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Critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) practice questions

Video transcript

the purpose of this video is to show you how I approach reading and answering questions on an example critical analysis and reasoning skills passage the name of this example passage is the happy American I'm going to read through the passage first and after each major section the passage I'll think about what words or sentences seem important to me I'll let you know when I'm highlighting words or sentences let's start reading this passage now Americans are a positive people this is their reputation as well as their self-image in the well-worn stereotype they are upbeat cheerful and optimistic who would be churlish enough to challenge these happy features of the American personality take the business of positive effect which refers to the mood they display to others through their smiles their greetings their professions of confidence and optimism scientists have found that the mere act of smiling can generate positive feelings within us at least if the smile is not forced in addition recent studies show that happy feelings flit easily through social networks so that one person's good fortune can brighten the day even for only distantly connected others furthermore psychologists agree that positive feelings can actually lengthen our lives and improve our health people who report having positive feelings are more likely to participate in a rich social life and social connectedness turns out to be an important defense against depression which is a known risk for many physical illnesses ok so the gist of this first part seems to be that the author is describing Americans as positive people and the author also gives several reasons why being positive is a good thing I'm going to just highlight the first two sentences since they seem to capture the main point that Americans seem to be seen as positive now let's go back to the passage it is a sign of progress than that economists have begun to show an interest in using happiness rather than just the gross national product as a measure of an economy's success happiness is of course a slippery thing to measure or define philosophers have debated what it is for centuries and even if they were to define it simply as greater frequency of positive feelings the negative ones when they ask people if they are happy they are asking them to arrive at some sort of average over many moods and moments so in this passage the author shifts from talking about positive feelings to talking about happiness the author also notes that happiness is hard to measure and define so I'm going to highlight that first sentence that shows that the passage moves to talking about happiness but also that second sentence saying that happiness is hard to measure and define those seem like the author's main points for this second part now let's go back to the passage again surprisingly when psychologists measure the relative happiness of Nations they routinely find that Americans are not even in prosperous times and despite their vaunted positivity very happy at all a recent meta-analysis of over a hundred studies of self-reported happiness worldwide found Americans ranking only 23rd Americans account for two-thirds of the global market for antidepressants which happen also to be the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States so this paragraph introduces an interesting wrinkle in the author's argument now we hear there's reason to think that Americans may not actually be very happy the author recognizes that this seems in conflict with the general perception of them as positive and the phrase right there wanted positivity they are not very happy at all shows that the author seems to be aware of this conflict so I'm going to go back and highlight that first sentence because it seems pretty important for the author's argument now let's go back to the passage how can Americans be so surpassingly positive in self-image and stereotype without being the world happiness and best off people the answer is that positivity is not so much their condition as it is part of their ideology the way they explain the world and think they ought to function within it that ideology is positive thinking by which they usually mean two things one is the generic content of positive thinking that is the positive thought itself which can be summarized as things are pretty good right now at least if you are willing to see silver linings and make lemonade out of lemons etc and things are going to get a whole lot better the second thing they mean by positive thinking is this practice of trying to think in a positive way there is they are told a practical reason for undertaking this effort positive thinking supposedly not only makes us feel optimistic but actually makes happy outcomes more likely how can the mere process of thinking do this in the rational explanation that many psychologists would offer today optimism improves health personal efficacy confidence and resilience making it easier for us to accomplish our goals a far less rational Theory also runs rampant in American ideology the idea that our thoughts can in some mysterious way directly affect the physical world negative thoughts somehow produce negative outcomes while positive realize themselves in the form of health prosperity and success for both rational and mystical reasons then the effort of positive thinking is said to be well worth our time and attention so in this final section the author uses a problem solution or a question answer text structure to present us with both a question about the perceived conflict that's foreshadowed in the earlier section and also a possible response both the question in the response seem like important points to highlight in addition notice that the author signals to you that there are two parts to the answer I'm highlighting these signals also in particular the phrases two things one and the second thing finally in the second part of the answer the author asks how positive thinking makes happy outcomes more likely and then offers two explanations the author signals their own opinion about these two explanations by labeling one as rational and the other as far less rational I'm highlighting these signals in case I need them later finally we see that this excerpt has been adapted from B Ehrenreich bright sided copyright 2009 by metropolitan books now let's look at the first question according to the passage positive feelings are a universal be hereditary see contagious D ephemeral the first option suggests positive feelings are universal so we should put through the passage for some evidence that everyone experiences positive feelings however what we find is that there's variability in the amount of positive feelings that people report so the passage does not seem to support the idea that positive feelings are universal so we can strike through that answer the second option suggests that positive feelings might be hereditary however the passage does not discuss the idea that positive feelings are either inherited or genetic in their basis so it doesn't seem that heredity is going to be a good answer either and we can strike through option B the