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Worried about MCAT's CARS section? Here’s what you need to know.

October 1 2019 • Elizabeth Heeg

The MCAT's Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section can be a challenge for PreMed students used to science-focused topics and coursework. Why should you be motivated to equip yourself? What do you need to do in order to perform well on the CARS section?

What does the CARS section consist of?

You will need to read and think about passages from a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities—art, dance, religion, theater, archaeology, and studies of diverse cultures.  On exam day, you will have 90 minutes to process 9 passages and answer 53 questions. This works out to 10 minutes per passage and the 5-6 questions associated with the passage.  Passages are between 500 and 600 words consisting of multiple paragraphs.  These passages won’t cover natural sciences, nor are there any facts or equations to memorize beforehand, nor diagrams to draw. Everything you need to know to answer the test questions is in the passages and the questions themselves.

Why does the CARS section matter?

Enhancing your reading and critical thinking skills will not only help you do better on the MCAT, it will help you be a better doctor. Doctors must be able to extract and infer information quickly and accurately.

First of all, in order to motivate you to prepare for the CARS section realize that enhancing your reading and critical thinking skills will not only help you do better on the MCAT, it will help you be a better doctor.  To be an effective doctor, you must be able to extract and infer information accurately and rapidly.  So don’t get discouraged about the time you are putting in to prepare for this section of the exam.  Rather get excited that you are already working on becoming a better doctor.

How do you do well in the CARS section?

Before exam day:

  • Build your mental stamina: The MCAT takes approximately 7.5 hours to complete. During the test you’ll likely to experience fatigue.  So, to prepare yourself for test day, schedule blocks of marathon study sessions.  This will help you enhance your concentration abilities, thereby building mental stamina.
  • Practice reading: Set aside thirty minutes a day for at least a month to read materials which discuss topics in social sciences and humanities.  After you’ve read a piece, can you summarize what the passage was about? As you get better at understanding, try reading pieces faster. AptarePrep can provide relevant material to practice your reading skills and understanding of passages.

On exam day:

Remember the timing you should be devoting to each passage – ten minutes per passage and its associated questions. Pace yourself and relax.

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