PS LR - Stimulus First?

DuncND2013
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PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby DuncND2013 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:22 pm

The first thing I ever did for LSAT studying was go through the Powerscore class/books.

One thing I noticed: I think their LG stuff is awesome (except for sequencing--7sage.com's methods are way better for this guy) and that their LR stuff isn't bad either. But they say--I think--to read the stimulus before the question.

I think that's insane, and the minute I read it for the first time (like a year ago), I told myself that I wasn't going to do that--and I never have. I think you HAVE to read the question first to really be able to know anything about what the stimulus says. And even if that's not true, how can it hurt to have an idea of what you're looking for while you're reading?

Do you guys agree with this?

Straw_Mandible
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Straw_Mandible » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:31 pm

Yes, you're right; the Powerscore method is wrong. Stem before stim.

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Gravitas
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Gravitas » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:56 pm

Yeah I would definitely recommend reading the stem before the stim.

Like you said, just knowing what you're looking for can be incredibly time-efficient, especially with main conclusion or assumption questions. I did about 4 or 5 months of prep reading the stim first, and when I started reading the stem first it instantly cut five minutes off of my LR time because before that I would often read the stim, read the stem, and then have to go back and read the stim again if it was particularly complicated.

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mist4bison
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby mist4bison » Sat Jan 25, 2014 6:48 pm

.
Last edited by mist4bison on Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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withoutapaddle
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby withoutapaddle » Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:13 pm

Stem before stim

I tried powerscores method after doing stem first. My score dropped. Back to reading stem first , score went back up

Pancakes12
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Pancakes12 » Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:20 pm

I guess I'll be the lone dissenter here and advocate for stimulus before stem. I feel that reading the stem first leads you to read the stimulus with a closed mind. I found that by reading the stimulus first I didn't have any biases and could often predict the type of stem I'd see because the arguments gaps and flaws would pop out at me.

blackbirdfly
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby blackbirdfly » Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:50 pm

edit - do what works for you.
Last edited by blackbirdfly on Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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withoutapaddle
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby withoutapaddle » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:11 pm

^ which one of the following most weakens the authors statement ?

B. the same LR approach doesn't work best for all LSAT takers

In all honesty though powerscore is in the business of making money. They have to put out different products (techniques) to distinguish their product from say Kaplan

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zhenders
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby zhenders » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:13 pm

Whatever works for you -- definitely try both :) I'm with Pancakes, personally -- for precisely the same reasons.

*edit: perhaps the only exception to this is that if it's a question that is LONG (as in, long detailed answer choices) that usually suggests parallel or PF -- and to save time, I'll quick-scan the stem to confirm that before diving into the stim.

blackbirdfly
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby blackbirdfly » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:35 pm

withoutapaddle wrote:^ which one of the following most weakens the authors statement ?

B. the same LR approach doesn't work best for all LSAT takers

In all honesty though powerscore is in the business of making money. They have to put out different products (techniques) to distinguish their product from say Kaplan



Clever. You got a 180!



You have point though. Do what is best for you, OP.
Last edited by blackbirdfly on Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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withoutapaddle
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby withoutapaddle » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:39 pm

hahha I was kinda just joking

Studying for the LR right now and thought that would have been a great assumption or weaken stimulus

blackbirdfly
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby blackbirdfly » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:44 pm

withoutapaddle wrote:hahha I was kinda just joking

Studying for the LR right now and thought that would have been a great assumption or weaken stimulus


No hard feelings :D Seriously though, get that 180!

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Nova
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Nova » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:55 pm

Stem before stim so you know what to look for the first time around

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withoutapaddle
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby withoutapaddle » Sat Jan 25, 2014 11:02 pm

Agree^

Helps to know how to approach the argument

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Clearly
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Clearly » Sun Jan 26, 2014 12:27 am

Couldn't disagree more with you guys. Read the stimulus to understand the whole picture, and be prepared to answer anything.

Pancakes12
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Pancakes12 » Sun Jan 26, 2014 1:35 am

Clearly wrote:Couldn't disagree more with you guys. Read the stimulus to understand the whole picture, and be prepared to answer anything.

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drawstring
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby drawstring » Sun Jan 26, 2014 1:51 am

I preferred stem before stim. I think it helped me focus on relevant information/issues while I was reading and I didn't have to return to the stim as much to put things into context of what was being asked. When I moved away from the PS method my speed and scores increased, and I ended up going -1 overall on the real thing with over 8 minutes left per section.

I think it's important to try both methods out and see which one works best for you though. I wouldn't have rigidly adhered to one method if the other was producing better results.

jmjm
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby jmjm » Sun Jan 26, 2014 2:46 am

I've tried both and stim first works fine.

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Clearly
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Clearly » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:09 pm

drawstring wrote:I preferred stem before stim. I think it helped me focus on relevant information/issues while I was reading and I didn't have to return to the stim as much to put things into context of what was being asked. When I moved away from the PS method my speed and scores increased, and I ended up going -1 overall on the real thing with over 8 minutes left per section.

I think it's important to try both methods out and see which one works best for you though. I wouldn't have rigidly adhered to one method if the other was producing better results.

