Start your MCAT CARS practice by reviewing these difficult sample CARS passages and answers. Anyone who has some experience with the MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section will have come across a difficult passage. In this blog, we’ll go over challenging MCAT CARS practice passages and provide expert analysis and tips for how to review your MCAT CARS section. These are the same exact strategies we use to help our own students achieve high scores on the MCAT as part of our MCAT prep programs. We're not holding back. Let's dive in!

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How to Approach MCAT CARS Practice Passages MCAT CARS Practice Passage #1 MCAT CARS Practice Passage #2 MCAT CARS Practice Passage #3 FAQs

How to Approach MCAT CARS Practice Passages

The best MCAT CARS strategy is reviewing challenging passages and learning from your mistakes. To get a good MCAT score you must therefore incorporate MCAT CARS practice into your MCAT study schedule. But after reading some MCAT CARS practice passages, you may think to yourself, “What did I just read? What was that about? Huh?” These are the passages where you catch yourself reading the same lines over and over without really understanding them any better.

MCAT CARS practice is one of the most taxing aspects of your MCAT prep. As the name suggests, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section focuses on your analysis and reasoning skills. This section is not about testing your academic knowledge but rather, about seeing how well you can break down complex information and apply it to arrive at an answer. With your MCAT score being such a critical factor in determining medical school acceptance rates, you need to ensure you spend sufficient time practicing with MCAT CARS passages before taking the exam.

And the key to scoring well on CARS, of course, is regular practice and good MCAT reading comprehension skills, says admissions expert Dr. Neel Mistry, a University of Ottawa medical school grad.

“Reading the passage and being able to answer all the associated questions within a limited time frame was most challenging, especially since most of the passages were quite tedious and it was difficult to stay focused throughout … Summarizing each paragraph into my own words and using that to guide the main idea of the passage was most helpful …[Regular practice] helped me to become familiar with the type of questions, and concentration needed, to excel at CARS.” – Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


Dr. Tony Huynh, a graduate from the Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine, agrees that practice was the most important habit when it came to CARS prep.

“It was important I became accustomed to reading long passages and be able to answer the questions afterwards. With repetition, I became better and better at reading, understanding, and ultimately extracting relevant information in a short period of time.” – Dr. Tony Huynh, DO

Below, we've provided the answers and analysis for a few difficult MCAT CARS practice passages with question types that are typical for the MCAT CARS section.

Prefer to watch a video instead? Get a pen and paper and follow along as you work through the questions and answers:

MCAT CARS Practice Passage #1

Heralded as the father of existentialism, Kierkegaard’s debut work of influence Either/Or presents the categorical existence of two spheres, the aesthetic and the ethical. The hedonistic, distractible stage of aesthetic living is governed by circumstances of moment, where one fleeting event – such as the smile of a pretty girl – leads to the next and so too does the motif for the aesthetics' fantasy. The ethical sphere is entered when the nature and judgments of one’s choices are considered. Individual agency, whilst present before, truly manifests in bearing the responsibility of one’s good or bad choices.

For Kierkegaard, the ethical sphere was intimately connected with the religious sphere explored in his subsequent works. Whilst the ethical has a commitment with morality, the religious is a covenant with God. It is based on faith; Christianity is seen as truth, although Kierkegaard admits it to be paradoxical and oppositional to logic. It is through conscious choice that movement from the ethical sphere to the religious occurs – with a leap of faith. Despite a seeming progression implied in Kierkegaard’s works, the spheres are not independent entities exclusive of each other. One who lives primarily in the religious sphere, for example, will still have aspects of her being enjoying fleeting moments of beauty and have morality govern her choices.

Kierkegaard’s leap of faith is denounced by his successor, Sartre, who rejects the notion of divine orchestration, tarring such leaps as bad faith. Moreover, Sartre vehemently argues for the oppressive nature of social constructs and collectivist forces that usher the individual into rejecting his or her innate freedom for that of the greater good. It is this narrowing and limiting of choice that Sartre defined as bad faith. In a manner, any and all external influences that cause one to live in an inauthentic fashion – such as the social scripts followed on a first date, in a restaurant – are judged to be guilty and worthy of re-examination.

The core of Sartre’s philosophies hinge upon the oft quoted adage, “existence proceeds essence.” It is man who first and foremost is before he defines the parameters of that existence through conscious and deliberate choice. It is therefore of no consequence the station, nature, and parameters surrounding one’s birth when considering the nature of one’s being. Essence is defined through choice. But how can one make such a choice when the options are seemingly limitless and each has unbeknownst consequences? Indeed, it is so daunting an experience that Sartre dubbed this Existential Angst.

In an elegant application of existential philosophy, a former concentration camp prisoner, Frankl, posits that regardless of how harsh, cruel, and inhumane the external environment may be, one’s inner state and reaction is defined by agency. He defines this internal state and motivation as one’s attitude in relation to outside circumstance. Of paramount importance for Frankl is finding and making meaning of the circumstances in one’s life. The application of his philosophy in action is what gives Frankl’s narrative its power. Where Kierkegaard and Sartre’s philosophies were also deeply personal and practical, they were nonetheless born out of academia. Frankl’s insightful analysis and presentation of the prisoner’s internal state was a lived experience, lending it to be more accessible for the layperson. 

