I make the point in our books and courses that you ultimately have to go with what feels right. So, while we advise against as a general
strategy, it's ok for some people
That said, there are multiple very good reasons to read the stimulus first:
- 1. Understanding the stimulus is the key to answering any question,
and reading the question stem first tends to undermine your ability
to fully absorb and comprehend the information in the stimulus.
2. Reading the question stem first often wastes valuable time because the
typical student will read the stem, then read the stimulus, and then read
the stem again.
3. Some question stems refer to information given in the stimulus, or add
new conditions to the stimulus information. Thus, reading the stem
first is of little value and often confuses or distracts the student when
he or she goes to read the stimulus.
4. On the rare occasion you encounter a stimuli with two questions
(more on the frequency of these questions here), reading one stem
biases the reader to look for that specific information, possibly causing
problems while doing the second question, and reading both stems
before reading the stimulus wastes entirely too much time and leads to
5. For truly knowledgeable test takers there are many situations that
arise where the question stem is fairly predictable.
6. Finally, one of the main principles underlying the read-the-question-stem-
first approach is flawed. Many advocates of the approach
claim that it helps the test taker avoid the “harder” questions, such
as Parallel Reasoning or Method of Reasoning. However, test data
show that questions of any type can be hard or easy.
We've also discussed this on our podcast in some detail, I think in an early mailbag episode but I don't recall exactly off the top of my head!