Reasoning Within the Text Basics
If you've already read the MCAT 2015 test information, then you're familiar with the fact that the exam tests your skills in a number of different ways. On the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section, the skills assessed fall into three separate categories. This article explains the second skill: Reasoning Within the Text. Click the CARS link above to find information about the other two.
- Skill 1: Foundations of Comprehension
- Skill 2: Reasoning Within the Text
- Skill 3: Reasoning Beyond the Text
The content on the CARS section with the explanations of specific terms, illustrations and examples will be enough for you to answer the questions presented; you will not need to study any additional content to prepare for this portion, which is much different from the sciences sections. Rather, you'll need to practice your reading comprehension so you can answer questions that ask you to complete the following tasks:
- Judge the passage according to logic and plausibility of the passage text, the soundness of its arguments, the reasonableness of its conclusions, the appropriateness of its generalizations, or the credibility of the author and the sources he or she cites
- Analyze the author’s language, stance, and purpose
- Judge the author's validity by finding contradictions or omission of facts, vague or evasive terms or suspect language
- Identify bias in the author's vantage point
The questions that relate to the Reasoning Within the Text skills will refer to a passage of text that precedes them. Here's a sample question taken from the AAMC MCAT 2015 preview guide:
Author of the famous five-part Leatherstocking series, twenty-seven other novels, and a box of historical and miscellaneous works, James Fenimore Cooper remains one of the most innovative yet most misunderstood figures in the history of U.S. culture. Almost single-handedly in the 1820s, Cooper invented the key forms of U.S. fiction — the Western, the sea tale, the Revolutionary romance — forms that set a suggestive agenda for subsequent writers, even for Hollywood and television. In producing and shrewdly marketing fully 10 percent of all U.S. novels in the 1820s, most of them best-sellers, Cooper made it possible for other aspiring authors to earn a living by their writings. Cooper can be said to have invented not just an assortment of literary genres but the very career of the U.S. writer.
Despite Cooper’s importance, he continues to be profoundly misunderstood, and this is partly his own fault. Although it was becoming common for writers in the early nineteenth century to indulge public curiosity about their lives, the usually chatty Cooper turned reticent when asked for biographical details. Whereas contemporaries, such as Sir Walter Scott and Washington Irving, made prior arrangements for authorized biographies, Cooper refused to follow suit. When nearing death in 1851, he insisted that his wife and children protect his life and his papers from outsiders. His private documents remained out of reach to most scholars until the 1990s.
The biographical problem is only one reason for Cooper’s languishing reputation. Another reason is that he’s always been the object of strong feelings, pro and con. Almost from the start of his career, Cooper was admired, imitated, recited, and memorized. In his day, he was reportedly the author most widely translated into German, and what has been called “Coopermania” hit France especially hard as early as the 1820s. Yet, from the outset, he was also subjected to various criticisms that, when combined with later politically motivated assaults, have hampered true appreciation of his work. Critics have at times faulted him for his occasional bad grammar, his leisurely pacing, and his general inability to eclipse his greatest contemporary, Sir Walter Scott.
The criticisms were not without merit. But the problems in Cooper’s first books need to be understood in their proper context. At least some of Cooper’s failings were owing to the very newness of what he was attempting. Robert E. Spiller summed up this point in 1931 by noting that Cooper “always suffered from the crudities of the experimenter.”
Cooper was not just a path breaking figure in the history of writing in the U.S., or a potent visionary; he was a remarkably representative man. He was as much at home in the salons of New York City or the country houses of the rural Hudson Valley as in the raw frontier villages where his family’s life had taken its root and rise. Knowing the country’s most characteristic landscapes in ways that few of his contemporaries did, Cooper wrote of them with unexampled authority. He closely followed the War of 1812, partly because his friends fought in it, and partly because so much hinged on its outcome. Cooper thereafter joined in the effort of his most influential contemporaries to forge a new culture for the reaffirmed nation. One might say that Cooper’s story is almost incidentally a literary story. It is first a story of how, in literature and a hundred other activities, Americans during this period sought to solidify their political and cultural and economic independence from Great Britain and, as the Revolutionary generation died, stipulate what the maturing Republic was to become.
Source: Adapted from W. Franklin, in defense of Cooper. ©2007 by W. Franklin
Which of the following passage assertions is the LEAST supported by examples or explanations in the passage?
A. “Cooper can be said to have invented not just an assortment of literary genres but the very career of the U.S. writer.”
B. “[Cooper] continues to be profoundly misunderstood, and this is partly his own fault.”
C. “Cooper was not just a path breaking figure in the history of writing in the U.S. … he was a remarkably representative man.”
D. “[Cooper] closely followed the War of 1812, partly because his friends fought in it, and partly because so much hinged on its outcome.”