Here are some tips from our MD and DO experts to get started on this CARS practice:

“I think the best habits were just to dive back into critical reading skills. Breaking down the major passage themes and working through them systematically. One of the best strategies for me was answering the question before reading the answer choices. This way I didn’t get swayed if my initial analysis had a choice I almost always stuck with it ... Learning the best strategies and moving quickly as it can often be a section where you are pressed for time will help you do well.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine.


“Reading the passage and being able to answer all the associated questions within a limited time frame was most challenging, especially since most of the passages were quite tedious and it was difficult to stay focused throughout … Summarizing each paragraph into my own words and using that to guide the main idea of the passage was most helpful. In terms of study habits, doing minimum 1 passage a day throughout the study period was most helpful as it helped me to become familiar with the type of questions, and concentration needed, to excel at CARS.” Dr. Neel Mistry, MD


“I equate CARS to going to the gym–you can’t expect the day before a strength or endurance competition that you will suddenly perform well; it requires longevity in your training. I promised myself when I started preparing for the exam that every day (regardless of my commitments), I would read 1 CARs passage and try to struggle through it. It took several months to see this payoff, but slowly, my score started to bump up, and I started recognizing the patterns.” – Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO


Questions for MCAT CARS Practice Passage #1

1. What is Existential Angst (paragraph 4)?

a. The feelings one has when confronted with a choice

b. The state of desperation when contemplating that existence precedes essence

c. The task of making seemingly limitless choices

d. The anxiety and regret associated with having made a choice

2. The author would most agree with which of the following statements:

a. Existentialism is a philosophy about agency and choice, best introduced through reading passages such as this one

b. Frankl’s philosophy is better than Kierkegaard's and Sartre’s

c. Kierkegaard's and Sartre’s philosophies were impractical when compared to Frankl’s philosophy

d. Applying the principles of existentialism to everyday life is better than just talking about it

3. Which of the following best describes the main goal of the passage?

a. To compare the different philosophies of Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Frankl

b. To show a progression of existential philosophy

c. To demonstrate how existentialism has changed with time

d. To offer an introduction to existential philosophy

4. According to the passage’s depiction of Kierkegaard, which of the following policies would he most support?

a. That students should have the choice to attend either a secular or religious school

b. That Existentialism should be taught in schools

c. That World Religions should be taught in schools

d. That public funding should be provided for religious school boards

5. Which of the following statements is least supported by the passage?

a. Sartre believed men and women were equals

b. Sartre supported laws to prevent discrimination

c. Sartre believed that a poor man could become rich if he worked hard enough

d. Sartre was denounced by the church

Answers for MCAT CARS Practice Passage #1

MCAT CARS Practice Passage #2

Americans were raised with a sentimental attachment to rural living and with a series of notions about rural people and rural life that I have chosen to designate as the agrarian myth. The agrarian myth represents a kind of homage that Americans have paid to the fancied innocence of their origins.

Like any complex of ideas, the agrarian myth cannot be defined in a phrase, but its component themes form a clear pattern. Its hero was the yeoman farmer, its central conception the notion that he is the ideal man and the ideal citizen. Unstinted praise of the special virtues of the farmer and the special values of rural life was coupled with the assertion that agriculture, as a calling uniquely productive and uniquely important to society, had a special right to the concern and protection of government. The yeoman, who owned a small farm and worked it with the aid of his family, was the incarnation of the simple, honest, independent, healthy, happy human being. Because he lived in close communion with beneficent nature, his life was believed to have a wholesomeness and integrity impossible for the depraved populations of cities.

In origin the agrarian myth was not a popular but a literary idea, a preoccupation of the upper classes, of those who enjoyed a classical education, read pastoral poetry, experimented with breeding stock, and owned plantations or country estates. It was clearly formulated and almost universally accepted in America during the last half of the eighteenth century.

By the early nineteenth century it had become a mass creed, a part of the country’s political folklore and its nationalist ideology. The roots of this change may be found as far back as the American Revolution, which, appearing to many Americans as the victory of a band of embattled farmers over an empire, seemed to confirm the moral and civic superiority of the yeoman, made the farmer a symbol of the new nation, and wove the agrarian myth into its patriotic sentiments and republican idealism.

To what extent was the agrarian myth actually false? When it took form in America during the eighteenth century, its stereotypes did indeed correspond to many of the realities of American agricultural life. There were commercial elements in colonial agriculture almost from the earliest days, but there were also large numbers of the kind of independent yeomen idealized in the myth.

