Simplify a MCAT CARS Passage by Combining Grammar and Rhetoric

In previous posts you’ve learned how to use grammar (see "First Step in Improving Your MCAT CARS Score: Grammar" and "How to Analyze a MCAT CARS Passage Using Grammar" to analyze a MCAT CARS Passage. Then in two other posts you learned how to do the same with rhetoric (see "The Key to Breaking Down a MCAT CARS Passage: Rhetoric" and "Identifying the Key ideas in MCAT CARS Passages Using Rhetoric." Now it’s time to combine the two and see how they allow us to simplify a long paragraph into it’s key ideas.

We’re going to look at a passage from the “Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning 2nd edition” for our analysis. We’ll be using Passage III of Verbal Reasoning Test 1 on page 22.

Read the first paragraph very carefully for comprehension. We worked with this passage as well in a previous postbut we’ll be working with it more in depth now. Here’s the first paragraph that we’ll be working with for those of you who don’t have the book in front of you:

“Arguments abound over whether marijuana should be legalized. Many of these arguments pertain to the federal guidelines for lengthy prison sentences meted out for what is considered a relatively petty crime. Others point out that marijuana is a drug that could, and should, be used for medicinal purposes. But most proponents of legalization ignore the mounting evidence that points to the long-term damage to the user and to society as a whole.”

From rhetoric, we know the shape of essays and how to pick out key sentences. We know that the topic sentence, which is in almost all cases the first sentence in a paragraph, is really a key sentence and has a key idea. So let’s take a look at that:

“Arguments about over whether marijuana should be legalized.”

This is a key idea. But now we can use grammar to really shorten and make it succinct. When we do a grammatical analysis, we can reduce it to:

“many arguments in favor of legalization”

Now let’s look at the next two sentences:

“Many of these arguments pertain to the federal guidelines for lengthy prison sentences meted out for what is considered a relatively petty crime. Others point out that marijuana is a drug that could, and should, be used for medicinal purposes.”

Remember, the only sentences between the topic sentence and the conclusion sentence that we want to emphasize and pay attention to are those sentences that have rhetorical cues. Of the thirty or so rhetorical cues that we know about, we don’t see any of them in these two sentences.

So as you’re reading text you’re always reading for understanding but the real issue is what are you going to emphasize, and what you’re going to emphasize is the key ideas. So we’ve read these two sentences and now know that they’re not key sentences, so we don’t need to emphasize them.

The next thing we are going to emphasize is the next key sentence, which is the conclusion sentence:

“But most proponents of legalization ignore the mounting evidence that points to the long-term damage to the user and to society as a whole.”

Remember, we know it’s a key sentence not only because of its position as the conclusion sentence but also because it has one of those thirty rhetorical cues. It starts with a contrast word: “but.” This tells us that this a critical idea.

So we know it’s important thanks to rhetoric, but it’s a long sentence and an awful lot to remember. That’s where grammar comes in; it’ll us to reduce the sentence to something that is very clear and easier to remember. Performing a grammatical analysis allows us to reduce the sentence to:

    “arguments ignore damage to society and user”

Let’s recap. So what we’ve been able to do is reduce a nice juicy paragraph down to two very clear ideas. First, “many arguments in favor of legalization,” and second, “arguments ignore damage to society and user.”

The next step is to incorporate reflective intelligence and the relationship of ideas, and we’ll be covering that in our next post.