Simple Guide on Flaw Questions

Simple Guide on Flaw Questions

The takeaways
  • To attack a flaw question, we look at how assumptions and support build toward the conclusion. Where is the gap in the logical flow?
  • We NEVER “attack” the argument by looking at the conclusion; the truth of the conclusion is irrelevant to us.
  • There are concrete common flaw types. In this article, we discuss 14. Familiarizing yourself with each is important to understand the structure of flawed arguments.
  • Flaw questions are one of the objectively most important question types to master; not only is it the most common type of question (~15% of all released PTs), but it is the foundation of “Assumptions” based questions. 

Intro to Flaw

This blog is a part of the “Approach Question Type” series and like all articles in this series will focus on step 4 of the “Analyze Stimulus” step. If you need a refresher on how to approach LR questions generally, make sure to check up on our blog "How to Approach the Logical Reasoning Section.”

Table of Contents:

  • What is a Flaw Question?
  • Common Types of Flaws with Examples
  • "Mental" Approach
  • Sample Flawed Argument: MJ vs. LBJ
  • Practice Creating Flawed Answer Choices

What is a Flaw question?

What is a flaw question? Flaw questions assess your capacity to recognize weaknesses in reasoning in arriving at a conclusion and to choose the best answer that accurately describes the flaw present in the argument. The conclusion can be correct but with flawed reasoning; the argument can be filled with convincing premise(s) but the conclusion can still be incorrect. Lawyers argue all the time. People in general argue all the time. Once you master identifying flaw questions, you’ll become much more aware of how different people use flawed reasoning to make their way to a conclusion. It’s essential then that we understand what constitutes a flaw in an argument.  

In our “How to Approach the LR Section” we discussed what makes an argument good or bad, and that assessing the quality of an argument in the LSAT is largely a function of two variables: support and assumptions. To strengthen an argument, we can fill in the assumptions gap or solidify the support; to weaken an argument, we might suggest obvious assumptions or question the validity or probability of the support provided. A flaw question points out the weakness(es) of an argument. 

Flaws typically involve errors in reasoning, such as unsupported assumptions, invalid inferences, or logical inconsistencies. Your task is to pinpoint these weaknesses amidst the text of the argument.

Common Types of Flaws with Examples

14 common flaws: 

