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Testing Solutions' 30 Day Guide to MCAT CARS Success

Discussion in 'Testing Solutions, LLC' started by TestingSolutions, Apr 20, 2015.

  1. aimforthesky

    aimforthesky

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    Hi TS, I have been using your guide for over a week. It has been great. However, you mentioned reading the first sentence of every paragraph (spend 10 to 15 seconds). That usually takes me about 30 seconds (plus the 3 seconds breathing exercise), which means a lot of time I would go over the 4 minutes time period (by 5 to 10 seconds on average, I am a slow reader). Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make sure I can speed up the preview process.
     
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  3. sk1791

    sk1791

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    May 9, 2016
    Hi TS, I just finished Day 30 of your program and I do feel like my CARs skills have improved greatly but there are a couple things I need to work on that I would appreciate some advice for:

    1. For the most part my timing is well there are a good amount of passages that I can fly through or finish up about on time but then there are some passages that just take me a while to work on. How should I approach this?

    2. I've noticed that sometimes there is just one or two key words in either the passage, question stem, or correct answer choice that I misinterpret or misread that cause me to answer the question incorrectly. These are the ones that cause me to slap my self in the forehead when I read the correct answer explanation or when I go back to review it and figure out what I did wrong myself. How do you recommend I get over this hump?

    Thank you for everything.
     
  4. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @afcpanda - I'd drop back to 6 or 7 passages a day, or a number where you feel comfortable with your timing and are also able to review some of the more difficult passages and questions. How many of the AAMC passages do you have left? I think you want to be close to practicing with full-lengths roughly six weeks out from your test date. Now that you've given yourself a little more time, I'd utilize that to improve your reading comprehension and question answering. Does that make sense?
     
  5. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @biologybum - I don't think you need to force yourself to catch up with our 90 day schedule. I'd continue to do one post a day. What I would change is how many passages you're doing. If you're taking the test on 4/22 I'd make sure you're taking at least 5 to 6 passages 5 or 6 days a week (and more if you can fit them in). I'd only recommend that you review the passages and questions that really stumped you, if you got them right and were pretty confident about getting them right while you were taking the test, I wouldn't waste your time reviewing them and instead do more passages. I'd strive to burn through as many of the EK, TPR, and Testing Solutions passages as you can over the next three weeks. With a month out from your test date, then I'd flip strictly to AAMC or alternating with some TPR or Testing Solutions passages if you didn't get to all of them.

    I would just make sure you're doing a lot of practice passages and trying to build good habits. We've got a tip sheet we made to help you keep track as you do passages. I'd print this out and have it sitting next to you as a reminder for the next few weeks. Best of luck and please keep the questions coming!
     
  6. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @aimforthesky - The four minute time period is a rough estimate that we give at the beginning of your studying to give you structure. As you advance in your preparations, you will find that harder passages will take you longer and easier passages will take you less time. As you get better, you'll know when to slow down and invest more time and when to speed up. I would really recommend pre-reading the passage briefly (as we say the gist of the first sentence of each paragraph, and maybe the last if you can fit it in). Most test takers spend far more time returning to the passage for one question than they would spend doing the breathing exercise and the passage preview.

    I wouldn't try to cut corners on that part save to make sure that you really are moving quickly. Don't read at the same speed during the passage preview as you would when you're actually reading the passage. If you feel like you need to cut out some time to make sure you're not rushed for time, don't let yourself go back to the passage as frequently. Best of luck and please keep the questions coming!
     
  7. imax2011

    imax2011 5+ Year Member

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    Jul 9, 2011
    Hi,

    I am trying out the your strategies in the 30 day CARS thread and I already used EK and TPR verbal stuff like 1 year ago. What other verbal material should I get instead for the early phase? If I repeat EK and TPR passages, that would not effective, no? Thank you. My CARS was 123, really hoping to use your guide to bump it up and retake the MCAT this year.

    Thank you!
     
  8. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @sk1791 - Great questions:

    1) We recommend time intervals based on the idea that most people need structure during the early phase of their CARS preparations. The truth though is that as you advance, there will be some passages that you speed through and some that take more time. Once you get to this point, you want to take time on the harder passages and invest your energies there instead of on the easier passages that you're going to get the questions right on anyways. If you're not having time problems, then I think it's fine to fly through the easier passages and invest more on the harder ones. This is ultimately the goal for CARS timing.

