Blueprint Diagnostic CARS Passage 3

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MP 271: Blueprint Diagnostic CARS Passage 3

Session 270

Today, we review the third CARS passage from the Blueprint Diagnostic exam. We’re joined by Hunter from Blueprint MCAT. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to

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

[02:56] The Biggest Mistake Students Make When Answering Questions

Hunter says that a common mistake that students make when answering questions is overthinking, especially with CARS.

'Don't read too much into every question because a lot of times, we can start to doubt ourselves.' Click To Tweet

Hunter adds there’s this stigma where people think CARS is there to trick students. But students just read way too much.

[05:23] Passage 3 (Questions 11 – 15)

Paragraph 1

Understanding and addressing the economic impacts of climate change presents a unique series of problems. The costs and benefits of any activity taken to mitigate the effects of global warming or to adapt to its impacts will inherently be unevenly distributed across nations, sub-national groups, and even generations. Economic policy decision-making is plagued by incomplete information and speculative assessments about the near- and medium-term impacts of climate change effects. Efforts to divert economic resources towards mitigation or adaptation must involve a heavy opportunity cost, with resources being redirected away from other economically salutary activities, possibly from more effective environmentally sustainable initiatives.


Hunter recommends paraphrasing the passage in your own words to get a better understanding of what you’re reading. 

And so, looking at this paragraph, we have climate change and there’s going to be a big economic impact that’s not going to be equal across people, places, etc. And we’re going to have to make some sacrifices in the short term for this to happen.

Phrases worth highlighting are in bold. Take note, as well, that the word “must” in the above paragraph is pretty extreme so it’s something that Hunter thinks needs to be flagged. And although we try to dismiss any answer choices with extreme words, this could be an exception since the author used this himself/herself in the passage.

[10:32] Paragraph 2

With the deep uncertainty around these issues, economists and policy-setters are faced with a challenge to traditional decision-making processes. In the classical approach, key steps proceed in a more or less sequential fashion. Analysts start by identifying the nature of the problem to frame the construction of the relevant research. Research allows stakeholders to develop a complete or near-complete understanding of the relevant issues. Any shortcomings in such understanding simply fuel further research. Once avenues of exploration have been exhausted, policymakers can next identify a number of policy options and craft those options into the most optimal policy that is practicable, thereby solving the problem.


Here, we’ve transitioned away from climate change, and now we’re talking about problem-solving. It’s probably going to be related to it in one of the other paragraphs. And so don’t get thrown off by this.

[13:16] Paragraph 3

Uncertainties surrounding the economic impacts of climate change, led Professor Granger Morgan to advocate for an iterative problem-solving approach. Under this heuristic, the research that follows problem-identification does not provide a full understanding of all relevant issues, but leads to both continued research and implementation of the adaptive policy that is identified as being the most likely to be beneficial. Policy implementation is carried out concurrently with further research, including assessment of the policy’s effectiveness. The policy and other identified alternatives are re-assessed in the light of new knowledge and changing circumstances, and the end state is not a comprehensive solution, but a refined or reframed identification of the problem, which iterates back to the initial research step and to the task of identifying the best adaptive policy for moving forward.


This is basically just the opposite of the previous paragraph which offers a classical approach. And here, there’s this other way to solve it. And because climate change is uncertain, this may be better.

[16:03] Paragraph 4

One implementation of this latter approach is a method of risk mitigation borrowed from investment banking called the portfolio approach. Under portfolio theory, the only rational response to decision-making on uncertain terrain is to create a varied array of both possible and implemented responses. That is, policy-setters should advocate for the simultaneous deployment of both mitigation strategies and adaptation strategies in response to climate change and for the use of a number of strategies involving a resilient and diverse economy and insurance hedges spread across all economic sectors and in different regions of the globe. That is, a nation should ensure that some component of its financial resources is allocated to investments in various countries (and indeed, continents).


This paragraph talks about the implementation of the second approach to problem-solving.

[18:39] Paragraph 5

Underlying any approach to decision-models or risk-analysis is cost-benefit analysis. Unsurprisingly, even this foundational assumption for fiscal and economic problem-solving has itself come under critical scrutiny. The typical cost-benefit analysis converts various factors into a common monetary unit – typically US dollars – and then seeks to maximize dollars. Critics suggest that climate change is a uniquely disastrous problem that is not susceptible to a simple dollar-based approach to utility, and that the various consequences of global warming should be disaggregated and examined on an individual basis. Thus, even if climate change were to have a “three-billion-dollar cost” to the petrochemical sector of the economy and a “one-billion-dollar cost” in the form of lost biodiversity in subtropical regions, these two numbers cannot meaningfully be compared to each other, and policies relating to these two issues must be separately examined.


Phrases worth highlighting are in bold. Again, Hunter suggests paraphrasing what you’re reading, especially when reading lengthy passages.

[23:33] Question 11

Which of the following would most closely parallel the traditional decision-making process it is described in the passage?

A.A non-profit organization examines the costs for a number of different initiatives and chooses the one whose potential benefit maximizes the utility of dollars spent.

B.An oil refinery’s manager allocates several portions of the plant’s equipment and space to simultaneously test several potential improvements on refining techniques while continuing to implement traditional ones.

C.A beverage company does several consumer surveys and focus groups and uses the results to design and then sell a new brand of soda.

D.An education company goes out of business because it chooses not to invest in new learning technologies while its competitors all do so.

Thought Process:

The question mentions “traditional” and the passage talks about the classical approach. So the MCAT is trying to use synonymous words here.

