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How To Study For the MCAT CARS

Of all the sections on the MCAT, the CARS section is the most difficult for many students. Prospective medical students have a natural affinity for the hard sciences, which makes CARS a different kind of beast. The reason so many students struggle with this section is because it requires a certain level of intuition that is uncomfortable for the typical pre-med who enjoys facts and formulas. Unfortunately, the CARS section is not something that you can cram for, but you must prepare for it over time. The good news is that with the right strategy and lots of practice you can conquer the CARS section just as well as the other sections of this exam. In addition to these 5 tips for doing well on the CARS section, below is a set of things you must study and become proficient in if you want to be successful on the MCAT CARS.

How To Study for the MCAT CARS

  1. Know what the CARS section is designed to examine. According to the AAMC, this section is designed to “test your comprehension, analysis, and reasoning skills by asking you to critically analyze information provided in passages”. You don’t need to take any special courses nor do you need any outside knowledge to do well on this section because everything you need will be contained in the passage. The content of this section encompasses both the social sciences and the humanities and is basically just a test on how well you can think critically about what you’ve read and how well you can reason, both within a passage, and beyond it.


  1. Become a better reader. The best way to do this is to read more. Everything from books to magazines is good material to build up you stamina. Remember that the CARS section will not contain passages pertaining to the natural sciences. So burying your nose in volumes of pharmacology won’t result in vast improvements to your critical analysis skills for the MCAT. Read things that are thought provoking and that will challenge you to form an opinion.


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  1. Practice this section every day. When you set your study schedule commit to doing CARS passages every day. Even if it’s just one passage, reading the passages and answering questions will build stamina and improve your analytical skills over time. If you do nothing else to prepare for the CARS section, be sure to do this. When it comes to this section especially, repetition is the golden ticket to making all of your MCAT dreams come true. Over time you will learn how to approach MCAT-type questions, improve your reading speed and comprehension, and most importantly you will notice an improvement in your score. Throughout each section of the MCAT, “application of information” is a major theme. The test-makers want to see how well you can take a piece of information, analyze it, and apply what you’ve learned to a practical situation. You won’t learn to do this by reading alone. You have to actively work on polishing this skill. The best way to do this is by doing practice passages. Our online course at Magoosh comes with 36 passages and 212 CARS practice questions!


  1. Learn to decipher the author’s tone. The biggest “secret” on the MCAT CARS is figuring out how the author feels. Are they encouraging or condescending? Are they serious or light-hearted? Are they trying to persuade you or are they rehashing Elizabethan literature? Knowing where the author stands on a given topic is important. Answering questions that test your reasoning will require this bit of knowledge. As students of science, this may be difficult at first. But start out by looking for context clues. For instance, in a passage about 90’s fashion, whether the author referred to overalls as “fascinating” or ‘’ridiculous” would make a difference to how you would approach the question set. So when you read, either for leisure or for MCAT prep, think about why the author felt strongly enough about the topic to sit down and write about it. Next, think about how the author wants you feel about what they wrote.


  1. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. A lot of students become so focused with practicing and creating foolproof strategies to ace the CARS section that they forget that they already know how to read. Trust that skill. Don’t try to incorporate too many different reading strategies (like speed reading or skimming). The best way to read on the MCAT is to read the passages like you would read anything else. You will find that a lot of the information you need to know from a passage will come to you naturally—even without the facts and figures to confirm your findings.


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