CARS REVIEW

How long does it take to review a cars exam

why is mcat timing important?

If you’re an aspiring medical student, you probably already know how long the mcat is and that it’s one of the most difficult professional school entrance exams. It may seem paradoxical to believe that you could run out of time to complete a 7.5 hour long exam, but that is often the case with the MCAT! Although this exam does not include extensive written components, it does include many complex passage-based questions, and if you don’t develop the correct strategies for approaching them, you could find yourself racing against the clock over and over again in your mcat practice sessions. That’s why working on your MCAT time is a critical aspect of your MCAT preparation, along with learning the fundamental concepts for MCAT and developing your critical thinking and analysis skills.

Having said that, we want to make one thing clear: working on your time should not be the first priority during mcat preparation. what’s the point of finishing the mcat on time if you constantly get half the questions wrong? that would be an inefficient and counter-intuitive strategy! First, your MCAT study program should focus on building a solid foundation of all the scientific knowledge and critical skills required for the MCAT. become familiar with the test format, how to identify different types of questions, and how to reason correctly and find the answers. Even if you find that on your initial mcat diagnostic test and early practice tests, you are taking much longer than the official exam time, don’t worry too much about it. You will find that your speed naturally improves over time with practice. in fact, we recommend that you don’t even bother timing yourself until you can consistently identify the different types of questions and answer them correctly. Once you’ve mastered the concepts and skills mcat tests you on, you can focus on learning strategies to improve your speed. that way, you won’t end up learning any wrong strategies that prioritize speed over accuracy.

Reading: How long does it take to review a cars exam

Want a summary of some of our top mcat timing tips? check out this infographic:

How much time should I spend on each mcat question?

before answering this question, let’s review the main sections of mcat:

The amount of time you should spend on each question depends on the section you are completing and the type of question you are handling. You need to spend about 9 minutes per passage in the science sections and 10 minutes per passage in the mcat car section. of this time, spend about 5 minutes reading and the remaining time answering questions. that gives you an average of about 1 minute and 37 seconds for each passage-based question.

for discrete questions, spend no more than one minute per question.

Looking for details on the duration of the mcat? watch this video!

some general tips to save time

practice in a timed environment

When you start taking practice mcat tests, it’s natural for it to take longer than recommended and your focus should be on mastering the content, not time. but once you start to feel confident with the content, you have to slowly start getting used to the timed environment. a good strategy is to complete practice tests under conditions similar to those of mock timed tests. Be sure to practice with realistic mcat-style passages with a high level of difficulty and a variety of questions. this will help you get into the habit of keeping track of time as you work through difficult questions with complete focus. Don’t worry if this is a bit difficult at first; with enough practice sessions, this will become more natural and almost unconscious. make sure you come up with a good strategy to check your timing. You can choose to check the clock after each step (ie every 9.5 minutes or so) or, if you find that annoying, set timed milestones. For example, you can include a time check every 30 minutes to make sure you’re on track.

strategic ordering

Before you begin answering questions in any section, spend a minute scanning each of the passages and ranking them by difficulty. For example, in the science sections of MCAT, you can rate questions on topics you’re most familiar with as the easiest. In general, the questions with graphs and tables take a little longer to read and understand, so they can be considered more difficult. then start with the easier passages and work your way up to the more difficult ones. all questions have the same weight in terms of scoring, so it makes sense to prioritize the ones you have the best chance of getting right. however, be sure not to spend more than a minute or two on this activity.

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find out your answer first

No matter the question type, whether you’re facing discrete mcat biology questions or passage-based mcat chemistry questions, always try to find your own answer (in your own words) before looking at the answer options. This helps you eliminate the confusion of options that may be misleadingly worded, eliminate incorrect options, and quickly identify the answer that is closest to what you already thought of.

