How Important Is It to be Familiar With MCAT CARS

A lot of students taking the MCAT focus primarily on the science sections. They ask us how important it actually is to be familiar with the Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills section. Our answer: Extremely important.

Let me just give you an example to show you why. In Canada right now a majority of the medical schools only look at the verbal/CARS portion of the MCAT. They’ll look at transcripts and other sources to see what a student’s science proficiency is instead of looking at their MCAT science sections. One of our students the other day was talking to the Dean of Admissions at a very major medical school in Philadelphia and the Dean of Admissions told him that right now that medical school is only looking at the verbal/CARS section of the MCAT and that more American medical schools are beginning to do that too. MCAT CARS has become the most heavily weighted part of the exam.

It seems a little bit counterintuitive and unfair. You’ve been studying the sciences for 4 or 5 years, so why test you on verbal reasoning? Well the reason is because the verbal portion of the MCAT uses the same type of analytic skills that a physician uses in making differential diagnoses. It’s the same type of thought process. AMCAS isn’t testing whether or not you can read. They know you can. What they’re really testing is your reasoning ability. Reasoning ability is your ability to separate what’s important from what’s not important, to see the relationship between key ideas and also to see what these thing suggest and what they imply.

The reasoning in verbal reasoning is the same kind of reasoning that you’re going to be using with patients when you’re looking at symptoms and counterindications, when you’re deciding what’s significant and what’s not. You need to seei the relationship between them and seeing what that implies. That’s what makes your diagnosis. So what AMCAS is really testing in the verbal/CARS section is your diagnostic ability and that’s why it ends up being the most important section.

The good news is that once you master the fundamentals of language and reasoning, anybody can do well in this sectoin if you’ve done well in the sciences. It’s just like mastering the fundamentals of chemistry and biology, but without mastering those it’s going to be a pretty tough uphill climb.