Day 19 – CARS Question Types: Author Technique

Today, we finish up our question types! I know it’s truly been a lot to take in, but if you take your time and review this material, it will pay off. Keep up your three passages per day, but from here on out, take all three at once back to back. So for example, if passage 1 has 5 questions, passage 2 has 6, and passage 3 has 7, set your clock for 31.5 minutes, and then take all 3 passages back to back. This will allow you to develop your ability to intuitively spend less time on easier questions and passages and spend more time on the harder ones. Remember what the “right” pace feels like though. Don’t waste your time on hard questions. Mark them and come back!

The Author Technique Question Type:

Author technique questions aren’t all that common on the CARs. They make up roughly 5% of the questions, so you’ll see somewhere around 2 to 3 on your test. I’d come back to these towards the end of your preparations if you don’t feel you have a firm grasp on the other question types, but mastery of the author technique type will nonetheless give you points on test day, and every point counts in terms of getting you closer to that 129+

At base, the author technique question is asking you a “why” question, but in a narrower and more restricted sense than in a main idea question. With main ideaquestions, you’re asking yourself “Why did the author write this passage?” With author techniquequestions you’re asking yourself, “Why did the author include this example or that paragraph?” You’re looking for the purpose of or motivation behind a particular part of the passage, not the motivation for the entire passage itself.

One of the best ways to answer author technique questions is to ask yourself what would be lost from the passage in general or in the author’s central argument in particular without the part of the passage you’re being asked about. What would be missing? If you’re able to identify that, you’ve found your answer. Remember that while every passage has a central purpose, so too do each of the paragraphs that make up the passage. Ask yourself, “Why did the author write this particular paragraph? Why not leave it out?” You can even do this with sentences within paragraphs. CARS passages are kind of like those Russiannesting dolls with each smaller unit having a purpose all its own.

Examples of Author Technique Question Stems:

The author includes the fact that the Pentagon was unable to account for “what it received in return for paying out $2.3 trillion to various suppliers” in order to:

The author probably mentions that “space exploration was not only a triumph of lone individuals but also of bureaucracies, institutions, and a political system” in order:

The author uses the term “sense” in the passage in order to:

The author provides the information that “Bhutan decided to use ‘Gross National Happiness’ as their explicit policy goal rather than Gross National Product (GNP)” in order to:

What is the author’s apparent purpose in mentioning astronomy?

When the author says that “Russian nesting dolls are much cooler than was originally thought,” she is emphasizing the fact that:

Tips for Author Technique Questions:

– Remember that you’re looking for the purpose behind something particular the author said in the passage. Your answer is going to be significantly narrower than the answer to a main idea question would be.

– Ask yourself “Why did the author include this part? What would be missing or lacking if it weren’t there?” If you can answer these two questions, you will find the correct answer.

– Remove the information you’re being asked about from the passage in your head and see what happens. Does the passage fall apart? Is one aspect of the argument weaker? Is a key point less clear? In answering this question, you’ll discover why the author wrote what she wrote.

– Eliminate answer choices that are too broad or don’t sync with the overall tenor of the passage. Out of nowhere answer choices are pretty common with these types of questions, so keep an eye out for them!

And there you are! You’re done with question types on the CARS section. Every kind of question the CARS will throw at you on test day is right here: you’ve seen them all. Usually, students feel overwhelmed when taking a look at the question types. There are so many tips to remember. I recommend taking the types in order as they’ve been presented in terms of frequency and conceptual importance. Also, keep an eye out for the types of questions you consistently miss on your practice passages. If a certain type of question keeps fooling you up, spend a little time rereading that question type’s post. We’ll spend the next two days looking at two different formats the CARS can use to ask questions. Remember to do all three of your passages today in a block, one right after the other.

Today’s Assignment: Do Three CARS Passages Consecutively, Under Timed Conditions

“Preparation is 90% of success. Do the work and the results will follow.”
– Anonymous

Your MCAT Weakness Finder

Get Bigger Jumps in Score in Less Time Using Data