How the MCAT CARS Scoring Works: Words from Jack Westin
Here’s how MCAT CARS scoring works. I will explain what experimental questions are and how MCAT CARS scoring deals with them, what MCAT CARS score you need in order to get into DO, MD, and Canadian medical schools, and roughly how many questions you can get wrong to get a specific CARS score.
The MCAT CARS section is comprised of 53 total questions. Of the 53, there are around 1-4 experimental questions depending on the testing date you sit for. Experimental questions are new questions the MCAT is “experimenting” with. They want to see how students score on those particular questions to determine their level of difficulty. Experimental questions may be very difficult or they may be very easy. But it doesn’t matter because MCAT CARS scoring does not count these questions to determine your MCAT CARS score. So in actuality, the MCAT CARS section is out of 49-52 questions that will really count when the MCAT scores your CARS section. Since you’ll never really know which ones are experimental, it’s best not to think about it. Imagine asking yourself, “is this experimental?” while you are doing a question. That’s not a good idea because you’ll never know if it really is or not and it wastes time on a time-limit exam.
MCAT CARS Scoring and Competitive Edge
You need to get a 124 or higher to be competitive for US osteopathic medicine (DO) schools (assuming your other section scores are all 127 or higher). You need a 125 or higher to be competitive for a majority of MD schools (assuming your other section scores are all 127 or higher). You need a 127 or higher to be competitive for most medical schools in Canada (regardless of other section scores). Believe it or not, Canadian medical schools only really care about the CARS section. I’ve had students who have taken my CARS strategy Course tell me they did not plan to study for the other sections of the exam.
Of course, these are not concrete numbers. I know of many students who have not received these numbers and have still been accepted. But in order to have the best possible chance at the school you are interested in, I highly recommend those CARS scores or better.
In order to get around a 127 on the CARS section, you need to miss no more than 10-13 questions. There will definitely be some variability on how many you can get wrong on MCAT CARS exams administered. But that is usually the average you could get wrong and still get a 127. There are 9 passages on each MCAT CARS exam. If you miss one question for 6 passages and then 2 on the other three, you are looking at a solid 127 or possibly even a 128. I think that’s really do-able, especially on the new MCAT CARS section.
As you miss more than 13, you gradually go towards the other scores. For instance, getting 14-17 questions wrong is most likely a 126. A 126 is a great score that will most likely get you into a majority of MD schools in the US. There are some top-tier schools that really want you to get a 127 or higher (like Harvard, Stanford, etc) but if you were to get really high scores on the other sections but managed to get a 126 on CARS, you are still very competitive.
MCAT CARS scoring considers a blank question as a wrong question. So whenever you mark a question that you want to return to, put in some answer, even if it is a total guess. That way, even if you don’t have time to look over the question, you still give yourself a 25% (1/4) chance at getting that specific question correct.