    2) Is it a vocabulary issue? It might be a good idea to keep a list of the words or question stems that are causing you the problem. Write a brief note as to what you think it is that caused you a problem. Do you know that you're missing something as you read the passage or question, or is this only in hindsight? If you have a sense that you might be missing something, give yourself a little extra time on that question and see if this helps you to answer them correctly and catch your "silly" mistakes. The more practice you do, the less and less these sorts of things happen. Best of luck!
     
  9. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @imax2011 - EK just came out with a new 101 CARS book. I just got a copy, but haven't had a chance to work through many of the passages. I think Berkeley Review's passages are of reasonable quality (especially for early prep). I think reusing passages isn't a good idea, so I wouldn't return to old materials you've already seen.Here's our Review of All CARS Materials Available on the Market! I'd make sure you save the AAMC passages until roughly 4 to 6 weeks out from the date you're really confident you're taking the MCAT on. Once these passages are gone, they are gone and they are the very best representation of the real MCAT you're going to find.

    Best of luck!
     
  10. afcpanda

    afcpanda

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    Jan 22, 2017
    Hi Testing Solutions, I have around 1 1/2 of the 2 AAMC question packs left as well as 2 AAMC full lengths. I think you're right. I've been doing a few passages lately, and I think I have my timing back on track (before I think I was reading the passage too fact). But, like you said, I really think by reading comprehension needs work. I think a large part of my problem is that I don't read deep enough into the passage. That's why I tend to do great on Main Idea, Attitude, questions but totally bomb when it comes to Inference/implication/application/int. of new info. That being said I have a few questions:
    1. What would be the best way to improve this? I'm also curious what you mean by "improving question answering". Could you please elaborate?
    2. For both improving reading comprehension and question answering are there any drills you would recommend?
    3. Also, you mention "reading for structure" many times throughout the 30-day guide. What do you mean by that and how would we best "read for structure"?
    4. Finally, when I'm reading, like you advise, I try to ask myself "Why would the author write this? Where is he going? What questions would I expect?" But I find that I ask myself these questions so much that I end up distracting myself from the passage. How often should we be asking these questions as we read? And how do I stop this internal dialogue from disrupting my flow?
    As always, much thanks.

    Edit: I tried doing a few passages today taking all the time I need and found I get the same score as when I do passages under the timed conditions. I'm pretty convinced now my problem isn't timing but reading comprehension.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  11. med4evah

    med4evah

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    Jan 11, 2017
    Hi Guys! A few questions, I know I am quite early since my MCAT isn't until July end and I won't be starting MCAT prep until May ( after school ends):

    1. What would you prefer more, the old Ek verbal 101 or new EK 101 CARS
    2. Your schedule says using T1-T8, but I only see 6 practice tests on your website
    3. Would you prefer EK verbal in general or TPRH books

    Thank you guys!!
     
  12. medstudent0000002

    medstudent0000002

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    Jan 6, 2017
    ..
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017
  13. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @medstudent0000002 - Ha! Ouch! Well, we're all entitled to our opinions, aren't we? We offer a 100% money-back guarantee, no questions asked. So if you don't think our practice tests were representative of the real MCAT or you just want your money back, please feel free to email us with your order number at [email protected] and we'll give you a full refund.

    Best of luck on your MCAT!
     
  14. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @afcpanda - Thanks for the questions!

    1) "Questioning answering" is about as ambiguous of a phrase as there is! Sorry! What I mean to say is that over time, as you do more questions, see more wrong answers and encounter more opportunities to practice reasoning your way to the right answer, you'll get better at answering questions. There is no particular skill here to develop save to do a bunch of passages and review the ones that you get wrong or that really stump you doing the test.

    2) Assuming your timing is down, the best way to improve reading comprehension we've encountered is to something similar to what we describe here Day 26 – How to Review a CARS Passage. I think reviewing the passage and in particular, practicing your ability to summarize and synthesize will over time just become second nature. I think it's really important to make sure you invest the time (after you finish the test) to make sure you understand the passages that gave you a lot of trouble. Wrestling with these passages is a very efficient way to improve. As to "question answering," (again sorry for the phrase!) practice is your best bet. I'd recommend marking any answer choices you couldn't 100% eliminate and then return to those questions and reason out why you think that answer choice is wrong. Don't just turn to the answer explanations to see. You do some of the heavy lifting first. This will help improve your CARS reasoning.

