Practice for the LSAT? Try TV Commercials

April 10, 2013

There are a few television shows that I love to watch and I eagerly look forward to sitting down and catching up with my favorite characters or matching my trivia knowledge to others. The best part of TV these days though, is setting the DVR and fast forwarding through the boring part of a show and the commercials. I did catch a few shows ‘live” and what an education the commercials are! While nothing will replace prepping for the LSAT with actual LSAT questions, don’t pass up the chance to hone your skills: pass on the TV shows and catch those commercials!

The commercial that just caught my attention is one for a fragrance product that is sprayed and supposedly neutralizes bad odors. The scenario is a van, filled with sweaty sports equipment and old food and left in the hot sun for 2 days; two people come in and think the van smells great. At the end of the commercial the voice over says “that proves it.” Proves it? Really? Can you identify what’s wrong with the argument?  As with any argument, you want to identify the conclusion and then find the evidence; with those two pieces in hand, it’s time to find the link between the two – the assumption!  Being able to identify the assumption in a logical reasoning question is a critical LSAT skill that will bring you up to 25% of the points on the LSAT.

In our commercial, the conclusion is “that proves it.” The evidence is the fact that, despite all the stinky stuff in it, the two people think it smells great. Can you tell what we are expected to assume and what is wrong with that assumption? Think critically – how many people are involved in determining the “smelliness” or lack of it? Only two – is that really an adequate sample? Well, the producers of the commercial thought so. But as critical thinkers, we can easily see that 2 people in a purportedly unscripted commercial do not proof make.

Questions involving surveys and studies will show up on the LSAT; the assumption generally is that the sample involved is adequate with respect to numbers and representativeness. Not all surveys on the test will be flawed surveys, but remember to look at the information carefully and take time to ask whether you can come to a valid conclusion based on the survey. In addition to your usual LSAT practice, take some time to watch the commercials!