how to study for cars mcat

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how to study for cars mcat

MCAT CARS Strategy – Do’s and Don’ts

  1. DO remember that each passage is telling you a story. Many students approach this section defensively. What I mean is that they read each passage with a critical eye just waiting to be bamboozled. Think of how many times you have to reread something when you’re distracted. This section is no different. When you read a passage, read it as if you are reading the first page of a new book—without expectations. Read it as if you are reading for informational purposes only. Don’t cloud your already anxious brain by trying to pick out words and phrases or by trying to skim through the passage.

2. DON’T skip around. As we all know, time is a luxury on the MCAT, and MCAT CARS time is also scarce. Don’t waste that precious time by skimming passages to decide which ones are easy or hard. Complete the passages you are given in the order they appear, with their series of questions. If you have time at the end, then you may come back. That said, I’d like to add an additional point. When I was in the first grade I struggled with math. I would always get my tests back and tell my mom “I had the right answer, but I changed it,” to which she would reply “If you think long, you think wrong.” I’ve found that this little nugget of advice holds true for the MCAT too. When we are unsure about an answer, our first guess is usually the right guess. When we go back to make a chance, it’s often because we’ve talked ourselves out of the right answer and into one of the wrong answers. Don’t do this. Only change an answer if you’re completely certain that you know the correct answer. Even when we guess, we’ve most likely picked our answers for a reason, so trust your reasoning skills.

3. DO keep track of your time. Like I mentioned before, time is of the essence on the MCAT. CARS passages seem to drudge on forever; these are difficult passages. Needless to say, it’s hard to focus your attention on a passage you find uninteresting. But it’s important not to get hung up on the content. Read the passage and then answer the questions and move on.

4. DON’T think that you can’t improve your CARS score. I am a firm believer that the MCAT is a test that students can prepare for. The key is preparing effectively. Don’t waste time trying to outsmart the test. Prepare by reading, doing practice passages, and even practicing vocabulary words to give your comprehension skills a boost.

5. DO read for pleasure to prepare for the CARS section. One of the best ways to prepare for this section is to practice reading. You don’t want the only time you see long passages to be in MCAT prep material. Keep in mind, however, that the operative word here is “pleasure”. Don’t read with the goal of learning new information, read for entertainment–even popular culture material can reflect the content of the passages you’ll see on test day in some ways. Believe it or not, you will pick up on new words and phrases, practice forming opinions, and have the opportunity to reason beyond the text.

why is cars so hard mcat

6 Steps to Conquering MCAT CARS

There are many myths about the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section, one of which is that your score depends on luck. If you happen to get “good” passages, all is well, but if you don’t, you are in trouble. Thankfully, this is entirely untrue. It’s practice not luck that will help you conquer the MCAT CARS section. To do well on this section you will need to fundamentally change how you read the passages and go about answering the questions.

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Check out our online MCAT CARS prep courses or keep reading to discover an effective MCAT CARS strategy that will help you improve your CARS score.

  • Step 1: Tackle passages out of orderMCAT verbal reasoning passages are not necessarily, or even usually, presented in order of difficulty. Don’t waste time on the hardest passages, only to skip or rush through the easy ones. Instead, decide if a passage is a
    • Do Now (an easier passage)
    • Do Later (a harder passage)
    • Killer (one that you will randomly guess on or do last)Skim a few sentences of the passage and see if you can easily paraphrase it. If you can, it’s most likely an easier passage to understand.
  • Step 2: Read the questions firstKnowing what topics show up in the questions will help you work the passage more quickly and effectively. Before working the passage, read through the question stems from first to last (not the answer choices), identifying and highlighting any words or phrases that indicate important passage content.
  • Step 3: Read with a highlighter and scratch paperAs you read through the passage, use the highlighting function (sparingly) to annotate the most important references in the text. This would include things like:Med school admission committees tend to weigh the CARS section heavily, so it’s important to get your best score.
    • question topics
    • topic sentences
    • shifts in direction or continuations
    • the author’s tone
    • different points of view
    • conclusionsUse your scratch paper, especially on difficult passages, to jot down the main point of each chunk of information. Think about how these chunks relate to each other. Track the logical structure of the author’s argument.
  • Step 4: What’s the bottom line?After you have read the entire passage, sum up the bottom line: the main idea and tone of the entire passage. For particularly difficult passages, write this down on your scratch paper to make sure that you have a reasonably clear idea of the point and purpose of the passage as a whole.
  • Step 5: Translate, paraphrase, and eliminate Translate the question task into your own words. What is the question asking you to do with or to the passage? Go back to the passage to find, read, and paraphrase the relevant information. Then, with the question firmly in mind, think about what the correct answer will need to do.As you go through the choices, use process of elimination. Look for reasons to strike out incorrect choices, and select the “least wrong” of the four. Remember, if you hit a particularly difficult question, skip over it for the moment and complete the other easier questions first.
  • Step 6: Check the review screenAt or before the 5-minute mark (ideally, before you begin your last passage), double-check to make sure that you haven’t left any incomplete questions. Do NOT rethink questions you have already completed. Your goal in this step is simply to make sure that you have selected an answer for each question.

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