LSAT Logical Reasoning Questions

Recently I read the Logical Reasoning Bible for a review that will appear soon, in a separate blog entry (spoiler alert- it is actually an extremely thorough, well constructed LSAT test prep book), but today I must talk about one aspect of the book that really made my blood boil.

The basic issue is how to properly read an LSAT Logical Reasoning question. 99.99% of all LSAT test prep books teach students to read the question stem first and then the stimulus, even though the stimulus actually appears first. The rationale is simple and compelling: if you know what type of question you are dealing with first (flaw, assumption, parallel reasoning, inference, etc.) then you will know what to look for while reading the stimulus. If you don’t know the question type before you read the stimulus then once you finally read the question, you will need to go back and reread the stimulus to arrive at an answer, wasting valuable time.

But according to the Logical Reasoning Bible, this method is all wrong. Bucking the advice of most others in the test prep community, the Logical Reasoning Bible counsels LSAT students to read the stimulus first. Maybe Powerscore is just being contrary for its own sake, trying to separate itself from the other companies. It can be difficult for test prep companies to distinguish themselves because ultimately the techniques are pretty much the same.

Whatever the motivation, the justifications Powerscore gives for tackling the question before actually reading the question are entirely unconvincing. For one thing, there is a danger that students might read the question stem twice. But the question stems tend to be a single sentence, so reading them twice is much less time consuming than reading the stimulus twice.

Another rationale is that the question stem might refer to information in the stimulus, which is supposedly confusing if the student hasn’t yet read the stimulus. For example, a question might say Senator Thompson uses what method to respond to Dr. Byrnes argument? or The Nuka Cola advertisement contains which of the following errors in logic?

But why should either question be confusing? Does it matter that the student doesn’t know who Senator Thompson or Dr. Byrnes are, or what the Nuka Cola advertisement is? The only relevant information is that the first question is a method of argument and the second question is a flaw question. With just a few hour of practice, any LSAT student should be able to easily identify the question type in the vast majority of questions stems. It is baffling that anybody could deny the usefulness in knowing in advance whether you should be looking for a flaw, or an inference, or a method of argument.

Imagine if the LSAT put the question stems first, in what most observers believe would be the more logical, natural order. Would Powerscore actually instruct students to skip over the question stem, and begin reading the stimulus so as not to be confused by the question? If so, most student would have no difficulty writing off such advice as absurd. The fact that in reality the LSAT puts the question after the stimulus does not make the skip the question advice any less ridiculous.

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