  1. Circular Reasoning:
    • Description: Circular reasoning occurs when the argument restates the conclusion rather than providing evidence to support it. It's a logical fallacy where the premise and conclusion are essentially the same, making the argument circular and unconvincing.
    • Example: “The theory of gravity is true because objects fall towards the Earth, and we know this because of the existence of gravity.” The argument assumes the truth of the theory of gravity to explain why objects fall towards the Earth, and then uses the fact that objects fall towards the Earth as evidence for the theory of gravity. This circular reasoning fails to provide independent evidence or logical reasoning to support the theory of gravity.
  2. False Dilemma or Oversimplified Comparison:
    • Description: The false dilemma fallacy presents only two options or criteria when, in reality, there may be other possibilities. It limits the choices to create the illusion of only two alternatives when there are more.
    • Example: "Either we ban all guns or we accept a society filled with violence." This argument falsely suggests that there are only two options for addressing gun violence, ignoring potential alternatives like stricter regulations or improved mental health services.
  3. Correlation vs. Causation:
    • Description: This flaw arises when the argument mistakenly assumes that because two things are correlated, one must cause the other. It overlooks other factors that could explain the relationship or fails to establish a causal link.
    • Example: "As ice cream sales increase, so do the number of shark attacks. Therefore, eating ice cream attracts sharks." This argument confuses correlation with causation by implying that increased ice cream consumption directly causes more shark attacks, without considering other factors like warmer weather leading to both more ice cream sales and more people swimming in the ocean.
  4. Ad Hominem:
    • Description: Ad hominem attacks occur when the argument attacks the person making the argument rather than addressing the argument itself. It attempts to discredit the argument by focusing on irrelevant characteristics of the arguer.
    • Example: "You shouldn't listen to John's opinion on climate change because he's not a scientist." This argument dismisses John's opinion based on his occupation rather than engaging with the evidence or reasoning he presents.
  5. Appeal to Authority:
    • Description: This fallacy relies on the opinion of an authority figure rather than presenting valid evidence. It attempts to persuade by appealing to the credibility or status of the source rather than the merits of the argument.
    • Example: "Dr. Smith, a renowned physicist, believes in astrology, so it must be scientifically valid." This argument assumes that Dr. Smith's expertise in physics translates to expertise in astrology, without providing any scientific evidence for the validity of astrology.
  6. Sweeping Generalization:
    • Description: A sweeping generalization occurs when the argument draws a broad conclusion based on insufficient evidence. It unfairly applies a characteristic or conclusion to an entire group based on limited or biased evidence.
    • Example: "All politicians are corrupt because a few have been caught in scandals." This argument unfairly paints all politicians with the same brush based on the actions of a minority, ignoring the many politicians who are not involved in corruption.
  7. Sampling Flaw:
    • Description: This flaw occurs when the argument draws a conclusion based on a sample that is not representative of the entire population. It often involves extrapolating from a limited or biased sample to make a generalization about a larger group.
    • Example: "Eight out of ten students surveyed at Ivy League universities prefer coffee to tea. Therefore, coffee is the preferred beverage among all college students. This argument overlooks the preferences of students at other types of institutions."
  8. Equivocation:
    • Description: Equivocation happens when a term or concept is used in different senses within the same argument, leading to a misleading conclusion. It occurs when the meaning of a key term changes during the course of the argument.
    • Example: "ABC Book Co. only publishes novels (they define as between 50,000 to 110,000 words). I have a short story based on a novel idea that they should publish" Here, 'novel' is used in two different senses — one on book length and the other to an original idea.
  9. Quantity vs. Percent:
    • Description: This flaw arises when an argument incorrectly conflates absolute numbers with percentages or proportions. It occurs when the argument fails to distinguish between numerical quantities and relative proportions.
    • Example: "Five percent of the population owns 90% of the wealth. Therefore, most people are wealthy.” This argument overlooks the fact that despite a small percentage of people owning a large portion of the wealth, the majority of individuals may still be financially disadvantaged."
  10. “Lack of Evidence” as Proof:
    • Description: The argument mistakenly assumes that the absence of evidence for a claim is itself evidence against that claim. It erroneously treats the lack of proof for a proposition as evidence of its falsehood
    • Example: "There's no proof that aliens exist, so it's clear they don't. This argument fails to consider the possibility that absence of evidence does not necessarily constitute evidence of absence."
  11. Overinflated Conclusion / Scope & Relevancy:
    • Description: This flaw occurs when the argument's conclusion goes beyond the scope of what is justified by the evidence provided. It involves drawing a conclusion that is stronger or more definitive than what the premises support. These flaws may also introduce irrelevant information or fail to consider relevant information.
    • Example: "The stock market went up last month, so it's guaranteed to continue rising indefinitely. Here, the conclusion extends beyond the evidence provided, as past performance is not necessarily indicative of future outcomes."
  12. Strawman Argument
    • Description: A strawman argument flaw on the LSAT involves misrepresenting or oversimplifying an opponent's argument to make it easier to attack. Instead of addressing the actual argument presented (premises or solutions to achieve something), the speaker creates a distorted version of it and attacks that instead. This flaw undermines the validity of the argument by failing to engage with its true substance.
    • Example: 
      1. Person A: we should implement stricter regulations on air pollution (solution) to protect the environment (motive/conclusion). 
      2. Person B responds: "Person A wants to shut down all factories and destroy jobs. We can't let that happen." (No mention of the motive of Person A, and describes the solution presented in a negative light.)
  13. Conditional Reasoning Flaw / Sufficiency vs. Necessity:
    • Description: This flaw involves errors in understanding and applying conditional statements. It occurs when someone incorrectly assumes that a condition is necessary when it's only sufficient, or vice versa. In other words, there's a misunderstanding of the relationship between necessary and sufficient conditions.
    • Example Argument:
      1. Premise: If it's raining, then the ground will be wet. (If rain → G wet)
      2. Conclusion: Since the ground is wet, it must be raining. ( G wet → rain)
      3. The flaw in this argument lies in assuming that wet ground is a sufficient condition for rain. While rain sufficiently makes the ground wet, there are other reasons why the ground could be wet, such as someone watering the lawn or a nearby sprinkler system. Therefore, rain is not a necessary condition for the ground to be wet. The argument’s conclusion reverses the sufficient and necessary causal links given to us in the premise. The argument overlooks the possibility of other causes for the wet ground and overlooks the fact that the ground can be wet without rain.
  14. Analogical Flaw: 
    • Description: This flaw involves errors in reasoning by analogy. It occurs when someone assumes that because two situations are similar in some respects, they must be similar in others. However, this assumption may not hold true due to differences between the situations being compared.
    • Example: Argument: “Cats have fur just like tigers. Therefore, cats are as dangerous as tigers.” This argument wrongly assumes that because cats share a physical trait with tigers, they must share the same level of danger. However, the danger is determined by factors beyond physical appearances, such as size, behavior, and natural habitat. Therefore, the conclusion doesn't necessarily logically follow from the premise.

