Today, we break down the first passage in the CARS section of the Blueprint diagnostic. Let’s dig in!
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:30] Tips to Improve Your CARS Score
Since CARS is an analysis of reading passages and critical thinking, it’s dependent on strategies, reflections, and building those reading skills. That’s why you have to learn about different question types in CARS and to be able to predict what the test makers are going to ask you.
Nicole emphasizes that there’s no substitute for that other than doing questions. And it doesn’t feel as nice sometimes as doing a content review on a topic you’re confident about. But the only way to get better is to just do it, which can be really intimidating.'If it's asking something even almost remotely related to the author, if the tone of an answer choice is not in line with your author's tone, it's not going to be your right answer.'Click To Tweet
Make sure you are keeping track of every single question you get wrong when you were doing practice questions and practice tests. Write down the questions you got wrong, why you got it wrong, and how you think you could get them right the next time.
Additionally, Nicole recommends reading for two things. Read for main idea and read for tone because these two are going to inform every single answer.'Pretend that you are like an MCAT baby and you come in knowing nothing in the CARS section. Forget everything that you've ever learned, except for your analysis and strategy.'Click To Tweet
[08:35] Passage 1 (Questions 1 – 5)
About his friend Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Finnish philosopher Georg Henrik von Wright said that Wittgenstein’s ideas were “distorted even by those who professed to be his disciples.” This misunderstanding of his work and distortion of his ideas may, in some sense, at least partially be Wittgenstein’s fault. In the course of his philosophical career, he published only a single small book: the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. It was not until after Wittgenstein died in 1951 that his various manuscripts were edited together into the lengthy Philosophical Investigations.
Nicole suggests highlighting some things to create a map to go back and find things. In this case, phrases are highlighted in bold as seen above. Then if any of these are mentioned, this is going to help you go back and find them.'Highlight to create yourself a map to go back and find things.'Click To Tweet
Also, just note here that it might be Wittgenstein’s fault that he is misunderstood.
[11:15] Paragraph 2
Wittgenstein’s somewhat unusual career as an academic was paralleled by an even more troubled and unusual personal life. After being born to a very wealthy family, Wittgenstein gave away nearly his entire personal fortune, first in large sums to several unknown poets and painters, with the remainder being given to his siblings. The youngest of nine siblings, Wittgenstein’s early life was defined by the harsh authoritarianism of his father and the successive suicides of three of his older brothers.
Now, we know this guy wrote a book on philosophy, which is edited together after his death. We’re getting some background on what his life was like. Here, you may highlight things like “troubled and unusual personal life” and “harsh authoritarianism of his father.” If this is a strong tone, take an extra look at that to see if it might be something important.
Finally, you now know that if they ever ask about their childhood background, you can go back to that place where you highlighted “unusual personal life.”
[13:00] Paragraph 3
As a young adult, Wittgenstein’s academic career began with him studying mechanical engineering in Berlin. This interest grew into a study of aeronautics, with Wittgenstein even being granted a patent for a particular propeller design. As he continued his engineering studies, he eventually came upon works on the philosophy of mathematics written by Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege. These works created a near-obsession with logic and mathematics in Wittgenstein that eventually led Wittgenstein to Cambridge where he studied under Bertrand Russell.
Here, we are getting a look at his academic background. It’s not about highlighting every single detail here. But just be aware that if there’s a question about aeronautics, you know where to go back to find that related information.
Then once again, we have some names popping up here. Nicole strongly recommends that you always highlight names, unless it’s a repeat of the name you already had.
“Near obsession” is also something to note here since it’s a pretty strong language, as well as how the interest shifted from aeronautics and engineering to philosophers/mathematicians that created it.
[14:59] Paragraph 4
Wittgenstein’s studies had their first major interruption due to the outbreak of World War I. After volunteering in the Austro-Hungarian army, Wittgenstein was wounded in an explosion and, near the end of the war, captured by Allied forces and held in a POW camp for nine months. Near the end of the decade, Wittgenstein was rocked by several major setbacks: his dear friend (and likely his lover) David Pinsent was killed in a plane crash, his favorite uncle passed away, and the German publishing house to which he had submitted the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus declined to publish the work.
