45: How Can I Prepare for and Improve My CARS MCAT Score

Session 45 There are four sections on the MCAT, three of them focused on the sciences and one is this random CARS that seems to demolish everybody. What used to be called Verbal Reasoning is now termed as CARS. The CARS section of the MCAT is typically the hardest for most premed students. Today, Bryan from Next Step is dishing out some recommendations on how to best prepare so you can improve your CARS score. [01:23] Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section is not only an upgrade in terms of the name, but it's also a longer and tougher section than the old verbal reasoning. The name really points out critical analysis and reasoning skills. One of the common pieces of advice you read out there is to read a lot. Read The Economist magazine or The Atlantic monthly. Nothing wrong with that as more reading is always good. Reading is the best way to prepare for the MCAT. But in and of itself, it's a too passive notion that casually reading a magazine is enough to improve your skills. It will bump up your reading but it will not build up that critical analysis and reasoning part. [02:15] Your Philosophical Stance You have to focus very intently as you read. You can just read actual MCAT practice passages from a book or online resource such as the Next Step's MCAT Verbal Practice: 108 Passages for the New CARS Section Book. However, make sure to think about the reasoning that underlies the passage. Not just what you're reading but why is the author putting together the passage that way. Don't just read but critically analyze and reason. [02:47] There is No “One and Only Way” The other big and important part of prepping for the CARS and this is a major mistake that students make is thinking that somehow there is one simple method that is going to unlock everything. It's not that simple. Moreover, Bryan thinks this idea is so pervasive that there is a "right way" to do the verbal passages because this gets peddled a lot by different prep companies, tutors, or books telling you the xyz method for CARS. They're going to present it like this is the "one way and only right way" to do things. [03:50] Mastery of CARS To really master the CARS section, it's not a matter of learning the CARS method but it's a matter of finding your CARS method. Some people like to use the onscreen highlighter. Others have to stop every paragraph and jot down notes on their scratch paper. Some people like to skim real fast and get to the questions. Others like to read quickly and then write the author's main opinion or main idea and then go to the questions. There are all sorts of different ways to successfully approach these passages and questions. Therefore, the biggest takeaway is that the best way to prepare for CARS is to try different things, keep track of your progress (what methods work for you and what methods don't) and do that as soon as you start your MCAT prep. You want to find your preferred method within the first one-thirds or one-half of your MCAT calendar so you can spend the subsequent half or two-thirds of your calendar mastering what works best for you. [05:15] Transferring Your Skills When you're reading and working through Psychology/Sociology and the other sciences, you may also be using the same skills for CARS in those sections. The parts that are transferable are looking at connections in the passage. If it's an argument about some form of poetry, for example, just look at the logic and think on a structural level like how is the passage structured. This helps in both the science and reading. [06:45] Strategies for Reading Articles and Journals As you're reading different articles in different magazines, focus on the opinion. What's the author's opinion? What are the contradictory opinions? Once you've understood the various opinions being presented, take the next step and figure out the reasoning to support those opinions. Always look for the evidence the author uses to draw conclusions. And if you're not consciously thinking about it, it's very easy to get passive. Writers have a tendency to present their own beliefs as if it was the truth and present everything as if the facts were incontrovertible and absolutely correct. So if you're reading long-form journalism, just stop at the end of every paragraph and ask yourself, whose opinion is this? How does this support someone's opinion? How does this refute someone's opinion? [07:54] Final Thoughts Start early, start early, start early. The day you start your CARS practice is the day you start your MCAT practice. Finally, go check out what Next Step Test Prep has to offer. They have a 10-pack full-length exam and an MCAT course that includes five live office hours every week. They're also best known for their one-on-one tutoring. Use the promo code: MCATPOD to save some money on their products and services. Links: Next Step Test Prep Next Step's MCAT Verbal Practice: 108 Passages for the New CARS Section Book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview The Short Coat Podcast MedEdMedia Network The Economist The Atlantic

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