If LSAT flaws were Hogwarts houses

LSAT

Like the Sorting Hat, the LSAT writers probably take all year to compose their questions—the pressure is on and they have to perform a new tune to the same old professors/LSAT gurus. Like the Sorting Hat, the song/question may come in a different packaging, but the core qualities of the houses/flaw types are preserved. Let us take a look at which flaw types members these houses would be most likely to fall for… 

Gryffindor 

Ah, Gryffindor. Don’t we all check our favorite colors are gold and red so Buzzfeed can tell us we would get sorted into Gryffindor? The house of Gryffindor values bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry. But Gryffindors can sometimes (read: almost always) be *too* headstrong. They jump to conclusions. They want to fight the good fight—they are down for the cause—but they just struggle to think clearly before jumping on their broomstick to fight the Death Eaters. 

In other words, Gryffindors often struggle to assess the force of evidence for a conclusion. They have a teensy bit of evidence that  sometimes might actually lead them in the right direction, but it rarely is enough to *justify* the conclusion and warrant potentially lethal actions. In LSAT world, we would say they “treat evidence showing mere plausibility as if it proves that the conclusion is in fact true.” 

For instance, Harry has one dream about something Voldemort does, and then it actually happens. Does that mean that every time Harry has a dream about something happening, it is going to happen? No, of course not. Should he have listened to Hermione (the superlative winner of Most Likely to Point Out Errors in the Use of Evidence, albeit a Gryffindor) who pointed out that some evidence in a dream was still not enough to prove it did in fact happen? When you are rushing through the LSAT, or rushing to defeat the Dark Lord, it can be tempting to jump to conclusions, to see a little bit evidence and do all the work to justify the conclusion. But don’t be tempted! Think what Hermione would say: is it sufficient evidence? Does it do the work on its own? 

Of a more niche cache, Gryffindors would also be the most likely to fall for a red herring on the LSAT (when the premises are not actually relevant but they are so out-there or confusing you want them to be). Work on your Occlumency, protect yourself from fake visions. 

Slytherin 

In establishing this house, the founder of Slytherin instructed the Sorting Hat to pick students who were above all, ambitious and cunning (and somehow got Goyle and Crabbe out of that equation?!). Slytherins band together in cliques, often not wanting to even associate with members of other houses. Infamously, they are extremely elitist and obsessed with blood purity, which results in a cripplingly myopic view of authority. It is only fitting, thus, that a Slytherin would most likely to fall into source argument traps. Source arguments, also known as the ad hominem fallacy, involve mistakes by unduly focusing on the source of the arguments — her motives, actions and/or character—while failing to address the actual argument. “Oh, did a Pure Blood say it?” a Slytherin may ask, lending credence to the statement before they even buy in to the statement itself. “Oh, a Muggle-lover said that? It can’t be true then,” we may hear Slytherins snicker down the hallowed halls of Hogwarts. In the LSAT world, we would say they direct their attack “against the proponent of a claim rather than against the claim itself.” 

While moving along the LSAT, whether you are a Pure Blood or not, it will serve you well to remember to focus on the contents of an argument, regardless of the the heritage and blood status of the Wizard or Witch who is speaking. 

Hufflepuff 

Hufflepuff— the most underrated House in the history of the Wizarding World. Although used in the Muggle world as a playground insult for weakness (although not as heinous as an insult as being called a Squib), being a Hufflepuff should be something to be proud of. Helga Hufflepuff would be a progressive icon in our era; she was by far the most inclusive founder, as she prized patience, loyalty, and kindness over any particular intellectual or physical aptitude. If you aren’t a Hufflepuff, you definitely would want to surround yourself by members of this humble and honest House. For instance, if your Hufflepuff friend got into all the T-14 schools while you got rejected from your dream school, they would never brag to you about it; rather, they would turn their attention to the unfairness of a process that favors test scores above all else. 