If they ask about what happened in the time of World War I, then you know where to go back. Also, note this several major setbacks. And again, highlight new names; in this case, it’s David Pinsent, his uncle.
[16:57] How to Work Through Really Long Passages
Nicole says the biggest thing on passage is timing and working on your timing because it takes longer to read it.
In general, when you get the average of all the passages, you get whatever the regular length for a passage is going to be. And so, as you work to develop your timing skills, shift from possibly doing untimed practice at the beginning of your prep to working through the nitty-gritty of the passages.
If a passage is, for instance, two paragraphs longer than another passage, it might take you an extra minute. But as long as you have that confidence in your timing and you’re checking in, that’s fine.
[18:32] Paragraph 5
This combination of personal and professional setbacks derailed Wittgenstein’s work for some time. He took work as a gardener in a monastery and later worked as a teacher for schoolchildren in a remote rural village. In an ironic twist given his own upbringing, he became infamous in the village for his near-tyrannical approach to teaching, especially among those students with no knack for math or logic. He used corporal punishment routinely on both male and female students and used to openly criticize both the village priest and the school headmaster in front of the students.
Here, we have more background and more life progression. This paragraph is about personal and professional setbacks.
Just note, too, that the author mentioned the “ironic twist” which is a pretty strong language. Beyond that, Nicole doesn’t think you have to highlight anything else.'Highlighting is always going to be different from person to person... it's about figuring out what works for you as long as you're not coloring the page yellow, you know you're on the right track.'Click To Tweet
[20:23] Paragraph 6
Several more years passed with Wittgenstein moving between various low-level teaching positions, during which time a “pirate copy” of the Tractatus was published. The work was widely distributed in philosophical circles and created growing fame for Wittgenstein among Europe’s intelligentsia. He eventually returned to Cambridge to teach. Despite having been denied a Bachelor’s degree some decade and a half prior, the faculty at Cambridge chose to award him a Ph.D., viewing the Tractatus as his doctoral dissertation.
Here, we know there’s a pirate copy being published here. The phrase “moving between various low-level teaching positions” also denotes that he’s having a little break here. Also, note his growing fame in Europe.
Just notice the pretty drastic change. He was moving back to this village and dealing with these children with a tyrannical approach. Then we have these low levels, super insignificant teaching positions. Then suddenly Europe’s intelligent philosophers are super excited about him.
[22:18] Paragraph 7
Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest disruption to European life of the past two centuries (World War II) actually had the smallest impact on Wittgenstein’s work. As he had been awarded a professorship by Cambridge, it was a relatively simple matter for him to obtain UK citizenship and continue his teaching and writing throughout the war, while most of his family was able to emigrate to the US.
We have a little bit of a transition here where World War II has had the smallest impact.'Always looking for comparisons between different groups, different ideas, different people, because that is total total question fodder.'Click To Tweet
And it’s surprising because we were told something different earlier in the passage about a similar circumstance. And so, drawing those connections is super important.
Before moving on the questions, Nicole recommends thinking about the main idea and tone of this passage. We have this person Wittgenstein where philosophy came to him later in his life. He was influential, but some of it after his death. Then he had kind of this interesting life arc.
[25:43] Question 1
In the first paragraph, the passage implies which of the following about Wittgenstein’s work?
A.Despite claiming to be his disciples, many of Wittgenstein’s followers intentionally misrepresented his ideas.
B.Wittgenstein would not have approved of the final, edited form of the Philosophical Investigations and would have insisted on significant rewrites.
C.Had Wittgenstein published more works during his life, his ideas may have been better understood by others.
D.Wittgenstein’s small publishing output was a result of his being distracted by his engineering interests, in particular aeronautical engineering.
Based on the passage, we know that his ideas were misrepresented or misunderstood during his life, and he only published one book. That’s partially his fault that it was misrepresented because he only published more. Therefore, if he had published more, maybe people would have understood better.
