How to Make Argument Assumptions for the LSAT

Making an argument without assuming at least one or two points is nearly impossible. If you back up everything you say, it can take forever, and sometimes you have to assume something just for the sake of argument. Assumptions aren’t necessarily bad, but you do need to recognize them when they occur.

Seeking-assumptions questions ask you to identify a premise that isn’t present in the argument. For these types of questions, the author directly states a series of premises and provides a clear conclusion, but in getting to that conclusion, the author assumes information. Your job is to figure out what the author assumes to be true but doesn’t state directly in drawing the conclusion.

For example, if the argument says, “My house is full of bees, so I need to call an exterminator,” you know the author must assume that the exterminator can do something about the bees, even though the argument doesn’t explicitly state this fact.

Seeking-assumptions questions may look like these:

  • Which one of the following is an assumption required by the argument above?

  • The professor’s conclusion follows logically if which one of the following is assumed?

  • Which one of the following is an assumption on which the scholar’s reasoning depends?

  • The politician’s argument depends on assuming which one of the following?

  • On which one of the following assumptions does the argument rely?

  • Which one of the following, if assumed, would allow the conclusion to be properly drawn?

  • Which one of the following, if assumed, enables the argument’s conclusion to be properly inferred?

  • The argument requires the assumption that…

Words like assume, rely, presume, depend on, and their derivatives usually indicate seeking-assumptions questions. Remember, these questions ask you to look for the ideas the author relies on but doesn’t state.

As you read seeking-assumptions questions, look for information that’s necessary to the argument but isn’t stated by the author. In these questions, the author always takes for granted something on which the entire argument depends. You just need to identify what that is.

To do so effectively, choose an answer that links the existing premises to the conclusion. The assumption you’re seeking always bears directly on the conclusion and ties in with one or more premises, often with the last premise. Therefore, the best answer often contains information from both the last premise and the conclusion. Try on this one for size:

Women receive fewer speeding tickets than men do. Women also have lower car insurance rates. It is clear that women are better drivers than men.

This conclusion is based on which of the following assumptions?

  1. Men and women drive cars equal distances and with equal frequency.

  2. Having lower car insurance rates indicates that one is a better driver than those who have higher rates.

  3. Speeding tickets are equally awarded for violations without any gender bias on the part of police officers.

    • (A)1 only

    • (B)3 only

    • (C)1 and 3 only

    • (D)2 and 3 only

    • (E)1, 2, and 3

As always, read the question first. Because it references assumptions, you probably figured out quickly that it’s a seeking-assumptions question.

Next, read through the argument and try to figure out the assumption or assumptions the author makes in reaching the conclusion that women are better drivers. The author moves from the premises to the conclusion pretty quickly and assumes that fewer speeding tickets and lower car insurance rates indicate better driving skills.

The author also assumes that men and women have equal driving experiences because the evidence is about the number of ticketed men and women, not the percent of ticketed men and women (if women just drove less than men, then they could easily have fewer tickets without actually being better drivers). Use this information to examine each of your options.

Look at statement 1 first. It fits with your second observation that men and women experience equal driving situations, so eliminate any answer choices that don’t include 1. This means you can get rid of Choices (B) and (D), leaving you with Choices (A), (C), and (E).

Notice that if statement 2 is true, you don’t have to evaluate statement 3 because only one remaining answer choice includes statement 2. The author uses the premise that women have lower insurance rates to support the conclusion that women are better drivers, so the author must assume that better drivers enjoy lower insurance rates.

Because statement 2 is true, the answer must be Choice (E). Check statement 3 to be sure. The author must assume that tickets are administered without bias; otherwise, the reason that women receive fewer tickets could be because authorities are less likely to issue tickets to women. Choice (E) is correct.

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