    3) "Reading for structure" means knowing that the author discusses in paragraph two the reasons that pre-historic peoples migrated to North America. It does not mean fully or completely understanding each and every detail or nuance of the author's reasoning. You want to know where things are and be able to see the overall structure/gist of the passage while not getting bogged down into trying to master the passage. Skimming or speed reading is not what we're talking about. But we're also not talking about memorizing the passage. You should read the CARS passage as if it were an empty building. It hasn't been furnished yet, but you know where the kitchen is and even maybe what it might look like. You don't want to invest so much time that you have a photographic memory of each item in the room.

    4) This is something you'll have to practice. If it's disrupting your flow, you're doing it too much. So do it less. I think it makes sense to do it at three points: 1) Right after your rapid 15 second pre-read. What is this passage likely going to be about? 2) Right after each paragraph, take a moment to try and get a sense of what just went on there. and 3) Right at the end of the passage ask yourself again, what is this passage all about? It might even make sense to post-read. Try limiting yourself to these three checkpoints and see if that helps. You don't want to be obsessing about answering this questions, because as you've said, it will get distracting.
     
  15. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @med4evah - We just got our copy of the new EK101 book, so I'm not sure. Supposedly, there' completely new passages. I think the old Ek101 book was reasonably solid, even if the quality of the passages trails off. If you've got a ton of time, I'd buy both. If not, I'd go with the older book, because the quality of those passages is already established.

    2) We change up our bundle deals throughout the year and try to offer different discounts when we can (depending on how many are purchased). You can always buy our practice tests through Amazon.com but that's pretty price because they take such a steep cut (30%+). We are currently ordering a six test bundle on our website and at checkout, you're offered the opportunity to take on the other tests T7 through T10. If you click through, you'll see it for the expanded bundle offer.

    3) I preferred the TPRH books. I thought the questions were better and the passages more similar to the real thing. With that said, EK wasn't bad, I just would go with TPRH if I had to choose one.
     
  16. afcpanda

    afcpanda

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    Jan 22, 2017
    Hey Testing Solutions,

    So I'm trying to read more for structure, but I find it difficult memorizing/localizing important main ideas to each passage. I've heard that writing a quick 2-4 word summary after each passage is helpful for referencing during the questions. Do you recommend this?

    Also, I'm not seeing any improvements in my score. I don't think it's a problem with you approach, just perhaps how I'm practicing. I'm just not sure what I'm doing wrong. I was wondering if you offer any 1-on-1 or class tutoring? If not would you recommend any CARS tutors?

    Much thanks as always.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
  17. wannabedoc1994

    wannabedoc1994

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    I just wanted to say thank you so very much for this incredible plan. I am taking my mcat in June. It will be the second time I'm taking it. CARS has always been a struggle for me. However, on my practice tests before I took the real exam, I was scoring in the 80s for CARS. Nevertheless, due to an anxiety slip I fell hard in my CARS section on the real exam. ALL BECAUSE OF TIME. I'm finding I need a confidence boost and some good test anxiety strategies. I get about 1-2 wrong on each passage I'm realizing. Do you think with your plan I will be able to decrease that range to about 0-1?. I have also purchased your test solutions practice tests, as well all of the other suggested material.
     
  18. academy4dawise

    academy4dawise 2+ Year Member

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    Hey TS,
    Thank you very much for your valuable advice. Verbal Reasoning has always been a struggle for me. I have spent so much more time studying for this section of the exam than any of the science sections. I have gone through the 30-day plan twice now and have seen tremendous improvement. Even though I am still not breaking a 128, my target score, I still have 2 months until my testing date and believe I can make the jump from ~36 correct to ~44 correct with effective practice and review. I have two major concerns that I was hoping you could address.

    1) This is probably my biggest concern. Even though I am in the middle of an epic battle against the MCAT, a lot has simultaneously happened in my personal life that distracts me while taking exams (ESPECIALLY CARS). I constantly find my mind wondering in the middle of a passage, now more than ever. I thought maybe it was the result of being burnt out from CARS, but I just took 4 days off from CARS and did very light studying in the other sections, and actually performed even worse than before lol. My mind was wondering after every other paragraph it seemed like. I had trouble following the flow of the passage and identifying the main idea at the end of the passage. I was wondering if you had any advice how to reduce these distractions when I review a passage. Will this go away with more practice? I take three deep breaths to try to clear my mind before every passage as well.

