How to Improve Your MCAT CARS Score

April 25, 2024
7 min read


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 4/25/24

Do you want to learn how to improve your CARS MCAT score? This article will tell you how. 

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a crucial milestone on the path to becoming a healthcare professional, and for aspiring medical students, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section can be a formidable challenge. 

The CARS section was designed to assess a candidate's ability to read and critically analyze complex passages and therefore demands more than just academic knowledge; it requires a refined set of analytical and reasoning skills. 

In this article, we delve into the art of excelling in the MCAT CARS section, offering expert tips, proven strategies, and practical advice to help you learn how to improve your CARS MCAT score. 

Whether you're a seasoned test-taker seeking improvement or a newcomer wanting to tackle this daunting portion head-on, our comprehensive guide will empower you to unlock your full potential and achieve the stellar CARS score you desire.

image of dots background

Overview of the MCAT CARS Section

The CARS section of the MCAT is often regarded as one of the most challenging components of the exam. It is designed to evaluate a candidate's ability to comprehend, analyze, and interpret complex passages from a wide range of humanities and social sciences disciplines. 

With 90 minutes to answer 53 questions based on 9-10 passages, this segment demands not only a strong command of language but also a high level of critical thinking and reasoning.

Format and Structure

The format and structure of the MCAT CARS section are designed to evaluate a candidate's ability to comprehend and critically analyze complex passages from various humanities and social sciences disciplines. 

The CARS section consists of 9-10 passages, each followed by a set of questions, and is scored on a scale of 118 to 132. Test-takers are allotted 90 minutes to answer a total of 53 questions, making time management a critical aspect of this segment. 

The passages cover a wide range of topics, deliberately chosen to be unfamiliar to most candidates, requiring them to draw conclusions solely from the information presented within the text. This approach ensures that the CARS section assesses a candidate's ability to think critically, identify the main ideas, understand the author's perspective, and discern the underlying arguments without relying on prior knowledge. 

Test-takers must adopt an active reading approach to succeed in this section, carefully analyzing the passage's content and utilizing their reasoning abilities to select the most accurate answers from the provided options.

No Prior Knowledge Required

The MCAT CARS section does not require any specific subject knowledge or prior content preparation. Unlike other sections of the MCAT that assess science and medical concepts, the CARS section aims to evaluate a candidate's critical thinking, analytical, and reasoning abilities. 

The passages presented in this section are drawn from various humanities and social sciences disciplines, and their content is intentionally chosen to be unfamiliar to most test-takers. As such, the CARS section focuses on assessing a candidate's ability to comprehend and analyze complex texts, regardless of their academic background. 

While prior knowledge of specific topics is not necessary, candidates who have developed strong reading comprehension skills, an ability to identify an author’s perspective, and a keen sense of critical analysis are better equipped to excel in the CARS section. 

The key to success lies in practicing and refining these skills through consistent exposure to diverse reading materials and timed CARS passages.

Complexity and Nuance

The complexity and nuance of the MCAT CARS passages present a formidable challenge to test-takers. The passages are intentionally dense and intricate, incorporating a variety of complex sentence structures and sophisticated vocabulary. 

Analyzing the passages requires a high level of concentration and active engagement to grasp the main ideas and discern the underlying arguments. The nuanced nature of the passages demands that test-takers carefully weigh every word and sentence to comprehend the author's intended meaning fully. 

As a result, navigating through these intricacies necessitates a combination of critical thinking skills, careful reading, and the ability to draw logical connections between different parts of the text. 

Preparing for the CARS section involves practicing with diverse texts to sharpen these analytical and comprehension abilities, enabling candidates to face the challenge of these passages with confidence.

Time Management

Effective time management is a crucial aspect of success in the MCAT CARS section. With a total of 53 questions to answer within 90 minutes, test-takers must be mindful of allocating time efficiently to each passage and its corresponding questions. 

It is essential to strike a balance between reading the passages carefully for comprehension and answering questions promptly to maximize overall performance. To achieve this, candidates should consider setting a pace during practice sessions to ensure that they are completing passages within the allotted time. 

If a particular passage proves to be challenging, it may be prudent to move on to the next one and return later if time permits. Additionally, being mindful of the clock during the actual exam can help avoid getting stuck on a single question for too long. 

