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Which is the best way? To read the stimulus or the question stem.

I have studied with power score in the past and have taken blueprint as well. Powerscore LR says to read stimulus first and then the question but blueprint is the other way around ( read question then stimulus). What is your take/suggestion?


  • goingfor99thgoingfor99th Free Trial Member
    edited December 2017 3072 karma

    It is best to read the stimulus first, imho. I was reluctant to admit this until the end of my training. If you're going for a 170 or better, on test day you should be so good at reading stimuli for arguments that whatever parts of the argument are present are fresh in your memory by the time you get to the question stem.

  • Kermit750Kermit750 Alum Member
    2124 karma

    I advocate for reading the question stem before the stimulus. I studied with Power Score as well and I don't think it is of much benefit reading the stimulus before the question stem. Reading the question stem first primes you for what to look for as you approach the stimulus.

  • FerdaFreshFerdaFresh Alum Member
    561 karma

    Stem first. Here's why:

    (1) it can save you time, specifically on the first 10 or so easier questions and on about half or more of the questions following that. Since you know what you have to do while reading, you can go right into hunt mode after reading the stimulus. You also put your brain in a different "mode" pending on which type of question you're reading which helps you get to the right answer faster (e.g. "SA mode," looking for connecting dots). Now @goingfor99th has an interesting point. And in essence it's true; a 170+ scorer should have a holistic grasp on any stimulus (to the point where they can guess what type of stem follows). Further, the aforementioned advantage has diminishing returns on more difficult questions (i.e. the second half of the set). However, I'd still advocate reading the stem first...

    (2) this second point starts with an opposing consideration... on the harder half of the LR section, the advantage given in (1) has diminishing returns. It would seem that difficult questions (e.g. convoluted wording, abstract ideas, etc.) provide enough for your brain to juggle with that keeping the stem in consideration is just another hassle that you don't need. HOWEVER, there's a simple solution to this: (a) read the stem first (takes one second to skim), (b) read the stimulus and realize this question is very difficult (which you couldn't have known before reading it anyway), (c) forget the stem for now and just focus your brain power on understanding the argument, and (d) REREAD the stem (which takes another whopping second -- maybe two if you're being careful). Here, your first read of the stem might have seemed redundant, since you had to reread it. But the upside is you saved yourself time and mental effort on all the other questions where you didn't have to reread anything because there wasn't that much to "juggle" with.

    In short, I think the pros outweigh the cons... Also, I also don't think it matters much which method you choose! Despite what my embarrassingly long novel suggests...

  • TheMikeyTheMikey Alum Member
    4196 karma

    Stem first so that way you know exactly what you have to do. if you do stim first, you will be thinking what you have to do. what if you just need to provide them with a main point and not think too deep about the stimulus as you may be doing thinking it may be a flaw question or something?

    idk, I've always liked stem first

  • goingfor99thgoingfor99th Free Trial Member
    edited December 2017 3072 karma

    I find that reading the question stem first actually distracts me from the content of the stimulus, which is to say the argument or the parts of the argument in the stimulus. When you approach stimuli in a very fundamental way, you are really only quickly scanning for conclusions and premises anyways. You aren't supposed to get bogged down in the details of the stimulus until you start to tackle the answer choices.

  • AlexAlex Alum Member
    23929 karma

    @"LSAT ISLAND" said:
    I have studied with power score in the past and have taken blueprint as well. Powerscore LR says to read stimulus first and then the question but blueprint is the other way around ( read question then stimulus). What is your take/suggestion?

    I personally advocate for reading the stem first, but the fact very high scorers disagree on this tells me there cannot be an objectively right or wrong way to do it.

    There's no best way. I know tons of takers who have scored high doing it both ways. Powerscore and LSAT pros who recommend stim first have good arguments for why they do it, too. However, to me, it feels like those arguments for reading the stim first are ad hoc. It seems like reading the stem first gives you some pretty big advantages.

  • Logic GainzLogic Gainz Alum Member
    700 karma

    Maybe try filming yourself? I started with Powerscore too and was a huge stimulus first proponent, but then I started watching videos of myself and it changed my world. I would watch my little pencil point gloss over the stimulus in my video, then I'd see my pencil tip scan the stem, but then guess what... with some questions that were longer, I'd see my little pencil point go back up to the stimulus to formulate my answer after I had read the stem to figure out what my task was. If I had known my task from the start, I wouldn't have to do this nor would I have to hold all of that info in my head while finding out what my ultimate task was (reading the question stem after I had processed the stimulus and its meaning). It helped me out and lightened the load on my short term memory which is counter to what the bibles say which leads me to my final point. Do you. Whatever is easiest go that route.

  • Quick SilverQuick Silver Alum Inactive Sage
    1049 karma

    Stem first. I try to be open minded to different ideas, but having done both as a student, I believe Stem is superior and it's one of the first things I hammer home to all my students!

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