Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: Skill 1

CARS - Skill 1: Foundations of Comprehension

The foundations of comprehension portion makes up 30% of the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the new MCAT test. Passage content is spilt 50-50 between humanities and social sciences. Many of the topics included in the passages within the foundations of comprehension section will be familiar to you. However, there will other topics that will not be.

You can develop the strong and basic foundation required for answering all the questions in the foundations of comprehension section through explanations, illustrative examples and definitions of significant and specialized terms.

There will be some questions that will require you to determine the overall meaning of information or the central themes and ideas of the author, while others will require you to select the correct definitions of certain words or phrases as they are presented in context. Both of these types of questions will help you to think in new ways about concepts and facts that are presented in each passage.

Skill Sets Required for Foundations of Comprehension

There are two skill sets that are required for the foundations of comprehension portion of the MCAT:

  • Understanding the Basic Components of the Text
  • Inferring Meaning from Rhetorical Devices, Word Choice, and Text Structure

When attempting to understand the basic components of the text, you likely be asked to either give an overview of the passages or zero in on specific portions of the text. You will need to be able to identify the thesis statement, the examples that support the main idea, and detail which statements pose and argument or assumption. You will also have to be able to see when an author relies on sources to support its thesis or presents different points of view. Perspective will also have to be identified.

Inferring meaning from rhetorical devices, word choice and text structure can be a very complex proposition. In some instances, you will be asked what the author implied but did not say directly. You may be required to figure out how the author structured the text, and attend to specific subtle and nuanced rhetorical decisions an author has made to shape their ideas, discussions and arguments.

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