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lorein21
LSAT Apprentice
 
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I was hoping to get a concrete sense of which words make an argument strong and which words make an argument weak. I've noticed that an authors certainty plays an important role in a stimulus for LR section.

The following is a list of what I think makes an argument reflect more certainty and which ones I consider to make an argument seem weak or as if the author holds more doubt. I was hoping someone can look at the list and see if I've made a mistake and also if they can add to the list of words they've seen come up in stimulus' throughout exams.
Thank You!
Lorein Abenhaim


Strong Words - Reflect a strong sense of certainty in argument:

-should
-probably
-Something/s IS/ARE a certain way
-Most likely
-Must
-Surely
-ultimately? (not so sure about this one)
-will
-would


Weaker Words - Give argument a sense of doubt

-maybe
-few
-could
-might
-some
-not everybody?


I know there are more - but it's all I can think of right now. I would really appreciate the help. Thanks again.
Jon Denning
PowerScore Staff
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Hey Lorein - thanks for the question. You're certainly correct when you mention that language (the strength of words used, as well as the connection of ideas in an argument) plays a huge role in LR, so it is extremely important that you're able to identify the nature of how an author presents information. That said, I want to clarify the difference between strength in terms of language, and strength in terms of argumentation.

Strong language tends to skew towards absolutes: what will definitely occur, and what will never occur. So words like "always" and "never" are extremely strong because they are very limited in what they allow. Ditto for words like "only," "will," "will not," "everyone," "anyone" etc (note that a lot of these are the same types of words that typically indicate conditional reasoning). On the other hand, words like "sometimes" or "could/can" or "might/may" are must weaker in that they only describe possibility instead of certainty. From an argumentative standpoint, stronger language, with its extreme limitations/restrictions, is generally more difficult to defend than weaker language (something always occurs vs something could occur), but that is not necessarily the same thing as a strong or a weak argument.

When we talk about a strong argument or a weak argument, we're really talking less in terms of the language used and more in terms of validity. That is, no matter the words used, how well supported is the conclusion based on the premises. Most of the argumentation that you see on the LSAT will be invalid--less than certain for some reason--but again it's more about the connections within the argument than solely the strength of the words presented. As I said before it is often harder to make an argument completely valid with very absolute language than it is with softer language (possibility), but you will encounter valid and invalid arguments that run the full range from possible to certain language-wise.

For instance you could have a valid argument with very strong language: "All humans are mortal. I am a human. So I am mortal."

And you can have an invalid argument with absolute language: "All humans are mortal. I am mortal. So I am a human."

Likewise you can have invalid arguments with weaker language: "It is possible to make a machine that flies. It is possible to make a machine that runs underwater. Therefore it is possible to make a flying machine that runs underwater." Not necessarily true, thus invalid.

So pay attention to both aspects: what type of language is being used in the stimulus, and (assuming there's argumentation) how well is the conclusion supported by the premises. The two are often related, but you must understand them independently if you want to score at the highest levels.

Last thing: I've elaborated on argumentation a bit in a blog post at http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/logical ... /#more-845 if you want to check that out.

Take care!

JD
Jon Denning
PowerScore Test Preparation

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cahillcahill
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You keep in mind that what type of language is being used in the stimulus, and (assuming there's argumentation) how well is the conclusion supported by the premises. The two are often related, but you must understand them independently if you want to score at the highest levels. Thank you