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Critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) practice questions

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- [Voiceover] 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 passage is "Seeing Color Through Homer's Eyes." I'm going to read through the passage first. When I notice important sentences or signal words, I'll let you know that I'm highlighting them. Let's read the passage. "For someone used to contemporary academic writing, reading the chapter on color in William Gladstone's "Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age in 1858," comes as rather a shock, the shock of meeting an extraordinary mind. It is therefore all the more startling that Gladstone's 19th century tour de force comes to such a strange conclusion. Homer and his contemporaries perceived the world in something closer to black and white than to full technicolor." Hm, okay, so because the title of this passage is "Seeing Color Through Homer's Eyes," I'm going to guess that the last sentence is the topic sentence for this essay. And I'm hoping that the author's gonna tell us more about this strange conclusion. So for now, I'm gonna highlight that conclusion. Now let's go back to the passage. "No one would deny that there is a wide gulf between Homer's world and ours. In the millenia that separate us, empires have risen and fallen, religions and ideologies have come and gone, and science and technology have transformed our intellectual horizons in almost every aspect of daily life beyond all recognition. Surely one aspect that must have remained exactly the same since Homer's day, even since time in memorial, would be the rich colors of nature. The blue of sky and sea, the glowing red of dawn, the green of fresh leaves." Okay, so in this paragraph, the author tells us about a couple of reasons why things may have changed since Homer's time. But the last sentence proposes the assumption that colors in nature were exactly the same. This seems like a pretty important assumption, so I'm going to highlight it. Now let's go back to the passage. "Gladstone says things are not the same for many reasons, one, Homer uses the same word to denote colors, which according to us, are essentially different. For example, he describes as violet the sea, sheep, and iron. Two, Homer's similes are so rich with sensible imagery, we expect to find color a frequent and prominent ingredient, and yet his poppies have never so much as a hint of scarlet. Three, Gladstone notes, Homer uses black about 170 times, white 100 times, red 13, yellow 10, violet six times, and the other colors even less often. Four, Homer's color vocabulary is astonishingly small. There doesn't seem to be anything equivalent to our orange or pink in Homer's color palette. Most striking is the lack of any word that could be taken to mean blue." So the first sentence in this paragraph is in direct response to the important assumption stated at the end of the third paragraph. The end of the last paragraph said, "surely the colors of nature have remained the same." Whereas the start of this paragraph says Gladstone says things are not the same. That seems pretty important, so I'm highlighting that point. Then what follows are Gladstone's many reasons, the evidence for this suggestion comes from Gladstone's analysis of Homer's language. These many reasons are even numbered for us. Okay, now I'm gonna continue reading to see what comes next. "What is more, Gladstone proves that the oddities in Homer's 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' could not have stemmed from any problems peculiar to Homer. Violet colored hair was used by Pindar in his poems. Gladstone is well aware of the utter weirdness of his thesis. Nothing less than universal colorblindness among the ancient Greeks. So he tries to make it more palatable by evoking an evolutionary explanation for how sensitivity to colors could have increased over the generations. The perception of color, he says, seems natural to us only because humankind as a whole has undergone a progressive education of the eye over the last millenia. The eye's ability to perceive and appreciate differences in color, he suggests, can improve with practice and these acquired improvements are then passed on to offspring." In these paragraphs, the author clarifies that Gladstone's thesis is not really about something peculiar to Homer, but something common to all ancient Greeks. He gives an example from Pindar to make his point. Then he gives Gladstone's explanation that the perception of color required practice and evolution. Both of these seem like important points, so I'll highlight both the first and last sentence of the fifth paragraph. Now let's go back to the passage. "But why, one may well ask, should this progressive refinement of color vision not have started much earlier than the Homeric period? Gladstone's theory is that the appreciation of color as a property independent of a particular material develops only with the capacity to manipulate colors artificially. And that capacity, he notes, barely existed in Homer's day. The art of dying was in its infancy. Cultivation of flowers was not practiced, and almost all of the brightly colored objects we take for granted were entirely absent. Other than the ocean, people in Homer's day may have gone through life without ever setting their eyes on a single blue object. Blue eyes, Gladstone explains, were in short supply. Blue dyes, which are very difficult to manufacture, were practically unknown. And natural flowers that are truly blue are rare." So