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 Brook Miscoski
PowerScore Staff
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Your question might need to be rephrased for clarity, but I believe I understand what you are asking. In my own words, you are confused about which of the following groupings to use:

[I :dblline: H] OR RRR

or, alternatively,

I :dblline: [H or RRR]

or, alternatively

I :dblline: H and I :dblline: RRR, which is the best way to write the correct interpretation for purposes of clearing your confusion.

This can be frustrating, since the game is played in completely different ways depending on your interpretation, and most of us don't have time to see whether our assumptions are working out in the answer choices.

My advice is this:

1. if "or" led to the first interpretation above, there would have been a comma.
2. On the LSAT, "or" always means "one or the other or both" unless explicitly stated otherwise. Thus, given "Industrial can't go in a zone in which there is Housing OR three Retails" we must interpret it to mean that either of Housing or three Retails would exclude Industrial. The easiest way right now to clear up the confusion is to realize that it means that I :dblline: H and I :dblline: RRR.
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Hello Brook, thanks for the reply!

Sure let me try to clarify. I’m still not seeing anything in the grammar that indicates these are definitely two rules. The lack of parallel structure in the sentence combined with the “or” really throws me. And I think I see why now.

So I read the rule as one long rule with the “or” as serving the same sufficient-negation function as the word “unless.” So I diagrammed it as [H I] —-> RRR. Does that make sense? The reason I felt this way was because there is no “in which” before “three sub zones are designated for retail use.” That lack of parallel structure in the sentence led me to read the “or” as “or else” or “unless” since the verb “are” —not clearly also covered by the preposition “in which” as the first half of the rule certainly is— actually seemed to me to be introducing a new condition guaranteed by the absence of the first: that in the absence of the previously stated proposition (that H and I are not together; so /[H I], the negation of which would be [H I]) three subzones are designated for retail use (they must be because of the nature of either or).

You see? I read the or as indicating what must be in the absence of the other condition, which I took to be that H and I cannot be together. If it’s not the case that H and I aren’t together then there must be 3 Rs. I definitely see that I’m wrong and that it makes sense as two rules if you distribute the “in which” mentally across the two clauses. But geez that felt really ambiguous. Like I thought I had done a good job dealing with another bit of test maker language trickery.
 Adam Tyson
PowerScore Staff
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I think the issue, JudicialCondor (love the name!), is that you are reading an implied "or else" (which could also be seen as an implied "unless") instead of an implied "in which", and you aren't sure how to determine which interpretation is correct. The simple answer is that "unless" and "or else" cannot be taken as implied on this test, because they change meaning in ways that have to be explicit rather than implicit. The rules simply cannot, and will not be, that flexible and vague.

Imagine a parallel case in statutory law: what if we were faced with a law that stated "A licensed driver under the age of 18 may not drive a vehicle with any passengers under the age of 15 or more than one passenger between the ages of 17 and 19." Would you interpret that to mean that it would be okay for a 17-year-old driver to ride with a 14-year-old passenger as long as he had two 17-year-olds with him, too? Or would you interpret it as meaning no passengers under 15 and a maximum of one older teen? The latter makes more sense, obviously, and to interpret it the other way would strain credulity!

Here's one that's more practical for laymen: If you do not finish your vegetables you cannot have pie or cake. Am I saying you can leave veggies on your plate and have pie and cake, but not pie by itself? No way! For that to be the rule, I would have to clearly say "if you don't finish your veggies you cannot have any pie unless you also have cake" (which is crazy, but I would love that rule). It definitely means you cannot have either one if you don't finish your veggies.

The correct way to look at a structure of "not this or that" is to read it as a "neither...nor" statement, which means not this AND not that.

I hope that clears things up a bit!

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