Do YOU need to take an MCAT CARS prep course? Perhaps you’re unsure; but if you’re set on taking all the steps necessary to prepare, then you might worry how will you know if you’re enrolling in the right prep course? If this resonates with you, you’re in the right place! An MCAT CARS prep course is definitely worth the investment if you want to do well on this intimidating section of the MCAT.
Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.
The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT is notorious for being the most difficult part of the entire test and the section where most students score the lowest. The scaled score for CARS ranges from 118 to 132, and on average, test-takers score in the 62nd percentile with a score of 125, according to the AAMC. For some medical schools, this is an acceptable CARS score. However, for some Canadian medical schools, your CARS section is weighted more heavily. For example, the has a required CARS score of 127, and the only accepts CARS scores of 129 and above for out-of-province students.
To attain a competitive score of 128 and above, or somewhere in the 90th percentile and above, students need to be well prepared for the challenges that CARS presents.
The CARS section is comprised of 9 text passages and associated questions. According to the AAMC, MCAT CARS is supposed to "...test your comprehension, analysis, and reasoning skills by asking you to critically analyze information provided in passages." This means that this section is not about the passages at all but rather, your ability to comprehend and think critically about what you read. Unlike the other three MCAT sections, CARS does not rely on any previous or outside knowledge. The answers to the questions will come from within the text itself.
Many students admit that CARS is really the hardest part of the MCAT, since there is no textbook you can really read to prepare, but with the right help CARS can become fun!
“Understanding critical skills in CARS is not easy, but Dr. Brown really breaks it down. He is the best. It makes CARS easier to understand and somewhat fun.” –
Another of our students, Noa, also found that working with an expert at BeMo to prepare for CARS was extremely beneficial:
“I have had several wonderful sessions with Shreya Nuguri. Throughout the sessions I have received thoughtful advice and feedback that was tailored to my unique needs. Although the sessions were focused on CARS, I also found the advice helpful for my MCAT and exam taking skills as a whole.” –
And many of our own admissions experts took MCAT prep courses to help them with their exam:
“I got 97th percentile on the MCAT. I did take a prep course for the MCAT. Doing so helped me to become familiar with the strategies needed to excel on the real exam. I was able to study the content on my own but the strategies for passage-based questions is something I was able to learn from experts.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD, University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine
“I scored in the 95th percentile. I took an MCAT prep class from a company that had in-person availability in my hometown. I really enjoyed the in-person component, but for me it was most helpful as it came with a structured study schedule.” - Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine
But why do students look for CARS help specifically? MCAT CARS passages are taken from a variety of different fields. Usually, half of the passages will be related to social sciences like psychology, politics, or sociology; the other half will be about the humanities, philosophy, literature, or ethical scenarios you must analyze. That is quite a long list of topics; whether or not you manage to master all of them (which is difficult to do) during your prep, there is no background knowledge required to score well on MCAT CARS, so having excessive knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll ace each section. But, working with an advisor who can bring proven strategies to the table can increase your likelihood of achieving a good score:
“Dr Coring was really helpful in outlining what strategies to use during a CARS passage and we went through them for each question which helped in figuring out the best possible answer.” –
The biggest advantage you can give yourself when preparing to write the CARS section is to read. Reading is the strongest skill you will bring to this part of the exam, and reading widely, often, and well will help you . Not sure which books to read? Our experts can help you:
“I worked with Dr. Kasey Chelemedos who kindly mentioned my mistakes and also my strong points! Dr. Chelemedos has excellent skill in listening. That's wonderful ability for a teacher. She sent me helpful reading material too. Thanks BeMo” –
Do you need an MCAT tutor or MCAT prep course? Watch this video to find out!
Because the MCAT CARS is not about testing prerequisite knowledge, students often do not know how to prepare for it, and that's where courses come in. This service, which helps students prepare for MCAT CARS-specific challenges, may be offered as part of a more comprehensive package or separately for those who need help only with the CARS section. This section presents unique challenges to students, so CARS-specific prep can pay dividends:
"Dr Shaughnelene Smith was super friendly and helpful in trying to understand the CARS passage and questions. We would read the passage together and wherever I got stuck she would help me understand what it was trying to say. Then we went over the questions and gave me full opportunity to answer them on my own and give a reason why I think its the answer to solidify my thinking. Whenever I was lost or incorrect she would politely take over and explain the question/wording and then again give me the opportunity to answer it on my own. If I still didn't get it she would step in and help me understand how to determine the best possible answer for the question.” –
After asking themselves “” students may take a look at the price of an MCAT CARS prep course and wonder if it is worth it. While that's understandable, consider what your money would be getting you. MCAT CARS prep courses do a lot more than just provide you with additional study material or study tips.
Let's look at some of the benefits of investing in an MCAT CARS prep course in more detail.
#1 Improve your Reading Comprehension
An MCAT CARS prep course is an excellent resource for students who need to improve their reading comprehension. This is a crucial skill for acing MCAT CARS because being able to understand, distill, and apply the knowledge in the 9 text passages is critical to correctly answering the questions that follow. Our student, Ross, sought preparation help specifically for this reason:
“Dr. Malhotra worked with me during my first post test review to discuss what had been working for me during my independent studying and was able to offer useful advice for new ways to expand my independent readings. As my current goal was to work on my reading comprehension sections she suggested several avenues to access further information and how to incorporate them into my studying.” –
An MCAT CARS prep course will connect you with consultants like the one who helped Ross; all of whom have experience coaching students on preparing for CARS and can help you develop this important skill. They will guide you in breaking down a written text passage, reading comprehension and highlighting key information.
