For many students the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT is most difficult. I’ve created this list of 10 MCAT CARS TIPS to help improve your score.
MCAT CARS TIPS
Start preparing for this section as soon as possible.
If you think the MCAT CARS section will be your weakest section, start preparing for it at least a year or more in advance. I generally recommend starting your first year of college.Many students need more time to get used to the style of MCAT CARS passages. Since the CARS section does not test content (unlike the other three sections of the exam) it’s more of a reading section.If you plan to practice medicine in the US or Canada, your fluency of the English language will play an integral part of how you practice medicine. This includes communicating with your hospital staff and most importantly, your patients.
Try to read anything you want but I always recommend denser reading materials. Don’t be afraid of books with abstract names or boring articles on politics. You never know what will be on your CARS section.
This can be done in many ways: school assignments, blogs, posting on forums like those on SDN or Reddit are all effective ways to improve your reading comprehension. Write about whatever you want. Try your best to be grammatically correct. When you text your friends on a daily basis, try to also be grammatically correct.
Notecard new vocabulary words everyday and test yourself weekly.
Reading is by far the best way to improve your reading comprehension but if you want to speed it up, learning new vocabulary words will go a long way. Whenever you come across words you do not know, write the word down. Then get out notecards and write down those words on one side of the notecard and the definition on the other side. Try to notecard 10-20 a day and test yourself on those words. Pick out one day a week to test yourself on all of the words you note-carded for that week. If you are weak or unsure on any words, put them in a stack where you review those words again next week. For words you feel like you mastered, review them again monthly.
Practice MCAT CARS passages under timed conditions.
Timing changes how you take this exam. If you feel anxious or rushed when you are timing yourself, you are not ready to take the exam.
Anyone can improve on this section, even if English wasn’t your first language.
English does not have to be your native language in order to score high on CARS. The MCAT is a doctor’s entrance exam. Doctors need to think, that’s why it’s such a prestigious and difficult job. The CARS section is a critical thinking exam. It tests how well you can think. You do need a certain level of reading comprehension in order to take the exam but they are not testing how well you know vocabulary words. If you can comprehend this blog, your English is just right or better than what is required on the MCAT CARS section.
You have to study for the MCAT CARS section even if you feel confident in your reading comprehension abilities.
Just because you are a literature or English major doesn’t mean you get a free-ride on this section. The MCAT CARS section has a unique style and pattern that all students must be accustomed to prior to taking the exam. There are definitely students who take the CARS section without preparing and end up doing just fine. You probably know of a couple of friends who did this. But this is very rare.
Practice is not enough to improve.
Would doing a million passages help you? Yes, but not to the extent you would expect. You need to really study the pattern and style of the exam. I have had students who -before enrolling in my course- did all of the passages in EK, TPR, and TBR but still did not improve. It’s not about quantity for CARS, it’s about quality. Focus on the best material out there (AAMC Question Packs) and really gauge what you are doing right or wrong.
Find a strategy that you like and stick to it.
Having a consistent method of reading and answering questions is critical to do well. You may find a strategy that doesn’t work all the time but if you are consistently getting only one or none wrong per passage (under timed conditions), stick to that strategy.
Don’t give up.
The CARS section is the hardest section on the MCAT for a majority of students. It is the one section that prevents students from entering the medical field. But I have seen so many of my students overcome this section through pure effort and determination. I believe anyone is capable of scoring high on this section if they give themselves time and have the drive to succeed.