MCAT CARS Section Practice Questions

June 25, 2024

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Many pre-med students claim that CARS is the most difficult section of the MCAT. Some students have aced the other three sections of the MCAT but did not do so well in the CARS section. 

One of the main reasons why some students find this section the most challenging is that they tend to focus more on scientific knowledge and background while preparing for the MCAT. They thought MCAT CARS was merely a reading comprehension test, which it was not. 

To help you prepare for this section and ace it, we have prepared some MCAT CARS section practice questions (answers included).

What is MCAT CARS?

The MCAT's Critical Analysis and Reasoning part, also known as CARS, is intended to gauge how well you can read, analyze, and respond to questions concerning passages. Even though it appears to be a typical reading comprehension test, it is far more complicated than you might anticipate. 

The questions are focused on critical reasoning abilities that need a greater degree of analysis and insight than most tests you have undoubtedly taken previously, and the texts themselves can be difficult to read and comprehend. 

The MCAT CARS section contains readings that are rooted in the humanities and social sciences. 

The texts touch on various topics, including literature, the arts, philosophy, theology, economics, history, and political science. 

The difficulty of reading and comprehending the material should be prioritized over the specific subject matter it addresses. 

The author's vocabulary and writing style, as well as whether the section presents extremely abstract ideas or more concrete ones, all influence the text's difficulty level. 

MCAT CARS Practice Questions

There is no predetermined subject that you can study for the MCAT CARS part. Thus, different abilities are required to perform well on it. 

However, CARS requires a few strategies and abilities which can be learned. These include reading effectively by focusing on the most crucial details while avoiding irrelevant information and understanding inferences, assumptions, and arguments within passages. 

To familiarize yourself with such passages, we have a few MCAT CARS practice questions you can answer as you prepare for the MCAT. 

MCAT CARS Sample Passage 1

There are significant legal and ethical problems involved in the discussion of domestic surveillance. Legally speaking, the Bush administration said that both the U.S. Constitution and the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks gave it the authority to approve the wiretapping operation. President Bush would be able to go after any enemy operating inside the country without specific congressional consent according to the constitutional rights of the U.S. president in his capacity as commander-in-chief. Additionally, the President would be able to spy on Americans without obtaining a warrant because of his wartime powers, which are unaffected by Congress because the President has both the authority and the responsibility to protect the country. Further, it is asserted, the President was given the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" by the Congressional resolution authorizing military force that was passed shortly after 9/11, effectively suspending the FISA requirements, which are seen as being outmoded and inappropriate in light of the current war on terror. President Bush defended his decisions as essential to national security when he acknowledged in a televised address that he had approved domestic, warrantless monitoring of calls involving an overseas party.

The increase of the President's executive authority, according to critics, violates constitutionally outlined requirements for judicial and congressional scrutiny. A constitutional check against illegal acts in the executive branch must be provided by Congress and the courts. They assert that the exposed domestic spying programs infringe on Fourth Amendment protections against unauthorized search and seizure. The Supreme Court has also ruled that the majority of government surveillance must be justified by a court's determination of criminal wrongdoing's probable cause.

Other objections to domestic spying raise issues with two particular federal laws. First, the program is alleged to be in violation of the 1978 FISA Act's warrant requirements. The Authorization of Military Force resolution does not grant the President the authority to circumvent the USA PATRIOT Act, which only permits the collecting of data for up to 72 hours before a court warrant is required. Second, the NSA operation breaches the National Security Act of 1947, which mandates that Congress' intelligence oversight committees be informed of U.S. intelligence activity. Only eight members of the House and Senate were briefed on pertinent events. Without such congressional consent, defendants' accusations that the evidence used against them was gathered unlawfully could imperil the prosecution of terrorists who have been apprehended. A U.S. District Court declared the NSA monitoring program to be unlawful in August 2006. An appeal is still ongoing as of this writing.

