How to Approach “Easy” MCAT CARS Passages


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Session 107

What should you pay attention to when you come across a straight-forward passage on the MCAT? Jack gives us tips for how to tackle deceptively-easy passages.

As always, I’m joined by Jack Westin from JackWestin.com. Check out all their amazing free resources. Get access to a free trial session of Jack’s full course to see how it’s like learning from Jack Westin himself. He also has newly released free science-based passages delivered right to your email inbox. They also have the CARS practice exams so you can work and focus on specific topics such as history or economy.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Link to the article:

https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2046694228515/pleasant-dreams

This spring I quarantined in Brooklyn with a friend who had stockpiled a collection of Mrs. Meyer’s hand soaps, which, if you have spent any time in cute cafes or cocktail bars, you likely know by sight or smell. They have been a Whole Foods staple for years, but you can find them at Wal-Mart or Target priced at a few bucks more than Dial or SoftSoap; in many supermarkets they are now the “budget” option, retailing for $4 or $5 next to the $7 specialty soap. “It doesn’t smell as much like chemicals,” my friend said, when I asked about the selection, “and it’s what they have in large stock.”

Mrs. Meyer’s products come in 25 different scents, most of them named after common plants and herbs, the better to “brighten days and bring all the loveliness of the garden inside.” We cycled through eight of them, and the opening of a new bottle became a minor event, inaugurating the smell we’d be smelling for weeks. Each scent was distinctive, but also distinctively like Mrs. Meyer’s: strong, persistent, not quite “natural” but very much like a “natural product,” which is a smell more familiar to me than bluebell or geranium. It makes me a little nauseous, but in context it made me a little nostalgic, too, not for a garden but for the act of going out and spending money.

The pleasantness of those scents seemed to match the “quarantine lifestyle” assembling on Instagram — bread-baking, craft-making, working out on the floor, practicing mindfulness — and clashed with the noises of ambulance sirens and coughing down the hallway. It seemed designed for a form of self-isolation, physical and psychic, that Covid only intensified, and called attention to its own deception: a product that encourages you to feel good when there is no reason to.

In 1999, Monica Nassif, a brand developer and former marketing executive for Target, was browsing at a Linens ‘n Things when she encountered a “hideous” pallet of cleaning supplies. “I remember turning my head and going, ‘I hate that category. I hate everything about cleaning,’ she told Upsize Minnesota, a small business magazine. “I hate the packaging. I hate the toxicity. I always thought I was going to kill my kids and my cat. I would never leave the products out, and I hated the smell. And I remember thinking, why can’t cleaning products be fabulous? Like buying your favorite skincare products?”

[02:52] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

This spring I quarantined in Brooklyn with a friend who had stockpiled a collection of Mrs. Meyer’s hand soaps, which, if you have spent any time in cute cafes or cocktail bars, you likely know by sight or smell.

Jack says:

This is obviously post-COVID talking about quarantining in Brooklyn, and we’re having a discussion here about hand soaps.

[03:53] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

They have been a Whole Foods staple for years, but you can find them at Wal-Mart or Target priced at a few bucks more than Dial or SoftSoap; in many supermarkets they are now the “budget” option, retailing for $4 or $5 next to the $7 specialty soap.

Jack says:

The author here is just laying out Mrs. Myers and what those soaps are, and where you can find them.

[04:21] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

“It doesn’t smell as much like chemicals,” my friend said, when I asked about the selection, “and it’s what they have in large stock.”

Jack says:

The author is highlighting why the friend had this stockpile. If you don’t know what a budget option means, it’s not going to kill you because you can assume probably means you’re paying less for it. They mentioned other soap brands like Dial and SoftSoap. You don’t need to know what those brands are. But you should know it’s making a comparison to other soaps.

[05:12] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

Mrs. Meyer’s products come in 25 different scents, most of them named after common plants and herbs, the better to “brighten days and bring all the loveliness of the garden inside.”

Jack says:

It looks like we’re reading a Mrs. Meyers advertisement here about the different scents that come in and why they’re named the way they’re named.

[05:39] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

We cycled through eight of them, and the opening of a new bottle became a minor event, inaugurating the smell we’d be smelling for weeks.

Jack says:

The author is talking about the joys of quarantine and being able to smell the soaps. It’s a minor event that might sound a little weird. But it’s some sort of celebration. You can actually catch on to the author’s exaggeration or the sarcasm here given we’re in a pandemic. But you don’t need to catch that. As long as you know the author is enjoying the soap, you’re fine.

