Do I need an MCAT CARS prep course? How do I know I’m enrolling in the right prep course? If you're asking yourself these questions, then you are in the right place. Our short answer to the first question is yes! An MCAT CARS prep course is definitely worth the investment if you want to do well on this intimidating section of the MCAT.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about how MCAT CARS prep courses can help you increase your MCAT CARS score and provide tips for finding the best MCAT prep courses.
Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.
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Why is MCAT CARS Hard to Prepare For?
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 Cumming School of Medicine has a required CARS score of 127, and the Schulich School of Medicine 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.
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 a long list of topics, and one can't possibly learn everything about them all in a few months. Furthermore, there is no background knowledge required to score well on MCAT CARS, so having some knowledge about the topic that is covered in a passage will not necessarily give you an advantage.
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 improve your MCAT CARS score. If you’re not a strong reader, or you need a CARS strategy for slow readers, enrolling in an MCAT CARS prep course can give you back this advantage.
Do you need an MCAT tutor or MCAT prep course? Watch this video to find out!
How Does an MCAT CARS Prep Course Help Students?
Because the MCAT CARS is not about testing prerequisite knowledge, students often do not know how to prepare for it, and that's where MCAT CARS prep courses come in. This service, which helps students prepare for MCAT CARS-specific challenges, may be offered as part of a more comprehensive MCAT test prep package or separately for those who need help only with the CARS section.
After asking themselves “how much does medical school cost?” 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. An MCAT CARS prep course will connect you with consultants who 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 and highlighting key information. If you’re a slow reader or struggle with reading comprehension, they can help you pinpoint issues and learn strategies to cope with them, so you can read with confidence.
Students who speak English as a second or third 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. 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!
Want a summary of how MCAT CARS Prep courses can help you?
#3 Study Resources and Materials
When self-studying, you are solely responsible for gathering all the right materials and preparing the best MCAT CARS strategy, which often adds a layer of anxiety to test prep that you don't need. In addition to that, there are only so many resources available to students for free online or in school. Often, students end up having to pay for certain question banks and practice tests, and all those little costs add up in the long run.
Furthermore, because MCAT CARS tests you on your ability to comprehend information and think critically about it, 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.
MCAT CARS prep courses have already done that for you. So, in addition to any free resources you have access to, you also get access to a vast library of additional textbooks – including some of the best MCAT prep books, videos, webinars, question banks, and sample MCAT CARS questions and answers that were put together specifically for this test content and prep. 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 MCAT CARS tutor might also have access to practice passages you’ve never seen before or fresh material for you to practice reading with.
#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 MCAT timing 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. Reading quickly 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!
What Makes a Good MCAT CARS Prep Course?
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!
How to Find the Best MCAT CARS Prep Course
How do you find the ideal MCAT CARS prep course when there are so many to choose from? This is a careful decision, and you should avoid rushing into picking the first prep course you find. Do some research and consider what the prep course needs to provide you with. If you really want to ace your CARS section, you want to commit to a prep course that will deliver. Check out our quick guide below for finding your ideal CARS prep course!
The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the MCAT can feel understandably intimidating, but the truth is that you can prepare for it. If you have the right tools and strategies at your disposal, you can improve your reading comprehension and critical reasoning skills.
Finding the right MCAT CARS prep course, using the tips we outlined above, will equip you with the appropriate coaching, strategies, and tools to improve your score and ace the MCAT CARS.
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!
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