Conflicting views on the normativity of domestic espionage are at the heart of the legal discussion surrounding it. On the one hand, supporters argue that specialized monitoring programs are essential given the gravity and complexity of the current terrorist danger and that they have successfully stopped prior terrorist assaults on American soil. They assert that the majority of Americans today would concur that some of their rights must be given up in order to protect national security. On the other hand, opponents contend that measures taken to combat terrorist organizations shouldn't restrict civil rights, as they are a crucial component of a free and open society. By making exceptions to the constitution's limitations on the president's power in the fight against terrorism, other special provisions, like those against the use of torture and the indefinite imprisonment of individuals, could be erroneously justified. The use of such techniques might be made possible by modernizing counter-terrorism surveillance regulations in the US, but only if appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the privacy of innocent people.

The controversy over domestic spying is likely to continue for some time in the near future, given the enduring fears about the terrorist threat and the corresponding enduring worries about civil rights.

Questions for Sample Passage 1:

1. What is the context of the argument about whether wiretapping is "normative"?

A. Whether it follows the proper procedures
B. Whether wiretapping is permissible or not
C. Whether it will establish a precedent for the future
D. Whether wiretapping will become commonplace or merely an anomaly.

2. Which of the following hypothetical pieces of evidence would refute the assertions of those who oppose domestic eavesdropping and surveillance?

A. Congress has the authority to review matters pertaining to national security.
B. No illegal or non-terrorism-related uses have been made of the data gathered through surveillance.
C. Some Americans don't mind if the government or other parties listen in on their conversations.
D. The use of anti-terrorism measures hasn't resulted in the surveillance of innocent people or a weakening of civil rights elsewhere.

3. In relation to 9/11, both proponents and opponents of domestic spying rely on a few basic presumptions. While proponents maintain that domestic spying is required for national security reasons, opponents claim domestic spying: 

A. impedes national security.
B. ought to be put to a vote of the people.
C. is an infringement on the rights of US people.
D. mostly targets those who have done nothing wrong.

4. How does the passage support the author's intended meaning?

A. By weighing the reasons put forward by each side
B. By using examples and characterizations, both actual and fictitious
C. By emphasizing the requirement for increased security in response to terrorism
D. By concentrating on the historical progression of laws passed against domestic espionage

5. The section highlights the fact that domestic surveillance is a contentious practice in the United States, marked by a discussion of: 

A. the Fourth Amendment and justice.
B. national security and civil freedoms.
C. individual freedom and civil liberties.
D. the tracking of international terrorism and criminals.

MCAT CARS Sample Passage 2

The genre of academic email is examined in this essay, with a focus on the style and pragmatic proficiency of native and non-native English speakers. "Electronic English for Academic Purposes" is what Posteguillo (2002) terms the study's framework. This places this work in the newly emerging discipline of "netlinguistics," which, according to Posteguillo, is a branch of applied linguistics that focuses on the linguistic analysis of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) or other electronically published texts. In this study, academic e-mails and paper-based letters from the correspondence of four distinguished researchers in the domains of chemical engineering, medicine, and English for Specific Purposes are compared. Academic writing, according to Hyland (2000), can exhibit disciplinary as well as generic variances.

However, only the generic dimension will be taken into account in this paper. The pragmatic viewpoint adopted here focuses on the selection of the variables, which are the methods employed to carry out four conversational routines (formulaic speech acts) in the texts of the corpus (academic e-mails and formal letters). These are compliments, regrets, implores, and offers. The Speech Act Theory (Searle, 1969) and the idea of politeness as put out by Brown and Levinson (1987), two prominent pragmatic theoretical frameworks, are also crucial to this study project. The results allow us to better understand if academic emails have a more informal tone than formal academic letters and to what extent the two styles are similar.

The corpus of emails and letters was organized before the analysis in accordance with the primary communicative objective of each email or letter under consideration. The corpus' texts were automatically divided into four groups by the Speech Act Theory and the idea of politeness. These categories were created using the positive and negative face models proposed by Brown and Levinson. The core of our model is a highly abstract concept called "face," which consists of two distinct types of needs (or "facial wants") that interactants attach to one another: the want to be unrestricted in one's activities (negative face) and the desire to be accepted (in some ways) (Brown & Levinson, 1987: 13). Positive face corresponds to the speaker's desire to be respected by others, whereas a negative face is frequently referred to as the speaker's "territory." When we engage, both good and negative expressions are viewed as potentially dangerous. The phrase "face work tactics" in this research refers to the cooperative methods employed to safeguard the addressee's faces in order to preserve the stability of exchanges. The four types of emails and letters are shown below.