[06:25] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

Each scent was distinctive, but also distinctively like Mrs. Meyer’s: strong, persistent, not quite “natural” but very much like a “natural product,” which is a smell more familiar to me than bluebell or geranium.

Jack says:

The author here is bringing in their thoughts on what the smells were and what the product is. This is something the MCAT would definitely test you on. For example, what does it mean when it’s a natural product? The definition of a natural product is not really that it’s natural. But it’s a natural product because it’s more natural than other products of the same caliber.

[07:28] Paragraph 2, Sentence 4

It makes me a little nauseous, but in context it made me a little nostalgic, too, not for a garden but for the act of going out and spending money.

Jack says:

It’s another discussion on quarantine and what life is like. The idea here of wanting to go out and spend money versus just smelling new soaps. If you need to know the word nostalgic to some extent because it means you’re yearning for the past. And the past to the author is going out.

This might be weird because if you’re reading this, you’re not really thinking about the pandemic. This might sound like a weird statement, but that this is what happens. Just imagine reading an article from 50 years ago about something that was really relevant back in the day, but not anymore. And your job is to kind of figure it out. So don’t be intimidated.

'When you see something that is from a different era. Just go with the flow, try to figure it out. But if you don't know everything, that's okay.'Click To Tweet

Now, the author is having this feeling of happiness not from the natural substance of it, but more of what it was like in the past.

[09:04] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

The pleasantness of those scents seemed to match the “quarantine lifestyle” assembling on Instagram — bread-baking, craft-making, working out on the floor, practicing mindfulness — and clashed with the noises of ambulance sirens and coughing down the hallway.

Jack says:

It’s painting this quarantine picture.

[09:29] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

It seemed designed for a form of self-isolation, physical and psychic, that Covid only intensified, and called attention to its own deception: a product that encourages you to feel good when there is no reason to.

Jack says:

It’s just focusing on this Mrs. Meyer soap. It’s been around before COVID but how it’s affecting COVID life. It seems like Mrs. Meyers has played a different role in people’s lives, at least for this author.

[10:10] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

In 1999, Monica Nassif, a brand developer and former marketing executive for Target, was browsing at a Linens ‘n Things when she encountered a “hideous” pallet of cleaning supplies.

Jack says:

We’re given a little bit of a history here of this person and time as well as finding bad cleaning supplies. The author brought this up just to contrast what Mrs. Meyers is.

[10:53] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

“I remember turning my head and going, ‘I hate that category. I hate everything about cleaning,’ she told Upsize Minnesota, a small business magazine.

Jack says:

They’re just expressing why this person thought these other cleaning supplies were “hideous.”

[11:15] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

“I hate the packaging. I hate the toxicity. I always thought I was going to kill my kids and my cat.

Jack says:

It’s just expanding on these hideous cleaning supplies. And that potentially this connotation cleaning supplies = bad packaging = bad chemicals, and it’s bad for you.

[11:38] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

I would never leave the products out, and I hated the smell.

Jack says:

It’s just continuing the hideous theme here.

[11:49] Paragraph 4, Sentence 5

And I remember thinking, why can’t cleaning products be fabulous? Like buying your favorite skincare products?”

Jack says:

It sounds like the start of Mrs. Meyers if this is what we’re assuming here. It doesn’t say that but why can’t cleaning products be fabulous? And we’ve had several paragraphs on how Mrs. Meyer seems to be pretty fabulous with the scents and what it makes people think of.

[12:29] Main Idea

We go from quarantine and talking about scents and soaps and what Mrs. Meyers’ soaps are, then discussing the origin of where Mrs. Meyers comes from.

Let’s go back to the second to the last paragraph where they brought up bread-baking and craft-making, working on the floor, and practicing mindfulness. And it says quarantine lifestyle. So it’s part of your life. And the author’s trying to say that this soap is fitting that description. Especially when the author brings up the fact that it’s sort of fabulous. These are fabulous things you might see on Instagram. And the soap falls into that category.

There are articles or passages in the CARS diagnostic tool that look just like this. And you may think it’s so easy. But then the questions are really tough. And the reason they’re tough is that they depend on the subtleties of the passage. So if you’re reading too quickly, you’re going to overlook what they’re suggesting. 

'Even if it's easy, they're not going to test you on the argument. They’re going to test you on how the argument was made.'Click To Tweet

Links:

Meded Media

Jack Westin

Link to the article:

https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2046694228515/pleasant-dreams

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