This is an issue that comes up quite commonly with students; some have a favorite question type, and prefer to attack those first in a given section; others note the potential advantage of knowing what to look for before even beginning to read the stimulus. Below are three reasons that I suggest NOT reading the question first, but instead attacking each logical reasoning question in this order: Stimulus, Question, Answer Choices.
- “Seeing the question tells me what to look for, which provides valuable insight and can save time.” Students sometimes note that when they see a Flaw question, for example, they know to be looking for the flawed argument, or when they see a Main Point question, they know to look for the main point. But the truth of the matter is that whenever you attack any logical reasoning stimulus, you should be focused on finding the main point and assessing the argumentation.
- “I heard that reading the question first was supposed to be more efficient.” As for saving time, those who employ this strategy invariably go through a process of (at least) three steps before they have begun to prephrase or assess the answer choices: 1) Read question; 2) Read Stimulus; and 3) Re-read question! (If you are a fan of reading the question first, see for yourself whether this is true). This is not really a time-saver.
- “ I don’t attack the section’s questions in order, and I like to choose my favorite question types first.” The LSAT gives you the opportunity to do a section’s questions in whatever order you choose, so I’m in favor of skipping the tough ones and attacking your favorites first, but question-type should not be the primary basis of such decisions. The test makers can attach a very difficult stimulus to even your favorite question type, so doing your favorite question types first isn’t always beneficial. If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a stimulus that you are completely comfortable with, you will probably be able to answer whatever question might follow.
Some have such a strong preference for reading the question first that they are either unwilling or unable to change their approach; in such cases, perhaps, change might not be advisable as the potential gains might not justify the stress—I wouldn’t, for example, suggest implementing such a change in approach a week before the test—but for those of you preparing for the upcoming LSAT, there is still time!
Questions? Comments? Post them below!