...or by the time you moved away from ps, you had actually gotten better and more familiar with the questions.

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drawstring
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby drawstring » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:23 pm

I definitely improved even when I was using the PS method, but I had a sudden jump almost immediately after moving away from it and the few times I went back to stim first I didn't do as well.

I'm fairly confident stem first worked better for me.

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Jeffort
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Jeffort » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:11 pm

Once you've learned all the LR basics, foundations, question types, techniques, etc. and are transitioning into the final doing full sections/full tests phase of prep, reading the stem first can have a few minor benefits as you transition and start to work on timing, but there are risks with 'knowing what to look for' strategies if they mean anything more than deciding to treat the stimulus as an argument vs set of facts on first read.

If you get myopically focused on looking for a certain type of thing you have in mind when you first read the stimulus, it's easy to be blind to and overlook other things/relationships that turn out to be important for analyzing answers. For instance, if you read a MBT stem and then head into the stimulus looking specifically for conditional logic to diagram and there isn't any, you just wasted time and will probably have to re-read again with an open mind to process the important material for the answers. This is just one example of how going into first read specifically 'looking for something' can hurt you.

The only real benefits I see for reading the stem first is for knowing which arguments you don't need to analyze as deeply for flaws/assumptions, meaning main point and role in the argument questions and for immediately knowing when the stimulus probably isn't an argument and doesn't need to be analyzed as one, meaning MBT, MSS, resolve and apply the principle question types. Knowing it's one of these types can help prevent you from wasting time trying to find a conclusion, but by test day your skills should be good enough to easily recognize when you just have a set of facts vs an argument without having to read the stem to verify.

With main point and role questions it's generally a waste of time to analyze much deeper than basic structure since those two types aren't about flaws/assumptions (although a few hard role questions have required spotting an assumption/flaw to be able to understand what the CR is talking about), so knowing its one of those types can save you a little time if you otherwise would have analyzed deeply for flaws before reading the stem.

Those are the only real benefits I see to reading the stem first and they are things that shouldn't be a big deal or matter of trouble for well prepped people anyway.

The risks of reading the stem first come from different ideas about what 'knowing what to look for' means to different people. If that just means doing it to decide whether to read and analyze it like an argument vs just a set of facts, then that's fine. However, reading/analyzing the stimulus differently for different assumption family questions would be a mistake. If 'knowing what to look for' means analyzing arguments for strengthen questions differently than weaken, flaw, necessary assumption, etc. or whatever combo, then you are approaching those questions somewhat incorrectly. For best LR performance, it's important to analyze all arguments for assumption family questions (strengthen, weaken, flawed method of reasoning, necessary assumption, sufficient assumption, parallel flaw) the same main way before diving into the answer choices.

Knowing the question type is mainly important for which approach to take with processing the answers in terms of which type of relationship the CR must have to the core of the argument and knowing the common features of CR and incorrect answers for each type, not for knowing how to analyze the argument/stimulus itself. It's not like certain types of flaws/assumptions/relationships only appear in arguments/stimulus for certain question types. Any argument used for one assumption family question type could also be used for any of the other assumption family question types, so reading the stimulus differently for any of these types would be foolish since they all revolve around the structure, flaw/assumptions in the argument no matter which Q type is asked.

Powerscore, Testmasters and a few other good prep companies teach reading the stimulus first because the main focus and main core of improving on LR is getting good at fully analyzing arguments for structure, reasoning, assumptions and flaws, not on learning different minimized selective ways to analyze different arguments for different question types.

Knowing the question type only dictates how you process the answer choices and should only change how you analyze arguments with Main Point and role questions to cut out the analyzing for flaws/assumptions last step. If you do less or different analysis for weaken compared to strengthen compared to flaw, etc., you are shortchanging some of the types with less than full proper analysis than is needed for difficult questions. Part of the reason stim first is taught is because early in prep people don't yet know all the question types and are supposed to be mainly focused on understanding how to properly read, breakdown and analyze arguments, find assumptions, identify flaws, learn more flaws, etc. These critical reading and reasoning skills are important for pretty much all question types and shouldn't be only selectively applied.

When people are just getting started learning the basics, it's important for them to focus more on fully analyzing and understanding everything presented in the stimulus/arguments than on directed tactics for particular question types, so reading the stim first makes sense for beginners. It's a don't put the cart before the horse thing. You cannot 'know what to look for' until you've learned how to properly read and analyze arguments/stimulus critically for the logical relationships presented in the text and learned a bunch of the common flaws so you can recognize them. Once people have the foundations and question types down, then it's really a matter of preference and finding which way works best for you individually. I just caution against using it for anything more than just knowing when its an argument or not right away and for when its an arg you don't need to analyze for flaws (main point and role).

