Best Tips and Tricks for MCAT CARS

February 20, 2024

minute read

Being a pre-med student, you are probably used to answering science-related questions. Even if you have yet to understand the subject entirely, you still have plenty of experience answering experimental and knowledge-based questions and generally understand how to approach them. You will benefit greatly from that experience on the majority of the MCAT.

However, the CARS section tends to be confusing and intimidating for most MCAT test-takers. Some students have even aced the other three sections but scored very low in the CARS section. 

If you want to know the different MCAT CARS proven tips and tricks to avoid encountering the same problem, that is what this article is for. Let’s keep going!

What is MCAT CARS?

Reading, analyzing, and answering questions about passages are all part of the MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (MCAT CARS) section

Although it may seem like a standard reading comprehension test, it is much more complex than you could imagine. 

The texts themselves can be challenging to read and grasp. The questions are centered on critical reasoning abilities that need more analysis and insight than most examinations you have likely taken in the past.

The MCAT CARS attempts to:

  • measure your reading comprehension, information analysis, and reasoning skills;
  • ask you to evaluate the material in passages critically;
  • provide all the information you need to react to the passages' questions.

The MCAT CARS section contains a total of nine passages. There are five to seven closely related questions for each one. Therefore, within 90 minutes, you must respond to 53 questions. 

The questions in the CARS section can be broken down into three broad groups based on the amount of thinking and complexity necessary for each category.

Here is the MCAT CARS section content breakdown:

  • Foundations of Comprehension—30%
  • Reasoning Within the Text—30%
  • Reasoning Beyond the Text—40%

Passage Content:

  • Humanities—50%
  • Social Sciences—50%

The MCAT's CARS section is scored on a curve, just like the other parts, and you will obtain a score between 118 and 132. Since each section evaluates your MCAT score differently, a "good" score will vary from school to school. 

However, you will typically fall into the 90th percentile with a score of 128.

10 Best MCAT CARS Tips and Tricks

A common misconception about the MCAT CARS part is that your score depends only on luck. 

If you happen to acquire "good" passages, everything goes well; otherwise, things could get complicated.  Fortunately, that is not the case. More practice than luck will be required if you want to ace the MCAT CARS section. 

To do well on the MCAT CARS, you must read the texts and approach the questions in multiple ways. 

Here are some of the top methods and tactics that have improved MCAT test takers' performance on the CARS part.

Learn to Read Actively

When we skim an article on our phones or take breaks between paragraphs when reading for enjoyment, we engage in active reading, which is the reverse of passive reading. 

When we read passively, we do not question any of the points made in the book or make any personal connections to it.

Reading slowly and intently is necessary for active reading because it forces us to engage with the text actively. 

Ensure you understand everything by rereading it. If a sentence or argument is complex for you to understand, wait until you do.

Read Challenging Texts

Reading challenging books forces you to slow down and ponder precisely what the words are attempting to convey; otherwise, you will not understand a thing, which improves your reading comprehension skills. 

Pay great attention to the meaning behind each word. To be sure you comprehend what the author is trying to express, take the time to look up any unfamiliar words.

Classic literature, periodical publications, and literary journals are all excellent choices. Can you understand what is being conveyed? Continue to do this as often as you can. 

The more challenging materials you read, the easier it will be for you to comprehend them.

Do Not Rely on Specific Topics

No prior knowledge is necessary to perform well on the MCAT CARS. 

Most of the answers you will be looking for will be in the sections you read, and the remaining answers will ask you to consider the material you just read critically. 

Reviewing passages and gaining additional knowledge can help you with the MCAT CARS strategy, but developing the appropriate set of abilities should take precedence. 

Even if the passage concerns a subject you are entirely unfamiliar with, you are more likely to answer the questions correctly if you know how to read and analyze a passage actively.

Explain and Summarize What You Have Read to Someone

The best way to check whether or not you have clearly understood what you have read is for you to explain what you have read to someone else. It could be a family member or a friend. 

Try summarizing the passage and re-telling it to them. If you could effectively tell them the content of the passage you read, you have understood it.

Read for Pleasure 

Reading for pleasure is one of the finest strategies to prepare for the MCAT CARS. Therefore, long passages should not simply be found in MCAT preparation materials. However, remember that "pleasure" is the keyword here. 

Read for enjoyment instead of acquiring new facts; popular culture might sometimes have sections with similar themes to those you will encounter on test day. 

Unbelievably, you will learn new vocabulary and phrases, get practice forming ideas, and get the chance to think critically about the content.

Have Untimed Practices…at First 

Untimed practice is beneficial for solving more complex puzzles that may initially take a little longer to solve, especially those in the Reasoning Beyond the Text category.

Additionally, practicing the CARS section without time constraints will help you determine what questions take you the longest to respond to, which can rapidly show your strengths and weaknesses.

Understand What the CARS Section Aims to Assess 

By asking you to examine the passages' content critically, the MCAT CARS is intended to "test your comprehension, analysis, and reasoning skills."

To succeed in this section, you will not need to take any specialized classes or acquire any additional knowledge because everything you require will be provided in the passage. 

This section's topic spans both the social sciences and the humanities. It tests your ability to analyze what you've read critically and reason both within and outside a piece.

Practice Every Day

Make sure to include CARS passages daily when planning your study time. Even if it is just one passage, reading the texts and responding to the questions will gradually increase your endurance and sharpen your analytical abilities. Do this even if you do nothing else to prepare for the CARS portion. 

