" I'll be fine. And you provided that logical pathway perfectly in your answer.

As a writer, sometimes I swear that half the battle of this existence is agreeing on what the terms mean.

BTW, I'm looking for a tutor who can do what you just did. Are you available? Thanks!

Jeff
Dave Killoran
PowerScore Staff
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Points: 2,335

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for the reply! I'm glad to hear that helped. More than half the battle is adjusting to the ethos of the test, but we often find that once student do that, things click into place and previously difficult problems then appear clear.

My responsibilities here do not allow me to do much tutoring, but I know several excellent tutors here who could help with exactly such conversations (and more!). If you want me to make some recommendations, just let me know and I'd be happy to message you.

Thanks and welcome to the Forum!
Dave Killoran
PowerScore Test Preparation
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DaveKilloran
My LSAT Articles: http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/author/dave-killoran