The “Mental” Approach to Flaw

Let’s first talk about the mental approach before we get to concrete actionable steps on answering a flaw question. 

Seek the Logic of Right and Wrong

Approaching flaw questions on the LSAT is like entering a debate in the Wild West of Instagram comments. You're facing a barrage of arguments ranging from the absurd to the almost convincing, and your task is to sift through the chaos to find the nuggets of logic buried beneath the surface. Once you start thinking like a professional arguer (also known as a lawyer) you’ll realize how flawed most people’s arguments are. At first, you might feel daunted by the structure of the LR section. Thankfully in the world of logic and the LSAT, there is rhyme and reason to everything—which means there is a system that we can “figure” out not just for correct but also incorrect answers. For instance, in this article, we already discussed the 14 most common types of flaws which give you a sort of “cheat sheet” to spot the commonality of the LR section.

Ultimately, when you first start off practicing LR questions (to start off, practice in an untimed setting), you can and should not only pick an answer you think is correct but also concretely make a note of why the other four answers are logically wrong; there will be a definitive reason. This way you will not only improve your skill in figuring out the right answer but also figuring out what wrong answers look like. 

Remain Skeptical of Everything

If you’ve ever scrolled down to the comments sections of a YouTube video or Facebook post, you’ll inevitably find people arguing with each other. In these comments, people seem to be predisposed to have a magnifying glass over other people’s flawed arguments.

Imagine yourself scrolling through a comment section where reason often takes a back seat to emotion and knee-jerk reactions. Just as you'd navigate through a flood of opinions online, your mental approach to flawed questions requires a similar blend of skepticism and critical thinking.

Remember: assume nothing (or, very little). Every argument is guilty until proven innocent of logical fallacies. Flaw questions do not need to have a valid conclusion, IE the conclusion doesn’t need to be true or false; that’s not what we care about! We care about how logically sound or reasonable the argument is in arriving at the conclusion. Just because someone says something passionately doesn't make it true. Similarly, just because an argument sounds convincing doesn't mean it's flawless. The LSAT writers, remember, are intelligent people, and they have many tricks up their sleeves (check common flaw types). 

Remove yourself from the content

Keep your cool amidst the chaos. Just as tempers flare in online social media debates, LSAT flaw questions may try to provoke an emotional response. LSAT is generally quite good at making extreme statements sound subtle. Don't take the bait. Stay calm, collected, and laser-focused on the task at hand: identifying and dissecting the flaws in logic.

Sample Flawed Argument: MJ vs. LBJ

If you’re a basketball fan, maybe you’ve seen people argue about who the greatest player of all time is, typically the standard argument is between Michael Jordan and Lebron James.

One standard argument is the following: 

Michael Jordan has 6 championship rings to Lebron James’s 4 championship rings, therefore MJ is the greatest NBA player of all time. 

