I know this may be hard to believe now, but going into mcat I knew cars were going to be my “weak point”. I remember studying for satellite reading and not doing as well as I wanted to (I don’t even remember if I broke 700 in satellite reading lol), but really, I knew it was because I didn’t do as many passages as I should have. So, I knew that mcat cars is really just a numbers game, no matter how many “tricks and tips” the test prep companies give you, if you don’t do the passages, you’re not going to do well. . I think in the end I did about 200-300 passages, all timed.
Going into mcat cars, I knew I was going to have to practice this section, a lot, and honestly I think I would have been happy with a 128, especially given how much reddit hyped this section up.
Reading: How to review a fl cars well
Why am I telling you this? Here’s the thing: anyone can get more than 130 in cars. If I Can, So Can You: Most people start practicing cars too late. That said, you can’t improve your score if you start practicing timed passages too late, and you can’t improve your score by reading clever tips from the test prep company.
so? what did i do?
for the two weeks or so, i used the princeton car review book. I actually read your advice and tried to follow it (lol); however, I feel like it wasn’t working so well for me, because taking notes on each paragraph (as suggested) and writing the main lines/main ideas was taking too much time. I knew it was taking too long, because at that time I also started doing ek passages (the earlier version of verbal reasoning). I would do the entire test in a single, timed session, and I remember when I started, it was difficult to finish all 7 passages in the allotted 1 hour time (I did this because these were the “old mcat” cars, and that was the format they had , and I felt that being able to do ~7 passages is probably a good resistance workout)
Around week 3 or 4, reddit and sdn pop up, and I found the 90 day guide to a good car score on sdn. Since I was only 10 weeks old and only had 6 weeks left when I found the guide, I didn’t follow the entire 90 day plan. I would highly recommend taking a look though if you don’t know the resource, I feel like the guy had some good advice (although I think I’m giving pretty similar advice here), but if you are someone who likes the different types of problems broken down, then it’s a good read.
Personally, I didn’t benefit much from breaking down the question types (I didn’t keep many of the different question types and the strategies for navigating them), however what I found most helpful about your guide was how to to go over your answers. At some point I was probably spending as much or more time going over answers than solving problems, but as I got better, there was less I had to go through! It was definitely very frustrating at first, but as I got better (and the aamc qpack and fl cars are easier than some of the questions I was asking too – more on that later), I was spending less and less time going through the answers. and understanding the logic of aamc go a long way towards this.
- Take a deep breath and count to 3 before each passage. I took this from the sdn guide: you will feel all kinds of anxiety and nerves on the day of your exam, and spending a few seconds to breathe before each passage helps you clear your head. I didn’t do this perfectly on the day of my test (re: nerves), but when I remembered to do it, it helped immensely
- not 100% necessary, but do the last passage first. I read this somewhere on reddit, but someone suggested you do the last passage first (works for the other sections too!), then go to #1. that way, when you’re halfway there, you feel a little easier knowing that you already have the last passage done. the mcat is a brain game, you just have to beat it.
- Start your study days with cars. if I start my day with something else, it’s hard for me to do cars all day (for me, it’s so painful to do haha. I don’t enjoy it! ). after a while, it becomes a habit…
- cars every. day. — again with the last point, make it a habit. at first, i was probably spending 1-3 hours a day. As my test day approached and I became more confident with cars, I spent less time. but in the beginning, it was definitely necessary for me to spend that kind of time.
- try to stay engaged with the topic. it’s hard, but I tried to be at least a little interested in what the author was trying to say. that really helped retention for me.
- as you read, ask yourself: why is the author writing this? what does the author want me to know? What does each of these paragraphs say? Here’s the key though, think about this as you read but don’t write anything down! I think I could have noted or highlighted some keywords, but that was extremely weird. typing stuff interrupts the flow of your reading and can slow it down.
- eliminate wrong answers first; I can usually eliminate two at once, and then between the last two, a quick reference to the passage would tell me what the correct answer is.
- always practiced timed! This is very important: do each 5-question passage in 9 minutes, the 6-question passage in 10.5, and each 7-question passage in 12 minutes. do this even when you are rendering the aamc passages (with annoying formatting). take the time so you intuitively know what 9, 10.5 and 12 minutes feel like.
- jack westin
- thoughts: for those of you who don’t know, jw is probably most famous for his “mcat day ticket”. in each passage there are 5-7 questions, in a format that is the same as the aamc. you can check your answers right after, and there’s usually a discussion on the sidelines once you hit submit for each answer. This can be a good warm up exercise every day to get your brain working, but I didn’t commit to this; I only did this sporadically.
