Reasoning Beyond The Text Quickly and Accurately

It’s not fair. You’ve spent the last four years poring over science texts, studying until you fall asleep. But at least you can understand what the language says. It means what it says! Now they’re asking you to read these complex passages and asking you questions about what something “suggests” or “implies”. It seems crazy.

Actually, what they’re asking you to do has a lot to do with the practice of medicine and how well you’ll do as a medical student. The reasoning process that you use in Reasoning Beyond the Text is the same reasoning process you’ll be using in a differential diagnosis. As a physician, what you’re going to do in making a diagnosis is:

  • First, consider all the data you have available on a patient: symptoms, contraindications, history, imaging, and other data.
  • Second, you’re going to separate what is Significant from what is Incidental in all that data.
  • You’re going to see what the relationship is between the significant data points, and
  • Third, you’re going to ask yourself, “What does that suggest or imply?” That’s your differential diagnosis.

Think of it like a Logic Formula: A + B + C = D

A, B, and C are your relevant data points, and D is your conclusion, your differential diagnosis.

The same is true in figuring out what is “suggested or Implied” in a CARS passage. You’re going to be using the same process of reasoning.

  • First, you’re going to read the passage,
  • Separating what’s significant (key ideas) from what’s incidental,
  • Third, seeing the relationship between the key ideas, and
  • Seeing what the key ideas “suggest” or “imply”.

To do this, you have to understand the logic of the passage. Believe it or not, every passage is composed of a Logic Formula. The Key Ideas are like your significant data points in your medical diagnosis, and what the passage “suggests” or “implies” is your differential diagnosis.

You could describe it as:

Key Idea A + Key Idea B + Key Idea C = Main Idea

It’s a Logic Formula.

Sometimes, even Key Ideas have an internal logic formula. Each group of language in a Key Idea Sentence (what we call Constituent Elements) leads to a conclusion in the sentence in the same way.

Finding what is “suggested” or “implied” doesn’t have to be that hard, but you do have to follow certain language rules to figure it out and once you’ve mastered them, you’re on your way.

Let’s take a look at these rules carefully, and once you’ve read them for understanding, let’s go over some examples to make sure that you really understand them.

Rules for Reasoning Beyond the Text:

  1. These questions usually include words like: suggest, imply, hypothesis, conclude, implicit.
  2. “Implicit” or “Assumption” questions are different from “suggest” or “imply” questions, and don’t confuse them as so many students do. When a question really wants you to determine what a question “suggests” or “implies,” they are asking you to make a conclusion based on the Key Ideas in the passage. When they use the term “implicit” or “assumption,” they are asking you what an idea is based on. “Suggest” or “imply” requires you to conclude something that comes after or as a result of a Key Idea. Implicit asks you to determine what something is based on. It comes before the idea, a cause of it.

Let’s take a look at some examples. The first is taken from Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT, Passage 1 on page 3. The essay describes two different ways of training actors: the Classical or RADA method, or what they call Method Acting. Let’s take a look at Question #2:

2. On the basis of the passage, it is reasonable to conclude that:

  1. Stanislavski probably did not think much of the “external” style.
  2. Marlon Brando would not have done well in an Elizabethan stage production.
  3. An audience might be confused by a Method actor in an Elizabethan stage production.
  4. John Gielgud was probably not capable of acting using the Method.

Here’s the 2 Key Ideas from the passage that are applicable to the question:

Classical actors often practice Shakespearean productions, which affects their style. Since the Elizabethan stage was unamplified and viewed from a distance, classical acting stressed vocal strength, projection, clear enunciation...and general posture over small gestures and facial expressions.

While Method acting aims at a subtler performance, if the actor does not accompany his understanding of the character with overt actions suggesting his emotions to the audience, his performance may seem too subtle for the audience to appreciate.

Let’s take a look at the Logic Formula we can take out of these key sentences:

  1. Classical actors do Shakespearean stage productions.
  2. Stage productions require strong clear voices and physical gestures.
  3. If Method actors don’t use overt actions (unlike Classical actors)
  4. Then the audience may not understand it
  5. Here we have A + B + C = D

    Notice how D in our logic formula conforms with answer C: an audience may be confused [D] by a Method actor that doesn’t use overt gestures [C] because Shakespearean (Elizabethan) stage productions [A] require physical gestures [B]. Study this carefully and you will be able to track the logic perfectly. Practice this in these kinds of questions, over and over, and you’ll get really good at it.