A simple argument structure with a singular true premise. But does that premise lead correctly to the conclusion? Derek Fisher has 5 rings which he won alongside Kobe Bryant, but very few people would argue that Fisher is a greater player than James (if you’re not a basketball fan, do you even know who Fisher is?); subsequently, if we rely on the championship rings as the only premise for greatness, MJ is not the greatest player either because Bill Russell has 11 championship rings. 

The question then becomes way more abstract and complex: how do we denote what makes a player the “greatest of all time”? There is no objective answer to that debate — which is the point of bringing up this argument. When answering flaw questions, you’re not trying to defend or argue for a particular side. Don’t get caught up in trying to figure out what the conclusion should be. Try your best not to bring outside bias into the argument. Whether you are an MJ or Lebron fan, you should see that the premise used in that above argument is logically flawed because of the existence of Bill Russell and his 11 championship rings.

So if we were to logically base greatness as a basketball player strictly on NBA championship wins, we’d have this tier list:

Bill Russell (11) > Michael Jordan (6) > Derek Fisher (5) = Kobe Bryant (5) > Lebron James (4)

Practice Creating Flawed Answer Choices

Let’s return to the above argument: 

Michael Jordan has 6 championship rings to Lebron James’s 4 championship rings, therefore MJ is the greatest NBA player of all time. 

Can you spot the common flaw used in this argument? There may be multiple, but the one we’ll go with here is “Correlation vs. Causation.”

Correlation vs. Causation: The argument assumes that the number of championship rings directly correlates with a player's greatness without establishing a causal relationship. While championship rings can be an indicator of success, they do not necessarily prove someone's superiority as a basketball player (the existence of other players with many championship wins). Other factors, such as the team's overall performance, the quality of teammates and opponents, coaching, and individual contributions, need to be considered before concluding someone is the greatest player based solely on the number of championship rings they possess. 

Now let’s reframe the argument to show what they might look like in the context of each of the common flaw types. 

If you’d like to practice yourself first with the NBA example, try to make a sample argument for each of common flaws before you look at the sample answers below.

  1. Circular Reasoning:
  2. False Dilemma:
  3. Correlation vs. Causation:
  4. Ad Hominem:
  5. Appeal to Authority:
  6. Sweeping Generalization:
  7. Sampling Flaw:
  8. Equivocation:
  9. Quantity vs. Percent:
  10. “Lack of Evidence” as Proof:
  11. Overinflated Conclusion / Scope & Relevancy:
  12. Strawman Argument:
  13. Conditional Reasoning Flaw / Sufficiency vs. Necessity:
  14. Analogical Flaw: 

Sample Answers Below:

Circular Reasoning:

Argument: "LeBron James is the greatest NBA player because everyone agrees he's the best, and everyone agrees he's the best because he's LeBron James."

This argument is circular because it relies on the premise that LeBron James is the greatest NBA player, and then uses that assumption to support the conclusion that LeBron James is the greatest NBA player. It doesn't provide any new evidence or reasoning to justify its assertion.

False Dilemma:

Argument: "You're either a fan of LeBron James or you're just biased towards Michael Jordan. There's no middle ground."

This argument presents a false dilemma by suggesting that there are only two options: either being a fan of LeBron James or being biased towards Michael Jordan. It ignores the possibility of nuanced opinions or alternative perspectives on the debate of who is the greatest NBA player.

Correlation vs. Causation:

Argument: "Michael Jordan won six championships, and that's why he's better than LeBron James, who only won four. Championships directly correlate with greatness."

This argument confuses correlation with causation by assuming that the number of championships won directly determines a player's greatness. While championships can be a factor, this argument oversimplifies the relationship between championships and overall player ability.

Ad Hominem:

Argument: "You can't trust MJ fans' opinions on LeBron James because they're just nostalgic for the past and unwilling to acknowledge LeBron's greatness."

This argument attacks the character of MJ fans rather than engaging with their arguments or evidence. It dismisses their opinions by accusing them of being biased and nostalgic, without addressing the substance of their claims.

Appeal to Authority:

Argument: "Charles Barkley, a former NBA player, said that Michael Jordan is the greatest, so it must be true."

This argument relies on the opinion of Charles Barkley as evidence for Michael Jordan's greatness, without providing any substantive reasons or evidence to support the claim.