- pros: new passage every day, serves as pretty good practice, aamc format for practice
- cons: sometimes a bit tricky, logic not clear
- full kaplan passages
- thoughts: to be honest I wouldn’t use this until you’ve exhausted everything else. I really can’t recommend it because for me doing kaplan is like a glorified word search. it’s all in the passages and sometimes they have weird/confusing logic. I did his full passages because I wanted to simulate the full experience. however, I didn’t take the score too seriously and didn’t even bother to check my answers after taking them because I know it won’t be worth it.
- pros: more practice is always good(?)
- cons: Sort of a glorified word search…yikes!
- princeton review-hyperlearning car workbook
- thoughts: hands down the best resource i used during my car prep! and also psst, you can probably find a free pdf version online somewhere. if you use the old cars version (called verbal reasoning) (I think that’s 70 questions and 60 minutes?), it’s actually quite similar to the newer edition of the tpr workbook, so it definitely still works!
- pros: more difficult than real mcat in my opinion. if you can do this within the allotted time and understand all the explanations (and probably get 80-90% accurate), you’ll definitely be cat ready
- cons: in terms of availability, it’s a bit hard to find, since the hyperlearning workbooks are supposed to come with a tpr course, so they don’t sell them independently.
- testing solutions
- thoughts: so this is the company that also wrote the 90 day car sdn post, and i thought that post was great, why not try their car tickets? they offered a handful for free, and I thought that was fine. I already had uworld and the tpr hyperlearning book at the time, so I didn’t think it added any extra value (also some of the questions looked jack-westin-esque and there were errors in the samples!)
- pros: it’s in aamc format, passages/questions are similar to aamc.
- cons: some errors in sampler, extra cost (not really worth the extra expense if you already have other materials)
- thoughts: when you buy uworld it comes with all the different themed areas including cars. I thought this was a great resource too and I finished all the uworld car tickets in my preparation. sometimes if I have an extra 10-15 minutes I just take one to do it.
- pros: good for practicing individual passages, for timing, good explanation, and in aamc test format.
- cons: the passages varied a lot in difficulty in my opinion, and it’s not the most representative of aamc stuff, but it’s still relevant and very good!
- I mean, it’s self-explanatory… you can’t do the mcat without this. I won’t go into the pros and cons because you have to buy it if you want to be successful in the mcat.
- krackers exam-old 101 passages verbal workbook
- thoughts: this is ek’s old car book and it’s the first book i started. I did tickets from here every day when I first started practicing cars, and these are great “burner” tickets just to cut down on time (if you don’t want to waste tpr or aamc tickets).
- pros: cheap! tons of passages, good for timing.
- Cons: The workbook “goes off the rails” towards the end in terms of the quality of the questions. there were also typos (ie the answer key would say c but the explanation would match the reasoning for option b) near the end. but the first 2/3 of the book are good!
- I think I was lucky because I felt my cars were pretty easy; however, the quiz reaction on reddit made me doubt myself a bit. however, if I were to predict my score right after my test, I would have said 128+. the perfect score was definitely a surprise!
- my kaplan full lengths were between 128 and 129 (didn’t take them too seriously, see breakdown of my resources)
- my full aamc lengths ranged from 128 (fl2) to 131 (fl3).
- I got this advice before I started prepping my cars: “oh, just read the new york times! or newspapers!” I’m not saying it doesn’t help but if you’re short on time you definitely won’t see results reading the new york times for 10 weeks the problem with this is that even if you do read a lot and improve your reading speed there is nothing to check your understanding of what you are reading, not the way mcat does.
- That said, if you’re a freshman thinking about the MCAT well in advance, read the academic journals and the New York Times.
- personal experience: I didn’t read much nyt or magazines. I wasn’t an English/literature major in undergrad, so I didn’t read more than I needed to for class either. I do read some new york, books, magazines, and of course textbooks, but I didn’t particularly go out of my way to prepare for cars in terms of outdoor reading.
- “all the food i ate in boston in 48 hours
- [part 5] navigating pre-med at cornell: the gap year experience »
how did you feel during/after the exam?
how were your practice fl scores?
can daily reading help improve your cars score?
I hope this was helpful. I have written another mcat guide on my blog. I wish you the best on your journey, feel free to ask me questions below!
my favorites: princeton review, ek, uworld and of course *gold standard*, aamc.