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April 1, 2022

Read the Passage First on Logical Reasoning

If your previous instructor, website, or book told you to read the question stem first on Logical Reasoning, you can safely disregard everything else they have to say. This advice is unhelpful at best and counterproductive at worst. 

Why You Shouldn’t Start with the Question Stem

Yes, question types are important (learn about Logical Reasoning question types here). But that doesn’t mean you should read them first. 

Starting with the question stem is a gimmicky would-be shortcut. Worse still, this strategy risks putting you in a weird, overly technical “LSAT mode” mindset. Forget that and focus on attacking the argument. It’s common sense. If you are an attorney and opposing counsel is making these claims, all of your mental energy is devoted to figuring out what’s wrong with their argument. This is the energy you need to bring to the LSAT. 

Most Logical Reasoning correct answers are completely predictable if you focus on understanding the passage rather than finding shortcuts. Until you’ve figured out how the passage works and/or what’s wrong with it, don’t worry about the question or the answer choices. Genuine understanding must come first, and that starts with the passage. 

There is no free lunch on the LSAT. 

A Very Topical Example

To understand this process, consider the following argument:

Ainsley wants to get the highest LSAT score she can. Therefore, she should read the question stem first

Without knowing what the question will ask you, take a moment to figure out (1) what the conclusion is, and (2) why that conclusion is flawed. Stop reading and engage with the passage above.

Done? Here are some initial thoughts you might’ve had to this argument:

  • Okay, the argument is trying to prove that Ainsley should start with the question stem. Why? Because she wants a high LSAT score. 
  • But the passage gives no evidence that reading the question stem first will improve Ainsley’s LSAT score!
  • It also hasn’t proven that reading the question stem first is necessary for her to get her best LSAT score. 
  • TL;DR: This argument is flawed. It would need a missing assumption (that reading the question stem first will give Ainsley the best shot at getting her best possible LSAT score) in order to prove its conclusion. 

The question might ask you to prove the argument with a sufficient assumption. It might ask you to point out one of the argument’s flaws. It might ask you about the argument’s conclusion. No matter what it asks, you’ll be prepared, because you’ve already taken the time to understand the passage, its structure, and its flaws. 

Question Types Matter, but That’s a Secondary Concern

Obviously, it’s important to know whether you’re doing a Strengthen question or a Weaken question when you’re picking the answer. But until you know what’s wrong with the argument, how can you possibly strengthen or weaken it? It’s a distracting waste of time to read the question first. 

Instead, attack the argument. Then read the question to figure out which team you’re playing for.

Ready to put this to work? Head over to LSAT Demon to make an account and start drilling Logical Reasoning right now.