How to tackle the Critical Reading and Analysis Section
Use the MCAT to prove that you have what it takes to be a doctor. To do that, you have to remember what the MCAT is, what it’s for, and how it was designed. It isn’t a science test; if med schools want to know about your science knowledge, they’ll check your GPA. The MCAT is a test of your thinking, reasoning, time management, and stress management; it was designed to show which applicants can learn, adapt and think on their feet. Your study strategy should reflect this.
You should know the science. Definitely, review the theory. However, focus your time and attention on the section that matters most, the section that’s hardest to learn and adapt to. Keep your focus on Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS).
CARS tests your ability to learn new material quickly, to absorb it and integrate it into your existing body of knowledge, and to use it to apply that new information, fast. It forces you to read different and unexpected texts, to think about them quickly, to learn and to adapt. Needless to say, it’s hard to get used to. So start early, and practice constantly and consistently. Here are some tips that might help.
Make a schedule for practicing CARS questions:
- Make a study schedule just for the CARS section. It’s tempting to focus on what you’re best at, but this makes for bad strategy. Most students find CARS to be the most difficult. In fact, many students dislike working on it and so avoid studying for this section altogether. Needless to say, this is a terrible idea. To excel at CARS, you should start early, and work through it patiently and methodically. Gather as many CARS practice questions as you can, and create a schedule for working through them.
- Tackle some CARS questions every day. In your schedule, make sure that you work through at least one CARS question every single day. You’ll find that they get less frustrating, and that you get used to the patterns in the questions. You’ll find that your thinking and reasoning will adapt as you practice. You’ll get better at the section, fast.
Develop strategy and methodology just for the CARS section:
- Think like an evaluator: get used to evaluating the possible answers, and your choice of answer. The MCAT exam is multiple choice, but the choices are diabolical: they’re designed to trap you. Test writers use common misperceptions and errors in reasoning to create very tempting correct-looking answers. Try to think through the possible answers as if you were writing the test. What possible mistakes in reasoning could they have thought of? What common misperceptions are they trying to trap you with?
- Change course quickly when you need to: get used to adapting, changing your reasoning, and moving on, if need be. Many students get caught by the wrong answers because they have trouble changing course when a solution isn’t working. Be ready to ditch your work and start from scratch. Always be willing to question your starting point and assumptions. If you get stuck, be ready to move on and try something new. You can always go back, and giving yourself a break might be exactly what you need to finally get that Eureka moment.
Your best strategy to achieve a competitive score is to study strategically. Go to Prep101.com for more information about expert instructors and intensive sessions.