How to Review the CARS Section in the MCAT

June 25, 2024

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Approaching the MCAT, many students thought that they would not ace it and that getting a 130+ on the CARS section would be almost impossible. However, most of them were surprised after getting the results and found out that they indeed aced the MCAT CARS section

What’s the secret? Aside from preparing and studying hard for the MCAT CARS before taking the exam, they employed the best tips for reviewing their answers to ensure they got the answers right. 

If you want to be one of those students, look no further. This article discusses the best and most effective ways how to review the MCAT CARS section.

What is MCAT CARS?

The MCAT's Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section tests your capacity for reasoning and deciphering complex written materials. 

You must be able to absorb voluminous amounts of challenging clinical information, create efficient treatment plans, and justify your choices to others if you want to become a doctor. Medical schools examine your capability to do this successfully using the MCAT's CARS section.

There are a total of 53 questions; 5 to 7 questions in each passage spread throughout 9 paragraphs. This section will take 90 minutes to finish, equating to around 10 minutes per passage.

The CARS passages will cover social sciences like psychology, sociology, economics, and politics while covering humanities topics like literature, philosophy, ethics, art, and history in half of the passages. 

Here is the MCAT CARS section content breakdown:

Foundations of Comprehension-30%

Reasoning Within the Text-30%

Reasoning Beyond the Text-40%

Passage Content:


Social Sciences-50%

Like the other three sections of the MCAT, the CARS part is graded on a curve, and you will receive a score between 118 and 132. 

The definition of a "good" MCAT score varies from school to school because each program will evaluate your MCAT score differently. However, a score of 128 will most likely place you in the 90th percentile.

How to Review the CARS Section in the MCAT: 6 Helpful and Proven Tips

As mentioned, attaining a 130+ in the MCAT CARS is feasible. You just have to know the proper techniques. Apply the strategies that worked for those who succeeded in this section of the MCAT. 

To guide you as you review the MCAT CARS, we have enumerated some of the most effective techniques you should remember. 

Recognize the Objectives of the MCAT CARS Questions

The MCAT CARS aims to "test your comprehension, analysis, and reasoning skills" by having you analyze the material in the readings. This portion primarily serves as a test of your capacity to examine what you have read critically and to reason both within and outside of a piece. 

As you review your answers for the MCAT CARS section, always remember this. Its subject matter crosses both the social sciences and the humanities. As long as you deeply comprehend the passage, you will be able to answer the questions correctly. 


Sample Passage 1

Towards the end of the 19th century, no one would have dreamed that intelligences higher than humankind's but nonetheless mortal as himself were keeping a careful eye on this world. Men were seen and examined as they went about their varied tasks, possibly almost as closely as a man using a microscope might watch the fleeting insects swarm and proliferate in a drop of water. Men traveled about the world conducting their menial tasks with unrelenting complacency, peaceful in the knowledge that they ruled over matter. No one considered the older extraterrestrial worlds as potential threats to humanity, or considered them merely to eliminate the prospect of life there as unrealistic or unattainable. Most earthly men believed that there might be other men on Mars who were perhaps less advanced than themselves.

But across the chasm of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish looked down upon this earth with envy, and they slowly but surely began to formulate their schemes against us. The average distance between Mars and the sun is 140,000,000 miles, and the amount of light and heat that Mars receives from the sun is hardly even half that of our planet. If the nebular idea is accurate, it must be older than our world. Life on the surface of this world must have started long before it stopped being molten. Its rapid cooling to a temperature where life may begin must have been accelerated by the fact that it is only around one sixth the volume of the earth. It is equipped with water, air, and everything else required to sustain life.