    2) I am on a bit of a time crunch now. I now do between 6-9 passages and stamina is hardly an issue for me. However, there are rarely times where I will get an entire passage correct (especially using Testing Solutions Exams and the new EK workbook which seems much more difficult than other resources...a good thing). Sometimes I review all 9 passages using your 15 step guide and even highlight the keywords at times. But recently, I simply do not have time to rework every single passage. Is it okay if I extensively review only the 1 or 2 passages out of the 9 total that gives me the most trouble?

    Thank you so much for your help and encouragement. PS...I love how you start every blog post with some words of encouragement. It's very motivating and gives me reassurance that I'm on the right path haha
     
  19. aurevoir0711

    aurevoir0711 2+ Year Member

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    Jan 17, 2014
    Dear TS representative,

    I have an exam scheduled on May 19th and CARS is the weakest section for me. English is not my first language and I have never done well on reading comprehension portion of standardized tests in the past (SAT, GMAT, GRE). I scored a 720 in reading section for the old GRE (98% percentile, max score 800), but that was due to the old GRE's test structure for the verbal section. Old GRE had many more vocab related questions than passage based reading comprehension.

    I am not a big fan of literature, history, philosophy, religion, anthropology, theology, aand politics/government, pretty much anything that is monotonous. I have never been a big reader, even though I tried reading substantially in my native language. I can understand school materials with no sweat, so I am not sure why I just don't comprehend sophisticated English passages well.

    When it comes to reading comprehension, I know that practice matters, but it does not mean everything. I've seen posts from people who practiced over 150 passages from the first exam to the second (retake) and their scores didn't improve at all. I am doing at least 3 passages a day, trying different approaches (note taking, trying to figure out the main idea of each paragraph/as a whole). However, some passages are really difficult to understand due to unfamiliarity of the topic, lots of jargons, unknown vocabs, and convoluted sentence structures. My reading speed seems to be up although my comprehension level remains the same. I've tried note taking method, but that just burns up so much time to create writings that I rarely use afterward.

    I have a lot of sources available besides your product (T1-T10) that I bought from Amazon/eBay. New EK 101 passages, old EK 101 passages, TBR CARS, TPRH CARS, AAMC Q packs, and other free sources like 'Daily Free CARS Passage' website and Kham Academy.

    I have not taken any AAMC materials as of now. The only passages I've worked on so far are new EK 101 passages and some NS passages. On the new EK 101 series, I am getting around 40~43%, which is very demoralizing. I've heard that the new EK 101 passages have very poor questions, so most people struggle with it, even the people who actually performed well (130+) on the actual MCAT. However, I do know that after reading the EK 101 passage, I usually can't pinpoint the general idea of the passage correctly and relate how each paragraph fits in the big picture.

    The biggest issue for me is that sometimes I can't understand what I just looked over, even if I read it multiple times. The worst thing is that this has become a habit and it happens very often. This results in skipping a good chunk of paragraph without actually understanding what is going on. I am also not very good at picking up author's tone or perspective, so those inference questions always get me.

    Another weakness I noticed is that even if I understand the passage in general, I can't remember the details that well, so I waste a lot of time going through the entire paragraph to search for what the question is asking. Sometimes the question is fine, but the answer choices are so subtle or something I can't relate to the information I obtained from the passage, so I start guessing what "sounds" like a good answer. In addition, I can't seem to read actively when the passage is about topics I dread like history, philosophy, government/politics, anthropology, religion, and bizarre literature. It is just so hard to stay awake...

    Furthermore, I noticed that even if I understand the passage correctly, relating what's being asked from a question to the information in the passage is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for me. Sometimes the answer choices seem totally irrelevant because my mind is fixed on my personal interpretation of the passage. Ruling out answers prematurely is another issue that is caused by functional fixedness.

    I am not even sure where to begin. I have a little over 2 months to prepare for CARS and I really hope to get a 129... I know 129 is an ambitious goal, but I need to set it high so that I put in the work for it. Any suggestions on where to begin or what strategies I should implement? I would sincerely appreciate your advice. Thank you so much.