Answer Choice: C
[28:45] Question 2
The author suggests which of the following about Wittgenstein’s early academic pursuits?
A.His skill in engineering was notably less significant than his skill in philosophical work.
B.If he had never read the work of Russell and Frege, he likely would have continued working in aeronautics for longer than he did.
C.His father’s strict, authoritarian approach to child-rearing created the sense of self-discipline that Wittgenstein needed to develop his philosophy.
D.Wittgenstein’s personal fortitude in enduring a POW camp altered his philosophy in a way that gave it a more mystical, religious quality.
D – We can eliminate this one first because it talks about “mystical, religious quality” which you don’t see anywhere in the passage.
C – Again, it doesn’t say anything that led to Witt’s sense of discipline.
A – One could potentially assume this but we don’t have enough information to make that value judgment.
B – This makes more sense since you can see the turning point here.
Answer Choice: A
[31:40] Question 3
Which of the following people would the author find to have had a career most analogous to Wittgenstein’s?
A.A musician who created one of the most successful rock singles of all time but who otherwise spent his career touring small venues where he covered other musicians’ songs
B.A sculptor whose life’s work was a single massive building containing and composed of dozens of distinct sculptures
C.A physics professor who is willing to spend several years forgoing the professional acclaim that comes from original research because she knows that it is more important that she create a much-needed textbook to fill a gap in her school’s undergraduate curriculum
D.A law professor who only published a single, highly influential book analyzing the structure of Supreme Court decisions but whose collected lecture notes were posthumously published as a series of law review articles
A – We don’t see any correlation here.
B – They’re trying to tie this into the book. But this doesn’t relate to the passage.
C – This doesn’t make sense either.
D – This definitely makes sense because it’s the same thing that happened with Wittgenstein.
Answer Choice: D
[36:49] Question 4
The author’s description of Wittgenstein’s teaching style as an “ironic twist” (paragraph 5) assumes which of the following?
A.Having been raised by a strict authoritarian father, one would have expected Wittgenstein himself to react by forming a more easygoing, laid-back teaching style.
B.Children who are raised in a harsh environment end up reproducing that harsh environment when they grow up.
C.Philosophers generally make for ineffective teachers.
D.Among wealthy European families, it was expected at the time that children would adopt both the personality style and vocation of their parents.
C – This is kind of extreme since we’ve determined the tone of the author is not extreme.
D – We didn’t talk about European families in the passage so this doesn’t make sense.
B – This is a true statement but this doesn’t answer the question here.
A – This talks about the ironic twist where you’re looking for something that is not the expected outcome or it’s something opposite.
Answer Choice: A
[40:16] Question 5
Which of the following, if true, would most weaken one of the passage’s assertions about Wittgenstein’s life?
A.Wittgenstein’s fluency in English was an absolute requirement for his gaining British citizenship.
B.Wittgenstein halted his philosophical work during WWII in order to act as a nurse for wounded British soldiers, and this interruption prevented him from seriously resuming teaching ever again.
C.Near the turn of the 21st century, historians discovered a series of personal letters exchanged between Wittgenstein and Pinsent that confirmed that the two were in a romantic relationship.
D.Wittgenstein never received any payment, formal or otherwise, for the initial version of the Tractatus that was published throughout the UK and Austria.
A – This is not related to what we’re talking about here. Instead, look for what would weaken the main idea of this passage.
C – It’s not corrected here as well. If this were true, it would support the author’s ideas. And we’re looking for something that would weaken it.
D – If it’s true that he never received any payment, they never talked about income in the passage. So it’s not relevant to any of the main things the author is trying to tell us.
B – If this was true, then it would weaken the assertion with regard to the setback. WWII didn’t matter because he already had his good teaching thing going on.
Answer Choice: B
[46:20] Final Thoughts
Nicole leaves us with the thought that you have to embrace positivity in the moment. And when you have something that goes wrong, you just have to move on. Convince yourself of that confident mindset where it feels believable to you in that moment.
You’re probably going to have some passages that you feel better about and some passages that you feel worse about. And so, it’s about getting used to the fact that it’s normal to feel that way.