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Unit 1: Lesson 1

Critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) practice questions

Worked example: Physical education in the UK

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] The purpose of this video is to give you an idea how to approach reading and answering questions on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section. The name of this example passage is physical education in the UK. 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. In the United Kingdom, physical education, PE, is compulsory in state schools until students reach the age of 16. That is, sports are compulsory for as long as formal education is mandated by law. Because there are many children who don't want to participate in PE classes, I believe that students should be allowed a choice. If their parents agree, why should they be forced to jump on a trampoline or do calisthenics? PE class is different from other classes because it involves what one does with one's body. We acknowledge the rate of individuals to control their own bodies to determine whether and when they have an operation, to determine where they go and what they do. Why is this any different? So in the third sentence, the author comes right out and tells us their position on this issue. It's pretty clear that this text is going to be about why students should not be forced to take PE. The author then goes on to make the argument that because PE involves one's body, that it's different than other classes and it violates our rights to not have control over our own bodies. This point seems pretty important, so I'm going to highlight it so I can find this argument later. I'm also going to highlight the third sentence where the author told us his opinion. It is a red herring to say that PE makes any serious difference to people's health. There are more effective ways of ensuring a healthy population than pushing children to run laps around a freezing sports field once a week. For example, schools could be addressing the poor diets young people have today and encourage them to walk or bicycle to school rather than rely on the car. Furthermore, sports are a waste of school time and resources. One or two PE lessons a week makes very little difference to an individual's health, but they make a huge difference in the school's budget. Mandatory PE requires a whole extra department in schools, wasting a great deal of money and time that could be better spent on academics. It also requires schools to be surrounded by a large amount of land for playing fields, making it prohibitively expensive to build new schools in urban areas. Given the average current pupil-teacher ratios, the quality of teaching in PE classes is necessarily low, and the classes may even be dangerous to students who are not properly supervised. Our children are burdened enough in schools already, especially at the older end of the system, with multiple examinations. PE simply adds needlessly to this hectic schedule. In this paragraph, the author expands the argument. In addition to dismissing the idea that PE should be required because it's good for your health, the author goes even further to suggest that sports should be eliminated from schools entirely because they're a waste of resources. Then the author questions the quality of PE classes and argues that they make student schedules more hectic. I'm going to go back through this paragraph and highlight the sections for each of these points. Many people argue that playing team sports builds character, encourages students to work with others, teaches children how to win and lose with good grace, and builds strong school spirit through competition with other institutions. It is often, they say, the experience of playing on a team together which builds the strongest friendships at school, friendships which endure for years afterwards. Many say the same benefits derive from the common endurance of prison. Injuries sustained through the school sport and the psychological trauma of being bullied for sporting ineptitude can mark people for years after they have left school. On that note, in an increasingly litigious age, a compulsory rather than voluntary sports program is a liability. More and more schools are avoiding team games such as rugby, soccer, hockey, and football due to the realistic fear of lawsuits. Teamwork can be better developed through music, drama, and community projects without the need to encourage an ultra-competitive ethos. Here, the author refutes a likely argument in favor of sports by mentioning several negative consequences including injury, ridicule, and lawsuits. I'm going to highlight each of these. By comparing being on a team to being in prison, and asserting that teamwork is better developed in other contexts, it's pretty clear that the author has a negative view of sports. I'm going to highlight these clues as well. As for the argument that without compulsory PE many members of society wouldn't find out if they had a talent for a sport, or even if they enjoyed it, students can discover this aptitude outside of school without also discovering the bullying and humiliation that comes with PE classes more than with other lessons. The aim of compulsory PE isn't being fulfilled at present in any case, as sick notes are produced with alarming regularity by parents complicit in their children's wish to avoid it. Greater efforts to enforce it will only result in more deceit, children missing school for the entire day or in the most extreme cases, children being withdrawn from state education. In this final paragraph, the author adds a few more points. The author suggests that students can discover their talents outside school, and reiterates the benefits of removing the opportunity for humiliation. Finally, the passage ends by suggesting that many people are already finding ways to avoid PE, and warns that efforts to enforce participation could result in avoidance of school altogether. Adapted from A. Dean, Physical Education Compulsory, Creative Comments, copyright 2011, Creative Comments. Question one, what is the function of the statement in the first paragraph that PE class is different from other classes? A, it's part of an argument why PE classes should be required, B, it's part of an argument that PE classes improve people's health, C, it explains why students should only be exempt from PE with parental permission, D, it explains why students should have a choice about whether to take PE while not having a choice about