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It is written in the problem whether or not the step is slow or not. If a step is slow you can assume there is a high activation energy, or the forward reaction is not spontaneous and therefore the reverse reaction does not occur for a slow step.
I'm not sure if early or later steps are more common but I've seen more problems with the later step being the slower reaction rate which would create a "bottle neck" or a back up in intermediate reactants
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