But because man is so self-centered and vanity-driven, no writer explored the possibility that intelligent life may have arisen there until the very end of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, it wasn't generally known that because Mars is older than our planet, has a much smaller surface area, and is farther from the sun, that Mars must also be closer to the end of time than the beginning. The secular cooling that will eventually affect our entire planet has already made significant progress with our neighbor. Although much about its physical state is still unknown, we do know that even in its equatorial zone, the midday temperature is only slightly warmer than that of our coldest winter. Its oceans no longer cover more than a third of its surface, its air is considerably more attenuated than ours, and as its languid seasons change, enormous snowcaps amass and melt near either pole, periodically flooding its temperate zones. For the inhabitants of Mars, that final stage of fatigue, which is still terribly far away from us, has become a current issue.

Their intellects, abilities, and emotions have all been hardened by the urgent strain of necessity. Our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, and with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas, is seen by intelligences and instruments looking across space as a morning star of hope. And since we humans are the only other living things on this planet, we must seem just as strange and inferior to them as monkeys and lemurs do to us. Man's cerebral side has long acknowledged that life is a constant battle for survival. It appears that the people of Mars also have this view.

Before we pass too severe judgment on them, we should keep in mind the tremendous and relentless destruction that our own species has inflicted not just upon its lesser races but even upon animals like the extinct bison and the dodo. Despite their resemblance to humans, the Tasmanians were completely wiped out over a period of fifty years by a war of extermination carried out by European invaders. Are we such apostles of kindness that we would object if Martians engaged in similar combat?

Their mathematical knowledge is obviously considerably superior to ours, but the Martians appear to have calculated their drop with incredible subtlety and to have carried out their preparations with nearly flawless unanimity. We might have been able to see the gathering trouble way back in the eighteenth century if our instruments had allowed it. Men observed the red planet—remarkable, it's by the way, since Mars has been the center of conflict for countless centuries—but were unable to explain the shifting looks of the markings they so expertly mapped. The Martians must have been preparing during that entire period.

Which of the following justifications for the invasion of Earth by Martians is NOT stated? 

A. They are envious of Earth's conditions.

B. They are more intelligent than humans are.

C. Whole races have been wiped off by humans.

D. Life cannot exist on their planet because it is cooling too quickly.


Since this is a "Foundation of Comprehension" question, you should go over each possible response and cross off those that are both relevant to the passage and the question's topic. 

It is stated in Paragraph 3 that Mars has cooled to a point where life is no longer possible there making option D is incorrect.

In Paragraph 2, it is reported that the Martians looked upon Earth "with envious eyes" and thus, option A is incorrect. 

Furthermore, it is mentioned in the first paragraph that the Martians are intelligent, and it is mentioned in the last paragraph that they have "mathematical learning," making option B also incorrect.

Humans have wiped out other races, including the Tasmanians, according to the scripture. However, that is unrelated to the reason the Martians will attack Earth and therefore, the correct answer is C - Whole races have been wiped off by humans.

Highlight and Underline Important Information

The MCAT CARS section time management is aided by the fact that underlined material can be reviewed a second time in less time. You can rapidly understand the core ideas or themes by underlining important terminology, phrases, and facts. 

It is crucial to be selective with your highlighting because failing to do so could result in nothing being highlighted at all. As much as possible, only highlight the information you think is worth asking questions about. 


Paragraph 3 of Sample Passage 1

But because man is so self-centered and vanity-driven, no writer explored the possibility that intelligent life may have arisen there until the very end of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, it wasn't generally known that because Mars is older than our planet, has a much smaller surface area, and is farther from the sun, that Mars must also be closer to the end of time than the beginning. The secular cooling that will eventually affect our entire planet has already made significant progress with our neighbor. Although much about its physical state is still unknown, we do know that even in its equatorial zone, the midday temperature is only slightly warmer than that of our coldest winter. Its oceans no longer cover more than a third of its surface, its air is considerably more attenuated than ours, and as its languid seasons change, enormous snowcaps amass and melt near either pole, periodically flooding its temperate zones. For the inhabitants of Mars, that final stage of fatigue, which is still terribly far away from us, has become a current issue.

According to paragraph 3, we can deduce that…

A. The writer was born prior to 1900

B. Over time, the earth will get colder.

C. The only place on Mars where life exists is near the equator.

D. There aren't four seasons on Mars.


Notice how important concepts are highlighted in the text above. 