    Update (3/10/17)
    In order to figure out if familiarity of the topic was an issue, I purposefully redid the same passage after checking the answers without reading the explanations. It turns out, topic familiarity is not the issue. I get approximately the same or even worse scores on the 2nd time of doing the same passage/questions. This shows me that topic familiarity has nothing to do with CARS. I am fairly certain that the question stem and answer choices are just as problematic because they are just not straightforward. I think my biggest problems are the following:

    1. Not understanding the big picture in the first place due to skipping sentences or difficulty with a few sentences in the paragraph
    2. Not being able to relate the main idea of the passage to the question
    3. Having difficulties with how each answer choice is relevant or irrelevant to the question AND the passage, which I dare to rephrase it as "cannot decipher the true meaning of each answer choice." In other words, difficulties with processing new piece of information (answer choice) to the old piece of information (passage), while remembering the ultimate goal/task (question stem).

    I realize this has become a very long post. Fortunately, as I am writing, I started thinking what my real problems were in CARS. As a former engineering student, problems are meaningless unless they are defined properly, so I am glad I found what my problems are for this section.
    I am sure these weaknesses can be overcome, but I need the right guidance to be successful. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Update 2 (3/11/17)
    I started reading the pdf that is attached with the products I bought (Days 1-6 scripts along with doing passages). While I am not 100% sold on the idea of focusing on just time management, I am going to try what you suggested since you are an expert on this topic. I totally agree that writing notes did not help much with the score (margin is like +-1,2 questions) AT THE COST of 13+ minutes on each passage. I will stick to your advice and give an update later when necessary.

    ps: "I am not that smart; I just worked incredibly hard." These sentences made my eyes teary. Story of my life...
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
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  20. wannabedoc1994

    wannabedoc1994

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    I'm sitting in the mid 70s percentile for CARS, my goal is to try to make it into the 90s, my test is in approximately 3 months away. Do you think with intensive adherence to this plan, a leap like that is possible? My issue is test anxiety and just pacing myself. I always end up rushing towards the end. I replied to a post on here but can't seem to find it.
     
  21. aimforthesky

    aimforthesky

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    Apr 22, 2015
    TS, thanks again for your guide and answers. I was wondering if you have any tips for timing and techniques for science passages as well. Thanks.
     
  22. medstudent8

    medstudent8

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    Im using your material to review for the MCAT CARS. I know the 30 Day Guide to MCAT CARS talks a lot about pacing and what to do to not run out of time. I have the complete opposite issue, I have way too much time to spare and will usually read all passages within 2-2.5 minutes. Some passages I do really well others I don't. What are your recommendations to slow my reading down to actually comprehend the passage?
     
  23. academy4dawise

    academy4dawise 2+ Year Member

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    Oct 3, 2014
    How often and how long after Day 9 should we do the Keyword Review for? I'm at Day 40 right now. Should I do it for the 1 or 2 passages a day still? I still feel like I can improve my "keyword intuition."
     
  24. Thoroughbred_Med

    Thoroughbred_Med 2+ Year Member

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    MDApps:
    these were some well thought out questions. I really hope he replies to you because I have these SAME exact problems. Would love to hear his advice.
     
  25. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @afcpanda - I'm really sorry for my slow response. We're running shorthanded here at TS currently and I'm in the middle of Q2 finals. (You know how people tell you medical school isn't all that easy...that's actually true! :)

    I don't think you're going to hurt yourself if you give the written summary a try, but I do think it can be a major slow down if timing is an issue. When I've worked with students, I've found that the best way to get better at reading for structure is to write one sentence paragraph summaries after you talk the passage and are no longer being timed. Once you've done the passage, go back and read through each paragraph and write a summary sentence. Think about why that paragraph was included at all, what it contributes to the passage overall. Do this for each paragraph and then at the end, do this for the passage as a whole. The problem most people have with "reading for structure" actually has to do with the reading part, not the structure part. As we're able to practice active reading, where we're trying to get at the point behind the author's words, you'll find that you do this automatically. When you read a paragraph on a CARs passage, you'll be asking your self throughout "what's this really about" because you'll know that you're going to have to write that paragraph summary.

    As to not seeing improvements,

    1) How many passages have you done in total? (And how many of those have been AAMC passage)
    2) How long (in terms of practice passages completed) has it been since you've seen improvement?
    3) How's your timing? Are you rushing to finish passages?
    4) Have you been review passages?