Hunter adds that they love to use a word that basically means the same thing. But since you don’t recognize it from the passage, a student may feel weird picking it. Or they tend to use the exact phrasing from the passage in “trap” answers.

'Anytime we have new information, it's reasoning beyond – and that's usually a little bit more challenging.'Click To Tweet

Going back to our thought process here, the “classical approach” was mentioned in Paragraph 2. Note that we highlighted “sequential fashion” which refers to the classical approach. So we just have to look for something that is happening in a sequential fashion.

A parallel for the traditional decision-making process is in Paragraph 2 and proximity is important. And so, answer choice A is off-topic. The sequence is, first we do our research, then we make the action.

We eliminate B since it’s using the word “simultaneously” which is not sequential and D is way off the mark.

Therefore, C is the correct answer because they’re doing the research, and then they’re using the results in order to influence their decision moving forward.

Correct Answer: C

[31:51] Question 12

The passage suggests that the author believes each of the following EXCEPT: other issue facing decision-makers presents a series of problems in the way that climate change does.

B.large issues filled with uncertainty cause researchers and policy-makers to develop new approaches that are firmly grounded in the traditional assumptions underlying economic analysis.

C.Professor Morgan’s approach to problem-solving provides a recursive approach that provides for practical solutions that may not be perfect but allow policy-makers to quickly address the immediate situation. least some uniquely difficult problems should be expected to lead people to question assumptions and frameworks that they may not have previously.

Thought Process:

Take note that this is an “except” question. And so, we have to find the statement that the author doesn’t believe in. Hence, we have to get rid of the statements that the author believes in.

A – We can get rid of this since the author mostly likely believes in this statement. Going back to Paragraph 1, Sentence 1, the author talks about how climate change is a unique series of problems; hence, parallel to the “no other issue” stated in this answer.

B – Climate change is a big issue and it’s filled with uncertainty. And the key phrase here is “traditional assumptions” which is talking about the way that we looked at cost-benefit analysis. This is in the last paragraph saying how they used to do it this way but they can’t do that anymore.

C – Morgan’s approach is mentioned in Paragraph 3 where it talks about the approach being iterative which matches this answer. So we toss this one out as well.

D – The author would totally agree with this as well so we throw this one out.

Correct Answer: B

[43:04] Question 13

Which of the following would the passage author most likely recommend to a multi-national corporation seeking to utilize portfolio theory to deal with uncertainty?

A.Mitigate risk by placing financial resources in very different sectors of the economy within the most politically stable nation available

B.Take a recursive approach to decision-making that allows risk reduction by updating strategies in the face of new information

C.Diversify business holdings across different sectors in different countries’ economies

D.Avoid investing in either petrochemical industries or those businesses that rely on biodiversity in subtropical climates

Thought Process:

The “portfolio theory” was mentioned in Paragraph 4.

D doesn’t make sense so we throw this out right off the bat.

A and C are actually opposite of each other. When you see two answer choices that are the complete opposite, usually, one of them is wrong and the other is right.

Answer choice A is talking about diversifying what you’re investing in, whereas the passage is talking about diversifying where which is also mentioned in the last sentence of Paragraph 4.

Correct Answer: C

[49:38] Question 14

When faced with economic costs due to a failing school system and a poorly managed fire department, the critics mentioned in the final paragraph would most likely advocate for which of the following?

A.Examining each issue separately and arriving at a policy decision appropriate for each issue

B.Developing a monetary comparison between the two situations and solving the more expensive one first

C.Carefully analyzing the costs and benefits associated with each problem and designating the one with the larger costs as the more urgent issue

D.Taking an iterative approach to solving both problems that involves implementing an adaptive policy that can later be revised based on new information

Thought Process:

All of these sound familiar because they’re all from the passage, we just got to figure out which one the author would really do. This is reasoning beyond the text because this “failing school system and the fire department” is a new scenario.

In order to answer our reasoning beyond the text, you do have to find that nugget of truth from the passage. 

Going back to the final paragraph, it talks about how the way they’ve been doing things previously isn’t correct. And so, they need to come up with a new way because they’re questioning traditional methods. And going back to the phrase we highlighted in the paragraph, it talks about “policies relating to these two issues must be separately examined.” That’s our answer.

And looking at the answer choices, A is spot on. Then we can move on. But just going through the other answer choices, B and C are both talking about comparing. D is out of the paragraph so we eliminate that one too.

Correct Answer: A

[54:08] Question 15

According to the passage, Professor Morgan’s approach:

A.does not provide policies that solve problems.

B.feeds back on itself in a way that is different from traditional models.

C.takes longer to implement given the multiple rounds of assessment and reassessment. favored by those who see traditional cost-benefit analysis as inappropriate.

Thought Process:

Hunter points out how you have to be very efficient with answering. One of the better ways is to eliminate a couple answers. And when you’re down to two answer choices, then you can look for those specific things.

A – The approach is providing solutions so we eliminate this.

B – Without even referencing the passage, we could get to this answer choice being the correct one.

C – We never talked about length of time, so we can get rid of this.

D – This is talking about cost-benefit which is not related.

Correct Answer: B

[58:48] Hunter’s Tips

If you’re not already keeping the lessons learned journal, or you’re writing down all your mistakes, and what you’re going to do, definitely start doing one of those.

'Retraining the way that you think about CARS and the way that you're approaching these problems is paramount... this isn't content, but skills.'Click To Tweet

Develop certain skills to approach passages in a certain way. It’s all skill-based.

If you’re struggling, stop doing it the same way and approach it from a different train of thought or a different angle. If you’re not changing the way you’re doing it, your score won’t change.


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