Sweeping Generalization:

Argument: "All knowledgeable basketball fans agree that Michael Jordan is the GOAT. If you think otherwise, you clearly don't understand the game."

This argument makes a sweeping generalization by assuming that all knowledgeable basketball fans agree that Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time. It disregards the diversity of opinions and perspectives within the basketball community.

Sampling Flaw:

Argument: "In a poll of 100 NBA fans, 90 said Michael Jordan is better than LeBron James. Therefore, the majority of basketball fans believe MJ is superior."

This argument draws a conclusion based on a biased sample (100 NBA fans), assuming that their opinions are representative of all basketball fans. It fails to consider the diversity of opinions and perspectives that exist beyond the sampled group.


Argument: "When we say 'greatest player,' we mean in terms of overall impact on NBA and basketball culture, which clearly favors Michael Jordan, who has his own Air Jordan brand, over LeBron James."

This argument equivocates on the definition of "greatest player," shifting between different interpretations to favor Michael Jordan over LeBron James. It fails to clarify the criteria used to determine greatness, leading to a misleading conclusion.

Quantity vs. Percent:

Argument: Michael Jordan scored a total of 32,292 points in his NBA career, while LeBron James has scored 40,474 points so far (2024), making LeBron the better scorer.  

Despite Jordan's lower total points, he achieved this in 1,072 games, while LeBron achieved his total in 1,310 games. Therefore, Jordan's average points per game (30.1) which is an NBA career record, is higher than LeBron's career (27.1). This argument focuses solely on the total number of points scored by each player, neglecting to consider factors such as games played or average points per game. By emphasizing quantity over percent, it oversimplifies the comparison and fails to provide a comprehensive analysis.

“Lack of Evidence” as Proof:

Argument: "There's no objective concrete evidence to prove LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, so it's obvious that Jordan holds the title of the greatest player."

This argument assumes that the absence of objective evidence for LeBron James being better than Michael Jordan is itself evidence that Michael Jordan is the greatest player. It fails to recognize that the absence of evidence is not proof of anything. There is no concrete proof for the counterargument either, as this debate inherently can not be objectively answered.

Overinflated Conclusion / Unsubstantiated Claim(s):

Argument: "LeBron James has the most career points ever scored in the NBA, therefore he is the greatest player.”

This argument presents an overinflated conclusion because it oversimplifies the criteria for determining the greatest player. While having the most career points in NBA history is certainly an impressive achievement, it doesn't automatically make LeBron James the greatest player of all time. The conclusion drawn from the true premise is overinflated. A more reasonable argument based on that premise is to argue for LeBron James’ longevity as a scorer.

Strawman Argument:

Argument: "MJ has punched a teammate in the face before, which LeBron has never done. This makes MJ’s reputation as a teammate worse than LeBron’s, and thus a worse basketball player."

This argument misrepresents the debate by creating a false characterization of MJ's reputation as a teammate (strawman) which is argued against. By focusing on a single negative aspect of Jordan's career and comparing it to an idealized version of LeBron's reputation, it constructs a distorted version of the argument to attack (the debate is about greatness as a basketball player, not as a teammate).

More Practice: 

Make your own arguments for each common flaw type to understand the logic (or illogic) behind the arguments. You can revolve it around one topic or debate to better understand how each common flaw might look different on the same argument as we just did for the NBA example. You can also make different topics for each common flaw to practice the breadth of argument types. 

Once you’ve become familiar with the common flaw types, answering flaw questions becomes monumentally easier. Try drilling flaw-type questions on AdeptLR with our adaptive algorithm, first with a cheat sheet of the common types of flaws, and eventually trying to understand the foundation of each of them where you can pinpoint the flaws through your own analysis.

Remember, flaw-type questions are descriptive analyses and thus depend on you simply describing the scenario. Don’t try to bring bias or extreme outside assumptions when not needed. Reasonable assumptions are a part of the LSAT, but it’s best to lean on the conservative side. Look at the argument with extreme skepticism and constantly ask yourself what the conclusion is missing and how the author might be playing on our logical blind spots.

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