Day 22 – CARS Answer Pathologies: Part I
Finally, something new! Today, we start our answer pathologies mini-series. Each day, I’ll take you through a few of the MCAT’s favorite ways to come up with incorrect answer choices. Remember: with every question on the MCAT you get incorrect, you’ve made two mistakes. You’ve missed the correct answer, and you’ve been tricked by a wrong one. We’ll be taking a look at this latter aspect over the next few days with the hopes of getting you to a place where you can eliminate one, two, or sometimes even three answer choices just based on knowing what makes a wrong answer wrong. You should up your daily passage count to four from here on out! Take them all together as a block, one right after the other. Let’s get to it!
One thing to keep in mind with all of these answer types is that it is difficult to see them in action without actually doing practice passages and questions. Every answer choice on our practice tests has the type of answer choice outlined and explained in detail. So if you’re looking to put the lessons of these next few days into action, our practice tests are designed for you to zoom in on the particular answer pathologies that trip you up the most.
There are three types of “Too” answer pathologies on the CARS. There are answers choices that are too narrow in scope, too broad in scope and too extreme in modality. Learning how to recognize each will pay off big time on test day. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Too Narrow – Too Narrow answer choices are some of the most common incorrect answer choices on the MCAT. They are extremely easy to come up with because the test takers simply look to the passage and select a narrowly focused paragraph or idea and present it as the main idea of the passage. A good example of this might be a main idea question about Pablo Picasso’s general approach to art, but a Too Narrow answer choice might focus on the one paragraph in the passage that is concerned with Picasso’s “blue period.” To make the blue period the main idea of the passage would be to have an answer choice that is far too narrow to be correct. If you find yourself with an answer choice that seems to leave out majors parts of the passage, be careful. This is probably a too narrow answer choice.
Too Broad – Too Broad answer choices are the opposite of the Too Narrow type. In this case, the passage has a more centralized focus than the answer choice implies. If we take the example of the passage about Pablo Picasso’s general approach to art, a Too Broad answer choice might be something that surveys all of 20th-century art. This answer choice is far too large in scope to accurately depict the focus of the passage. Broad answer choices are usually easier to notice because they are too general. General questions almost always have general answers on the CARS, but sometimes you might say to yourself, “Hey, this answer choice is too general.” If that’s the case, you’ve got a too broad answer choice. Mark it out!
Too Extreme – Too extreme answer choices take the author’s position and by the insertion of an extreme modal qualifier amp up the author’s point to such a degree that it becomes unsupported, and as a result, becomes wrong. Take a close look back at Day 7 to get these keywords down. You’ll be looking for words such as “always,” “never,” “rarely,” and the like. Extreme answer choices are particularly difficult because they look familiar and often use information from the passage. They become wrong by the insertion of unsupported modalities of strength or weakness. This is why developing an eye for modal qualifiers can pay major dividends come test day. Make sure that an answer choice is not only something that the author thinks but that it is also strengthened to the proper degree.
That’s it for today! Be on the lookout for these three answer types in your daily passages. Once you complete this guide, use the included practice test to identify which answer pathologies trip you up the most. Our practice tests break every answer choice down in exactly the same way so you can easily determine which give you the most trouble. Keep up the hard work! You’re doing great. Don’t forget your four passages for today.
Today’s Assignment: Do Four CARS Passages Consecutively, Under Timed Conditions
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas A. Edison