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LR Q Stem Confusion (MBT, MSS, PSA, SA, NA, etc)

g-moneyg-money Core Member

Hello, 7Sagers! I seem to have a difficult time committing to memory the differences in language for Q stems in Logical Reasoning for MBT, MSS, PSA, SA, NA, and sometimes Strengthening & Principle question types. I get tripped up because the difference in the Q stem's wording is subtle, and when I don't have a solid grasp of what is being asked it makes it difficult for me to plan my attack of the answer choices. I'd also like to be confident in what type of question it is so I can frame my mind around what direction the support should flow (upwards or downwards).

For example:
I have seen ("WOTF principles, if valid, most helps to justify the reasoning...") to be Q stems for both Principle and PSA questions.

Or the fact that this Strengthening question has most strongly supported it it ("The conclusion of the _____'s argument is most strongly supported if WOTF completes the argument?")

Or the differences between this MSS Q stem (""WOTF can be most reasonably inferred by the...") and this MBT Q stem ("WOTF can be properly inferred from the statements above?")

I am aware of the fact that just because the word "principle" appears in the Q stem doesn't mean it is a Principle type question, however I still struggle to discern the subtle differences between these types of questions. Does anyone have a method they use to nail down the differences?

NOTE: Which of the following = WOTF


  • mattscrappymattscrappy Member
    138 karma

    I think that you actually have it backwards! Understanding the Q stems won't make it easier to see the direction to flow of information, but understanding the flow of information will make it easier to understand the Q stem. Go through some examples and ask yourself the question "should the stimulus affect the answer choice or should the answer choice affect the stimulus?"

    For example:
    Strengthen vs. MSS: The answer choices in a Strengthen Q will affect the Stimulus by making it more believable, but it will be the other way around for a MSS. A strengthen question needs to have a conclusion (otherwise what are you strengthening?), while an MSS question needs a conclusion. The right AC can function as adding a conclusion to the stimulus on MSS.

    Principle vs. PSA: This is a little trickier, but in general, a PSA will be an abstract principle that affects the stimulus. In regular principle questions, the stimulus itself will be an abstract principle that will affect the answer choices.

    SA vs PSA: These are the same type of answer; they both affect the stimulus to make it true. Think of it like the ultimate strengthen. It might come in the form of an abstract concept (PSA) or a more topical answer (SA), but both do the same thing to the stimulus.

    SA/PSA vs NA: Sufficient assumptions will affect the stimulus by making its conclusion absolutely true, but necessary assumptions are the opposite. Necessary Assumptions are affected by the stimulus, and kind of operate like must be true questions. A necessary assumption being the right AC won't really help your argument, but it must be true otherwise the conclusion is wrecked. For me personally, understanding and internalizing the difference in these two was one of my biggest hurdles in LR.

    MSS v MBT: These are doing the same thing, except MSS doesn't need to be definitively true. MBT answers have to be true if the stimulus is, while MSS just needs to be probably true. Hence "Must Be True" and "Most Strongly Supported." Personally, I think MSS are harder for this reason because you're looking for the one that's the most likely to be true, even though it could often still technically be false. Either way, in both you're looking to slap on the most likely conclusion answer choice.

    Let me know if anything isn't clear, and I hope this helps!

  • g-moneyg-money Core Member
    25 karma

    @mattscrappy this was phenomenal. Especially the part about whether the stim affects the AC or if the AC affect the stim.

    I guess my follow-up question would be to what extent you take the Q Stem into consideration when planning your attack of the question. I'm blind reviewing an exam right now and am trying to ask myself how the AC and stim interact without fully siloing myself into my old ways of looking at a given question and thinking: "this is a BLAH question so now proceed like the BLAH question requires".
    Hopefully that makes sense..?

  • mattscrappymattscrappy Member
    138 karma

    @yellowfinsalmon It sounds like you're relying only on Q stem keywords, so think the habit you need to develop is working "flow of information" and "Q stem keywords" in tandem. You still need to take the content and keywords of the Q stem into account, but you need to marry that to the flow of information concept. We already went through several examples of "keywords are the same but the ACs should still be very different", but the same works in reverse too. Strengthen and Weaken questions obey the same flow of information but obviously the right answers should look very different.
    Ultimately you should be able to glance at a Q stem and know instantly what it's asking for. It takes practice and conscious thought, but it will click then you'll be able to say "this is a BLAH question so now proceed like the BLAH question requires" instantly.
    This is a great spot to make flashcards; they really helped me master this!

  • g-moneyg-money Core Member
    25 karma

    @mattscrappy thank you for explaining in depth! I will try to reframe my thinking with your advice!

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