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Guide to EXCEPT and LEAST Questions in LSAT Logical Reasoning

If you’ve spent much time prepping for the Logical Reasoning section, you’ve probably come across one of those questions that includes a word in all caps. Typically, that word is either EXCEPT or LEAST.

These questions all share one thing in common, regardless of what the capitalized word is. They are asking you to do the opposite of what the respective question type usually asks. For instance, if it’s an Assumption question, you’re probably being asked to identify the answer choice that is not an assumption on which the argument relies. In other words, “All of the following answer choices state an assumption on which the argument depends EXCEPT…” If it’s a Weaken question, it might say something like, “Which of the following answer choices, if true, LEAST undermines the representative’s conclusion?” Thus, you’re looking for four choices that weaken the conclusion, and one that does not (it’s worth pointing out that the correct answer choice won’t necessarily strengthen the conclusion; it will probably be neutral).

EXCEPT/LEAST questions can be tricky because they are already reversing your expectations. They take a familiar question type and flip it on its head to see if they can catch you not paying attention. However, they can become even more difficult when the test writers adds other negatives to the question. They might say something like, “All of the following answer choices are not fully supported by information in the report EXCEPT…” In this case, we’re actually looking at a regular old Inference question. You have to find the one choice supported by the text. So, the writers were able to craft a sort of double negative in the question, and that can slow you down a lot.

So, here’s an easy way to avoid getting tricked by questions with capitalized words.

  1. Imagine the capitalized word just isn’t there. Really. Just take it out of the sentence.
  2. Reread the question without it. Now it’s just asking you which choice undermines the argument, or which choice is an assumption on which the argument depends. Pretty straightforward.
  3. Label each answer choice YES or NO. Does it weaken the argument? YES. Is it a necessary assumption? NO. Don’t worry about whether YES or NO means right or wrong. That comes later.
  4. Find the odd man out. There will be 3 or 4 of one type, and only one of the other. Or maybe you’ll have 2 Yes, 2 MAYBE, and 1 NO. Regardless, the lonely label is the right answer.

If you stick to this approach, you can avoid making the frustrating mistake of picking the exact opposite answer than you intended. That usually happens when you’re 3 or 4 answer choices into the question, lost in thought, and suddenly you realize, “Yes! This is an assumption the argument needs!” You mark the answer and move on, entirely forgetting that you were supposed to be looking for the only thing that wasn’t a necessary assumption

The good news is, this is a very uncommon question type. It’s only appeared once or twice in the past 6 released LSATs, so there’s a great chance you won’t find any of these on your exam. However, mastering the approach above will help you turn these questions into straightforward, common question types. That means turning one difficult point into one easy point, and you only need to find a handful of those opportunities in this section to significantly increase your score.

We’ll definitely take a look at a few of these questions in our Logical Reasoning Challenge Questions series. You can find that and more in our Logical Reasoning Library.

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