this paragraph gives us another part of Gladstone's theory that the refinement of color perception did not become important until people had developed the ability to manipulate color through dying. I'm highlighting the sentence about that point. Now let's finish the passage. "Gladstone's analysis was brilliant, but completely off course. Indeed, philologists, anthropologists, and even natural scientists would need decades to free themselves from the error of underestimating the power of culture. Adopted from G. Deutscher, "Through the Language Glass Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, copyright 2010, Metropolitan Books." So the final section gives you the author's perspective on Gladstone's theory, namely, it seems he does not believe it, as suggested by the phrase, "completely off course." I'll highlight that phrase in case a question asks me about the author's perspective. The final sentence also gives more detail on how the author thinks Gladstone's theory is wrong, but then the passage ends without providing an argument supporting an alternative view. Now let's look at the first question. It can be inferred from the passage that the author believes which of the following about contemporary academic writing? A) Academic papers are typically not especially brilliant. B) Academics seldom address color perception in their papers. C) Academics often reach very strange conclusions in their papers. D) Academic papers are usually outdated soon after they are written. This question is asking us to summarize or paraphrase the author's view of contemporary academic writing. Because it's asking you to summarize or paraphrase a point or idea from the passage, this is a foundations of comprehension question. Skimming the passage, we can see that the author mentions contemporary academic writing in the first sentence. The author begins the passage by saying that, "for someone used to contemporary academic writing, reading the chapter on color in William Gladstone's "Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age in 1858," comes as rather a shock, the shock of meeting an extraordinary mind." If someone used to reading contemporary academic writing is shocked at reading something extraordinary, then the implication is that academic papers are not typically especially brilliant. This is consistent with option A, however, before we select that answer, let's just check that none of the other answers are better. The passage does not discuss the popularity of color perception as a topic in contemporary academic writing, so it does not appear that option B is a good answer, and we can strike through that. The author does refer to the conclusion that Gladstone reaches as being strange, but does not suggest that this is true for many papers or that this happens often, so it does not seem that option C is a good answer, and we can rule that one out too. Finally, the author does not discuss the idea that papers become quickly outdated anywhere in the passage. And in fact, the last sentence suggests that Gladstone's ideas, even though incorrect, had a strong influence on other academics for decades. So we can rule out option D too. Option A is the best summary of the author's beliefs about contemporary academic writing. Question two, it has been suggested that "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" were a patchwork of a great number of popular ballads woven together from different poets, rather than a single work by a poet named Homer. If true, how would this affect the opinions expressed in the passage? A) It would strengthen Gladstone's basic thesis. B) It would weaken Gladstone's basic thesis. C) It would require a modification of Gladstone's basic thesis. D) It would not affect Gladstone's basic thesis. The last sentence in the question stem starts with "if true," which tells you that you're being asked to think about an imaginary or hypothetical situation. This means this is a reasoning beyond the text question where you need to extrapolate the ideas in the passage to a new situation or assess how the new information would impact the arguments presented in the passage. So first we need to remember what Gladstone's main thesis was. We can return to the sentence we highlighted at the start of the fifth paragraph that states that Gladstone's thesis was "nothing less than universal colorblindness among the ancient Greeks." If "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" were actually works composed by a great number of writers, then it would help to show that both Homer and other ancient Greeks used a restricted range of colors in their writings, rather than just a single individual like Homer or two individuals like Homer and Pindar. Thus, this would greatly strengthen Gladstone's basic thesis because it would suggest that colorblindness was not just peculiar to Homer, but was more universal. This reasoning supports option A, and is inconsistent with all of the other options. If the new information strengthens Gladstone's main thesis, then it would affect it, and would not weaken it, nor would it require it to be modified. Only if Gladstone were making an argument specific to Homer would the new information weaken his thesis. Thus, none of the other options are correct. Question three, Gladstone would predict which of the following about the children of an interior decorator, who easily distinguishes among scarlet, burgundy, and fuchsia? A) The children would be able to easily distinguish various versions of red. B) The children would be drawn more to objects in various versions of red than to those of any other