Law School Discussion


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: 10

LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?

LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« on: June 10, 2009, 12:38:15 PM »
Please say what you think the pros/cons are of either method! Thanks


  • ****
  • 461
  • your changing skyline is twisting me up inside
    • View Profile
Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2009, 12:48:33 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)

Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2009, 01:51:31 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

Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2009, 02:13:34 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.

Re: LR: Read the stem first or the stimulus first?
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2009, 04:47:30 PM »