Because it requires you to infer, this question falls under "Reasoning Within the Text."

The end of the 19th century is referenced in paragraph 3. However, there is no information on the author's life span making option A incorrect.

There is no evidence about the location of life on Mars, yet it is implied that the equator is the warmest region of the planet. Therefore, it would be a stretch to assume that the equator is the only location where life may exist. Option C is also incorrect. 

The sentence also refers to Mars' "slow seasons," although it doesn't specify how many seasons there are. Hence, option D is incorrect. 

The sentence states that the secular cooling that must eventually sweep our globe has indeed advanced quite a ways with our neighbor. 

Although the majority of its physical makeup is still a mystery, we do know that even in its equatorial zone, the midday temperature is just marginally warmer than our harshest winter. 

The writer claims that because Mars is chilly, Earth will soon follow; therefore, option B -  Over time, the earth will get colder, is the correct answer.

Read Between the Lines

You frequently need to consider what the author implies or thinks. Determine their tone and opinions as you read. It is where most students struggle. The MCAT does not test your literal comprehension; otherwise, it would be very easy. 

Read the passages carefully and deduce what the authors are trying to tell you by critically analyzing every detail given in the passages. 

Remember that the MCAT CARS requires your critical and analytical thinking skills and, therefore, would never ask questions where the answers are obvious. 


Sample Passage 3

People's aptitude for numbers can range from the aristocratic to the Ramanujanian, but it's unfortunate that the majority are on our old Mainer's side, the aristocrats. When I run into pupils who don't know the population of the United States, the approximate length from coast to coast, or about what proportion of the world is Chinese, I'm always shocked and depressed. I will occasionally ask students to estimate things like the rate at which human hair grows in kilometers per hour, the average daily death toll, or the number of smokes consumed in this nation each year as an exercise. In spite of some initial resistance (one student insisted that hair doesn't grow in miles per hour), they frequently have significantly improved their sense of numbers.

Without an understanding of common large numbers, it is impossible to respond to alarming reports that more than a million American children are abducted every year with the appropriate skepticism or to a warhead carrying a megaton of explosive force—the equivalent of a million tons (or two billion pounds) of TNT—with the appropriate sobriety.

If you don't have a sense of probability, car accidents may appear like a minor issue while traveling locally, whereas getting killed by terrorists abroad may seem like a significant risk when traveling abroad. But as is frequently noted, the 45,000 people who die on American roadways every year are about equivalent to all the Americans who died in the Vietnam War. On the other hand, of the 28 million Americans who traveled abroad in 1985, seventeen were killed by terrorists. This means that there was a 1 in 1.6 million chance of being a victim. In the US, there is a one in 68,000 probability of choking to death, a one in 75,000 chance of dying in a bicycle accident, a one in 20,000 chance of dying by drowning, and a one in 5,300 chance of dying in an automobile accident.

The innumerate will almost always answer when presented with these high numbers and the correspondingly low probability that go along with them with the non sequitur, “But what if you're that person?," and then nod knowingly, as if they've just dismantled your case with their sharp insight. As we'll see, many individuals with innumeracy have this propensity to personalize. Equally common is a propensity to compare the risk of developing rare and exotic diseases to that of developing heart and circulation conditions, which cause around 12,000 deaths every week in the United States.

There's a joke I like, and it's kind of pertinent. A divorce attorney is contacted by an elderly married couple in their nineties and begs them to stay together. "Why separate now, after being married for seventy years? Why not persevere? Why now?" We wanted to wait till the kids were dead," the frail old lady finally says in a creaking voice.

Understanding the joke requires a sense of what amounts or durations are appropriate in certain situations. It should be humorous to slip between millions and billions or between billions and trillions, but it rarely is because we frequently lack an instinctive understanding for big quantities. The fact that a million is 1,000,000, a billion is 1,000,000,000, and a trillion is 1,000,000,000,000 is even unknown to many educated people.

