How to Prepare for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section of the MCAT Exam

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It’s never too early to get started on your preparation for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT exam. This section is unlike the other sections of the exam because it doesn’t require specific content knowledge. All the information you need to answer the questions is provided in the passages. 

So how do you prepare and practice? Here are a few ways you can get started:

Student Studying on Laptop Computer

1) Immerse yourself in a variety of topics from different types of literature. Take some time to delve into fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, magazines, and journals. Reading broadly will help you exercise the three fundamental skills you need for the CARS section.

2) Practice the skills tested in the CARS section. You are going to be asked to use three fundamental skills that you’ve used throughout school and on other reading and comprehension tests: 

  • Foundations of comprehension: Understanding the author’s message and purpose by inferring meaning and intent from the content you are reading.
  • Reasoning within the text: Understanding the basic arguments in the text, including their claims and the evidence to support them to infer the author’s message.
  • Reasoning beyond the text: Applying what you've read to assess new ideas or answer questions that introduce different scenarios.

3) Watch new videos to help you practice these skills. We’ve developed videos of a cognitive scientist talking through how to approach passages 1, 2, 7, and 8 in the free MCAT Sample Test. There are also two additional videos in the CARS Diagnostic Tool. All materials are available through the MCAT Official Prep Hub.

AAMC MCAT Official Prep

Here’s what you’ll learn in the videos:

  • Gain a deep understanding of the text by picking out word choice, tone, structure, and rhetorical devices. This will help you identify what is important to highlight.
  • Pick the best answer choice. Remember: There is often more than one answer that is attractive. The videos will give you examples of how to select the best answer.
  • Practice processing information given in the passage without applying prior knowledge of a topic to answer the questions. Remember: All the information you need to answer the questions is provided in the passages.

Most importantly, don’t forget to check out our free Roadmap to the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills in the Khan Academy MCAT Collection, which provides links to Khan Academy videos about the skills. You can access all our free resources, including the free Sample Test, through the MCAT Official Prep Hub.

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