People give too much credit to switching to stem first for their prep progress. The progress is typically because you got better at analyzing everything from lots of practice and review and switched to stem first around the same time a lot of the LR big picture is really coming together since you also recently started doing full sections/full tests to move into final phase of prep after finishing all the basics of LR with drilling. That's the point in prep where almost everyone notices sudden improvement whether they switch to stem first or not.

tomwatts
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby tomwatts » Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:39 am

Jeffort, I agree with just about everything that you've said about the ways in which reading the stem first can be beneficial, but I draw the exact opposite conclusion: I think it's very helpful for precisely those reasons. Knowing whether I'm going to find an argument or just a set of facts — and, if an argument, whether I need to be hunting down flaws and assumptions as I go — helps me read faster and pick up on the relevant features of the structure without getting bogged down in stuff I don't care about for this question.

Also, to say that a technique can be harmful if you use it incorrectly is not much of a statement at all. Yes, if you're reading Strengthen arguments differently than you're reading Weaken arguments, then you're doing it wrong. Yes, if you read "most strongly supported" and think that there MUST be conditional statements to come, then you're doing it wrong. But as far as I know, no technique is dummy-proof. If you know what you're doing and why, this technique works well.

One of the oddest things that people say in defense of the "stimulus-first" technique is that by the time they've finished reading it, they often can predict what the question is going to be. That seems thoroughly useless.

Nor do I see why you would want to be prepared to answer any question about that argument, since, after all, there's only going to be one question about it. It seems to me that you would want to read the argument in just such a way as to be able to answer the question that they've asked, and not waste time on things that would only help you to answer questions that they didn't ask.

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Clearly
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Clearly » Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:54 am

it's an individual preference thing people. Plenty of people have 180'd both ways.

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Jeffort
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby Jeffort » Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:12 am

tomwatts wrote:Jeffort, I agree with just about everything that you've said about the ways in which reading the stem first can be beneficial, but I draw the exact opposite conclusion: I think it's very helpful for precisely those reasons. Knowing whether I'm going to find an argument or just a set of facts — and, if an argument, whether I need to be hunting down flaws and assumptions as I go — helps me read faster and pick up on the relevant features of the structure without getting bogged down in stuff I don't care about for this question.

Also, to say that a technique can be harmful if you use it incorrectly is not much of a statement at all. Yes, if you're reading Strengthen arguments differently than you're reading Weaken arguments, then you're doing it wrong. Yes, if you read "most strongly supported" and think that there MUST be conditional statements to come, then you're doing it wrong. But as far as I know, no technique is dummy-proof. If you know what you're doing and why, this technique works well.

One of the oddest things that people say in defense of the "stimulus-first" technique is that by the time they've finished reading it, they often can predict what the question is going to be. That seems thoroughly useless.

Nor do I see why you would want to be prepared to answer any question about that argument, since, after all, there's only going to be one question about it. It seems to me that you would want to read the argument in just such a way as to be able to answer the question that they've asked, and not waste time on things that would only help you to answer questions that they didn't ask.


I don't know why you wrote this as a rebuttal since you basically agree with me.

Reading the stem first to know facts vs. arg and whether to look for flaw/assumptions or not can be helpful, doing it for anything more specific/targeted than that on first read of the stimulus is dumb and a waste of time. Reading the stimulus before the stem has benefits too because you read and analyze initially with a completely open mind to the relationships presented in the stimulus. It can also play an important role in the early stages of prep while building LR foundation, learning how to identify components of arguments (namely, spotting conclusions when present), learning how to analyze arguments for flaws and assumptions, which is the #1 most important skill for the logical reasoning sections across most of the common question types, and getting in the habit of always reading arguments critically with a focus on flaws/assumptions/shifts-jumps in the reasoning pattern.

It's a matter of preference once you've got a good foundation and are ready to start practicing in section format to figure out which way works best in real time application for you personally under timed conditions.

This isn't really a matter of debate unless people want to treat the topic as something that only has one right answer rather than what it is, something with pros and cons and valid purposes for either option. This topic isn't about which additional specific/detailed deeper analysis strategies you can/should do for specific question types once you have a grasp of the stimulus, basic structure and the question type. It's just about your mindset when approaching the stimulus the very first time to get a basic handle on the material presented before trying to apply deeper, question type specific analysis strategies that can be more helpful for certain types than others.

The risk of reading the stem first is when people get the wrong idea about what 'knowing what to look for' means in practice (arg vs set of facts, that's it!) and over-analyze the stimulus in some particular focused way/try to multitask during first read instead of just focusing first on absorbing and identifying the basic pieces and overall structure before running in whatever direction of deeper analysis with it. Reading the stem first can cause some people trouble by being a distraction if it makes them try to multi-task the analysis during first read of the stimulus instead of just focusing on getting the basic topic and structure of the argument/stimulus down first. Only some people have this trouble and they usually figure out from experience that reading the stimulus first works better for them while others feel more comfortable with stem first.

Since it's subjective I think it's helpful for people to hear both perspectives and the pros/cons for each so they don't blindly follow a strategy that may not be best for them because an expert or a book said it was the right way. Many high performing people find the stimulus first method preferable, so saying stem first is objectively right/better or vice versa ignores reality.

jhudenbalger
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Re: PS LR - Stimulus First?

Postby jhudenbalger » Mon Jan 27, 2014 2:55 pm

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