The majority of doctors' estimations of the dangers of various operations, procedures, and medications (including in their own specialties) were demonstrably off the mark, frequently by many orders of magnitude, according to a recent case study by Drs. Phillips and Kronlund of the University of Washington. I once spoke with a doctor who, after about twenty minutes, said that a certain surgery he was thinking about (a) had a one chance in a million, (b) was 99 percent safe, and (c) often went fairly well. I'm not surprised by this new proof of doctors' innumeracy considering how many of them appear to think there must be at least eleven people in the waiting area to keep them from being idle.

As implied in the first paragraph, the word "aristocratic" means a person who:

A. identifies those who possess above-average mathematical ability.

B. alludes to the established ruling class.

C. stands for individuals who have little access to numbers.

D. alludes to a lack of comprehension of the distinction between a million and a billion.


Because it requires us to infer, this question falls under "Reasoning Within the Text."

You have to read between the lines. Analyze and evaluate every option given. 

A. No. The word "unfortunate" is used in the chapter to describe the aristocrats' side of the spectrum when assessing people's aptitude for numbers (paragraph 1), implying that their aptitude for numbers is NOT above-average.

B. No. The passage makes no mention of a real social or ruling class. Avoid applying outside information to MCAT questions, especially when terminology is involved, as this is a classic trap. Always stay within the context of the material.

C. Yes. "It's an unpleasant fact that most [people's proficiency with numbers is]...on the aristocrats' side," the author writes in paragraph 1 before discussing pupils' lack of numerical understanding.

D. No. This answer option is rather particular. This is merely one instance of innumeracy; although the "aristocrats" might not be able to tell the difference between a million and a billion, the name "aristocrat" does not particularly relate to the inability to do so.

Correct Answer == C

Evaluate and Analyze All Options.

This means examining the criteria for each response to obviate probable results. You can eventually narrow the selections down to just one choice by eliminating any irrelevant choices. 

As you go along, refer back to the original query regularly to ensure you only remove irrelevant responses.


Refer to Sample Passage 2 for the text.

Which of the following claims is one that the author is most likely to agree with?

A. Swimming is less dangerous than driving a car.

B. It's often amusing to think about numbers like a billion or a trillion.

C. An underwhelming amount of explosive force is described by a megaton.

D. It is improbable that over a million American children are abducted annually.


This inquiry falls under the category of "Reasoning Within the Text" because it calls for inference. 

To be able to get the correct answer, you need to analyze all the options based on the information given in the text. 

A. No. The author does not specifically link drowning or driving a car to the figures on the likelihood of dying in a vehicular accident and drowning that are provided in paragraph 3.

B. No. Despite the fact that the numbers themselves are not hilarious, the chapter claims in paragraph 6 that slipping between millions and billions or between billions and trillions should be humorous but isn't.

C. No, the author implies that a weapon with a megaton of explosive power is a serious level of power by using the word "adequate sobriety" to describe the right response.

D. Yes. This answer option is strongly supported by the author's use of the phrase "appropriate skepticism," which expresses his belief that such figures are probably inflated.

Correct Answer == D

Paraphrase, Translate, and Eliminate.

Answer the assignment's question in writing. Which response fits the passage in the question best? Go back to the passage, find the key details, read them, and then paraphrase them. Next, keep the question in mind while you consider what the right answer will need to be. 

Use the elimination process as you scan the options. Pick the answer that is the "least wrong" of the four by giving reasons to reject the other three. Remember to finish the other, simpler questions first if you come upon a challenging question. 


Sample Passage 3

According to a 2014 research by Oxfam International, only 1% of the world's population owns about half of all wealth, and the 85 richest people in the world own as much as the 3.5 billion poorest people. When plotted annually, many inequality metrics take on a potentially unsettling U-shape: after decreasing following the reforms many developed nations adopted in the wake of the Great Depression, inequality is now resuming levels not seen since the 1920s—and in danger of exceeding them. Elite individuals, including the US President and the Pope of the Catholic Church, have been forced to acknowledge that inequality has emerged as a major problem in light of statistics like these.

