How to Reconcile Discrepancies and Paradoxes on the LSAT
Sometimes a set of facts just doesn’t seem to hold together, in real life, and on the LSAT. One of the pieces seems to, if not quite contradict another, at least create a questionable relationship. That is, the passage contains a discrepancy or paradox that requires explanation.
How to identify paradox questions
The logical reasoning sections include a number of questions designed to test your ability to resolve paradoxes or discrepancies. They almost always contain the word explain or resolve, followed by a word like paradox, discrepancy, surprise, or conflict. To answer these questions, you have to figure out what piece of information would help you explain why the apparent conflict is not in fact a conflict at all.
The following list includes some examples of paradox and discrepancy questions:
Which one of the following, if true, most helps to resolve the apparent paradox?
Which one of the following, if true, would most effectively resolve the apparent paradox above?
Which one of the following, if true, most helps to resolve the apparent discrepancy in the passage above?
Which one of the following, if true, most helps to resolve the apparent discrepancy described by the representative?
Which one of the following, if true, contributes most to an explanation of the behavior of chimpanzees describe above?
Which one of the following, if true, most helps to resolve the apparent conflict described above?
Which one of the following, if true, most helps to reconcile the specialists’ two claims?
Which one of the following, if true, most helps to reconcile the experts’ belief with the apparently contrary evidence described above?
You answer these questions by reading the passage to figure out which two facts seem to be at odds with each other. Then try to come up with an idea that would reconcile the inconsistency and make the paradox disappear. You probably won’t be able to envision the exact answer before reading the choices, but you can come up with something in the ballpark.
A paradox example
Here’s an example of a paradox question:
Skydiving experts have noted that improvements in gear and training techniques have led to fewer fatalities than occurred in the sport’s earlier years. However, fatalities among very experienced skydivers, who use the most modern gear equipped with a device that automatically opens the reserve parachute if the skydiver has not opened the main parachute by a certain altitude, have held steady for the last 12 years.
Which one of the following, if true, most helps to resolve the apparent paradox in this passage?
(A)Most skydivers prefer not to buy improved gear as it appears because it costs too much.
(B)Experienced skydivers favor tiny parachutes that fly at high velocities and that must be landed precisely, which makes them more likely to hit the ground at an uncontrolled high speed, even under an open parachute.
(C)Not all jumpers choose to use the device that automatically opens their reserve parachute for them.
(D)The U.S. Parachute Association’s recommended minimum opening altitude for reserve parachutes has increased over the last 12 years.
(E)Most inexperienced skydivers rent gear from drop zones instead of owning their own gear.
Read the question. The passage contains an apparent paradox. Despite advancements in safety, skydiving fatalities have not decreased among experienced skydivers. This fact is surprising because experienced skydivers use modern gear that guarantees that their parachutes will open. An open parachute must not be the only guarantee of a safe landing.
If experienced skydivers are dying despite open parachutes, their fatalities must result from another cause. Snipers aren’t picking them off from the ground, so they must be dying on landing. Perhaps experienced skydivers land differently from novices. See what the answer choices have to offer.
Choice (A) doesn’t explain the specific paradox related to the fates of experienced skydivers. The buying habits of other, less experienced skydivers are irrelevant.
Choice (B) does explain the results; experienced skydivers land differently and more dangerously than novices do, which could explain why the safer parachutes aren’t leading to fewer deaths.
Choice (C) is also irrelevant because it doesn’t pertain specifically to the experienced skydivers who are at the heart of the paradox.
Choice (D) makes the paradox even more surprising. If the reserve parachutes activate at higher altitudes, fewer fatalities should result.
Choice (E) doesn’t explain anything about fatalities. It may explain why inexperienced and experienced skydivers use different gear, but it doesn’t explain why experienced skydivers die despite having good, high-tech, perfectly functioning equipment.
Choice (B) is the correct answer.