Students who speak English as a second language will also find an MCAT CARS prep course useful for developing this skill. Reading comprehension for these students can be a challenge because the CARS passages tend to be complex, dense, and difficult to read. If this is the case for you, and you need practice improving your reading skills, an MCAT CARS prep course is one of the best resources you can use.
#2 Develop your Critical Thinking and Analysis Skills
The second half of acing the CARS is good critical thinking and analysis skills. Understanding the tricky text passages is the first skill to master and being able to pick the passages apart and find the right answers is the next. The three types of CARS questions are:
- Foundations of comprehension
- Reasoning within the text
- Reasoning beyond the text
The first relies on your understanding of the text and your ability to pick out the key information. The other two rely on your ability to use critical reasoning to extrapolate on the important information in the text and beyond.
An MCAT CARS prep course can help you develop your critical thinking and reasoning abilities with practice passages and practice questions, or by assigning you challenging reading material and then a pop quiz on what you’ve understood from the text. A CARS prep course instructor might also work with you on reading practice CARS questions and identifying why the correct answer is right, based on your analysis of the passage:
“Dr. Henry has been instrumental in my studies, offering clear guidance and constructive feedback. His support has not only clarified my understanding but also enhanced my critical thinking skills, making him an invaluable mentor.” –
While you can certainly develop these skills on your own through self-study, working with a prep course can give you expert, personalized help. MCAT CARS prep courses may even challenge your pre-conceived ideas on certain topics and push you to deepen or broaden your understanding!
#3 Study Resources and Materials
MCAT CARS tests you on your ability to comprehend information and think critically about it, and due to this, students often don't know exactly what they should be looking for. It takes time to figure out what kind of materials would be helpful in your MCAT CARS prep and then how to use that material in a way that will help improve your score. Guidance from an expert can pay dividends in this phase of your prep, too. Many students are unaware of just how beneficial this can be, and find expert advice to be a gamechanger:
“I found out [too late] that BeMo offers post-test strategy sessions after taking a practice MCAT test just to review the study schedule and game-plan with you. I find it super helpful in terms of getting support, boosting confidence, and also very practical in terms of next steps, homework, focusing on weakness areas, etc.” –
An MCAT CARS prep course will have a list of challenging texts to assign you or suggestions on material to read to begin strengthening your reading and analysis skills. An MCAT CARS prep course or might also have access to practice passages you’ve never seen before or fresh material for you to practice reading with. So, in addition to free resources you may already have, an MCAT CARS prep course typically provide access to MCAT prep books, videos, webinars, MCAT CARS Q&A, and more…
#4 Timing and Testing Strategies
If you’re a slow reader or slow test taker, CARS presents an especially difficult test. MCAT CARS prep courses can help you improve your with timed practice tests or timed practice CARS passages. MCAT CARS prep course instructors or resources can also give you some test-taking strategies for CARS that will help you teach yourself to read the passages at the perfect pace:
“Megan Linaric was really sincere and understanding during our meeting today. She gave me a few tips for managing the timing of the MCAT, as well as a few recommendations for study techniques.” –
Timing is critical, and efficient reading saves you time on CARS, as you only have 90 minutes to complete it, but reading too quickly might mean you miss crucial information. A prep course can teach you how to read both quickly and accurately, so you don’t miss anything!
Want a summary of how MCAT CARS Prep courses can help you?
If you do decide that enrolling in an MCAT CARS prep course is right for you, you will want to make sure that you are investing in one that will actually be beneficial to you. Although no two students are alike, and they may require different study methods, there are specific key elements that good prep courses have. We recommend that you look for an MCAT CARS prep course that includes the following:
Need practice with MCAT CARS passages? Watch this video!
1. How hard is MCAT CARS?
Most students find that CARS is the most challenging section of the MCAT because it does not assess any previous knowledge. Instead, it evaluates your ability to think critically so it is quite difficult to prepare for when you don't have the right strategies.
2. How important is MCAT CARS?
MCAT CARS is only one section of the MCAT, and it is graded accordingly. That said, some schools look at your score in this section specifically because it is challenging for most students, so depending on the medical school you're applying to, it can be important, or it can be imperative!
3. Is an MCAT CARS prep course worth it?
Yes, it is. An MCAT CARS prep course can significantly impact your performance, which in turn increases your chances of getting into the medical school of your choice. So, we think that makes it worth the cost.
4. How expensive are MCAT CARS prep courses?
Different MCAT CARS prep courses have different price points from around 300 to thousands of dollars. It all depends on the services you need and the consultants you are working with.
5. How can you prepare for MCAT CARS if you don't know what passages will be on the exam?
CARS evaluates your ability to think critically about a text, so you do not need to know what text you will be dealing with in advance. Instead, you need to learn how to identify different types of texts, and read to comprehend, so that you can answer any questions about the text. This is called active reading and it is one of the many things that prep courses teach students.
6. How do MCAT CARS prep courses help students?
They help students by providing them with access to additional and useful resources, saving them time and stress, and giving them the tools and strategies, they need to improve their MCAT reading comprehension skills and ace the MCAT CARS.
7. What should I look for in an MCAT CARS prep course?
You should look for a prep course offered by qualified instructors with many good independent reviews and success stories.
8. Does BeMo have an MCAT CARS prep course?
We certainly do. You can get in touch with our team to book a free consultation where our experts can tell you more about how we can help you!