Having difficulty preparing for the mcat chemistry section in particular? check out these tips:

strategies to improve your speed in mcat science sections

The mcat biology, mcat chemistry, and mcat psychology sections test your knowledge of scientific concepts, as well as your ability to analyze that knowledge, apply concepts to external data, and synthesize different data. it is not enough to simply rely on your memorization of key concepts to progress through these sections. questions based on science passages require you to apply content you may already know, but in unexpected ways. If you don’t know the correct strategies for approaching different types of questions and identifying the answers, you’ll have a hard time finishing these sections on time. Here are some section-specific strategies to help you improve your speed:

active learning

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mcats consist primarily of passage-based questions, which require you to synthesize your background knowledge with the information presented in the passage and apply your skills to find the answer. Science sections also include unobtrusive questions that test your ability to quickly recall basic information. Even for these questions, instant recall or mere memorization of key mcat concepts is not enough on its own. Instead, during your MCAT preparation, focus on “active learning” – that is, trying to understand the concepts and memorizing them. That way, you won’t waste time during the exam trying to understand concepts or connect the dots, and you can find the answer directly. To implement active learning, try repeating concepts in your own words, teaching a friend, drawing pictures, creating flashcards, etc.

practice reading and response strategies to save time

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identification of question types

In your practice sessions, be sure to learn strategies for identifying different types of questions and understanding the most logically structured methods for finding the answer as quickly as possible. practice applying these strategies until they come naturally to you during your mock exams. these strategies help you save crucial time on scientific questions, which are often dense and highly technical.

There are essentially two types of questions in the mcat science sections: passage-based questions that require you to go back to the passage and find the answer, and discrete questions for which you need to rely on your pre-existing knowledge. however, discrete questions can be included with passage-based questions, which is what causes confusion for students and is a major source of delay during the test. if you haven’t honed your ability to quickly identify what type of question you’re facing, you could easily waste valuable minutes traversing the passage looking for an answer that just isn’t there.

read the passage and questions efficiently

For questions based on science passages, it’s important to read the question carefully, but not waste time bogging down too much detail in the passage. read it quickly and move on to the questions. if something in the passage is confusing, don’t waste time trying to figure it out right away. come back to it later if it’s relevant to a question. A passage may have a lot of confusing information and complex topics, but you don’t necessarily have time to understand it all. remember, you must finish reading the passage within 5 minutes. let the questions guide you as to which parts of the passage you should spend more time analyzing and dissecting.

highlight the key phrases of the passage as you read it (your prior knowledge of scientific concepts will help here) and also try to identify the main point of the passage and the key evidence presented as well as the main point. of each paragraph within the passage. A good tip for mcat science passages is to look for sentences that identify any of the following: experiment goal, experimental controls, hypotheses, variables, and results. when you are practicing, you should get into the habit of structuring your reading process in this way, so that it is easy, fast and natural during the actual test. the passages are usually 4 or more paragraphs and a lot of information is presented. By summarizing the information in your notes, you can avoid wasting time rereading it multiple times when searching for answers.

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Many questions may also include a paragraph marker indicating which part of the passage the answer includes. pay attention to this and use it to quickly find the relevant paragraph. Check your notes first to see if you can answer the question without rereading the passage. this way, you may be able to answer some questions simply based on your summary, without needing to reread the passage in depth.

answer questions quickly

If you don’t know the answer in a minute, just choose the closest answer, bookmark the question, and come back later if you have time. remember that there is such a thing as “decision fatigue” that could set in, especially in the last two sections. after you’ve spent hours answering difficult questions, when you’re faced with another tricky one, your brain may freeze up or alternatively go into overthinking mode. either way, this could mean you just can’t think of the answer. if this happens, just take a deep breath and bookmark the question for later. Remember, one wrong answer won’t ruin your MCAT score, but if you spend too much time getting stuck on one passage or one question, you could end up with too little time to spend on the remaining questions. even if you select any answer at random, you have a 25% chance of getting it right, and then you can focus on getting the answers right for the next passage.

Curious about how hard mcat is? This video is for you!

mcat car section strategies

Unlike the other sections, mcat cars does not test students’ pre-existing knowledge in any subject area. instead, you are given information-dense passages and asked questions that require you to use your critical thinking, analytical, and reasoning skills. All of the information to answer the question is provided in the passage itself, often leading students to believe that this is an easy section of the mcat that doesn’t require much preparation. That’s simply not true – you need several weeks, if not months, of preparation time to develop the critical thinking skills needed to tackle car questions. in fact, many students find this section to be the most challenging due to its unique requirements. One of the biggest challenges is figuring out the right mcat cars strategy to complete the questions on time – many students get confused by the format of the questions or the sudden influx of totally unknown information in the passages, and this affects their time. Here, I introduce some section specific strategies to help you improve your mcat car score and speed.

