CARS strategy for slow readers comes down to strengthening your reading comprehension and your reading speed. You’ll need to improve both to give yourself the best chance of acing this tough and dreaded section of the MCAT. If you’re struggling with how to review for the MCAT CARS section as a slow reader, there is hope. There are ways to knock this part of the test out of the park, even if you’re a slow reader or struggle with reading comprehension. In this blog, we’ll look at why the CARS section of the MCAT is tricky for slow readers, what might be affecting your reading comprehension, what can help and the best strategies for studying for the CARS section as a slow reader.

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What is the CARS section of the MCAT?

For students who are preparing for the MCAT, you may have heard about the dreaded Critical Analysis and Reasoning Section (CARS) of this difficult exam. The CARS section of the MCAT is known to be the hardest section of this test, with students scoring the lowest average scores in this section overall. What makes the CARS section so difficult? Unlike the rest of the MCAT, the CARS doesn’t just test you on your knowledge or ability to memorize and recall a lot of complex information. The CARS section, as its name implies, evaluates you on your ability to read complex passages filled with high-level vocabulary, understand the key information contained in these passages, and apply your critical thinking and reasoning skills in order to answer multiple choice questions.

The CARS section contains 9 of these passages, with a total of 53 multiple-choice questions to answer. It is a significant portion of the MCAT, and it requires a very different skillset in order to master it. Above all, it requires you to have excellent MCAT reading comprehension so you can better understand the passages and provide the right answer to questions. For a lot of students, reading comprehension is a hard-won skill, and it does not come naturally to everyone. Improving your reading comprehension is not something that can be studied the same way you would study for any other test. And for slow readers, the CARS section of the test can be the toughest part of MCAT prep.

It’s also important to know how the questions in the MCAT CARS section are broken down. In this section, 60% of the questions you’ll be asked to require you to use your understanding of the passage or the reasoning within the text. The remaining 40% of the questions will ask you to apply your reasoning beyond the text passage. What this means is that the majority of the answers to the CARS section questions are found within the text passages themselves and can be deduced from comprehending the text and using your own reasoning of the arguments and key points being made in the passage.

Of course, this means the remainder of the questions require you to apply your understanding of the text to a new scenario beyond the one in the text. This means that understanding the important information in the passages is crucial to correctly answering the question.

If you’re a slow reader or you struggle with reading comprehension, acing the MCAT can be difficult. You’re only given so much time to complete the test, and if you’re slowed down in the CARS section it could affect your performance on the rest of the test. Or, if you have trouble deciphering the complex information in the question passages, you may miss key details that would allow you to answer the question correctly. Fortunately, there are still ways to ace the MCAT, and the CARS section, even if you’re a slow reader. It can be helpful to identify what may be affecting your reading comprehension or slow reading, as this can inform you on how to overcome this obstacle. Identifying the root cause of the issue can alleviate a lot of the stress and uncertainty you might be experiencing.

Reasons that may affect your reading skills

Many slow readers are used to thinking that their low reading comprehension skills or inability to easily understand a text means they will not be successful test takers. Many slow readers suffer from a lack of self-esteem or confidence in their abilities as readers. But the CARS section does not require you to be able to read a passage extremely quickly. The CARS section of the MCAT is evaluating your reasoning and thinking skills—it just requires a bit of reading, too!

Consider some of the things that might be affecting your reading ability or reading comprehension. For some students, they find it difficult to read certain fonts or small lettered text due to a visual impairment. It is also not uncommon for a slow reader to have an undiagnosed disability, such as dyslexia or ADHD, making it harder for the reader to physically read the text or concentrate on the passage in front of them. If you think you may have a disability that is affecting you, it’s better to know exactly what it is.

Keep in mind that if you’re reading comprehension is affected by a disability or other condition, you may be eligible for MCAT accommodations when you take your test. It is worth exploring whether you are eligible and how to apply for them, if accommodations will help make your test-taking experience easier.

If you can identify the main reasons why reading comprehension is a challenge for you, you’ll be one step closer to overcoming this barrier and making the MCAT a more achievable challenge.

Need to practice for your MCAT CARS? Check out the video below.

How to ace the CARS section if you’re a slow reader

There is a myriad of ways you can prepare for your MCAT and improve your MCAT CARS section score as a slow reader. Hiring an MCAT CARS tutor can be extremely useful, as they will be able to provide personalized, one-on-one help you won’t be able to get from MCAT prep books or MCAT prep courses. Private tutors are an effective tool for working with students individually, and addressing specific issues students can face in the test room, such as being a slow reader or having low reading comprehension. Tutors are specially trained to help students overcome these obstacles and perform better on these important tests.

MCAT tutors can also help you develop strategies for managing your time during the MCAT, which is a crucial skill not only for this exam but for future exams you’ll face in medical school. A tutor can tell you how long the MCAT is, how much time you’re provided for each section and work with you to manage your time wisely when writing the CARS section.

Best CARS strategies for slow readers

There are a number of proven strategies for test-takers who are slow readers or feel that their reading comprehension is lacking. It is a difficult skill to master, but it can be learned and improved with the right help and the right tools. Your MCAT CARS strategy should definitely include some reading practice if you’re a slow reader, as we’ve already seen it is a critical skill for acing it.

There are three key areas where slow readers tend to struggle: reading comprehension or understanding of a text, time management or focus, and vocabulary. Whether you struggle in one of these areas or all three, there are some tricks to tackling them.

There are plenty of other CARS strategy tricks for slow readers you can use while you prepare for your MCAT. Here are some habits you can start implementing while you study for the CARS to help improve your reading comprehension and speed:


While this is not an exhaustive list of CARS strategies for slow readers, they can all certainly benefit you as you study for the MCAT. The CARS section can be particularly intimidating to slow readers, but it can be conquered with good practice and effective strategy.


1. How can I improve my CARS reading comprehension?

The most effective way is to practice your reading skills with practice questions or practice tests. Read practice passages alone or with the help of an MCAT CARS tutor to develop your reading comprehension skills.

2. How can I improve my CARS reading speed?

There are a number of ways to increase your CARS reading speed, but if you’re a slow reader consider timing yourself on practice tests or build a habit of reading the questions and multiple-choice answers first to get an idea of what the passage will contain.

3. What is the MCAT CARS section?

The CARS section of the MCAT is generally considered the toughest part of the test for its complexity. It requires good reading comprehension, critical thinking and reasoning skills in order to master.

4. How do I study for CARS as a slow reader?

The best way is to use a private MCAT tutor who can help you identify the obstacles you face as a slow reader and the best strategies for overcoming them. Otherwise, make good use of practice tests and work on your reading comprehension skills.

5. Can I take the MCAT if I have learning disability?

Yes; if you qualify for MCAT accommodations you can apply for these for your test. For example, if you have a learning disability or other condition which prevents you from taking the test under normal circumstances.

6. How fast should I be reading the MCAT CARS passages?

You should be spending 10 minutes on average per question, with 4-5 minutes for reading the passage and the remaining for reading the question and answering.

7. How long is the MCAT CARS section?

The CARS section is comprised of 9 text passages and 53 multiple-choice questions. This equals out to about 5-7 questions per passage.

8. How hard is the MCAT CARS section for slow readers?

The CARS section of the MCAT can be difficult for slow readers because it necessitates good reading comprehension and you’re not given a lot of time to answer all the questions. However, you can still ace this section of the test by working on your reading comprehension and reading speed, using strategies to help you absorb, understand and use the information given in the passages. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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