On Logical Reasoning, Read the Passage First

Demon Team

Demon Team

Apr 15, 2021

If a 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

Sure, question types are important (learn about Logical Reasoning question types here and 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, using common sense. If you were an attorney and opposing counsel were making some bogus claims, all your mental energy would be devoted to figuring out what’s wrong with their argument. Bring this mindset and energy to the LSAT.

If you focus on understanding the passage rather than finding shortcuts, many correct answers on Logical Reasoning are predictable. 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 of the passage must come first.

There is no free lunch on the LSAT.

A 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. Before reading further, stop and engage with the passage above.

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

  • 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 facilitate Ainsley’s LSAT score improving!

  • It also hasn’t proven that reading the question stem first is necessary for her to get her best LSAT score. Confused about what “necessary” means? Check this out. 

The question might ask you to prove the conclusion with a sufficient assumption. It might ask you to describe 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

Of course, it’s important to know whether you’re answering a Strengthen question or a Weaken question when you’re evaluating answer choices. 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 strategy to work? Start drilling Logical Reasoning right now. 

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