active learning

While mcat cars does not require systematic study of any subject area, you do need to spend a significant amount of time reading challenging passages and vocabulary in literary works, philosophical books, and articles and journals in the humanities and social sciences. The more you read, the more you’ll develop your ability to quickly analyze complex information. the key here is to focus on “active reading.” Commit to the material and treat it like you should treat your mcat cars passages. For each paragraph, summarize the main points, understand what the author is saying, and what the evidence is. doing this consistently every day for a period of a few weeks can greatly improve your ability to read complex and unfamiliar passages and find key information quickly. without this capability, it may take more than 5 minutes to read and understand each passage in the mcat car section.

practice reading and response strategies to save time

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identification of question types

Learning to identify the different types of passages and types of questions is crucial for mcat cars. The passages can be of two types: about 50% of the car passages are related to humanities subjects such as literature, philosophy, ethics, art and history and 50% are social sciences such as psychology, sociology, economics and politics. the questions for each passage can also be of different types:

As with the science sections, knowing the question type helps you identify the correct focus for each question. For example, with a question of the type “foundations of understanding”, you know that you are looking for some information indicated in the passage. but for the “reasoning outside the text” question, you will need to use your critical thinking to understand the application of an idea presented in the passage to arrive at the answer. During your mock tests, be sure to practice identifying the question type and applying the relevant strategies to quickly answer each question.

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reading the passage

Many students are often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new, unfamiliar, and often confusingly worded information that is presented in mcat auto passages. The key to getting around this hurdle is not to spend too much time getting bogged down in details like confusing vocabulary, complex sentence structure, and unfamiliar concepts. just remember the expectation here: you are not supposed to be an expert on this topic! so don’t worry if you don’t understand a specific word, phrase or concept; simply write down the key general theme or argument of the passage, as well as the key theme and evidence presented in each paragraph, and then continue with the questions. don’t waste time trying to understand each and every difficult concept you see.

As you read the passage, focus on identifying the main point the author is trying to make. Divide the entire passage into a single sentence or shorter and write it down. Also, highlight key “supporting sentences,” that is, sentences in which the author has expressed his or her point of view or presented important supporting evidence for the main theme of the passage. Also, try to identify the type of passage: is it comparing and contrasting two topics, studies, ideas, opinions, etc.? is it a list of points? is it an extended metaphor? all of these notes will be very helpful when you return to the passage to find the answers to specific questions. instead of having to reread the complex passage in its entirety, you can refer to your notes to recap the key points.

Interested in learning more strategies to help you succeed in the car section of mcat? check this out:

time-saving strategies for answering questions

To get started, I recommend answering the questions in the order presented. this will help you save time as questions are usually numbered in progression, referring to concepts from the first paragraph to the last. it is also best to try to answer all questions immediately when the passage is fresh in your mind. coming back to the questions later means you have to read the passage again to refresh the concepts. You can mark questions you’re not sure about (as I’ll explain below) for later review, but be sure to only return if you have time to spare at the end of the test.

If you’re faced with a confusing question, it’s critical that you don’t waste time thinking about outside information and focus solely on the passage. This is the goal of mcat cars. even if you have read about it before, do not try to use external information to find the answer. The questions are designed to test your ability to read the passage and synthesize the information from within. if you are relying on your own knowledge of the subject, you are probably mistaken.

If you are having difficulty finding the answer, first identify clearly incorrect answers, such as those that directly contradict the passage, and eliminate them. Then, similar to the recommended strategy for the science sections, choose whichever option you think is most correct, mark this question in your notes as uncertain, and then come back to it at the end of the test if you have extra time. . The AAMC doesn’t grade you for wrong answers, so if you don’t know the right answer, just choose the option that sounds best to you and continue.

it is essential not to spend too much time on any one question or passage, but to maintain a steady pace throughout the test.

Armed with these time-saving strategies, you’ll definitely be able to tackle the grueling pace of the mcat exam. I know the blood, sweat and tears it takes to achieve an excellent mcat score and I hope this blog has helped you get one step closer to your dream of studying medicine.

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