Foundations of Comprehension: Definition and Basic Components

by Lincoln Smith

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    00:00 Now that you have a basic idea for what the CARS section entails, we're going to discuss the first of three major question types you can expect to see on the section of the MCAT.

    00:12 These sequentially build up upon one another, so I suggest watching them in order.

    00:17 These will also beginning progressively shorter because the information used in the earlier videos can be reused in the understanding of the other question types.

    00:26 We've established that you're not going to be familiar with every single topic that you see on the CARS section.

    00:34 For the first question type, we'll discuss foundations of comprehension questions, you just need to know three things per the official content guide.

    00:42 Can you understand how authors explain their points of view? Can you interpret illustrated examples that author use? And can you work with definitions from immediate context? CARS questions begin by testing you on the function, the purpose, the meaning of the passage.

    01:04 Questions themselves guide you through a process to help you figure out what that is.

    01:10 Every once in a while a question will even go so far as we've stated as to directly ask you the overall purpose of the passage.

    01:18 We'll call those for our sake, direct main idea questions.

    01:23 Now, in the ancient and modern Near East, buildings are designed to be naturally ventilated, without the use of air conditioning or electricity.

    01:34 You don't need to be an architect to infer the purpose of this building.

    01:39 And so it goes with CARS passages.

    01:43 Now, all of these descriptions about the CARS section aren't going to help you out a whole lot if you're not very mentally present with a passage.

    01:52 After you've read a passage, ask yourself if you can infer its overall purpose and function.

    01:58 Just like you might look at that building and infer its overall purpose and function.

    02:03 You will be rewarded handsomely.

    02:05 Three to four direct main idea questions can be expected across a given CARS administration.

    02:11 May not seem like a lot, but it will add up.

    02:16 Direct main idea questions will have questions stems with phrases such as thesis, big picture, overall purpose, or yes, main idea.

    02:28 Other questions will ask you to evaluate an individual component of the text in the context of that main idea.

    02:35 Let's continue to imagine the cars passage as a building that this case has a gymnasium.

    02:41 First, let's just ask ourselves a question.

    02:44 What purpose do the rafters serve in a gymnasium? At a superficial glance, this just creates a higher ceiling.

    02:52 But we could think a little bit deeper, right? We could think about space for stands, for spectators to sit, additional roof space for ventilation, and so on and so forth.

    03:03 The big idea here is that once you understand the purpose for which the CARS passage was constructed, you can continue to infer meaning from individual components in the same way.

    03:14 Let's then call this type of question context questions.

    03:19 These are questions that branch off the main idea and asked you to infer the purpose for individual components of a text.

    03:26 You can be clued into the fact you'll be getting one of these question types when the question stem contains one of the following phrases: "In the context of the author's viewpoints," "due to the passages central conclusion," or even simply "based on the passage, how should component X be viewed?" When answering these question types, always keep the main idea in mind.

    03:50 The answer most questions on the CARS section in fact, as we've stated, you want a solid grasp of the main idea.

    03:57 Don't think you can nail it on the first pass.

    03:59 Don't be afraid to answer a question or two as you figure out the main idea rather than labeling it incorrectly.

    04:06 Just make sure you refine and update your mental blueprint for what the main purpose of the passages as you progress through a question set.

    04:15 We can basically identify the main idea from either a top down approach or build it up from its constituent elements with a bottom up approach.

    04:24 Let's start with a top down approach.

    04:28 Since CARS passages are written by these real live breathing people, indeed for human readers with limited attention spans, we can expect them to have an overall flow to keep them engaging.

    04:42 While the introductory paragraph tendency to introduce important ideas that will be discussed further, the author rarely reveals his or her entire hand right away.

    04:52 The overall purpose will take some time to be revealed, and indeed is often saved for the final paragraph.

    05:00 As such, a common CARS motif is when the author introduces an idea in the first paragraph that presents a viewpoint, which is not the author's own.

    05:10 Don't be surprised when in the second or subsequent paragraphs, the author goes on to contradict the viewpoint introduced in the first paragraph.

    05:20 Indeed, entire paragraphs in the middle of the passage are dedicated to those counter arguments.

    05:27 This just layers in an ebb and a flow to CARS passages.

    05:32 Think of introduction of alternate viewpoints as a simulated conversation between the author and those with whom the author disagrees.

    05:42 Now, the bottom up approach to identifying the main idea is as follows: We want to look for certain core aspects that we expect to be common in all academic writing.

    05:53 Because remember, these passages are pulled from actual academic journals.

    05:58 Now, there's going to be some overlap with a top down approach here.

    06:02 So I'm not going to spend too much time defining each of these just right now.

    06:06 But the key components that construct academic prose are the following: thesis, support points, counter arguments, and digressions.

    06:16 Which you might want to do is write these down, research a little bit more about them on your own, if nothing else, just for your own academic writing, and then start to kind of internalize these formal definitions as they're going to be expected to show up across a majority of CARS passages.

    06:33 The bottom up approach separates that carefully sustained train of thought which defines the author's own point of view, away from viewpoints presented from other individuals, or even the author's own digressions on unimportant points.

    06:48 Remember, the author is writing this journal article, book or magazine excerpt for a reason.

    06:54 You as the test taker must identify that original purpose why the source material came into existence.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Foundations of Comprehension: Definition and Basic Components by Lincoln Smith is from the course CARS Theoretical Foundations.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Mostly about
    2. Were shown
    3. Showcasing that
    4. Style and not artifice
    1. What purpose do the rafters of the gymnasium serve?
    2. What is the purpose for which the gymnasium was built?
    3. If the gymnasium were to be replaced, what would be a better building to replace it with?
    4. Why do gymnasiums host sporting events?
    1. Counterarguments
    2. Thesis
    3. Rhetorical devices
    4. Support points
    5. Circular reasoning

    Author of lecture Foundations of Comprehension: Definition and Basic Components

     Lincoln Smith

    Lincoln Smith

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