What is CARS?

by Lincoln Smith

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    00:01 Hello, my name is Lincoln Smith.

    00:04 I design MCAT courses for a living.

    00:07 And I also happen to be a 99th percentile scorer on the critical analysis and reasoning skills section of the MCAT.

    00:15 We tend to abbreviate that phrase into the acronym CARS.

    00:20 We're going to discuss what makes this section unique, and what types of passages you can expect.

    00:26 These passages will be extracted from real world journal articles, books and magazine articles that the exam writers expect undergraduate students to be reading already.

    00:39 As such, you'll want to imagine these CARS authors as real live human beings.

    00:46 Try to identify their interests, inclinations, needs.

    00:51 Imagine, is this a professor with a tweed brown suit, smoking a pipe, musing about armchair philosophy? Is this a raging social justice warrior trying to persuade the audience to change their viewpoint? Is this just an artist appreciating a topic for its own sake? These are all things that can move you beyond simple words on a piece of paper into a rich real world excerpt from literature.

    01:19 Having stated that the basis for a CARS passage is this longer journal article, magazine article or book, we take a 500 to 600 word excerpt of that for the exam itself.

    01:33 All of the information necessary to answer every CARS question is present in the passage itself, or the context of the question and answer choices you are presented with.

    01:45 We might nonetheless ask ourselves, how could we improve our critical reading of CARS passages with the strategic use of outside reading? At this point in your academic career, the MCAT test writers want to know that you are broadly engaged in society and the events that have shaped namely history.

    02:07 As such, some passages will be societal in nature.

    02:11 They will focus on theories, observations and trends within society.

    02:17 Other CARS passages will be historical in nature.

    02:21 They will present you with basic historical accounts, and ask you what caused society to come to be what it is.

    02:29 Now, to get our language straight.

    02:31 Passages rooted in history are known as social science passages.

    02:38 Those rooted in society are known as humanities passages.

    02:43 Social science passages are more factual and scientific in nature.

    02:48 If you are given a CARS passage that discusses anthropology, archaeology, economics, education, geography, history, obviously, linguistics, political science, population health, psychology, or sociology, it is a social science passage.

    03:08 These topics are amenable to demanding that the findings are backed up by reproducible evidence.

    03:16 Humanities passages, on the other hand, are more conversational and opinionated in style.

    03:22 They are less likely to set out to establish fundamental facts as they are to explore relationships between ideas.

    03:30 If you're given a CARS passage that discusses architecture, art, dance, ethics, literature, music, philosophy, popular culture, religion, or theater, it is likely a humanities passage.

    03:48 Regardless of whether this is a humanities passage or a social sciences passage, a CARS passage will be structured to have viewpoints of the author presented as well as counter arguments from outside sources.

    04:02 A good author is going to place every single of these constituent components to build up to the main point.

    04:10 In literature, this is known as Chekhov's gun, or that every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable and that everything else be removed.

    04:24 Certain CARS questions, therefore, will ask you to synthesize seemingly disconnected passage elements and relate them to one another.

    04:33 These question types would be like asking you to examine a Lego structure, but then to reconstruct a miniature structure with a different function using the specified subset of the original.

    04:45 Some CARS questions will even so obscure the usage of a passage element that it would be unrecognizable strictly based on the passage context itself.

    04:55 These are known as reasoning beyond the text questions, and constitute a little over a third of CARS questions.

    05:02 Recognize that reasoning behind the text questions not only asked you to be comfortable using the passage elements differently than intended, but also provide outside context and ask you to relate those passage elements to this new context or vice versa.

    05:18 Thus, while no outside reading is required for CARS, you do need to be comfortable working with context foreign to the passage itself as introduced by a CARS question stem and answer choice set.

    05:34 Having completed this introductory lecture, you should be able to step into the shoes of CARS author as a real live breathing human being.

    05:43 You should be able to delineate the topics you're going to expect on the CAR section, and also engage in outside reading on your own on these topics.

    05:53 Lastly, you should be able to read CARS passages as a cohesive whole, recognizing that every constituent part makes sense with respect to this whole and the other parts themselves.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture What is CARS? by Lincoln Smith is from the course CARS Theoretical Foundations.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. 500–600
    2. 200–300
    3. 800–900
    4. 1,000–1,100
    1. Architecture
    2. Ethics
    3. Philosophy
    4. Archaeology
    5. Linguistics

    Author of lecture What is CARS?

     Lincoln Smith

    Lincoln Smith

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