CARS Lesson 8 — Types of CARS questions
Five basic kinds of CARS questions
Some CARS questions defy easy categorization, but many will fall into one of these five categories:
These are general questions dealing with the cardinal issues of the passage. Main idea questions are designed to see if you grasped the central theme of the passage as a whole. Often the main idea is the author's central claim towards which the rest of the passage is pointing as evidence, warrant, backing or counter-argument. Typical question prompts of main idea questions are the following:
The passage as a whole suggests that the author believes that . . .
Which of the following would be the best title for the passage?
The author's main purpose of the passage is to . . .
This type of general question asks whether you understood the author's point of view on the subject of the passage. These questions are often subtle. Is the author being critical or supportive in this portion? Is their tone objectively neutral or biased and partisan? The differences among the answer choices in tone questions can sometimes be hard to tease out. Prompts for tone questions will be similar to the following:
The author's attitude toward his subject is one of . . .
Which of the following characterizes the author's likely intended audience?
The tone of the passage might best be described as . . .
These questions are in the same family with the main idea or tone questions, which deal with the passage as a whole, but thematic extension questions ask you to take the author's argument or point of view and draw a conclusion about another subject or derive a broader proposition. These questions can have prompts that look like the following:
How would the author of the passage respond to . . .
Which of following would the author probably recommend in a situation where . . .
It can be inferred from the passage that . . .
These questions will identify a specific section of the passage and ask for an interpretation that goes a little deeper than the explicit reference, asking you to read 'between the lines'. These questions are often about judging the shade of meaning the author puts on a word within a specific context. Very often, this type of question is looking to see if you can interrogate a claim for unstated premises or implied warrants. Typical question prompts often including phrasing such as:
The author uses the term ____ in line ## to mean . . .
Lines ## - ## imply that the author . . .
The author brings up the example of ____ in order to . . .
Facts & Information
On one level these questions are a test for your retention of specific facts or concepts stated in the passage. However, on another level, they are a test of how well you synthesized and retained the organization and flow of the passage. Be careful when answering this kind of question that in returning to the passage to find the information you don't go on a fishing expedition. Typical prompts include phrasing such as:
The author states that . . .
According to the passage, who was the first person to ever . . .
Which of the following does the author claim . . .
Each type of question has its own 'tricks' and tendencies. Start looking at your performance in terms of these five types. Look for specific challenges you may need to work on.
Assignment: Perform the final 7 passages (questions 81-120) from Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Question Pack, Vol. 2. Remember to toggle 'Review Answer' to the 'OFF' position. Give yourself 65 minutes for the timed portion of the exercise. Before scoring the passages, perform a blind review!