Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Poll

Do you read the stem first or the stimulus first?

Stem first, then stimulus
 5 (45.5%)
Stimulus, then stem
 6 (54.5%)

Total Members Voted: 11

Author Topic: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?  (Read 1055 times)

crimsonpham

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LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« on: June 10, 2009, 02:38:15 PM »
Please say what you think the pros/cons are of either method! Thanks

'blueskies

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2009, 02:48:33 PM »
Stimulus first- if you read the stem first it will bias your reading of the stimulus, which sometimes can help on an easy question. However, if you read the stem first you often don't properly analyze the stimulus and could have to re-read as a result. In addition, you will often go back and read the stem a second time on your way to reading the awswers, slowing you down. Because of this, I think generally the best was to approach a question is in order (stimulus, stem, answers; while trying to find the correct answer you thought of after reading the question)
 
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KaplanLSATInstructor

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2009, 03:51:31 PM »
A frequent complaint about reading the stem first is that, after reading the stimulus, people waste time reading the stem (often 1-2 lines) a second time. However, some people who read the stimulus first will then read the question stem, realize what the question is looking for, and have to read the STIMULUS a second time to pick up anything they missed. That means reading up to a dozen or more lines of text twice.

When you read the stem first, you know what to expect and can attack the stimulus appropriately. For instance:

* "Undermine the argument"? The stimulus will have a full argument with a conclusion and supporting evidence, and you want to determine how you can make it worse.
* "What can be properly inferred"? Chances are there won’t be a conclusion — just a string of facts that you can combine to form logical deductions.
* "Resolve the paradox"? There will be information with an internal discrepancy that you’ll need to explain, rather than the standard evidence-conclusion argumentative structure.

When you know what you’re looking for, you can take a more strategic and ultimately more efficient approach to the stimulus.

As for overlooking important details in the stimulus because you’re too focused on finding specific information: knowing what to look for is no excuse for ignoring critical keywords such as "however" or "despite." Reading the stem first is meant to provide guidance, not serve as a reason to ignore potentially vital information.

I think you'll find that people are pretty split, 50/50, on this concept. However, I hope this helps clarify some of the pros of stem first.

- Chris



Jamie Stringer

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2009, 04:13:34 PM »
The above poster is so right -- different people prefer different methods and you should find the one that works best for you.  For me, I read the stem first and found it the best way for me to attack questions.  Stimuli can often seem to present different kinds of arguments and so you read the stimulus very closely (which takes a lot of time).  Then when you read the stem and know what you're looking for, you might have to go back to re-read the stimulus.  I'd rather read the stem twice (if necessary) than the stimulus twice.  Usually what I did was read the stem, write a symbol or initials of some sort so I knew what kind of question it was (without re-reading the stem), read the stimulus, then hit the answers. 

FOR ME, I found I was able to finish each section with more time than I was doing it the opposite way.  YMMV.
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Bernie

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2009, 10:36:36 PM »
For a very long time, I was a zealous 'read the stimulus first' person.  Then one day I woke up, realized that I was being blindly chauvinistic, and decided to really give the matter a bit more consideration.

First off a disclaimer:  which one you read first is not going to have THAT big of an impact on your score.  It's the LSAT, and what makes the difference is your ability to evaluate an argument, read quickly, and combine facts to make reasonable inferences.

What made me change my mind was the anxiety that some of my students faced when approaching the question.  I thought that having them read the question first might alleviate some of that anxiety.  They'd know what they were looking for and know what to do next.  Also, many of our more powerful strategies are very question-specific, so it made sense to try having them read the question stem first.

So it feels like it worked to take off at least some of the pressure.  I haven't gathered any solid data yet to see how it affected scores.  I have a fairly small data sample and it could be easily skewed by sample bias since a wider variety of people are now taking the course due to the economic crisis, so any data I could bring to the table would be inconclusive.  That said, I've become a fan of reading the question first.  I did so on the more recent test and found it incredibly useful for the function questions, main point questions, principle questions, strongly support questions, and sufficient assumption questions.

Again, let me reiterate that which one you read first isn't going to be the thing that really makes the difference.  It's kind of like the strategy of reading the answers from E to A instead of A to E, which is a great strategy for a certain type of personality that can't stop rushing through things but not really going to make a difference for anyone else.

I'm also not a big fan of the "find what works for you" advice, because I believe that most people think that what is easiest for them is what works for them, but I've found that often what is going to work best in the long run is toughest to adapt to in the short run (like learning to type with 10 fingers instead of 2).  So I would take a look at your strategies for the LR section and use the method that makes the most sense considering those strategies.  If the strategies are tied to the argument, read the stimulus first.  If they're tied to the question types, read the question first.

Atlas LSAT Teacher

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2009, 05:09:34 PM »
I find that it's useful to read the question stem first as long as it's short.  I don't find it makes that much of a difference, as whatever it is, I'm looking to read like a debater (looking for assumptions, etc.)  Anyway, if the stem is long, I wait until after, as it'll crowd my mind during my read.

Good luck!
Noah Teitelbaum
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http://www.atlaslsat.com

Zamd006

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2009, 06:47:30 PM »
.

theo

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2009, 12:58:54 PM »
For a very long time, I was a zealous 'read the stimulus first' person.  Then one day I woke up, realized that I was being blindly chauvinistic, and decided to really give the matter a bit more consideration.

First off a disclaimer:  which one you read first is not going to have THAT big of an impact on your score.  It's the LSAT, and what makes the difference is your ability to evaluate an argument, read quickly, and combine facts to make reasonable inferences.

What made me change my mind was the anxiety that some of my students faced when approaching the question.  I thought that having them read the question first might alleviate some of that anxiety.  They'd know what they were looking for and know what to do next.  Also, many of our more powerful strategies are very question-specific, so it made sense to try having them read the question stem first.

So it feels like it worked to take off at least some of the pressure.  I haven't gathered any solid data yet to see how it affected scores.  I have a fairly small data sample and it could be easily skewed by sample bias since a wider variety of people are now taking the course due to the economic crisis, so any data I could bring to the table would be inconclusive.  That said, I've become a fan of reading the question first.  I did so on the more recent test and found it incredibly useful for the function questions, main point questions, principle questions, strongly support questions, and sufficient assumption questions.

Again, let me reiterate that which one you read first isn't going to be the thing that really makes the difference.  It's kind of like the strategy of reading the answers from E to A instead of A to E, which is a great strategy for a certain type of personality that can't stop rushing through things but not really going to make a difference for anyone else.

I'm also not a big fan of the "find what works for you" advice, because I believe that most people think that what is easiest for them is what works for them, but I've found that often what is going to work best in the long run is toughest to adapt to in the short run (like learning to type with 10 fingers instead of 2).  So I would take a look at your strategies for the LR section and use the method that makes the most sense considering those strategies.  If the strategies are tied to the argument, read the stimulus first.  If they're tied to the question types, read the question first.


I heard Bernie will go right to work on the stem, and for an extra $20, she'll simultaneously stimulus your passage
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Bernie

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Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2009, 01:16:20 PM »
I heard Bernie will go right to work on the stem, and for an extra $20, she'll simultaneously stimulus your passage

[[Insert witty retort here]]