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the Argue Family

ARGUE is one of the three families of questions in the Reasoning section. On ARGUE questions your job is to find the problem with the argument.

Once you find the problem, the question will either ask you to HELP or HURT. HURT questions ask you to make the problem worse. HELP questions ask you to fix the argument's problem.

There are 3 major types of questions in the argue family:

  3. HURT (nearly always ORGANIC)

There is also one special type of question:

  • DEPENDS, which is a HELP type question that is sometimes ORGANIC and sometimes MECHANICAL.
Terminology Note
Here Other Names
MECHANICAL-HELP "justify", "sufficient assumption", and "principle"
ORGANIC-HELP "strengthen", "explain the result"
HURT "weaken", "flaw"
DEPENDS "necessary assumption"

Finding the problem

On ARGUE questions, every argument has at least one problem.

Problems generally fall into one of these 3 buckets:

  • flaws: common logical errors;
  • gaps: a missing link between the facts and conclusion; or
  • what ifs: new facts that make the conclusion more or less probable.

Solving the problem

You must always identify the problem. You don't always need to solve it.

On MECHANICAL-HELP questions, you can and should solve the problem. But on ORGANIC-HELP questions and HURT questions, you don't need a solution.

On MECHANICAL questions, know the solution before you look at the answers

On MECHANICAL-HELP questions, your solution will close the gap between the facts and the conclusion. This solution will tell you exactly what you need from the answer.

Closing the gap on a MECHANICAL-HELP question


Anyone that likes the Rolling Stones dislikes the Beatles, so Dee must dislike the Beatles.

Specific prediction:

Dee likes the Rolling Stones.

On ORGANIC questions, be a good listener: identify the problem, but don't rush to solutions

In contrast to MECHANICAL questions, which reward specific predictions, you don't need to solve the problem for the ORGANIC questions. In fact, you should not try to solve the problem, at least not at first.

Example: dirty dishes

Your friend complains about all the dirty dishes in their sink.

You respond: "oh that horrible roommate, stand up to them, make them to clean their dishes."

Now your friend is mad at you, because that snap judgment wasn't helpful. For one, your friend didn't ask you for a solution. Generally, it's wise to ask what someone wants before you offer advice. (LSAT takeaway: read the question first.)

For another, that doesn't solve their real problem. The real problem is that their dishwasher is broken. When you rush to a judgment before you understand the whole picture, you're likely to miss the point. (LSAT takeaway: read ORGANIC arguments holistically.)

Now you might be tempted to make suggestions, like cleaning the filter trap. But they already tried that. (LSAT takeaway: your random, specific solution is unlikely to show up in the answers of an ORGANIC question.)

A better move is to ask your friend to suggest solutions. Then you can tell them whether their solution solves their problem. You friend suggests: "Maybe I'll just get out of the house and walk my dog." You say: "A walk doesn't solve your dishwasher problem."

Then they say: "Well, my parent is a dishwasher repair technician, I could ask them for help?" Now you can say: "Yes. Do that."

Doctors and lawyers are problem-solvers

A doctor's job is to translate a patient's symptoms into a diagnosis and treatment.

An experienced pediatrician who has seen, for example, lots of kids with runny noses, may be quick to diagnose a cold and prescribe fluids and rest. This is basic pattern recognition. Quickly diagnosing problems makes the doctor's life a lot easier.

But there are better and worse ways to use pattern recognition. Rude doctors have worse patient outcomes. When doctors are too quick to diagnose, they're likely to miss important context. Good doctors listen curiously.

Good doctors use pattern recognition to structure how they listen. They see a kid with a runny nose, and their pattern recognition thinks: "Ok, cold or flu." But then the kid is like: My ankle hurts. So the good doctor shifts gears, now they look out for hurt-ankle patterns.

Similarly, a lawyers' fundamental task is to listen to a client's story, and then translate that story into a legal claim.

A good lawyer uses their knowledge of the law and experience to spot issues. They hear "my neighbor is so annoying, they keep parking in front of my house, and they even ran over my cat." They filter out the parts of the story that the law can't do anything about, like where the annoying neighbor parks, so they can focus on actionable issues, like the cat.