The question that is most intriguing is not whether economic disparity exists or is growing; rather, it is where it came from. What is causing and, more importantly, what is sustaining this wealth disparity? After assessing the available data, I contend that this development ultimately has political rather than economic ramifications. This means that rather than being the inevitable outcome of market processes, as many other researchers have proposed, it is the result of purposeful decisions made by important socio economic elites and political leaders (elected, appointed, or otherwise).

Capitalists and laborers, the class of workers and the owners who employ them for work, are at odds over the political fortunes of two sides, the centrality of which has been acknowledged by economists from Karl Marx to Thomas Piketty. Inequality declined when labor had political clout (such as in the years following FDR's New Deal). However, when neoliberalism gained popularity and was embraced by major figures from both sides of the mainstream political spectrum, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in the United States and Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in the United Kingdom, inequality started to rise again.

Although neoliberalism claims to support "free markets," the free flow of capital might be a more accurate way to describe it. Capital seems to follow its own law of gravity, with the exception that it appears to fall upwards, building up in floating paradisiac locations known as tax havens that house the richest people on Earth. Most governments in democratic countries around the world are full of officials who operate in ways that exacerbate the polarization of wealth, whether knowingly or unintentionally, despite the fact that few people would openly vote for this agenda.

The rise of neoliberal ideology is largely the result of an organizational disparity. One side of this phenomenon is clearly illustrated by the United States. In the US, in 1940 to 1980, between about one-fifth and one-fourth of all employed workers belonged to unions. The 1940–80 period is also the bottom of the inequality U–curve, according to Piketty et al. The 1980s saw a sharp decrease in union representation, which was then further eroded; as a result, just roughly one-ninth of US employees are currently union members, while inequality has been continuously rising throughout.

The capitalists, on the other hand, have just gotten more well-organized. Their mobilization actually occurs not accidentally but just a few years before the widespread disempowerment of unions in and around the 1980s. For instance, the Powell Memorandum (written in 1971 by a man who would go on to serve as an Associate Justice on the US Supreme Court) explicitly favored coordinated action among business owners: "Strength comes from organization, careful long-range planning and implementation, consistency of action over an endless number of years, the amount of funding made possible only by teamwork, the political influence made possible only by working together, and this "careful long-range planning" has produced notable results.

Each of the following pairings of phenomena is seen to be correlated by the author, with the EXCEPTION of:

A. less collaboration between workers and more coordination between capitalists.

B. lower levels of equality and higher union membership.

C. political success and organizational sturdiness in democracies.

D. the expansion of neoliberalism and an increasing wealth disparity.


This is a "Foundation of Comprehension" question, you should go over each possible response to eliminate the wrong options. 

The pertinent language for option A begins in P6. The capitalists have merely improved their organization. Their mobilization actually occurs not accidentally but just a few years before the widespread disempowerment of unions in and around the 1980s. 

The author's insistence that this is not a coincidence serves as further evidence that the relationship is meant to be more substantial, possibly cause and effect. It is obvious that there is at least a correlation, hence option A should be disregarded.

Returning to the pertinent paragraph, from 1940 to 1980, between approximately a fifth and a quarter of all employed workers in the US were part of labor unions. The 1940–80 period is also the bottom of the inequality U–curve, according to Piketty et al.  

Undoubtedly, the association that is being stressed is between strong union participation and low inequality, not between poor equality and inequality. 

This choice goes against what the passage says because if inequality is low, equality must be comparatively high. We can therefore safely conclude that option B is true.

The other options in the text can be used to double-check this. The debate that starts with Much of the ascendance of neoliberal ideology derives from a discrepancy in organization and continues throughout the next two paragraphs implies the relationship in option C. 

The text that applies to option D is from P3. Inequality started to increase. The disparity between rich and poor people widens as inequality rises.