Repetition is the key to achieving all of your MCAT CARS goals. With practice, you will become more adept at answering questions similar to those on the actual MCAT, increase your reading comprehension and speed, and, most importantly, see an increase in your score

Stick with the Tried-and-True Strategies 

Many students overlook the reality that they already know how to read because they are preoccupied with perfecting their techniques and developing methods to ace the CARS portion. Trust that skill. 

Avoid attempting to use too many distinct reading techniques. Instead, reading sections like any other book is the most excellent strategy for the MCAT. 

Even without the facts and numbers to back up your conclusions, you will discover that a lot of the information you need to know from a chapter will naturally come to you.

Keep Track of Your Time as You Practice 

Time is of importance on the MCAT, as we have already stated. The CARS section is challenging and seems to go on forever. It is challenging to concentrate on a piece that you find uninteresting. 

But it is crucial not to focus too much on the content. Instead, after reading the passage and responding to the questions, continue. Generally, you should spend 10 minutes for each passage on the MCAT CARS.


Aside from the strategies we have above, we also advise you to keep in mind the DOs and DON’T for the MCAT CARS on the actual test day.


Work on Your Speed

Before improving your speed, concentrate on providing accurate answers to the questions. 

Early in their CARS preparation, most students find it challenging to recognize the correct answers. That is totally typical. 

Your first priority must be to identify the different types of questions when you begin CARS preparation, and you should work your way up to successfully answering each one. 

Remember that CARS preparation requires months of diligent work; hence, the pace at which you advance will depend on how often you read the challenging materials.

Predict the Upcoming Paragraph

Another tactic you could find helpful is to read each paragraph and make an educated estimate as to what will be covered in the one after it. This will urge you to focus on each paragraph's core topic and make it easier for you to follow the passage's logical progression, similar to the first technique. 

Understanding the prior paragraph thoroughly enough to anticipate potential future thoughts is more crucial than necessarily making the right forecast.

Have a Look at the Questions First 

Before reading the passage itself, read the questions associated with the passage. Make a hasty note of important passages or facts as you read the questions to pay close attention to them later when reading the passage. 

Looking at answer options before reading the passage can allow misleading or wrong answer choices to bias your reading of the passage.

Paraphrase, Translate, and Eliminate

Return to the passage to locate, read, and paraphrase the pertinent details. After that, keep the question fresh in your mind while considering what the correct response will need to say. 

Use the process of elimination as you consider your options. First, find justifications to eliminate bad choices, then choose the "least wrong" option out of the available options.


Don’t Skip Around

Time is a premium on the MCAT, as we all know, and MCAT CARS time is similarly limited. So do not squander that valuable time by quickly assessing the difficulty of a paragraph. 

You must answer the passages' set of questions in the order they occur. Then, in conclusion, if you still have time, you can return. 

Change your response only if you are very optimistic that it is the right one. But trust your logic; even when we guess, you have probably chosen our responses for a reason.

Don’t Lose Track of Time

Time is of importance on the MCAT, as we have already stated. The MCAT CARS section is challenging and seems to go on forever. Of course, it goes without saying that it is challenging to concentrate on a piece that you find uninteresting. 

But it is crucial not to focus too much on the content. Instead, after reading the passage and responding to the questions, go on.

Don’t Be Afraid to Emphasize Important Details 

You may rapidly understand the main points or ideas by highlighting a section by pulling out important words, phrases, and facts. 

However, it is crucial to be judicious about what you highlight since failing to highlight anything at all if you highlight a lot of information. 

When something is highlighted, rereading it takes less time, saving time on the CARS section. 

The main thesis or notion should be highlighted, as well as significant dates, statistics, and other factual data, names of individuals, locations, or theories.

Don’t Forget to Analyze and Summarize Each Paragraph

Make an effort to summarize each paragraph in a single statement. 

Write down a brief, four- to five-word summary of each paragraph as you read. In addition, you should have a list of succinct statements summarizing the entire passage by the time it is over. 

Determine each paragraph's main topic to improve your reading comprehension. 

Summarizing compels you to reflect on the point or purpose of each paragraph, which encourages you to actively and thoughtfully interact with the text you are reading.

Additional FAQs – Best Tips and Tricks for MCAT CARS 

What is the Best Way to Prepare for the MCAT CARS?

Improving your reading and comprehension skills is an excellent method to prepare for the MCAT CARS. To improve your comprehension skills, get ready by reading, doing sample passages, and even practicing vocabulary words. 

Do enjoy leisure reading to get ready for the MCAT CARS. Improve the difficulty level of the passages you read as the MCAT exam day approaches.

Is the MCAT CARS an IQ Test?

Fortunately, the MCAT is not intended to measure your inherent intelligence. 

The MCAT CARS is not an IQ test, after all. 

Instead, the goal of the exam is to determine whether you have what it takes to succeed in the demanding atmosphere of medical school.

How Many Questions Are There in the MCAT CARS? 

There are 53 questions in the MCAT CARS section. You are given 90 minutes to complete this section. 

The passages and the questions mainly focus on humanities and social sciences. 

The passages are usually 500 to 600 words long, but they are complex, frequently thought-provoking works of literature with a strong vocabulary.

How Can I Improve My CARS Speed for the MCAT? 

Focus on "active reading" during your MCAT preparation to develop the ability to read through complicated materials and summarize the main points quickly. 

This will help you increase your MCAT CARS speed. As you practice, be careful to develop the habit of noting the main ideas in each paragraph you read.

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