Anyone who has taken or studied for the MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)—or any other critical reading test—will tell you that these tests can be incredibly challenging. Why is that true, given that people studying for the MCAT CARS are typically good students? There are several reasons why. Part of the challenge is the subject matter in the passages. Many individuals have not read extensively outside of their disciplines–especially in the humanities and social sciences. Another challenge is that many people today aren’t used to reading material that is written much above the high school level, even college students. Thus, many readers are uneasy with complex sentence structures and elaborate or abstract language. In addition, analyzing and reasoning from material in a new discipline or in a style that is unfamiliar to you is difficult. It can require extra thought for anyone. However, these and other reading challenges don’t need to be roadblocks to your success when you take the MCAT or any other test that involves critical reading. Critical reading, analysis, and reasoning are skills that can be learned and practiced. This article is designed to help you understand the skills you’ll need to read effectively and approach testing for the MCAT CARS and other critical reading tests.
The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (or CARS) section of the MCAT is occasionally placed on the backburner by prospective medical students who are focused on learning (and relearning) the information necessary for success on the science-based portions of the test. What some individuals realize too close to their exam date, however, is that the CARS section is anything but a buffer score for results in “more difficult” sections of the MCAT.