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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'd approach reading and answering questions on an example Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills passage. The name of this passage is The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. I'm gonna read through the passage first. When I notice important sentences or signal words, I'll let you know that I'm highlighting them. Here's the passage. "Although business people deserve more respect for their honesty than they receive, a common complain is that they take advantage of consumers through dishonest advertising. Instead of providing useful information for making rational choices, Advertisements often appeal to consumer's emotions, to persuade them to buy products regardless of need. This complaint is true and obvious to all but the most naive people. Advertisements are designed to convince consumers to favor one product over others, and presenting solely unbiased and unemotional information would seldom be the best way to accomplish this goal. Thoughtful people recognize that politicians advertise themselves and their policy recommendations in similarly biased and emotional ways. The question is not whether business people or politicians have the strongest moral commitment to truthfulness in advertising. Both groups will deviate from honest practices when they expect that the benefits of doing so will exceed the costs. The important question is, who can most easily mislead their customers with emotional statements, unrealistic promises and biased information. Business people, or politicians." So that seems pretty clear that the author is trying to tell us that the last sentence is going to be important cause they say, "The important question is.." I'm gonna highlight that sentence so I can find it later. Now I'm gonna go back to the passage to read some more. "People are less likely to be swayed by dishonesty and emotion when responding to business ads than when responding to political ads, for two reasons. First, business people are attempting to persuade people who are usually spending their own money. Politicians, are trying to persuade people who are deciding how they want to spend other people's money. The motivation to minimize mistakes by carefully considering claims about costs and benefits, before a decision is made, and by evaluating those claims in light of post decision experience is greater when one is bearing all of the cost of the decision than when others are bearing most of the cost." This first sentence seems important cause it gives us a thesis statement. It tells us what the author is going to argue for. I'm going to highlight that claim. Then I notice in the first sentence, the phrase, "for two reasons." That's also an important signal. I'm gonna highlight that. In the next sentence, the author then uses the word "first" and goes on to tell us the first of those reasons. Reading through it looks like the rest of the paragraph is still all about that first point. I don't see a second reason in there so hopefully that's still coming. I'm gonna go back to the passage now to see what happens next. "The second reason why misleading claims are less effective in promoting commercial products, than in promoting political products is because the choices that consumers of commercial products make have more decisive effects on outcomes than do the choices of consumers of political products. When people purchase the product in the market place they get the product they choose and they get it because they chose it. The probability that a voter's choice will be decisive is increasingly small in State and Federal Elections and seldom greater than a fraction of 1% in most local elections. Given such a low probability of any one person's vote determining the outcome of the election, voter's have little motivation to be concerned about the accuracy of political claims being made." Great! So this paragraph gives us the second of the two reasons that we were looking for. I'm highlighting the phrase "The second reason" so I can find it later. Now I'm gonna go back to the test. "One might think that professors would be more honest than both business people and politicians when promoting their product's value, that is, in their Teaching and Research. Unlike politicians professors try to sell their products to customers who can decisively accept or reject them without being directly affected by how many others make different choices. However, many undergraduate students are glaringly indifferent to what professors have to say, so professors have more latitude than business people to benefit from exaggerated or deplecious claims." The first sentence to this paragraph uses a hypothetical statement "One might think.." The author is using that to introduce a new claim. The author is also shifting from discussing just business people and politicians to considering a third group of people, professors. So for both of those reasons I'm gonna mark this sentence cause it gives us another main claim, and it marks a transition in the topic that might be important later. Also, the word "so" in the last sentence shows us a conclusion that the author is trying to make. The conclusion asserts that professors have more to gain from dishonesty than business people so I'm going to mark that too Now I'm going back to finish the passage. " Professors have to be more restrained when publishing than when teaching, because other professors will evaluate the truth of their published claims. It is true that academic promotions may be earned and scholarly reputations enhanced by exposing the errors in published work. However, professors are often less concerned with the truthfulness of articles written by other professors than one might think. Professors anxious to get their own articles and books published are often less interested in whether the publications they cite are correct, than in whether the publications are accepted as correct by academics with views similar to their own: the people most likely to decide whether the books and articles will be published and cited." We finally see the passage for this citation at the end adapted from D. Lee, "Why