    Unfortunately, we're not able to offer tutoring, but my friend Andrew George over at MCAT Self-Prep offers some reasonable tutoring packages. He scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT and really knows his stuff. If you mention Testing Solutions, he'll give you 5% off. I wouldn't recommend him if I didn't trust him.

    Let us know the answers to some of the above questions and we can go from there. I will say that one of the most frustrating parts of the CARS is how long it takes and how random improvement seems to be. It feels like you're walking in the desert forever, but if you're doing a lot of practice passages and practicing the right techniques, you will eventually reach water.

    Best of luck and please let us know how we can support you. Sorry again for the slow response!
     
  26. afcpanda

    afcpanda

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    Hi T.S.,

    That's okay, thanks for the help.

    1) I've gone through the entire EK 101 passages, 5 Next Step Full Lengths, 5 of your practice exams, and 2 or 3 section tests from Kaplan/PR. As for AAMC passages I've done about 2 section tests (one from the Practice Exam 1 and 9 passages from Question Pack 2). I only got 7 wrong for the Question Bank passages (round a 128) but I scored a 126 on the AAMC P-test 1. I'm currently working through the P.R. Hyperlearning Verbal right now.
    2) Probably around a month, right around mid - February I started doing really well on the EK P-tests (80% correct) and scored my highest score, a 129, on a P.R. section test. Then my scores started sinking like the Titanic and I became stuck I'd say around the 127 area.
    3) Timing isn't too bad, I usually finish with 3-5 minutes left.
    4) Yes, I review all of my passages, following the instructions on your guide. Reviewing usually takes me a lot of time though (2 - 3 hours), so I don't know whether I should be dedicating that much time to reviewing or doing more practice passages.

    I think the thing that worries me is that my scores have been so variable lately. I've scored anything from a 126-129 in the past month. My exam is on April 22nd. I'm pretty solid with all of my others sections, it's just CARS dragging me down. Thanks for the help as always, good luck with Q2 finals.
     
  27. Midnighturtle

    Midnighturtle

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    I would just like to advocate for Testing Solutions right now as I am currently going over one of my CARS practice tests (that I got a 127, 81%, on). I took the MCAT last July and I scored a 123 in CARS. I attempted testing solutions back then, but I wasn't really actively reading everyday or using the tips the plan suggested. I re-did the 30 day plan (which I am still in the middle of) and I am doing amazing on my practice tests. I realized that my reading comprehension was terrible around day 15 or so. I decided to skip ahead to "How to Review a CARS Passage" and I am so pleased with my scores. Before, I was not entirely grasping information or reading for structure. Now, since doing keyword review and extensively reviewing passages, I love CARS. And, I look forward to it on my practice tests. I never thought I would be in this position. Thank you TS!
     
  28. Saigon

    Saigon 2+ Year Member

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    Aug 12, 2013
    Why did the bundle switch from being 8 practice tests to 6 practice tests?
     
  29. For anyone reading this thread, I would be very wary of anyone telling people that they MUST do the CARS section in a certain way. First the strategy that TestingSolutions posted is making a major assumption that the test taker already has a solid foundation in reading comprehension and verbal aptitude in general. No highlighting or taking notes whatsoever, never going back to the passage no matter what, etc... could also be a detrimental "advice" to some people. Furthermore, doing passages under strictly timed conditions with brute force without much understanding of what you just read or why you got certain questions wrong will not improve your CARS score regardless of how many passages you do. I mean, how will your score just magically improve to "127 or 128 consistently" - which is about 83-90% correct - if you're lacking comprehension of what you just read, and guessing on most questions for every single passage? I can finish the whole section in just 60 minutes if I fly through the questions. That is very unlikely to land me "consistent" 128 and 129 though. I've seen people get perfect scores on CARS who used highlighting, notetaking, etc. Yes, timing is very important, but my point is, you need to find what works for you, and THEN work on your timing. There is no one correct way of doing it; this is exactly where test prep companies - and apparently TestingSolutions - end up misleading students.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2017
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  30. utazo

    utazo 2+ Year Member

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    Hi Testing Solutions,

    I have been using your 30 day guide and am almost through the first 10 chapters of EK Verbal 101. I plan to also use the 15 CARS passages in the EK CARS book 9th ed. Since I have not been able to find a TPR Hyperlearning book I thought I would proceed to the Testing Solution exams. I will have time to complete at least 6 before my MCAT.