To begin, Hufflepuffs would be the type to get in trouble for trying to chat with their LSAT proctor to see how they are feeling and how their day is going (“but really, how are you doing?”). They would also likely need to be reminded the no-snacking during the test rule multiple times. If they don’t manage to get their test cancelled in the first five minutes or suffer a cardiac arrest from the pot of coffee they drank an hour before the exam, our fair playing and loyal Hufflepuffs would likely fall for the appeal to emotion logical fallacies scattered throughout the LSAT. 

We must remember as diligent, cold-hearted LSAT students and in-the-making cold-hearted attorneys, that your feelings and the feelings of others don’t really matter in this test. This will be a bitter pill for warm-blooded Hufflepuffs to swallow. Many LSAT authors may try to appeal to emotion and to the unfairness of a situation to convince us of the merits of their argument. “The student feels so sad that she did not achieve her dream of winning the All You Can Eat Fried Butter contest at the 4H Fair in Indiana. Because she feels sad and worked hard to expand her stomach for the contest, it isn’t fair that the Fair failed to give her any award.” A Hufflepuff’s heart would probably throb at reading it—the poor girl! How the Hufflepuff may sympathize for her plight. “Yes,” the Hufflepuff might think, “that sounds unfair!” But we must be on the lookout for when emotional evidence is not directly relevant to a conclusion, making the link between premise and conclusion weak. Abstractly, emotional appeal fallacies fail to offer up additional evidence that makes the emotional evidence relevant and ultimately makes a jump from the world of emotions to the world of morality (good/bad fair/unfair). In LSAT lingo, we would say this argument about this poor fried-butter dreamer “attempts to persuade by making an emotional appeal rather than an appeal to reason.” 

A loyal and heart-following Hufflepuff need not shed their core qualities, to succeed on this test, but rather, must learn that to hold up an emotional appeal as relevant to a conclusion, there must be a more airtight linkage. For instance, if our strange LSAT authors were to write, “If a girl has strong sadness over not winning a friend-butter eating contest and has worked hard to expand her stomach, she should win an award at the Fair,” we would not be facing an appeal to emotion error.

I'm rooting for all of you hard-working and humble Hufflepuffs.

Ravenclaw

After making every study guide imaginable, a Ravenclaw LSAT student would be well prepared to tackle and demolish any logical fallacy presented. Wit beyond measure is a Ravenclaw’s greatest treasure. Ravenclaw prizes wisdom, wit, and intellect, with some members famously enjoying eidetic memory. Undoubtedly, most Ravenclaw students would score between the 97th and 99th percentile. 

Ravenclaws are rational and curious, often embarking on tasks to satiate their intellectual curiosity. Although a Ravenclaw may not fall for the traditional logical fallacies, they may be too good at logic for their own sake. The LSAT has some bizarre informal rules, (e.g. “some” meaning anything from some to all in Logical Reasoning, while in the Reading Comprehension we are usually take it mean “a few.” We may imagine a Ravenclaw learning these informal rules, but then failing to follow them on the test in a sign of protest. While an ambitious LSAT student might explain to a Ravenclaw that they need to focus on “LSAT world,” not the real world, a Ravenclaw might find themselves frustrated by this proposition and hold fast to how they believe the LSAT should have been written. If a Ravenclaw is guilty of letting any unwarranted assumptions sneak in, it would likely be the niche but dangerous “people want what I want” dilemma that can lead them astray. No, dear Ravenclaw, not everyone thirsts for knowledge and possess such a high degree of rationality as you do. In LSAT world, I am sorry to tell you, we can make no assumptions around what other people want or strive for in their lives unless we are told. 

Members of the Ravenclaw house would also be the most likely to annoy us all by scoring a 177 and seriously contemplating a retake.

Natasha currently attends Yale Law School. Previously, she worked as an asylum paralegal at the National Immigrant Justice Center, and as a domestic violence caseworker for immigrant women in Indiana.

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