A. FPF: Emails or messages that may be flattering to the recipient's good side. These messages express thanks from the sender to the recipient.

B. TPF: Emails or letters that may be threatening to the recipient's good nature. These texts frequently have an apologetic tone.

C. TNF: Emails or letters that may be threatening to the recipient's reputation. Every text in this category includes one or more requests. Often, the sender wants the recipient to do something for them.

D. FNF: Emails or letters that may be flattering to the recipient's adversarial side. The texts are frequently "response messages," in which the sender responds to a previous text.

Each of the variables is specific to a certain sort of message due to its inherent nature. The frequency of thank you’s, apologies, requests, and offers in each of the four types of e-mails/letters reveals that, in both corpora, requests are more common in TNF messages than in TPF messages, thank you’s are more common in FPF messages, and apologies are more common in TPF messages. As a final point, offers are frequently utilized in FNF messages since they constitute a speech act that flatters the recipient's negative face (or "territory").

Requests and offers can be seen as ritual speech acts like thanking and apologizing since they frequently come with expressions that are similar to politeness practices. However, unlike saying thank you and I'm sorry, there are an infinite variety of ways that these might be accomplished (Aijmer, 1996). The conversational routines stem, or the center of the routines under study, will receive the greatest attention. The distribution of the routines in emails and letters, their level of civility, and their structural flexibility are the elements of the routines that were researched.

Requests and offers may be fulfilled in an infinite number of ways, as was previously mentioned. In comparison to thanking and apologizing, requests in both corpora analyzed give way to a significant quantity of conversational routines, but only a small number of methods are employed, as is demonstrated by the examination of the fixed quality of requests in the corpus. Once more, this seems to support my suspicions that authors of academic emails rely heavily on the standard genre of the traditional letter in the academic setting. Despite the tiny percentage of implicit requests in the corpus, the frequent use of specific grammatical constructions suggests that email writers may have taken structural cues from the academic letter genre.

Questions for Sample Passage 2:

6. An example of a message that would be flattering to a negative face based on the information in the text is: 

A. a note from a professor praising a different professor for a newly released article.
B. message informing a graduate student that their essay had won a student research competition.
C. a notification sent to graduate students allowing them to book a cubicle for use as an on-campus workspace.
D. a notification sent to graduate students informing them that they needed to be present for the student council meeting in order to vote on the new policy.

6. The purpose of speech rituals like thank you’s and apologies, according to the passage is to: 

A. flatter the subject.
B. only make the sender seem likeable and relatable.
C. show respect in order to make up for any possible face loss.
D. use positive expressions to swap out negative facial expressions for positive ones.

8. The text makes the following claims regarding academic emails without suggesting that they are:

A. extremely similar to letters from academic papers.
B. a vital route for preserving polite working relationships.
C. both in terms of form and substance, generally predictable.
D. a vital channel for the spread of rumors and social information.

9. In paragraph 2, the author employs the word "pragmatic" in a specific sense. We can assume that it might be referring to:

A. the use of language to try to get a certain result rather than to express one's actual feelings.
B. the relationship between two distinct communication components, such as a greeting and a request.
C. the link between language use and the particular social objectives that each environment has in mind.
D. language that is only used for practical purposes rather than in a courteous or socially-based manner.

10. The text claims that this article addresses everything EXCEPT:

A. how politeness is expressed in messages.
B. how academic emails written in English differ between native speakers and non-native speakers.
C. how differently people express themselves when pursuing the same conversational objective.
D. how a person's performance of "face work" is influenced by their rank within the organization.