Between 1815 and 1860, the character of American agriculture was transformed. The independent yeoman, outside of exceptional or isolated areas, almost disappeared before the relentless advance of commercial agriculture. The cash crop converted the yeoman into a small entrepreneur, and the development of horse-drawn machinery made obsolete the simple old agrarian symbol of the plow. Farmers ceased to be free of what the early agrarian writers had called the “corruptions” of trade. They were, to be sure, still “independent,” in the sense that they owned their own land. They were a hardworking lot in the old tradition. But no longer did they grow or manufacture what they needed: They concentrated on the cash crop and began to buy more and more of their supplies from the country store.

The triumph of commercial agriculture not only rendered obsolete the objective conditions that had given to the agrarian myth so much of its original force, but also showed that the ideal implicit in the myth was contesting the ground with another, even stronger ideal—the notion of opportunity, of career, of the self-made man. The same forces in American life that had given to the equalitarian theme in the agrarian romance its most compelling appeal had also unleashed in the nation an entrepreneurial zeal probably without precedent in history, a rage for business, for profits, for opportunity, for advancement.

Do you want to know some expert tips to help you answer the above passage? Check out some strategies to help you ace your MCAT CARS section.

Questions for MCAT CARS Practice Passage #2

1. The central argument of the passage is that the agrarian myth:

A. Has no factual basis in the realities of American agricultural life.

B. Is a sentimental representation of the role that agriculture played in American life.

C. Accurately reflects the nature of American agriculture, both in the past and today.

D. Understates the negative aspects of life on the farm in America.

2. The passage suggests that the agrarian myth originated:

A. In literature.

B. On country estates in Europe.

C. On small farms owned and worked by yeoman farmers.

D. Among the urban elite who romanticized the virtues of the simple life of the farmer.

3. Based on the passage, the agrarian myth assumes that:

I. Yeoman farmers are wholesome and honest.

II. Yeoman farmers are morally superior to most citizens.

III. Agriculture deserves special treatment from the government.

A. I only

B. I and II only

C. II and III only

D. I, II, and III

4. Based on the passage, the agrarian myth became part of a mass creed because:

A. The country’s nationalist ideology stood in need of the kind of patriotic sentiments that the agrarian myth could provide.

B. Farmers were credited with having played a major role in the American victory in the Revolutionary War.

C. Most of the American population lived on family farms during the late eighteenth century.

D. The yeoman farmer, as an ideal, corresponded to many of the realities of American life in the late eighteenth century.

5. According to the passage, the agrarian myth implied that yeoman farmers were:

A. Honest entrepreneurs.

B. Classically educated.

C. Sentimentally patriotic.

D. Happy and industrious.

6. Which of the following assertions, if true, would most weaken the main point of the passage?

A. The contribution made by American farmers to victory in the Revolutionary War has been greatly exaggerated.

B. The agrarian myth was what might be called “a noble lie”: it was false but generally beneficial.

C. The agrarian myth played a part in the thinking of only a handful of Americans during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

D. American farmers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had very little in common with the idealized yeoman farmer of the agrarian myth. 

Answers to MCAT CARS Practice Passage #2

MCAT CARS Practice Passage #3


1. How should I practice for MCAT CARS?

Your number one practice strategy should involve reading as much complex and challenging material as possible. As you read, ask yourself what arguments the authors are making, analyze if their arguments are strong, etc. To improve, try reading classics of literature and philosophy, as well as academic and scholarly journals.

2. What if I see no improvement in my CARS practices?

You need to keep practicing with CARS sample passages and external reading consistently. Most students need at least 3 or 4 months (ideally 6 months) of preparation. Only constant practice will help you improve.

3. How much time should I take to complete a CARS passage?

Ideally 10 minutes per passage, but this can vary depending on the difficulty of the passage and the questions. 

4. During MCAT CARS practice, what should I aim to score for each passage?

When you take the MCAT diagnostic test, you should aim for a score in the 90th percentile, which is approximately a 128 section score. However, this is a guide only as the MCAT is scored on a curve relative to how other students do and the MCAT can vary in difficulty from one test date to another. This is why doing AAMC practice tests is key, as they provide a score in the 118-132 range per section.

5. How many CARS question types can I expect in the exam?

There are only three CARS question formats: Foundations of Comprehension, Reasoning Within the Text, and Reasoning Beyond the Text.

6. Will my MCAT CARS score greatly affect my chances of getting into medical school?

Most medical schools put a lot of weight into your CARS score. Some schools only consider your CARS score during application review.

7. What should I use for MCAT CARS practice?

Aside from practice MCAT CARS passages and questions like the ones above, you can use any challenging texts to improve your reading comprehension, critical analysis and reasoning. Try reading articles in scientific journals, classic literature, newspapers and magazines that cover topics commonly seen on CARS.

8. How do I get better at MCAT CARS?

If you find that MCAT self-prep isn’t giving you any improvement in your practice test scores on CARS, consider enrolling in an MCAT prep course or hiring an MCAT CARS tutor, who can provide you with expert feedback and guidance on CARS passages.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Source: AAMC Sample Question Guide

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