Poll: Do you read the questions first

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Do you read the questions first?

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Re: Poll: Do you read the questions first

Postby coldweather » Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:21 pm

I didn't read the question, I glanced at it. Once you have seen almost every possible way they can word a question it's easy to know what type of question it is. For the tricky questions like all strengthen except just create a shorthand notation beside the question so u don't have to read the question twice and waste time. For instance I would write (-, /) by that question knowing that the right answer would weaken or do nothing to the argument.


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Re: Poll: Do you read the questions first

Postby willwash » Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:46 pm

I do about half the time. I can't really explain what dictates whether I will read the question first or not...it's just my intuition.

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Re: Poll: Do you read the questions first

Postby bitsy » Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:57 pm

never on RC, that distracts me too much. occasionally on LR, if the question is so massive it takes up a full column. i think its personal preference.


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Re: Poll: Do you read the questions first

Postby Swimp » Thu Oct 25, 2012 4:02 pm

bp shinners wrote:
Swimp wrote:
bp shinners wrote:I just don't get people who don't read the question first - you can't analyze the stimulus nearly as well without knowing what you're looking for.

In my experience, it's pretty unusual to run across a stimulus that's so complicated that you have to read the question in order to analyze it. I always read the stimulus first.

But here's the thing - it takes me .5 second to read the prompt. Here's what I automatically know from that:
1) Do I have an argument/Should I be looking for a conclusion?
2) Will I have to find the flaw in the argument?
3) Is there likely to be causal language?
4) Should I start diagramming if I see a conditional keyword?

And that's just a start.

If I'm in the implication family, I know to not bother trying to keep the argument structure in my head - it's not an argument, just a series of facts. If it's a Must be False question, I know to focus just on statements strong enough to be broken by an answer choice. If it's a soft Must Be True, I know to look out for very strong statements. If it's a Must Be True, I know diagramming will most likely be useful.

If I have a Main Point question, I stop when I find the conclusion. If I have a Flaw question, I know that I should find the conclusion and then focus right away on a flaw. If I waste time finding the flaw when I don't need to, I'm shooting myself in the foot. If I don't spend time thinking about the flaw until I read the prompt, then I've just spent a second or two not thinking about the stimulus, which is going to decrease my retention of the material (a minute amount, but still by a certain degree).

Since it takes essentially the same amount of time to read stimulus->prompt and prompt->stimulus, and I really can't think of any benefit to reading the stimulus first (though I can definitely think of benefits to prompt first, as listed above), I think it's a no-brainer.

I'm seriously asking here - to those who say stimulus first, what's the benefit in doing that? I've never heard a good answer to that question.

I admire people who are so disciplined and regimented about LR. If I had put time into learning that method, I'd probably finish LR sections much faster. For the most part, though, I just rely on my intuition and more run-of-the-mill analytical techniques and that does me just fine. I always look for a conclusion--if I find one, I find one. If I don't, it confuses me for a second, but I still finish with 5-10 minutes to spare, so it was never a big concern for me. When I started, I read the question first, but I found that it just distracted me from fully grasping the structure of the stimulus on a gut level. I went from going -2 to -4 when reading the question first to almost always -0 when reading the stimulus first.

That's why I agree with people who say it really is a matter of what works for you, personally. I know you're coming at it from an instructor's point of view, though, and the more structured technique is probably more predictable and fruitful in the classroom.

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Re: Poll: Do you read the questions first

Postby cahwc12 » Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:15 pm

CyanIdes Of March wrote:
bp shinners wrote:I just don't get people who don't read the question first - you can't analyze the stimulus nearly as well without knowing what you're looking for.

I guess I could start doing that now... but it's a little late in the game for me to be switching up my method (which has worked fairly well thus far).

I prepped for the LSAT for probably 5 months before starting to read the question stem first. It took me a day to make it second nature.

I really don't mean to ride shinners' tail here, but I think he's unequivocally correct and anyone who says "it's just a matter of personal preference" either hasn't read the stem first, or doesn't want to try it.

Does it make a huge difference? No. But at least in my opinion, even a small, tangible benefit is worth investing in. And the investment is very minimal.... you (and anyone else) should definitely give it a try.

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Re: Poll: Do you read the questions first

Postby Mik Ekim » Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:37 pm

When I first started to teach the LSAT, the dominant opinion on TLS (though not necessarily among top scorers in general) seemed to be that reading the stimulus first was the way to go -- really glad to see that the tide has swung the other way --

I think that for a lot of people, whether they read stimulus first or question first has little impact on their score--this is especially true for very high scorers. If you can score 175, chances are you can do so solving the questions either way.

For some people, reading the question stem offers numerous advantages, and I'll discuss why below. These people can score higher reading question stem first.

And I think I've heard pretty much every reason given for why one ought to read the stimulus first, but, in my opinion, reading the stimulus first does not offer anyone any sort of significant advantage. I do not think reading the stimulus first leads to any score of score increase.

Of far more significance, I think that reading the question stem first will, over time, help you increase your score faster -- I think that's really the big issue, and that's why I strongly advocate reading the stem first --

In my other posts, I've mentioned that I think of the test as being about three things: your reading ability, your reasoning ability, and your mental discipline.

One of the main ways that they test your mental discipline is by seeing how well you can stay on task--that's one of the reasons they like to ask you similar but subtly different questions (like basic assumption, necessary assumption, and sufficient assumption) --

When it comes to staying on task in the Logical Reasoning section, the biggest issue is whether your job is to simply understand what you are reading (you can think of this as staying objective) or your job is to judge what you are reading (be subjective).

Here's why this is important--for the questions that require you to simply understand what is in the text (arg structure, match reasoning, role, conclusion, id disagreement, inference, etc), you are commonly punished for judging -- for inferring too much or focusing on what you think is wrong with the reasoning or for reading between the lines. For questions that require you to judge (assumption, flaw, strengthen, weaken, etc) your success hinges on that judging ability -- it hinges on your ability to see why the reasoning doesn't justify the conclusion.

You can see why they've designed the questions this way--it's a great way to challenge your mental discipline (and as a worker in the legal field, you are constantly going to have to keep clear situations in which your job is just to understand, or your job is to form an opinion).

So, as you read, you either want to try and stay as objective as possible, or you want to read with the goal of figuring out the flaw in the argument. Reading the question stem first will tip you off on what you should do, and reading either just to understand, or specifically to judge, makes the "mental discipline" aspect far easier to manage. If you continue to read question stem first throughout your studies, it should help you get better and better at aligning your reading process to the specific task the question presents.

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