color. C) The children would seldom bother mentioning what are to them obvious differences among various versions of red. D) The children would need practice distinguishing among various versions of red for years before achieving proficiency. In this question we are given a new situation not mentioned in the text, and are asked to make a prediction about it. Because we're given a new situation, this is a reasoning beyond the text question. To answer it, you need to either apply or extrapolate the ideas in the passage to the new situation. This question is asking us to make a prediction about color perception. Skimping back over the passage, this question seems most related to the sections where the author unpacked Gladstone's explanation of why the Greeks may have been colorblind but people today are not. In the sentence we highlighted at the end of the fifth paragraph, the author says that Gladstone suggests that the eye's ability to perceive and appreciate differences in color can improve with practice. And these acquired improvements are then passed on to offspring. So this idea suggests that the children of an interior decorator would be similarly able to distinguish various versions of red, which is consistent with option A. Before we select that as the best option, let's check out the other responses. The passage doesn't seem to talk about preferences for colors or attraction to colors at all. So there doesn't seem to be support for the prediction that these children would be attracted to objects of a certain color, which rules out option B. In addition, there's no suggestion that if you have the ability to distinguish among colors, that you wouldn't mention the differences that you see. In fact, the opposite is likely to be true based on Gladstone's analysis. He equates the use of color names with the limited perception of colors. So we can rule out option C. Although Gladstone's theory does suggest that improvements can be acquired through training, he also suggests that these improvements can be passed on to offspring. The theory doesn't suggest that children who inherit these improvements would also need to practice, so option D is not a prediction that follows directly from the text. Option A is the prediction that best follows from the passage. Question four, Homer's sky is starry or broad or great or iron or violet, but it is never blue, how does this affect the opinions expressed in the passage? Option one, it supports Gladstone's claim regarding Homer's use of color. Option two, it extends Gladstone's claim regarding Homer's focus on nature. Option three, it challenges Gladstone's claim regarding Homer's penchant for strange imagery. In this question, you're given new information beyond what is given in the passage. This means this is a reasoning beyond the text question, where you need to assess how the new information would impact the ideas presented in the passage. To evaluate the first statement, it supports Gladstone's claim regarding Homer's use of color. We need to remind ourselves of Gladstone's claim. Gladstone's thesis is that Homer's failure to use color was due to "nothing less than universal colorblindness among the ancient Greeks." The new information in this passage is telling us that Homer never uses the word blue to describe the sky. Later in the passage, there are a number of sentences discussing the color blue. "Other than the ocean, people in Homer's day may have gone through life without ever setting their eyes on a single blue object. Blue eyes, Gladstone explains, were in short supply. Blue dyes, which are very difficult to manufacture, were practically unknown and natural flowers that are truly blue are rare. The new fact that Homer never uses blue to describe the sky seems consistent with both this discussion of the color blue as well as the main thesis about the Greeks. So statement one is a good option. The new information supports Gladstone's claims about Homer's use of color. Statement two asks you whether the new information extends Gladstone's claim about Homer's focus on nature. Looking back through the passage, there's no direct discussion about Homer focusing on nature. The passage does give some examples of Homer writing about things in nature, and you could argue that Gladstone's claim is that although Homer is trying to describe nature, he fails to mention most colors when he does. Thus, failing to mention blue when describing the sky could be seen as consistent with the way Gladstone portrays Homer as describing nature. However, since Gladstone does not actually make a claim about nature being the focus of Homer's writing, statement two is not as defensible as a good answer as statement one. Statement three asks you whether the new information challenges Gladstone's claim that Homer's similes are rich with strange imagery. Looking through the passage, we see that Gladstone referred to Homer's writing as being rich with sensible imagery, not strange imagery. Since Gladstone does not make this claim, the new information cannot support it and statement three is not a good response. In these types of questions which have both statements indicated by Roman numerals and response options indicated by letters, remember to complete the final step of deciding among the response options. In this case, our four options are A, statement one only, B, statement two only, C, statements one and three, D, statements two and three. Statement one is clearly correct. While a weaker argument could be made for statement two, but there's no answer option that includes both statements one and two. Thus, we should select option A.