Why the MCAT CARS Section is the Most Important Section on the MCAT

Our posts have been focused on helping you improve your critical analysis and reasoning (aka: verbal reasoning) skills with the goal of scoring in the top 20% on the MCAT CARS section. What we’re going to talk about now is why it is so important for you to score so well in this section.

The CARS section (what used to be the MCAT Verbal section) is the most heavily weighed section of the MCAT. Admissions committees pay more attention to the skill set this section tests than the physical or biological sciences, which is what makes it so important that you score well on it. In fact, some schools only look at this section when reviewing your MCAT scores.

Now why is this? Why is the CARS section so important to them? They know you can read, so it must be more than that. Even though it’s considered critical reading, they’re not really testing reading in the MCAT CARS section. What they’re really testing is whether or not you can see the relationship of key ideas: to be able to identify the key ideas and then be able to reflect on what they imply.

The reasoning process that you use in the MCAT CARS section is exactly the same reasoning process that physicians use in making differential diagnoses; it's why this section is called "Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills." It's not just about reading. When a patient comes to you, in your internship or residency or practice of medicine, they’re not going to come to you all the time with textbook examples of particular conditions where you just go down and check a series of boxes. They’re going to come to you with symptoms, counter indications, and God knows what else in regard to environmental conditions, family history, personal relationships, and all of those things that go into the diagnostic mix. What you’re going to have to do is not only see and listen very clearly to pick out those key ideas, but also to see the relationship between them, to see the larger pattern, to what they suggest, what they imply, and what you can infer from them. That is what you need to make a diagnosis.

So really what the MCAT CARS section is testing is how good your diagnostic ability is. And the wonderful thing is, by really working on this in preparation for the exam, you can develop a series of skills that are going to pay off and support you for the rest of your career.

Hopefully now you understand why the MCAT CARS section is so important and the impact it has on the admissions process. Fully developing your verbal reasoning skills is not only critical for getting into medical school, but also for your career as a medical practitioner.