third option we need to explore is whether positive feelings might be contagious in the passage we're looking for some indication that positive feelings might transfer to others in the second paragraph we see the suggestion that positive effect can affect members of a group happy feelings flit easily through social networks so that one person's good fortune can brighten the day even for only distantly connected others this sentence suggests transfer or a spread of positive feelings from one individual to other individuals and that means that positive feelings can be seen as contagious which is consistent with option C although it seems option C is a good answer let's just check whether the fourth option might be better the fourth option is that positive feelings are ephemeral ephemeral means short-lived or temporary looking at the parts of the text where the author discusses positive feelings which is mainly in the second paragraph there is no clear implication that positive feelings are short-lived there is an implicit indication that moods may vary by the moment at the end of paragraph 3 and if positive feelings can change based merely on smiling and other people's feelings as stated in paragraph 2 then that might suggest that they are not highly stable however this inference is indirect and requires extra assumptions by the reader so ephemeral is not as good of an answer as contagious which directly captures a quite made more explicitly in the passage because this question is asking you to identify an accurate paraphrase or an accurate summary of an idea stated in the text this is a foundations a comprehension question an option C seems to be the best paraphrase of an idea from the text now let's try the second question suppose that economists do start using happiness instead of the gross national product as a measure of an economy's success information presented in the passage would predict which of the following statement 1 the transition will be fraught with difficulty statement 2 the gross national product of the United States will appear to decrease statement 3 the economy of the United States will be seen as relatively less successful than today's this question begins with the word suppose that's a good clue that it's a reasoning beyond the text question asking you to assess how the new information given to you in the question will impact the ideas presented in the passage the question asks you to imagine that economists do start to use happiness as a measure of the economy as suggested in the third paragraph of the passage then you're given three possible predictions to evaluate the first prediction is that the transition will be fraught with difficulty so you should look through the passage to see if there's anything that suggests that switching to happiness as a measure might be difficult right after the author first mentions using happiness as a measure in addition to the gross national product the next sentence says happiness is of course a slippery thing to measure or define this implies that the transition to this metric will be difficult so there is support for the first prediction the second prediction is that the gross national product of the United States will appear to decrease using happiness as a measure of success instead of the gross national product doesn't suggest that anything would happen to the gross national product the passage presents these as two separate metrics that might be used to evaluate economic success so it doesn't appear that there's support for the second prediction the third prediction is that the economy of the United States will be seen as relatively less successful than today's at first this prediction seems consistent with the suggestion that the u.s. might be seen as unsuccessful if economists switch to using a happiness measure for example in paragraph four the author notes that when national happiness has been measured and compared to other countries the US has not ranked particularly well in fact Americans rank only 23rd the author also brings up the widespread use of antidepressants however the prediction is that the US economy would be seen as less successful using happiness and using the current standard and the current standard is just based in the gross national product so to know if the US economy would be seen as less successful we would need to know where the US is ranked using just the gross national product you are being asked what the passage itself predicts thus you should not use any outside knowledge such as that the u.s. ranks near the top in GNP they answer the question since there's no explicit mention of the US economy being ranked higher than 23rd in the passage there is no support in the passage for the third prediction thus the only prediction that's supported by the passage is the first one and these types of questions which have both statements into kaida by roman numerals and response options indicated by letters remember to complete the final step of deciding among the response options now let's try question 3 what best represents the author's explanation for why Americans can be so surpassingly positive in self-image and stereotype without being the world's happiest and best off people a Americans positivity is not a true reflection of their effect B being well-off is not the same as being happy C stereotypes tend to be unwarranted generalizations D Americans tend to have high rates of depression because this question is asking you to recognize and accurate paraphrase or summary of an idea stated in the text this is a foundations of comprehension question here we can see the quoted text is part of a sentence we marked at the start of the fifth paragraph following this first sentence the author then provides us with an explanation that we need to summarize in the second sentence the author explicitly states positivity is not so much their condition as it is part of their ideology by this statement the author is saying that positivity is not a true reflection of their condition so this is consistent with option a before we decide that option a is the best answer we need to look at the other options option B implies that the author discusses the difference between being well-off and being happy but the author never does this so it doesn't appear there support in the passage for option B and we can strike through that option C states that stereotypes tend to be unwarranted generalizations which suggest that most stereotypes can be seen in this way the question itself tells you that the stereotype Americans does not seem to match reality but the author doesn't argue that most stereotypes are unwarranted generalizations so it does not appear that option C is a good answer turning the option D the passage does discuss high rates of the use of antidepressants in the u.s. in paragraph four but the purpose of including this information is to provide evidence for a lack of happiness among Americans not as part of an explanation for how Americans can be so surpassingly positive and self-image and stereotype without being the world's happiest and best off people so it doesn't appear that option D is a good answer either and we can strike through that one option a best captures the author's message in response to the question