    Let’s take a look at another example from Passage II on pages 4 and 5:

    9. An appropriate theory based upon the emerging dominance of The British business suit (lines 37-55) is that:

    1. The best designed clothes are not necessarily the most comfortable.
    2. The traditional British ‘power’ look has even permeated the American business landscape.
    3. People will go to great lengths in their efforts to increase their status
    4. People usually don’t dress appropriately for their prevailing climate.

    When they ask you about a “theory,” what they are really asking you to do is make a conclusion. They’re asking you to look at the relevant Key Ideas, put them together, and come up with a conclusion. They are asking you to use that Logic Formula: A + B + C = D.

    Let’s look at the relevant Key Idea Sentences in this passage and see how they fit together to give us a theory or conclusion:

    Currently, the “power” look is the British business suit, with its limited range of dark colors and simple patterns.

    The cold, sodden climate of England and Ireland are well served by heavy woolen suits and hats and heavy brogue shoes.

    However, these items are not suitable for export to the sweltering dry heat of Africa and the antebellum South, or humid summers on New York’s Wall Street.

    And yet these ancient uniforms persist throughout all of Britain’s former colonies despite their obvious impracticality.

    Let’s create our Logic Formula:

    1. Power look is the British business suit
    2. Appropriate for English and Irish weather
    3. Not appropriate in other places
    4. People still wear it

    So we can see from this that people are wearing inappropriate clothing to look powerful, so the answer to the question is C: People will go to great lengths in their efforts to increase their status.

    People wear inappropriate clothing (“go to great lengths+people still wear it) to convey a look of power (“increase their status”).

    Why isn’t the answer A or D? Both of these answers are correct statements from the text, but they don’t answer the question. The question is not asking you to recall a fact; it’s asking you to put some key ideas together and come up with a theory or a conclusion.

    Getting the right answer to these types of questions, again, is picking out the relevant Key Ideas, putting them together, and coming up with that conclusion. If you know how to pick out the Key Ideas, it really isn’t difficult, but make sure that you do. We have more blog posts on finding Main Ideas and Key Ideas and if you study them you’ll know how.

    “Implicit” questions are different. With these, you’re not being asked to draw a conclusion by putting together some key ideas. What they are going to do is give you a key idea and ask you what is it based on. For example, they will give you Item B and ask you what has to occur, or what has to exist (Item A) for Item B to be true. Item B is based on Item A.

    Let’s take a look at another example. This comes from Examkrackers p. 56, question 21, Passage IV, Test 3. It deals with furniture making and how humidity and the way boards are cut affect whether a piece of furniture will break apart.

    The discussion of wood movement includes the assumption that:

    1. The board is plain-sawn
    2. The board is at least six feet long
    3. The relative humidity is the same
    4. The ambient humidity is changing

    Let’s take a look at the relevant Key Ideas:

    Unlike metal or stone, throughout its existence any object constructed of wood undergoes constant movement in the form of expansion and contraction every part of its whole.

    This is due mainly to changes in the humidity of the environment.

    Our Logic Formula would read:

    1. Wood constantly expands and contracts
    2. This is due to changes in humidity

    The question is asking us what wood movement is based on. What conditions do you have to have in order for the wood to “move” or change? What does our Logic Formula tell us?

    If A, then B or

    If A happens, it’s going to result in B

    If there are changes in humidity, then there is a change in the wood.

    Changes in the wood are based on or caused by changes in humidity. Notice that the condition of changes in humidity comes before changes in the wood; changes in the wood are based on changes in humidity. These “assumption” or “implicit” are so different from “suggest” or “imply” questions where you have to draw a conclusion or inference after the facts.

    Just keep in mind the different formulas that we discussed and study these examples. Use the formulas as you answer these types of questions. Once you understand the formulas and practice them on these types of questions, your performance will greatly improve. You will increase speed and comprehension and get so many more questions right.

    Don’t forget, to learn more about these and other types of questions or any other issue associated with the CARS Exam, just sign up for one of our free classes.

    Until next time,

    Leonardo

    Leonardo@cambridgelearningcenter.org