Businessmen Are More Honest Than Preachers, Politicians and Professors." Copyright 2010, Independent Review Here the title makes it pretty clear what the author's message is gonna be. I'm gonna highlight this title to help me later as well. Now let's look at the first question for this passage. "The author implies which of the following about business people and politicians? A. Neither are very thoughtful people. B. Neither have a strong moral commitment to truthfulness. C. Both have biased views about their customers and constituents respectively. D. Both are more concerned about advertising themselves than their products respectively." This question is asking you which of these ideas the author is trying to convey in the passage. Because the question asks you which of these ideas the author "Implies" instead of "says", this is a clue that you're not looking for a direct quote, but rather you're looking for a part of the text that could be paraphrased or summarized as one of these statements. Because you're being asked to identify a paraphrase or summary from the passage, this is a Foundations of Comprehension question. Looking through the first paragraph, the first sentence tells us that the section will be about business people. Let's re-read that sentence. "Although business people deserve more respect for their honesty than they receive, a common complaint is that they take advantage of consumers through dishonest advertising." The first sentence introduces business people as the subject and it suggests that a common complaint about business people is their dishonesty. However, in the first part, the author tempers this complaint by saying, "business people deserve more respect for their honesty than they receive.." This clause suggests that the author thinks people are too extreme in their beliefs that business people are dishonest The next sentence provides support for that idea that advertising is dishonest. Let's re-read that. "Instead of providing useful information for making rational choices, advertisements often appeal to consumer's emotions to persuade them to buy products regardless of need." And the third sentence shows the author's explicit endorsement of the idea that advertisements are dishonest. If we read that again, we can see "this complaint is true and obvious to all but the most naive people." The phrase "obvious to all but the most naive people" shows you a little bit of the author's attitude. The language is meant to be insulting as it tells you that you're naive if you don't agree with the author. The final sentence in this first paragraph continues the argument that advertisements are dishonest. In this sentence the author adds the idea that advertisements are actually designed to be dishonest. Let's read that sentence again. "Advertisements are designed to convince consumers to favor one product over others, and presenting solely unbiased and unemotional infromation would seldom be the best way to accomplish this goal." Looking back at our four response options, it doesn't appear that in this first paragraph there are any statements related to the lack of thoughtfulness in business people, so it doesn't appear that we have any evidence for option A yet. We also don't see any evidence that business people are concerned with advertising themselves, so it doesn't look like we have any evidence for option D yet. The paragraph does talk about bias, but this is in relation to advertising not in relation to business people's views of their own customers, so it doesn't look like we have any evidence for option C. At the same time, there is some information about dishonesty in advertising, that suggests that the author might question whether business people have a moral commitment to truthfulness. So far, we have a little evidence in favor of option D. Let's go back to the passage now and see what we can find in the second paragraph. In the first sentence of the second paragraph, the author starts to talk about politicians. You also find the word thoughtful as well as the idea that politicians advertise themselves. Let's re-read that sentence. "Thoughtful people recognize that politicians advertise themselves and their policy recommendations in similarly biased and emotional ways." When you read closely you find that "thoughtful" is used to describe people who recognize that politicians advertise themselves. It's not used to describe either business people or politicians. This sentence doesn't imply that either business people or politicians are not thoughtful, so this sentence doesn't provide any support for option A. Further this sentence also talks about the fact that politicians advertise themselves, but does not mention anything about business people sharing that goal, so this sentence doesn't provide any support for option D. The next two sentences explicitly discuss the moral commitment to truthfulness among business people and politicians. Let's read this sentence again. "The question is not whether business people or politicians have the strongest moral commitment to truthfulness in advertising. Both groups will deviate from honest practices when they expect that the benefits of doing so will exceed the costs." Thus, because both business people and politicians will deviate from honest practices when it's in their own interests, these two sentences imply that the author believes that neither have a strong moral commitment to truthfulness, which is consistent with option B. Skimming through the remainder of the passage, you can confirm that there's no language that suggests that business people and politicians are not thoughtful, so we can finally reject option A. The passage also doesn't discuss whether business people or politicians are biased in their views of their customers or their constituents, and that allows us to reject option C. Finally, while politicians may be more likely to advertise themselves, the passage describes business people as generally trying to advertise their products, which allows you to reject option D. Now let's try a second question. "Which of the following assumptions is most central to the author's argument? Option A. Most products are designed to appeal to naive and emotional consumers. Option