MCAT CARS Sample Passage 3

Gauguin's perspective on painting signaled a break with the past and the start of modern art. Like other Post-Impressionist painters, he went through an Impressionist phase but rapidly grew frustrated with the style's limits. He then found a new style that focused on impressions, thoughts, and experiences and had the simplicity and universality of a symbol. His denial of impressionism marked the beginning of his modern tradition. He thought naturalism was a mistake and should be avoided. He was more concerned with suggestion than with description because he wanted to capture the essence of things in their most basic, pure, and natural state, which could only be done by simplifying the form. The idea that "art is an abstraction" and that "this abstraction [must be obtained] from nature while dreaming before it" was one he held dearly throughout his life. Instead of trying to portray the model exactly as one sees it, one must focus on the creation that will be made as opposed to the model. Gauguin used the term "symbolic" to denote that the forms and patterns in his paintings were designed to evoke mental images or concepts and not just to record visual experiences. This was the beginning of "Synthetism" or rather Synthesist-Symbolic.

Symbolism is the rejection of direct, literal portrayal in favor of evocation and suggestion, and it was at its height between 1885 and 1910. The trend was in opposition to Impressionism's naturalistic goals because artists sought to visually communicate their emotional feelings. Symbolism, which satisfies the desire for a more spiritual or emotional approach in art, is distinguished by the desire to seek solace in a dream world of beauty and the conviction that color and line may represent thoughts on their own. Style-wise, there was a tendency toward flattened forms and large swaths of color, and the movement was characterized by an intense religious sentiment and an interest in topics like sin, disease, and death.

Similar to "Synthetism," it entailed reducing complex shapes to broad patterns and purifying colors in order to express themselves. For the sake of expression, form and color had to be made simpler. This movement opposed Impressionism's "formlessness" and supported painting subjectively and expressing one's ideas as opposed to using outside objects as subject matter. Pure color sections, sharply defined outlines, an emphasis on pattern and decorative elements, and a dearth of shadows were some of its distinguishing features.

These two trends were combined in Gauguin's new art form, which was successful in releasing color, form, and line to communicate the artists' feelings, sensibilities, and unique experiences of the outside world. His approach broke with the established descriptive naturalism tradition and promoted the fusion of reality and imagination. According to Gauguin, one discovers forms not in nature but rather in their wildest imagination; thus he looked within himself rather than outside. He derided the Impressionists for their lack of creativity and reliance on purely scientific reasoning because of this. Gauguin also reintroduced forceful outlines and employed color in an unnaturalistic manner for ornamental or emotional impact. His use of the term "synthetism" indicated that his images were not merely accurate scientific replicas of what the human eye sees, but rather were created from symbolic color patterns and linear rhythms.

Questions for Sample Passage 3

11. Which of the following can you conclude to be an Impressionism tenet based on the facts in the passage?

A. Using bold lines and colors to convey the emotions evoked by an encounter
B. Capturing idealized images of reality as they appear in the artist's mind or memory
C. Representing an object's external forms, emphasizing color and light instead of outline
D. Capturing reality through the use of technical means like photography to capture its exact appearance

12. What can we learn about Symbolism and Impressionism from the facts in the passage?

A. Both believed that ideas were essential to a work's impact.
B. Both emphasized portraying natural rather than artificial objects.
C. Both saw the subjective experience of the artist as a crucial component of the work.
D. Both believed that rather than appeasing society, art should express the eccentric personality of the artist.

13. Which of the following fictitious pieces of information would refute the author's assertions regarding the significance of Gauguin?

A. Proof that Van Gogh and other painters active in the 1870s and 1880s influenced Gauguin's painting style
B. Proof that the Impressionists' art was just as shocking and revolutionary at the time as Gauguin's would later be
C. Proof that Impressionism and Gauguin both disapproved of the more formal and conventional realism of the early 1800s
D. Photographic proof that some of Gauguin's paintings don't look anything like the landscape they're meant to be based on

14. Based on the information in the passage, which of these statements by other painters would Gauguin be LEAST likely to agree with?

