MCAT CARS section: CARS is an acronym for “Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.” And that’s exactly why medical schools think so highly of it. It tests your critical thinking skills and ability to analyze text. Canadians are quick to realize that tomorrow’s doctors can’t just spit out facts (we have google for that). Doctors need to think on their feet, reason, and analyze material that may seem novel and difficult. The MCAT CARS section is the perfect tool medical schools can use to judge how capable pre-medical students are at such skills.
Quick Facts on MCAT CARS
|Number of CARS Passages in 2015 MCAT||Number of CARS Questions||MCAT CARS Time||MCAT CARS time per passage|
|9||53. Every question will be based on a passage.||90 minutes||10 minutes|
Some Canadian medical schools do not even consider applicants who score below a 130 on the CARS section. If you are Canadian, learning how to approach the MCAT CARS section correctly is the difference between getting into your dream school versus potentially having to re-study and reapply next year. Some students spend over a year preparing for this section. In fact, Canadian students do not put nearly as much preparation time for the other sections of the exam because they know the only score Canadian schools care about is the MCAT CARS section.
That is not to say the other sections do not matter. But Canadian schools can and do often look at college grades to get an idea of how proficient a prospective student is in sciences. Canadian schools cannot as easily identify the degree of logical thinking a person has by simply looking at his or her college transcript.
The AAMC (the creators of the MCAT) have illustrated its value through data and research. The data points to a positive correlation between an individual’s CARS score and their boards scores in medical school. In other words, the higher their CARS section score, the more likely the student succeeds on the boards. (The boards are a set of standardized exams medical students must take to enter their desired residency programs).
The ultimate goal of each medical school is to get their students to graduate. The CARS score is a tool used to judge whether or not you can “pass” the boards or simply complete the rigors of medical school.
The CARS section does not test a single concept of the sciences. This means students cannot have an advantage over other students. This is because it’s practically impossible to know what passages will be on the exam. Whereas for the other sections, if a student’s parents were physicists or biologists, it would enable them to naturally score higher due to their overexposure to the science content – not because of their thinking ability.
Pre-medical students have a common misconception about the CARS section. They believe they are at a disadvantage because they didn’t read a lot while they were younger. Some also believe that because English was not their native or primary language growing up, they are bound to fail CARS.
I have taught thousands of students over the years and I can confidently tell you that this is complete and utter nonsense. This exam does not test comprehension. It tests critical thinking. That’s why this profession is so highly looked upon within most societies.
I have taught students that come from all backgrounds of the English language. These include students who majored in English. Or whose parents were lawyers or novelists. English does not matter. It’s how you think. Just because you grew up with English does not put you at an advantage over others. The CARS section is really good at testing your thought process – not your reading comprehension. Similarly I have taught students who barely speak English and who end up with scores equal to or above 127.
Succeeding in the MCAT CARS Section
The thinking required to succeed in CARS is something that I firmly believe can be taught. Every student has the intelligence necessary to do well on this exam – that is not the problem. The problem is learning how the exam tests the logic. I like to show students this in the simplest way possible.
The MCAT is an intimidating exam. The CARS section is the most intimidating of all the sections. If you do not improve your critical thinking skills you will succumb to panic and simply give up. Medical schools think that if you can overcome a challenging exam such as the CARS section, you may very well be able to overcome any exam they throw your way in medical school. The country of Canada realizes this.
Checkout my Daily MCAT CARS Passages.