Think like a CARS Pro

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MP 302: Think like a CARS Pro

Session 302

We cover what best approaches will make you ace the CARS section of the MCAT. We’re joined by Hunter from Blueprint MCAT. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[03:40] Critical Thinking on the MCAT

Perceptions about the MCAT’s Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section can greatly affect test-takers performance. Studies show that if educators tell their students that the CARS section is difficult, students tend to perform worse on that section.

However, data suggests that the difficulty of the CARS section may be more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than an objective measure. Students who are non-native English speakers or have ESL backgrounds historically perform worse on CARS, but this trend is not always the case.

In fact, some students who excel in the science sections struggle with CARS due to the pervasive belief that it is difficult. These students have strong critical thinking and English skills but end up living into this theory, which negatively affects their CARS scores.

It’s time to challenge these beliefs and encourage test-takers to approach the CARS section with a growth mindset. Students have to trust their critical thinking abilities and not let preconceived notions hold them back.

[06:44] The Passage is Everything in CARS

When it comes to answering questions in the CARS section of the MCAT, it’s crucial to focus solely on the information presented in the given passages.

Even if you have background knowledge on the topic being discussed, relying on outside information can actually lead you into traps and incorrect answers. 

This may be a difficult concept for students with science backgrounds, as they may have a wealth of knowledge on various subjects. However, it’s essential to remember that the passages in front of you are all that matter in this section.

Authors may have differing opinions or present controversial viewpoints, but for the duration of your exam, their words are law. Consequently, your attention should be fully focused on interpreting the paragraphs rather than trying to read between the lines or guess the author’s intentions.

[09:07] Finding Out What’s Best for You

We all learn differently. It’s important to remember that we all have different learning styles. Just because one person struggles with reading doesn’t mean that they can’t learn effectively through other means.

If you enjoy listening to audiobooks and reading e-books with larger font sizes then do it, if that’s the way to keep your brain focused and avoid getting discouraged by the small print.

There’s actually a dyslexia font that people can benefit from. Many people with dyslexia benefit from a font specifically designed to help them read. Even if you don’t have dyslexia, trying out different fonts or formats could help improve your understanding and enjoyment of a particular subject. So instead of pushing yourself through a reading method that doesn’t work, be open to trying different approaches until you find what works best for you.

[11:45] Tips for Overcoming Common Traps

Tip #1: Getting a perfect score in CARS doesn’t require falling asleep during textbooks.

Critical reading and critical thinking are skills that can be trained. However, going through paragraphs can often feel like a slog and lead to the common traps of being distracted or skipping over important information. To combat this, it’s important to recognize and diagnose any bad habits we may have when reading, especially when tackling topics we’re not interested in.

To improve your CARS skills and overcome these traps, a useful tip is to actively engage with the text. This could mean underlining key phrases or taking notes on important ideas, to keep your brain focused on the task at hand.

Additionally, breaking up the reading into smaller, more manageable chunks can help keep you motivated and on track. Overall, the key to success in CARS is to stay disciplined and focused, even when you’re not particularly interested in the topic at hand.

Tip #2: Make it interesting.

One way to do this is through using different voices or characters while reading, similar to David Attenborough. Another technique is subvocalizing or whispering the words while reading to help stay focused on the individual words. This also helps to narrate the story and engage the brain, rather than just reading chunks of text. Making the passage entertaining in some way can help improve overall comprehension.

[16:09] The Power of Mindset Shift

Importance of Mindset Shift

Having a positive mindset is crucial not just for CARS, but for almost everything in life. By learning to embrace failure and seeing it as an opportunity to learn and grow, we can train our brains to be happy that way. Instead of letting wrong answers discourage us, we can use them as a tool to teach ourselves.

By learning from our mistakes and figuring out where we went wrong, we can change the way we think and improve our chances of success.

Embracing Failure

One way to adopt this mindset is by using the acronym “FAIL” (First Attempt In Learning) to remind us that it’s okay to fail and make mistakes. Nobody has all the answers after watching one video or reading one text. It’s essential to belly flop and fall face-first to figure out where we went wrong and how we can improve. By adopting this approach, we can have a growth mindset that allows us to learn and grow continuously.

Importance of Open-Mindedness

When it comes to CARS, having an open mind is critical since answer explanations can be complicated and intangible. Instead of getting frustrated or discouraged, we need to be patient with ourselves and try to understand the logic behind the answer. By doing so, we can train our brains to think in a way that helps us identify the correct answer and improve our skills over time.

In conclusion, adopting a growth mindset can make all the difference when it comes to learning or mastering a new skill. By embracing failure and learning from our mistakes, we can change the way we think and increase our chances of success.

[19:20] Be CARS Pro!

The Importance of Effective Reading Strategies

Being able to effectively read and understand a question stem is crucial to performing well in the CARS section. By analyzing the language used and the information provided, we can quickly come up with a plan of attack for answering the question. This “synthesizing” process can significantly reduce the amount of time needed to answer each question.

Training Your Reading Comprehension Skills

Preparing for CARS involves more than just memorizing facts and information. It’s vital to train ourselves on how to read and comprehend complex passages effectively. This includes learning critical reading strategies, such as summarizing information quickly and understanding the author’s opinion and tone.

By mastering these skills, we can significantly improve our chances of scoring in the 95th percentile or higher.

The Benefits of Training and Practice

By combining effective reading strategies and excellent reading comprehension skills, we can achieve high scores in the CARS section. With excellent scores, we become a valuable asset to Canadian schools, opening up many exciting opportunities. However, achieving these scores requires dedication, training, and practice. By focusing on developing our reading skills, we can elevate our performance and achieve academic success.

In summary, mastering the CARS section requires more than just memorization. It involves developing effective reading skills, synthesizing information quickly, and coming up with a plan of attack for each question. With dedication, training, and practice, we can improve our performance and achieve success in our academic pursuits.


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Blueprint MCAT