A. "Treat nature as the sphere, the cone, and the cylinder." – Paul Cezanne
B. “Paintings have a life of their own that comes from the painter's spirit.” – Vincent Van Gogh,
C. "There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see. When you have it, you have it. If you haven't, you start over." – Edward Manet
D. "A blind man works as a painter. He draws what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen, rather than what he sees." – Pedro Picasso

15. The passage claims that Gauguin disapproved of Impressionism for a variety of reasons. Which of the following CAN NOT be used to infer the motivation behind this rejection?

A. Impressionism lacks beauty.
B. Impressionism was lacking in imagination.
C. The Impressionist movement's lack of adaptability.
D. Impressionism lacked strong emotions and sensations.

MCAT CARS Sample Passage 4

Freedom is, as I came to say, a robustly or modally demanding ideal after thinking for a long time about the different ways it may be defined. Assume you concur with Isaiah Berlin and the lengthy tradition dating back to Jeremy Bentham that the only purpose of being free to choose between X, Y, or Z is to avoid other people's involvement with any of those possibilities. In order to achieve this goal, you must do more than just avoid interference with the choice you actually prefer—you must also avoid the frustration of your real preference. In order to make the choice, one must avoid interruption and annoyance with any of the possibilities. You cannot be influenced in your actual decision to choose, let's say, X. However, it must also be true that if you had chosen Y or Z, you would not have encountered any problems in that scenario either.

Freedom necessitates both genuine non-interference and non-interference in the worlds that are the closest to you if you choose Y or Z instead. In fact, it logically demands that you should avoid interfering for a range of possible worlds in which you pick X but in a slightly different way from how you actually choose it, as well as for a range of possible worlds in which you choose Y and Z instead. In short, robust non-interference, or non-interference in a variety of relevant conceivable worlds, including the real one, is a requirement for freedom, as understood by Berlin. It is a value that is robustly or modally demanding.

It may only be possible to identify the range of worlds where you must avoid interference in order to experience freedom in this sense on a context-sensitive basis, with intuition playing a key part in establishing the boundaries. But one thing is for certain—they might include highly implausible worlds. Even if it may be extremely unlikely that you will choose Y or Z as opposed to X, you must avoid interference if you want to exercise your right to choose between X, Y, or Z in a way that gives you freedom.

Every choice must be an open door, according to Berlin. It is insufficient that the door you happen to push against is already open. Additionally, it is insufficient for doors to be more likely to be open in proportion to your likelihood of choosing them. Simply put, they must be open. Even when it is acknowledged that the non-interference should exist in both conceivable and actual worlds, the republican definition of freedom as non-domination that I have maintained in earlier work reinforces the modal requirements of freedom as non-interference.

Not only must each door be open voluntarily, but it must also remain open without relying on the goodwill of any influential doorkeeper. If X, Y, and Z were open doors for you, but only while I'm in a good mood, your ability to use X, Y, or Z would rely on how I'm feeling at the time. You would be obligated to submit to my will in making the decision because it would ultimately have the final say. Consequently, you would experience something less than freedom, according to conventional wisdom. Given that I still have a favorable attitude toward you, you might have some freedom or flexibility in your decision-making, but you would exercise such freedom or flexibility in a way that befits a slave or subject rather than a free individual. You might enjoy unrestricted freedom, much like a horse does when its rider lets it follow its nose. However, I would still be in charge, deciding how far you can continue to enjoy your freedom.

I have no desire to support either the weaker notion of freedom as non-domination or the stronger notion of freedom as non-interference. I merely bring them up as illustrations of modally demanding ideals. Freedom is a rich value with a thin counterpart that we might define as the absence of option frustration in any interpretation. In order for the rich value to exist, the thin counterpart must also exist in a range of possible worlds, both in the instance of freedom as non-domination in a wider range and in the case of freedom as non-interference in a narrower range.

