LSAT and Law School Admissions Forum

Get expert LSAT preparation and law school admissions advice from PowerScore Test Preparation.

PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 7871
  • Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Question #16: Method—AP. The correct answer choice is (C).

The argument is structured as follows:
Premise—Seawater irrigation is possible.

Premise—The greatest expense in irrigated agriculture is in pumping the water.

Premise—Pumping costs increase with the distance the water is pumped.

Conclusion—Seawater irrigation near oceans would be cheaper than most other irrigated agriculture.

Like many Method—AP stimuli, the argument does not resort to any premise or conclusion indicators to point you in the right direction: your job is to understand the structural relationship between the claims. Which claim supports (or explains) the other? Well, seawater irrigation near oceans would be cheaper because pumping the water is so expensive. The latter claim provides support for, or explains why we should believe, the former claim. Consequently, the claim referenced in the stem is simply a premise for the argument’s only conclusion—a prephrase that immediately reveals answer choice (C) to be correct.

Answer choice (A): This answer choice can be immediately eliminated, because none of the claims made in the stimulus have been disproven.

Answer choice (B): The only hypothesis presented here can be found in the first sentence—it is possible to grow crops that can thrive when irrigated with seawater. The referenced claim is not a hypothesis, let alone one that undermines the argument’s conclusion.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice, because the referenced claim supports the observation made in the second sentence of the stimulus.

Answer choice (D): The cited claim is not a conclusion, because it provides support for another claim in the stimulus.

Answer choice (E): This answer choice may be attractive, as it describes the function of an intermediate, or subsidiary, conclusion. The referenced claim is indeed not the argument’s conclusion; however, it is not a claim for which the argument provides evidence. We are never told why the greatest expense in irrigated agriculture is in pumping the water. Is the machinery expensive? Does it cost a lot to operate? We don’t know. All we know is that it’s expensive as a matter of fact.
  • Posts: 6
  • Joined: Jul 04, 2018

I got confused here and chose E because I thought that the end of the stimulus "and the pumping costs increase with the distance..." was evidence for the beginning of the sentence. Could someone explain to me why this isn't the case?

Thank you!
 Jonathan Evans
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 676
  • Joined: Jun 09, 2016
Hi, Iberkley,

Good analysis! You've almost got it. We could argue that the fact that the pumping costs increase with distance might back up the statement that the greatest expense is pumping the water. This would make sense because if we were dealing with farmlands far away from water, we could expect those expenses to be considerable.

However, this is not necessarily the relationship between these two phrases. They can also be considered separately from each other, as two separate premises:
  • The greatest expense is pumping.
  • Pumping costs go up with distance.
Both of these statements could be considered by themselves.

More important is that the statement in question plays an additional overriding role in the argument: it is a premise used to support the conclusion that seawater-irrigated farming near oceans would be cheaper than other irrigated agriculture.

This primary function as a premise in support of the main conclusion is indisputable, and answer choice (E) overlooks this primary role.

Since we cannot determine whether (E) is 100% the way the statement must be understood and since (E) omits another important function of this statement, it ends up not being the credited response here.

I hope this helps!
  • Posts: 6
  • Joined: Jul 04, 2018
thank you so much for your response, very helpful!
  • Posts: 5
  • Joined: Jul 16, 2018
I am still not understanding why C is correct over E. Can someone dumb this down for me?
 James Finch
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 944
  • Joined: Sep 06, 2017
Hi Steph,

The first step to solving a Method-Argument Part question like this is to identify the ultimate conclusion of the stimulus. Then, we can work backwards and see what premises directly support that conclusion. Lastly, any other information will either be simply background info (as the first sentence is here) or a premise supporting one of the other premises, meaning that we would have an intermediate conclusion as well as an ultimate conclusion, a structure most commonly seen in Method questions.

We are being asked to identify the role played by a specific clause in the stimulus. This sentence isn't the conclusion, which is that using sea water to irrigate agriculture near oceans would be cheaper than fresh water, but instead a premise that supports that conclusion when combined with the other two premises given. All three of these premises support the conclusion directly, not each other, meaning there is no intermediate conclusion.

Answer choice (C) describes a premise (evidence for a claim), while answer choice (E) describes an intermediate conclusion, meaning there would be both a premise that supports it and an ultimate conclusion that it in turn supports. Given that there is no intermediate conclusion in the stimulus, only three premises for a conclusion, (E) is incorrect and (C) is correct.

Hope this clears things up!
User avatar
  • Posts: 4
  • Joined: Jan 03, 2021

I sometimes fail to locate the ultimate conclusion when there is no indicator. In this case, I thought "seawater is possible" is the conclusion because it is cheaper and the rest argument explains why it is cheap. So I changed my answer from C to E :( because the fact that it is cheaper seems more like an intermediate conclusion to me. How should I correctly identify a conclusion in LSAT?

 Rachael Wilkenfeld
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 479
  • Joined: Dec 15, 2011

The key attribute of the main conclusion is that it will be supported by the rest of the argument, but itself does not support any of the argument. The fact that seawater irrigation would be cheaper than other irrigated agriculture doesn't provide support for any of the rest of the statements. It is supported by the idea that the water wouldn't have to go as far, and that the greatest expense in irrigated agriculture is pumping the water. It's also supported by the first statement, that using seawater for irrigation is possible.

To identify the conclusion, always ask yourself "what does this support?" If you can point to something in the argument, it's not your main conclusion.

Hope that helps!

Get the most out of your LSAT Prep Plus subscription.

Analyze and track your performance with our Testing and Analytics Package.