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Unit 1: Lesson 1

Critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) practice questions

Reasoning beyond the text

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] The purpose of this video is to help you understand the Reasoning Beyond the Text questions a bit better. These are one of the three main categories of questions on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the MCAT. These questions should be the easiest to spot, because you'll be given something new to think about as part of the question, like a new situation, or a new piece of information, or new examples. There are two main types of Reasoning Beyond the Text questions. One type asks you to apply the concepts in the passage to brand new situations. The other asks you to integrate a new piece of information with the information that was given to you in the passage, to see how that new information would effect the overall interpretation. Let's start with the first type of question, which asks you to apply the passage concepts to new situations. Here is an example. Someone who agreed with President Wilson's explanation of the need for a general association of nations, would be most likely to also approve of which of the following hypothetical options? The question stem starts by referring to someone, as a way of introducing a new person who is not mentioned in the passage. When the question introduces a new person or context, this is a clue that this will be a Reasoning Beyond the Text question. The question also says you're being asked to think about hypothetical options. Hypothetical means that something exists as a possibility, but that it may or may not be true in reality. This phrase is another clue that you're being asked to go beyond what the text says. You might also be asked to consider new possibilities, alternatives, options, or proposals. To answer this particular question, you need to focus your attention on what you believe the key parts of President Wilson's explanation are. And then, look for an answer that preserves the role for those key parts. When you get a question like this, go through each of the options, and figure out which new example or options best fits the ideas stated in the passage. Other questions of this type may just give you a new set of scenarios to consider, and ask you which is most consistent with the point made by the author. Here are some examples of questions of this type. Which new example is most consistent with the author's definition of art? Which new situation best captures the relationships between cats and their owners as described in the text? Which of these proposed policies would you expect to be the most successful, based in the author's argument? Another way that a question can ask you to go beyond the text, is by giving you new information to consider. This could be a fact that was not mentioned in the passage, or new information that came to light after the passage was written. Let's take a look at an example of this type of question, which asks you to integrate new information. If it were known that Neanderthals and Homo Sapeins coexisted, but they lived in geographic isolation from one another, how would this affect the conclusions reached by the author? This question starts with the word, if, which is a signal that you'll be asked to consider a new condition. Other questions might start with similar words, like suppose, or assume, or imagine, or they might start with, what if. In each case, these words are generally used to give you new information that was not mentioned in the passage. Once you read the new information, you'll need to assess how that information might affect the arguments made in the passage. May of these questions are asking you to think about whether the new information is consistent, or inconsistent with the reasoning in the passage. Does the new information provide additional support for the author's argument? Or, does it conflict with evidence that is cited in the text? Or does it contradict a conclusion that the author reached? Does it require you to refine or specify part of the argument made by the author? For these questions, it's especially important to remember that the right answer will be one that can be justified by considering something in the passage. Always remember to answer using only the information provided in the passage in question, and not based on outside information that you may have about the topic. You should also be sure to avoid using your own personal opinion. Here are some other examples of these types of questions. Imagine that humans had no thumbs. How would this affect the author's argument? Which of the following newly discovered pieces of evidence would go against the theory developed in the passage? Suppose a new species was found that could live underwater without light. What impact would that have on the definition of life proposed by the author? The basic concept that the MCAT wants students to understand, is that the inferences and conclusions that are supported by the passages are all subject to change, and need to be adjusted as new information bubbles up. This is an important skill, because doctors need to continually update their understanding of diseases and treatments as they get new information. To better understand these types of questions, be sure to try some practice items, and check out the other videos in this section.