B. Products are more likely to be purchased when they are advertised than when they are not. Option C. If business people manufactured only products that people need there would be few products on the market. Option D. If products were evaluated according to objective information about them, people would often not prefer one over the other. Looking at these response options, this question is asking you to think more deeply about the author's reasoning about the relation between products and advertising. In reviewing the passage, you can see that topics of products and advertising are the focus of the first paragraph. So that's a good place to start to try to see which of these assumptions the author is making. When you're being asked about the parts of an author's argument, including their claims, evidence or assumptions that's a good clue that you're being asked to think about the author's reasoning. These types of questions fall under the "Reasoning within the text" category. Looking at the first paragraph, in the second sentence the author writes' "Instead of providing useful information for making rational choices, advertisements often appeal to consumer's emotions to persuade them to buy a product regardless of need. In this sentence the author suggests that advertisements need to appeal to consumer's emotions. Contrary to option C, this doesn't assume that most products on the market are not needed by anyone, only that some of the people who buy some products do not need them. In the fourth sentence the author talks about how non emotional and objective information would not be effective in getting people to choose the advertised product over others. "Advertisements are designed to convince consumers to favor one product over others, and presenting solely unbiased and unemotional information would seldom be the best way to accomplish this goal." This implies that factual information is not sufficient as a basis for consumers to form a preference, and thus this points to D as a valid answer. Combined with the sentence above, the implication is that merely advertising a product will not lead to more purchases. This is contrary to the assumption in option B. Instead, only emotional advertisements would have this effect. Thus, it seems the author is assuming D but not B. In addition, this fourth sentence does not imply that the author believes that products need to be designed to appeal to emotions, rather it refers to advertisements for the products being designed to appeal to emotions, so this implication is not consistent with what is claimed in option A. Finally, the author's reference to naive people in the third sentence, is a reference toward anyone who disagrees with the author, not towards product consumers as stated in option A. In some, all the options other than D require misinterpretation of statements made by the author, or require going beyond what the author is saying. Thus only option D is something that the author is assuming in his argument. Let's do a third question. "Suppose a politician is re-elected despite lying about his voting record, the passage suggests which of the following explanations? A. The politician made many contradictory statements during his or her campaign. B. For the second election were significantly different than for the first. C. Voters did not compare the politicians behavior while in office with statements made during his or her campaign. D. There was no consensus among voters regarding the cost in benefits of a second term in office for that politician." This question is asking about a new situation that was not mentioned in the text. The word "suppose" is a good clue that you're going to be asked to reason about a new situation. When a question introduces a new situation or asks you to apply or extrapolate ideas to a new context, then you're being asked a " Reasoning beyond the text" question. The topic of this question is about politicians, and how people might react to dishonesty. So you know that the information that might help you to answer this question will come later in the passage since the first paragraph is only about business people. The second paragraph starts to be about politicians. As we already noted while reading the text, the second paragraph then ends with an important question. Let's re-read it. "The important question is, who can most easily mislead their customers with emotional statements, unrealistic promises and biased information, business people or politicians?" This alerts you that a main focus of the author's argument is going to be people's reactions to the dishonesty of business people or politicians. Because you're looking for information on how people might react to dishonesty, it seems like the part of the passage that follows this, the third paragraph is gonna be important. The first sentence of the third paragraph tells you that the author is going to argue that politicians may be more likely to get away with being dishonest. Let's re-read that sentence. "People are less likely to be swayed by dishonesty and emotion when responding to business ads, than when responding to political ads for two reasons.." Then the remainder of that paragraph outlines the first reason why politicians may be more likely to get away with being dishonest. Let's re-read that. "First, business people are attempting to persuade people who are usually spending their own money. Politicians are trying to persuade people who are deciding how they want to spend other peoples money. The motivation to minimize mistakes by carefully considering claims about costs and benefits before a decision is made, and by evaluating those claims in light of post-decision experience is greater when one is bearing all of the cost of the decision, than when others are bearing most of the cost. " So the author is arguing that individuals are more willing to carefully evaluate the claims of a business person over the claims of a politician. The author gives their second reason in paragraph Four. Let's re-read that paragraph too. "The second reason why misleading claims are less effective in promoting commercial products, than in promoting political products is because the choices that consumers of commercial