Both serve as illustrations of a structure that is present in other values as well. And that's what I'm currently interested in since, as we'll see, the structure's existence has important normative ramifications. Consider the worth of love or friendship to see that the structure is present elsewhere. Think in particular of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. The main characters in this fantastic comedy, Jack and Algernon, each struggle with the issue that their fiancées mistakenly think they are called Ernest and argue that they could never love a man who wasn't called by that name. The name Ernest is individually comforting to each fiancée. The presumption is obvious. Both Jack and Algernon believe that love is a rich value that requires the lover to show her beloved affection not only in the real world—the world in which he is ostensibly known as Ernest—but also in a variety of hypothetical worlds, and particularly in worlds in which he is known as Jack or Algernon.

Questions for Sample Passage 4

16. What is the author's major argument regarding what freedom is?

A. Having freedom entails more than just being able to choose what you want in reality.
B. In order to feel free, you must be confident that nobody will object if you express your preferences.
C. Most decisions people make are arbitrary because they might have just as easily picked Y or Z in place of X.
D. Most of the time, when someone makes a decision, it is not a free one since they have been improperly swayed by external factors.

17. What does the author hope to achieve by utilizing the idea of "potential worlds"?

A. To imply that alternate universes with freedom are significantly less common than ones with restrictions on it.
B. To imply that, despite the fact that we believe our preferences and decisions are unavoidable, other options were possible.
C. To assert that what might occur in alternate scenarios is just as significant for preserving freedom as what actually occurs.
D. To demonstrate that people making decisions should carefully consider how those decisions would turn out in various alternative scenarios.

18. Why does the author include The Importance of Being Earnest as an example in paragraph 7?

A. To demonstrate how the ideals of true freedom and true love or friendship are interconnected because neither can be attained.
B. To imply that the primary characters are relatable because they give both the real world and hypothetical worlds the same amount of attention.
C. To imply that the main characters are misguided because they mistakenly believe that something bad will happen if their names were changed.
D. To demonstrate how true freedom and true love are related ideas because they both demand that specific requirements would have been met even in other circumstances.

19. What additional circumstance qualifies as a "rich value" comparable to those mentioned by the author?

A. Personality, since a person's core personality remains constant despite all of life's changes.
B. Integrity, which calls on one to act morally even when tempted, rather than just when doing so is simple.
C. Intellect, as someone who is truly intelligent, is capable of thinking flexibly about a wide range of subjects.
D. Kindness, as a genuine kind person will perform good deeds even when doing so is inconvenient for them.

20. Which of the following is NOT a potential hindrance to freedom according to the author's definition?

A. A worker who can take a sick day because her manager gives the go-ahead
B. A person who was born a member of a race or gender that precludes them from exercising their right to vote
C. A customer who orders and receives their preferred dish without realizing that all the other dishes are out of stock
D. A voter who is eligible to cast a ballot but does not feel strongly enough about any of the candidates to do so

Answer Key:

1. A

2. D

3. C

4. A

5. B

6. C

7. C

8. D

9. C

10. D

11. C

12. C

13. C

14. C

15. A

16. A

17. C

18. D

19. B

20. D

Additional FAQs – MCAT CARS Section Practice Questions

Is the MCAT CARS Difficult?

The CARS section of the MCAT is the most challenging for many students out of all the sections. 

There is something about the murky MCAT CARS passages, the challenging verbal thinking problems, and the time limit that seems to be too short that causes test-takers a great deal of stress.

How Can I Improve My MCAT CARS?

You can enhance your MCAT CARS skills by improving your reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. You can do this by reading passages that are 500 – 600 long and those that will require you to analyze. 

The passages in the MCAT CARS are mostly about literature, the arts, philosophy, theology, economics, history, and political science. Familiarize yourself with these topics.

What is the Perfect Score in the MCAT CARS?

Like the other three MCAT sections, the CARS is graded on a curve. You will receive a score between 118 and 132, 132 being the highest. 

A "good" score will fluctuate from school to school because each program will evaluate your MCAT score differently. However, a score of 128 will typically place you in the 90th percentile.

How Many MCAT CARS Practice Questions Should I Answer to Get a 520+?

The number of correct answers you need on the MCAT to get a 520+ depends on the number of correct answers you get in the other three sections. 

If you aim for a 520+, you need to get a score of at least 130 in all four sections of the MCAT.

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