Day 13 – CARS Question Types: Implication
So now that we’ve got two of the easier question types out of the way, we’re going to take a look at two of the more difficult types. Today, we’ll look at the implication question type and tomorrow, the inference question type. These are sometimes tricky to get a handle on, so take your time and don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it on your first pass. That’s normal for new things in general and very common in particular on the MCAT CARS. This is why we practice!
The Implication Question Type:
As we discussed on Day 6, an implication of a passage is a necessary, unstated conclusion external to the argument. Now some might be tempted to confuse this with an inference, as the two are similar, but the primary difference is that an implication is externally relevant, whereas an inference is internally relevant. Take a look at this example:
Michael loves to eat hamburgers. It’s lunch time, and there’s a hamburger joint right next door!
What’s implied by these two sentences? Well, a reasonable implication that takes into account all the evidence that is provided is that Michael is probably going to go around the corner and eat a hamburger for lunch. Notice that this is external to the information provided in the sentence. There’s no reference in the implication to the component pieces of the argument in and of themselves. This would be contrasted with the possible inference that Michael’s favorite food is hamburgers. Notice, that this inference is an internal, unstated conclusion. An inference references the component pieces of the argument. The inference tells us something about Michael, internal to the argument, whereas an implication tells us something that Michael might do, an external thing.
An important point in determining the strength of an implication or inference is the degree to which it is necessary which is to say the degree to which it must be the case. This is the measure of the strength of the inference or implication. In this example, it’s reasonable to see the sentence implying that Michael’s going to eat a hamburger for lunch at the hamburger joint next door or to infer that Michael’s favorite food might be hamburgers, but neither of these is 100% a sure thing. Thus, they aren’t the strongest forms of an implication or inference.
The key to answering an implication question correctly is to look for unstated conclusions that are well supported by the passage. With implication questions, there will always be points of connection between the implication and the passage. Don’t do mental gymnastics to try and make an answer choice fit. The AAMC has an airtight answer explanation/ justification for every single question on the CARS. There is a correct way to answer the question, and there is a wrong way to answer the question (in fact three ways). You want to train yourself to see and think like the AAMC MCAT writers. Look for that definite connection and you will find implication questions to be some of the easiest on the CARS once you get the hang of them.
Examples of Implication Question Stems:
The author implies that George Washington is NOT:
The author says “As the boat began to sink, the cowards began to run towards the life rafts,” but also “many gentlemen proceeded to help the women and children into the rafts while remaining on the doomed ship.” These beliefs imply:
The passage implies that the difference between World War I and World War II was primarily one of:
Implicit in the statement “Philosophers are often derided by the masses but nonetheless are necessary for the proper functioning of society” is the idea that:
Regarding the concept of food insecurity, the author implies:
What does the author imply regarding the relationship between those who have capital and those who do not?
Tips for Implication Questions:
– Use the Flip Test to evaluate a possible implication. Sometimes the MCAT makes it difficult to connect an implication outlined in an answer choice to the passage. It is often easier to flip the implication in the answer choice and try to connect it to the passage. For example, in a passage that discusses the inequality between those who have capital and those who don’t, it might be easier to see that an answer choice that says the author implies the relationship is predatory is correct when you flip it. What’s the opposite of a relationship that is predatory? Maybe something like beneficial? Is the author saying that the nature of the relationship is beneficial? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Thus, you can be pretty sure that you’ve got the correct answer choice. Answer choices which do not contain an implication of the passage will make as little sense when flipped as they do when not.
– Use the support given by the author in making his argument to look for the connection between the passage and the implication. There’s got to be a connection or it can’t be an implication.
– Remember that implications are external, unstated conclusions of the argument being made. A trick is to ask yourself whether or not something is forward looking. An inference looks backward, telling you something about the pieces that make up the argument. An implication tells you something about a possible future.
– If a central implication of the passage is found not to be true, the passage and its arguments often disintegrate. Ask yourself when you read through the answer choices: if this isn’t the case, what effect would it have on the passage, if any? If it has a big effect, you’ve probably found your answer.
– An implication will be supported by clear positions taken by the author in the passage. Do not strain logic to support an answer choice, the connection will be clear. If you find yourself squinting, standing on one leg, and slowly spinning counter-clockwise in order to make an answer choice look correct, you can confidently eliminate that answer choice. The section name is Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, not Mental Gymnastics 301. Don’t let hyper-vigilance cost you points on test day. Many test takers are so desperate to score well on the MCAT that they waste time and miss out on points convincing themselves bad answers are good so they “don’t” miss a single one of those precious points. Unfortunately, such an approach has the opposite effect. Be confident in yourself!
Great job. We’ll take a look at inference questions tomorrow. Don’t forget to do your two passages today. Tomorrow, we take a break from doing passages for a day, and then we’ll be upping it to three passages, so enjoy two passages a day while it lasts! Leave everything you have on the table. Keep up the hard work!
Today’s Assignment: Do Two CARS Passages Individually, Under Timed Conditions
“To have success, you can’t let failure stop you. To have great success,
you can’t let success stop you.”
– Robert Brault