products make have more decisive outcomes than do the choices of consumers of political products. When people purchase a product in the market place, they get the product they choose and they get it because they chose it. The probability that a voter's choice will be decisive is increasingly small in State and Federal elections and seldom greater than a fraction of 1% in most local elections. Given such a low probability of any one person's vote determining the outcome of the election, voters have little motivation to be concerned about the accuracy of political claims being made." So, if a politician is able to get re-elected even though they lied about their voting record, then the passage is suggesting that the voters were generally not as motivated to evaluate the politician's claims over business people's claims. This is most consistent with option C where comparison of behavior against statements can be seen as a way of assessing the honesty of the politician. Voter's do not compare the politician's behavior while in office with statements made during his or her campaign. The paragraphs we just read don't talk about the presence of contradictory statements as reasons why people are less likely to be affected by the dishonesty of political ads, so there's no evidence consistent with option A. These paragraphs also do not discuss changes in the cohorts of voters. It is possible that a new cohort of voters elected the politician in the second term, but the important thing to remember when answering these questions is that this alternative was not discussed by the passage, so we don't have any evidence in favor of option B. The notion of costs and benefits that is mentioned in that third paragraph is part of the careful evaluation process that people usually only engage in for business ads because the consumer bears all of the cost of a mistake. The author does not assume that voters are likely to perform a similar cost-benefit analysis, so whether or not there's a consensus and a cost-benefit analysis would be irrelevant. Also the paragraph does not discuss a lack of consensus among people on cost-benefit analysis as a reason why people might be less likely to be affected by dishonesty in any context, so we don't see any evidence to support option D. Let's look at one final question for this passage. "The author most likely mentions Probability in his discussion of voting behavior as reasoning for which of the following in paragraph Four? Statement One. To explain low voter turn out in state and federal elections Statement Two. To explain the prevalence of politicians' dishonesty. Statement Three. To explain why voters do not carefully consider political claims." This question's a bit tricky because it gives us three statements that we need to choose between, and then it gives us a bunch of response options. Let's return to the response options after we've thought about the statements. The main question is, "Why does the author discuss probability as part of his argument?" You're being asked which explanation in the text is supported by the discussion of probability. This means you're being asked to think more deeply about the author's reasoning, and these types of questions fall under the "Reasoning within the text" category. Since the question tells you that the reasoning you're being asked about is in Paragraph Four, that's a good place to start. Skimming through the paragraph, you can see the first mention of probability is in the third sentence. Let's read that sentence. "The probability that a voter's choice will be decisive is increasingly small in state and federal elections, and seldom greater than a fraction of 1% in most local elections." Then the fourth sentence helps to tell you why the author thinks this point is important. Let's re-read that sentence. "Given such a low probability of any one person's vote determining the outcome of the election, voter's will have little motivation to be concerned about the accuracy of the political claims being made." So the second part of this sentence tells you the point that the author is trying to make by mentioning probability. The author is saying that the individual voter has a very small impact on the outcome of the election, and therefore each voter has only a small stake in the overall decision. The lack of a sense of ownership is use to explain why voters do not carefully consider political claims, and this is consistent with statement Three. The author explicitly tells you in the first sentence that the thing that is going to be explained in the fourth paragraph is why misleading claims can be effective in political contexts. Let's re-read that sentence. "The second reason why misleading claims are less effective in promoting commercial products than in promoting political products is..." So the author is not trying to explain low voter turn out, and you can rule out statement One. The explanation being developed by the author is why people react to dishonesty differently in political and business contexts. Although the dishonesty of politicians is implied by the passage, the discussion of probability is not included as part of an explanation about why politicians are dishonest. So statement two is not a good response. It may be tempting to infer that the author is trying to argue that the effectiveness of dishonesty in political advertising makes it more prevalent in politics, but the author never makes that connection. In fact, the author explicitly rejects the value of making comparison about the prevalence of dishonesty in paragraph Two. If we could re-read that sentence it says, "The question is not whether business people or politicians have the strongest moral commitment to truthfulness, both groups will deviate." So now that we have reviewed the statements, remember there's a final step in answering these kinds of questions that have those statements indicated by Roman numerals, and response options indicated by letters. Now that you have determined that statement Three is the only one that accurately describes the relation between the discussion of probability and the explanation being given by the author, you need to pick the correct response option, in this case, the answer is B.