How not to approach the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section
Because Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) is the most intimidating section for Science students, there is a market for advice, tips and pointers. Unfortunately, bad advice is epidemic. Allow Prep101 to debunk the myths, and to guide you to better study strategies.
Don’t try to pick only the “easy” passages
Skipping around to find the easiest readings in the CARS section is a bad idea. Reading a passage without attempting the answer the questions is a waste of time.
Some passages are difficult but have easy questions; some passages are easy, but have difficult multiple choice possibilities attached. Some passages start out easy, then get progressively more difficult. You have no way of knowing if a passage is easy or difficult until you’ve read it and attempted all the questions. Skipping from question to question will waste time, impede your focus, and muddy your thinking.
Don’t read questions before passages
Another misguided approach is to read the questions first so that you can “know what to look for” when reading the passage. Don’t do it. You won’t be able to remember even one question while reading the passage – much less the 5-7 questions attached to each passage – and trying to do so will only distract you and waste time.
Don’t use speed-reading techniques
Applicants are often told to speed-read to save time. This is terrible advice. Speed reading directs you to skim the passage, but you’ll need close reading to pick up on the important information. Instead, read the passages carefully to try to find the pertinent information; otherwise, you’ll be forced the re-read and re-read the passages in order to answer the questions.
Don’t use memory enhancement techniques
CARS does not test your recall of information. If it did, then anyone with an above-average memory would score well on the section. They don’t. The trick to getting a good CARS score is to focus on the ideas and structure of the passages.
Don’t highlight key words
Try not to highlight at all in the CARS section. When you stop to highlight something, then you’re interrupting your train of thought and the flow of the passage. It could distract you.
Do consult the professionals
CARS is the hardest section. Arguably, it’s the most important. It’s unlike any test you’ve ever taken; it’s also a good indicator of your ability to be a doctor. Consult the professionals at Prep101 to learn the tricks, techniques and strategies they’ve developed to tackle this and every section of the MCAT.