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Should I read the question stem first?

gnr9292gnr9292 Alum Member
edited December 2013 in General 5 karma
Is reading the stimulus and then reading the question stem a better tactic or the other way around??


  • ENTJENTJ Alum Inactive ⭐
    3658 karma
    I think JY's been teaching us to identify the question stem first to have a better sense of how to approach the stimulus. Which way works for you?
  • gnr9292gnr9292 Alum Member
    5 karma
    I like reading the question stem first but I heard from several sources and the power score bible that this is not recommended.
  • ENTJENTJ Alum Inactive ⭐
    3658 karma
    (I think) JY recommends you read the stem first. So far, I trust his explanations and methodology.
  • LSATislandLSATisland Inactive Sage
    1878 karma
    It might be a preference issue, but I can't imagine not reading the question stem first in LR.

    And, of course, for LG - never diagram anything. Put your pencil down to make sure you don't waste time doodling a diagram. Instead, try understanding the hostile seating preferences everyone has. If you can unravel the mystery of their social issues, the questions are a breeze.

    Just kidding, but not about LR.
  • Nilesh SNilesh S Alum Inactive ⭐
    edited January 2014 3438 karma
    I go 100 % with JY...I mean for MBT questions, once you read the stem, you know exactly what you are looking for and your reading of the stimulus becomes that much quicker and more effective.
  • 1_2_aletsgoblue1_2_aletsgoblue Alum Member
    47 karma
    Different books/courses recommend different things, but I say read the question stem first. You only need to identify key words/phrases and circle those keywords (supports, must be true/false, main point/conclusion, assumption on which it depends, etc.).

    Many places say you'll wind up "re-reading the stem" but in reality you'll only remind yourself of the words you circled, and it's better to have an idea of what you're looking for first, I think.
  • jnewton0828jnewton0828 Alum Member
    edited January 2014 16 karma
    I used some of those other methods PS, in particular, but once I started using JY method of reading the question stem first, I began to pick up steam real fast. It helps you identify certain keys to the question type.
  • HopefullyHLSHopefullyHLS Monthly Member
    edited July 2021 445 karma

    Stem first. Period.

    I also read here and there that it is supposedly more efficient to read the stimulus first, with the reasoning that you end up reading the stem twice if you do otherwise...

    I don‘t understand this reasoning at all to be honest, I‘d even say it‘s actually the opposite, if anything. At least I always remember the stem after I read it because it is the factor prompting me to look for the things I need in the stimulus.

    Imagine you start reading the stimulus: you identify the conclusion (aha, it‘s an argument), identify the premises, find out how they support the conclusion, think about flaws and come up with a few pre-phrases... Then you go to the stem and it says „identify the conclusion“...

    What a waste of precious time, right?

  • Maryana.KMaryana.K Monthly Member
    89 karma

    This might be different for everyone but I used to read stem first then I got myself a tutor and he recommended for me to read the argument first and truly understand the logical flow of the argument: method of reasoning, any discrepancies, and any gaps.

    At first, I thought it was super weird but the more time I spent reading arguments (untimed to the side) the more I realized he was right. When I stopped reading the question stem I made fewer mistakes! I know that might seem very bold and controversial to say, but when you read the question stem and then the argument you only read the argument because you are looking for a specific answer and that usually throws me off.

    I went from -15 to -8 within 3 weeks because I started reading the arguments as a whole and I deeply analyzed arguments (this is my experience and nothing is guaranteed but I suggest playing around with it because it helps you learn about the test and who you are as a test taker). I learned that sticking to question stems provides structure but more often than not questions cross over. For instance, if it's a principle question I look for an AC that "must be true" based on my analysis of the argument and that has changed the game for me.

    Every person is different, but I suggest you take a couple of untimed questions and analyze the argument before looking at the question stem. It might help you decide if it's the right thing for you.

    Best of luck!

  • canihazJDcanihazJD Alum Member Sage
    7907 karma

    Doesn't matter. Just know what you are gaining and giving up via either path. Regardless of which one you do first, look me in the eye and tell me you never look at either one again after reading it. That's what I thought. Do what works for you.

  • castronecastrone Alum Member
    210 karma

    @canihazJD , I mean if I read the steam first, I don't look at it again, unless its an argument part question

  • canihazJDcanihazJD Alum Member Sage
    7907 karma

    @castrone said:
    @canihazJD , I mean if I read the steam first, I don't look at it again, unless its an argument part question

    To my point, so there are times you do. And if we're taking a strict stem first approach, there's really no reason for revisiting with that QT either as opposed to just ID'ing the target phrase in the stimulus. Regardless, either that works for you or it doesn't... and if it does, then your way is fine.

    Beyond the arguments that you are literally required to see the stem as you transition from stimulus to answer choices, and that for the vast majority of stems you should see what's going on via flash recognition, and that broad claims that you either always do or always should do something a specific way are problematic... its just about recognizing what either approach gives you. The case can be made for either way. To go a step further, it really shouldn't affect your performance anyway.

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