Therefore, the correct answer is C -  political success and organizational sturdiness in democracies.

Make Smart Guesses 

You may encounter difficulties where just two or three contested choices are available after examining the MCQ questions' responses. When this occurs, make the most of your ability to guess to save time.

Make every attempt to limit speculation as little as possible, but keep in mind that it depends on chance. As you go along, remember that your first response was probably accurate.


Refer to Sample Passage 3 for the text.

Which of the following would directly support the main point of the author's argument?

I. Evidence that the cooperation of capitalists in the 1970s and 1980s was a major factor in the demise of labor unions

II. Findings showing that inequality levels now are higher than ever before, breaking records first set in the 1920s

III. A study demonstrating that the pace of wealth polarization has accelerated during the 2007–2008 global financial crisis

A. I only

B. I and II only

C. II and III only

D. I, II, and III


The "Foundations of Comprehension" section applies to this question. 

If after reading the passage and you are unsure of which the correct answer should be, try making a guess. But make sure, it is a smart guess, one that is founded with evidence. 

Start with number III, A study demonstrating that the pace of wealth polarization has increased since the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, in accordance with the previously established plan. 

This is precisely what the author claimed was uninteresting and most definitely not the author's main point of contention, even though such evidence would confirm the assertion that inequality is growing. 

This item would need to include some evidence that decisions made by socioeconomic elites led to this accelerating growth to support the primary point, but merely mentioning the financial crisis is insufficient.

Since options C and D cannot be true because (number III) is untrue, it can be concluded that number I is true. It is clear from looking at II, that this is additional evidence supporting inequality's presence and rise, not for the author's suggested explanation, as it shows that current levels of disparity have exceeded historical records set in the 1920s. 

Thus, number II is untrue for a similar reason that number III is wrong, and option B can similarly be ruled out as being true. 

Therefore, even if you aren’t sure that option A - I only, is the correct answer, since options B, C, and D are all wrong after critical analysis, you can make a guess and go with option A. 

How Much Time Should You Give Yourself to Study for the MCAT CARS Section?

The answer to the question of the optimal amount of time is more challenging because it might vary greatly based on other obligations. 

The ideal planning period is three months or longer (two and a half is doable but hard). 

If you are unable to squeeze in 4-6 hours most days of the week, you may need to make arrangements for a period of time closer to four or five months. 

Students who are balancing a full academic load, a full-time job, or both regularly experience this.

You must fit the other three MCAT portions into this window of 4-6 hours every day (rest day not included). But bear in mind that the best MCAT study schedule necessitates daily preparation for two to three MCAT sections

That implies that the MCAT CARS alone should take about 2 hours. You simply need to make plans in accordance with how busy (or not) you are.

One of the toughest parts of the MCAT comprises 53 CARS questions. This section should not be taken lightly. 

Do not, however, jeopardize your bodily and emotional wellbeing. If you study longer than is recommended, you will become exhausted and your studying will be less effective. 

You run the risk of failing to get the knowledge and experience required to achieve a high MCAT CARS score.

Additional FAQs – How to Review the MCAT CARS Section in the MCAT


One of the MCAT's toughest parts is the CARS. However, passing the MCAT CARS test will not be too difficult if you put in enough practice and use smart strategies. 

Prior to taking the MCAT, make sure you read a lot and work on improving your reading comprehension abilities. Keep in mind that it is a test of logic and critical thinking.

How Many Questions are There in the MCAT CARS?

There are 53 questions to answer in the MCAT CARS. The questions are based on the nine passages that you will be reading. 

The MCAT CARS takes about 90 minutes to finish so ensure that you spend a maximum of 10 minutes for each passage.

Is CARS the Hardest Section of the MCAT?

Many MCAT test takers believe that the MCAT CARS is the most challenging part of the exam. 

Your reading, analytical, and critical thinking skills will be put to the test. This is why we suggest that you develop these abilities before taking the MCAT. 

It will be beneficial to read lengthy paragraphs that call for your use of critical and analytical thinking.

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