By practicing under timed conditions and honing their time management skills, test-takers can navigate through the MCAT CARS section more effectively, optimizing the opportunity to answer all questions and improve their overall score.

Multiple Choice Questions

The answer choices in the MCAT CARS section are designed to be challenging and thought-provoking. Each question typically presents four answer options, with one correct answer and three distractors. These choices are crafted to be enticing and may seem plausible, leading test-takers to carefully evaluate each option before selecting the most appropriate answer. 

It is common for the distractors to be derived from specific details in the passage, making it essential for candidates to read actively and discern between relevant information and tangential details. 

The nuanced nature of the answer choices requires candidates to employ critical thinking and reasoning skills to identify the best response that is directly supported by the information within the passage. A strategic approach, combined with a thorough understanding of the passage's content, is crucial to making accurate choices and achieving success in the MCAT CARS section.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The importance of practice for the MCAT CARS section cannot be overstated. Regular and consistent practice with sample questions is essential to hone the critical thinking, reading comprehension, and analytical abilities required to excel in this challenging segment. 

Through practice exams, candidates become familiar with the diverse range of passages encountered in the CARS section, allowing them to adapt to various topics and writing styles. Moreover, timed practice helps develop the necessary speed and efficiency in answering questions under the pressure of the real exam. 

Engaging with numerous passages enhances a candidate's ability to identify main ideas, author perspectives, and underlying arguments more quickly and accurately. Practicing with diverse texts exposes test-takers to unfamiliar subjects, encouraging them to think critically without relying on prior knowledge. 

The more practice you undertake, the more you can recognize patterns, refine your approach, and build confidence in tackling the complexity of the MCAT CARS passages. Ultimately, consistent practice is the key to unlocking success and improving your performance in the CARS section of the MCAT.

Tips to Improve Your CARS Score

The MCAT CARS section demands a unique set of skills that go beyond mere memorization or subject-specific knowledge. To conquer this challenging segment and maximize your score, consider implementing the following effective strategies for how to improve your CARS score for the MCAT.

Read Actively and Analytically

Approach each passage with an active mindset. Focus on understanding the main idea and the author's perspective rather than getting bogged down by every minute detail. Train yourself to identify the author's argument, the tone, and any potential biases expressed throughout the passage.

Practice Regularly with Timed Passages

Dedicate time to daily practice with timed CARS passages. This exercise will not only improve your reading speed but also sharpen your ability to comprehend complex texts and answer questions efficiently under time pressure.

Summarize Each Paragraph

As you read through the passage, take brief notes summarizing the main idea of each paragraph. This practice helps to solidify your understanding of the passage's flow and argument, making it easier to refer back to specific sections when answering questions.

Identify the Author's Tone

Understanding the author's tone is crucial to interpreting the passage accurately. Train yourself to recognize whether the author is supportive, critical, objective, or biased towards the topic presented. This awareness will guide your response to questions that ask for the author's perspective.

Engage with Diverse Content

Expose yourself to a variety of texts, including literature, scientific articles, opinion pieces, and historical documents. This eclectic reading practice will familiarize you with different writing styles and subject matters, making it easier to adapt to any passage you encounter on the MCAT.

Question the Arguments

Be critical of the arguments presented in the passage. Ask yourself whether the evidence provided sufficiently supports the author's claims and if there are any logical fallacies or weak points in the argument. This analytical approach will help you discern between viable and erroneous answer choices.

Predict Answers Before Reading the Choices

After reading the question, try to predict the answer based on your understanding of the passage before looking at the answer choices. This exercise sharpens your comprehension skills and helps you avoid falling into the trap of choosing enticing but irrelevant answer options.

Eliminate Incorrect Answer Choices

When you encounter a challenging question, start by eliminating answer choices that are clearly incorrect. Narrowing down the options will increase your chances of selecting the correct answer, even if you are uncertain about the passage's finer details.

Manage Your Time Wisely

Since each passage carries equal weight, it is essential to allocate time efficiently to ensure that you have enough time to answer all questions. If you find yourself spending too much time on a single passage, consider moving on and returning to it later if there's time.

Review Your Mistakes

After each practice session, thoroughly review your incorrect answers to identify patterns in your reasoning and comprehension. Understanding your mistakes will help you avoid making similar errors in the future.