taking other compulsory classes. This question is asking you about the role of a particular statement or idea in the author's argument. Because it's asking about the author's reasoning, it's a reasoning within the text question. If we return to the first paragraph, we can see that this phrase, PE class is different from other classes because it involves what one does with one's body, comes after the sentence where the author states I believe that students should be allowed a choice. So this statement forms part of the author's argument why students should have a choice, which is most consistent with option D. The author explicitly rejects that PE should be required in this first paragraph, so option A is not a good answer. In the second paragraph, the author dismisses the idea that PE is a good way to improve people's health. This is inconsistent with option B, which suggests the opposite. Further, the observation that PE class is different from other classes does not appear as part of this discussion about health, which means option B is not a good answer for multiple reasons. Although the author does mention the idea of parental permission in paragraph one, the idea that PE class is different from other classes is not directly linked to the idea about parental permission, suggesting that option C is not as good an answer. The option that best describes the role of this statement in the author's reasoning is option D. Question two, which of the following assumptions is made by the author in relation to the argument about student's hectic schedules? A, PE tends not to have a final examination, B, PE tends not to have a heavy homework burden, C, compulsory PE, if eliminated, would not be replaced by another compulsory course, D, it's unfair to require students in the higher grades to prepare for multiple examinations. Looking back at our highlighting, we can see that the reference to hectic schedules occurs at the end of the second paragraph. The author describes the busy schedules of students and argues for the elimination of PE to help alleviate that burden. This would only be true if PE was not replaced by another compulsory course with a similar amount of work involved. Option C, the fact that PE tends not to have a final examination, as stated in option A, and does not have a heavy homework burden, as stated in option B, suggests that PE might be relatively less likely to cause additional stress for a student relative to another class. This seems the opposite of the author's argument, and although these might seem like obvious facts about PE, the author doesn't imply them, nor do they need to be assumed to make the author's point. Although he author implies that students at the older end experience the most burden, there's nothing in the text that implies that the author believes this is unfair. So option D is also not a good option. Option C is the assumption that would most affect the author's reasoning if it were not true. Question three, assume it's true that students are more likely to obtain specialist coaching at sports clubs outside of school than in school. How would this information be relevant to the passage? A, it would restate an objection to compulsory physical education classes, B, it would support a point about discovering sports aptitude made in rebuttal, C, it would directly challenge one of the author's claims, D, it would contradict one of the author's examples. This question starts with the phrase, Assume as true, which is a good clue that this is a reasoning beyond the text question. You're given a new situation to think about, and you're asked to assess how the new information impacts the ideas presented in the passage. Skimming through the passage, we find that this new information seems most relevant to ideas in the fourth paragraph where the author talks about sports clubs outside school. The author writes, As for the argument that without compulsory PE, many members of society wouldn't find out that they had a talent for a sport, or even that they enjoyed it. Students can discover this aptitude outside of school without also discovering the bullying and humiliation that comes with PE classes more than with other lessons. If it is true that students are obtaining specialist coaching at sports clubs outside of school more often than in school, then it would further support this point. The author never claims that outside clubs do not have specialist coaches, nor are there any examples of this in the passage. So this new information would not directly challenge or contradict anything we read. In the third paragraph, the author mentions that the quality of teaching in PE classes is low. The new information is consistent with this idea because it suggests that more specialized coaching, which can be supposed to be higher quality, is available outside of school. But this new information is not just a simple re-statement of the idea in paragraph three. It adds new information about the quality of coaching. Another reason why option A is not correct is because the point about low quality in schools is made as part of an objection to any sports in school. Option A is talking about re-stating an objection against compulsory PE. So for a couple of reasons, option B is the better answer. Question four, the author's central theme for the whole passage is A, opposing formal educational mandates, B, describing the consequences of making PE compulsory, C, presenting reasons why PE should not be compulsory, D, advocating that PE be abolished in UK state schools. This question is asking about the main theme. This means it's a foundations of comprehension question. The author argues in the third sentence that students should be allowed a choice. The author describes the rights of individuals to control their own bodies in other settings in order to argue for an exception from mandates for PE classes in particular. The author's main point is not opposing educational mandates or compulsory education in general, but only in the instance of PE. So option A is not a good answer. Although the author describes a number of possible negative consequences of PE, this represents only part of the passage. So it does not appear that option B will be the best answer. The author does discuss the reasons why sports should be eliminated from schools, but again, this is only part of the passage. So option D is probably not the best answer. Option C provides the most general theme for the passage. The idea that PE should not be compulsory is related to all of the claims made in the passage.