Right and wrong answers

There are 3 common types of wrong answers in the ARGUE family:

  1. Backwards: helps the argument when you were supposed to hurt it (or vice versa).
  2. Irrelevant: doesn't address the argument's problem.
  3. Confused: mixes up the argument's ideas.

There is only ever one correct answer

4 of the answers have no effect or the wrong effect.

On MECHANICAL-HELP questions, the correct answer will not include new ideas. It will connect ideas from the argument. Wrong answers may use the same exact words in confusing ways. This is why you can and should make a specific prediction.

On the ORGANIC questions, correct answers often introduce or rule out alternatives. This is why you cannot make a specific prediction.

Correct answers on ORGANIC ARGUE questions only need to be relevant to the problem. They don't need to be completely devastate or solve the problem. It only needs to have some effect. This is why you want to make a flexible prediction.



We need to help residents move around the city as quickly as possible. So the government should fund highways instead of public transportation.

A relevant fact:

More than 25% of residents can't afford a car.

This is relevant because it means that highways won't help 25% of residents move around the city quickly.

An irrelevant fact.

Residents believe public transportation is slow.

This is irrelevant because "belief" isn't fact.

HURT questions

Which of the following, if true, most weakens the argument?

Which of the following expresses a flaw in the reasoning?

The argument is most vulnerable to the criticism that it...

Job description: Choose an answer that (a) points out the problem or (b) makes the problem worse.


  • If you identify a common flaw, eliminate answers that bring up a different flaw.
  • HURT questions are almost always ORGANIC, but if you see conditional logic you may need to diagram them and you may be able to make a more specific prediction.

ORGANIC-HELP questions

Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument?

Which one of the following would, if true, help most to explain the result described above?

Job description: Make the conclusion slightly more likely.

Trick: HELP-explain questions (the second example above) don't give full arguments. They give two seemingly opposed facts. You help by explaining why the facts actually go together.


Which one of the following, if true, allows the conclusion to be properly drawn?

Which one of the following, if true, makes the conclusion logically valid?

Which of the following principles would most help to justify the argument above?

Job description: Close the gap. Completely connect the facts to the conclusion.


MECHANICAL-HELP questions can be hard. The argument may include conditional logic and strange repeated phrases. The answers may look almost exactly the same. Invest in making a specific prediction to channel your attention and prepare for the answers.

But just because these questions can be hard, doesn't mean that the correct approach to these questions is the best approach for all Reasoning questions.


  • Use conditional logic to find the gap.
  • If the conclusion contains a new idea, then the correct answer must define that idea.
New idea in the conclusion


I told you to get off my lawn therefore you are guilty of trespass.

New idea: "trespass."

No matter how many additional points I make about your behavior, no judge will convict you unless I define the legal meaning of trespass and show that you met that definition.

Bad answers:

I asked you 5 times.

You intended to trespass.

Good answers:

Trespass is any unauthorized entry onto the property of another. You were on my lawn, which is my property.

All property belongs to the King. Everyone is always guilty of trespass.

DEPENDS questions

"Which one of the following is an assumption on which the argument depends?"

"Which of the following statements does the argument require?"

"Which of the following is an assumption necessary for the argument to be valid?

Job description: It depends. Do you see a clear gap in the argument?

  • If yes, approach like a MECHANICAL-HELP: specifically predict the solution.
  • If no, approach like ORGANIC-HELP: stay flexible by predicting the problem.

Trick: Negate the answer you like to see if the argument actually depends on it.

When you negate the correct answer, you should feel a "Woah! That negated statement is bad for the argument"

When you negate the wrong answer you should feel: "Huh." The argument does not depend on the wrong answers, so negating them won't do anything.

Knock the wall down

If a wall is load-bearing, then the house depends on it.

There's a easy way to tell if a wall is load-bearing: knock it down. If the roof falls on you, then it was load-bearing.

A negation is not an "opposite"

The negation of a statement is the minimum required to disprove that statement.


You never say anything nice.


You always say nice things.


One time you said something nice.

Common negations
Idea Negation
Is Isn't
I am I am not
I am always I am sometimes not
I am never I am sometimes
If A, then B If A, maybe not B
All Some not
None Some
Some None
Most Most not