FAQs: How to Improve Your MCAT CARS Score

Here are a few common questions about how to improve your CARS MCAT score.

1. Can You Improve Your CARS Score?

While the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT may seem challenging, it is important to remember that it primarily evaluates critical thinking, analytical abilities, and comprehension skills rather than testing specific subject knowledge. 

With dedicated practice, consistent exposure to diverse texts, and the application of effective strategies, candidates can make significant progress in their CARS performance. 

By actively engaging with passages, understanding author perspectives, identifying main arguments, and honing time management skills, test-takers can enhance their reading comprehension and reasoning capabilities, leading to improved performance in the CARS section. 

Continuous review of mistakes and a positive mindset to learn from them will also contribute to incremental progress. So, with perseverance and a targeted approach, it is indeed possible to boost your CARS score and achieve success in this crucial section of the MCAT.

2. Is a 127 on CARS Good?

A CARS score of 127 on the MCAT can be considered relatively good and competitive. The CARS section is scored on a scale from 118 to 132, with a median score of 125. Achieving a 127 indicates that you have performed above the average and have demonstrated a strong grasp of critical reading, analytical thinking, and reasoning abilities. 

Many medical schools have a benchmark score for CARS, and a 127 could meet the requirements of several institutions. However, it is essential to remember that medical school admissions are holistic and consider multiple factors, including other sections of the MCAT, academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. 

While a 127 on CARS is commendable, aspiring medical students should aim to perform as well as possible across all sections of the MCAT to strengthen their overall application and increase their chances of acceptance into their desired medical programs.

3. What Is a Good CARS Score on the MCAT?

A good CARS score on the MCAT, like any other section, depends on the individual's goals and the competitiveness of the medical schools they are considering. The CARS section is scored on a scale from 118 to 132, with a median score of 125. 

Generally, a CARS score above the median (125) can be considered good and competitive, showcasing a strong ability to comprehend complex passages, analyze arguments, and demonstrate critical thinking skills. However, aspiring medical students should aim to achieve a score that aligns with the average accepted scores of the medical schools they are interested in applying to. 

Admission requirements and the average MCAT scores of accepted applicants vary among institutions, so research on specific medical schools can help determine what score would be considered "good" for an individual's application. 

Additionally, medical school admissions are holistic, taking into account other factors like GPA, extracurricular activities, personal statement, interview, and letters of recommendation, so a well-rounded application is crucial for success in the competitive medical school admissions process.

4. Can I Study to Improve My CARS Score in a Week?

Improving your CARS score significantly in just one week can be challenging, but it is possible to make some progress with focused and intensive preparation. In this limited time frame, it's essential to prioritize specific study strategies. Dedicate time to practice with timed CARS passages regularly to enhance your reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. 

Focus on understanding the main ideas, author perspectives, and arguments presented in the passages. Additionally, review and analyze your mistakes to identify patterns and areas for improvement. Engage with a diverse range of reading materials to adapt to various passage topics and writing styles. 

While significant score increases might be challenging to achieve in just one week, consistent effort and a targeted approach can undoubtedly help boost your confidence and potentially lead to improvements in your CARS performance. 

For more substantial score gains, a more extended study period and comprehensive preparation are generally recommended.

Final Thoughts

Mastering the MCAT CARS section is a multifaceted endeavor that demands dedication, practice, and a strategic approach. By recognizing that the CARS section assesses critical thinking and reasoning skills rather than subject-specific knowledge, test-takers can adapt their study methods accordingly. 

Engaging in regular and timed practice with diverse passages, actively analyzing author perspectives, and honing comprehension skills are crucial steps in enhancing performance. Moreover, developing effective time management techniques and learning from mistakes will help optimize the use of the allocated exam time. 

Remember that improvement in the CARS section may not occur overnight, but with persistence and consistent effort, progress is achievable. As you embark on your MCAT preparation journey, keep in mind that every step taken to strengthen your CARS score brings you closer to achieving your dream of becoming a healthcare professional. 

Embrace the challenge, embrace the growth, and approach the MCAT CARS section with confidence and determination. Your hard work and dedication will undoubtedly pay off on test day and pave the way for a successful and fulfilling future in medicine.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Get Free Consultation
image of dots background

You May Also Like