    Is there any reason why I should not move directly from EK to your exams?

    I also plan to complete the AAMC Q packs as per your suggestion in the 90 day schedule.
     
  31. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @NoPMHx - Thanks for sharing your opinion. If you purchased our practice tests, please feel free to email us at [email protected] with your order number and we'd be happy to offer you a full refund. It doesn't sound like you're interested in any of our advice, but if there's any way we can help you succeed just let us know! Best of luck on your MCAT!
     
  32. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @afcpanda - It sounds like you've really done a solid base of practice passages. I would turn your attention to getting through all of the AAMC materials. It might be good to sprinkle in between the remaining non-AAMC materials you have, but don't get yourself in a crunch where you end up not taking a lot of the AAMC passages. They will be the best indication of where your actual score really is. You say your scores have been variable, but I'm not sure that has a lot to do with you and has more to do with the practice materials you're using. Our practice tests are slightly harder than the real thing whereas the first 2/3 of EK101 are slightly easier and the last 1/3 is slightly harder than the real thing. It sounds like you've been consistently in the 127 to 129 range and then the last few tests have been harder. I wouldn't read into those harder tests too much. The best thing for you to do is take the remaining AAMC CARS materials and see where you're at. I would recommend investing as much time as you can in reviewing the AAMC materials, but I only reviewing the two or three hardest passages for non-AAMC CARS materials. Every strategy bit you get from the AAMC materials is useful and worthwhile
    whereas this might not be true with non-AAMC materials as they're just approximations (even our materials are just our opinion of what the CARS section is). That is why it's so important to use real AAMC materials. Take some AAMC passages and let us know how those go.
     
  33. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @wannabedoc1994 - I'm terribly sorry for the extremely slow response. We've been short-handed here at Testing Solutions and I just finished Q2 finals. They were a beast! Thank you for the kind words. I hope this guide continues to be useful to you. I think you will continue to see gradual improvements over time. It is well within reason (especially considering that when you take the anxiety out of the mix you're already nearly to your goal) to hope to get to less than 9 wrong on the entire exam. This translates to a 128 or the 90th percentile. Assuming that your timing is on point, I'd recommend that you begin to really invest time on the two or three hardest passages you encounter each day and thoroughly review those passages and question sets. We have a post just about how to review practice tests: Day 29 – Putting it All Together: How to Review an Entire CARS Practice Test.

    As for test anxiety, I think the closer you can simulate the test day conditions the better. Have you visited the site you're going to take the test at? Drive there once or twice to make sure you know exactly where you're going. If you really want to get into it, you can even do some visualization techniques where you imagine yourself actually taking the test. Have you ready any of the books out there on test anxiety? These two books seem pretty popular: Performing Under Pressure and Success Under Stress. Keep us in the loop and please let us know how we can help!
     
  34. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @Saigon - Based on sales, we're able to offer different bundle packages from time to time (we kind of approach it like Groupon where we change up the deal when a certain number have been sold). We change up our deals frequently so if you're wanting the 8 practice test package, another one will come around. I think we're currently running a deal where you can add on our last four practice tests (to make a complete 10 practice test bundle T1-T10) at checkout for a total savings of somewhere around 70%. That one will probably last through Sunday. Hope that helps! Best of luck!
     
  35. strugglingpremed123

    strugglingpremed123

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    I just wanted to say thank you so much for this strategy. I have always been a very avid reader and can read just about anything thats very boring and detailed to simple. The strategist that my PR class we're implementing just weren't working for me. I've only been using this strategy for a week now, and within that week I went from a 123 of previous practice test to a 126 on the one I took today. I was doing the 30 days one because I was going to take my test at the end of April but have since pushed it back. Again, thank you so much.
     
  36. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @strugglingpremed123 - Thanks for the feedback and kind words! I'd encourage you to take the time you need to properly prepare for the MCAT. The #1 mistake I see people make when it comes to the MCAT is rushing to take the MCAT when they aren't fully prepared. I think it's really wise that you pushed your date back if you don't think you're ready. Improvement on the CARS is about steady, marginal gains. Little by little over time, as you implement new techniques, you begin to see your score rise. I'm glad to hear you saw such a jump, but don't be discouraged if it's not a straight line from here to your ideal CARS score. Take what's useful in our guide and leave the rest, and please let us know if there's any way we can help!

    Best of luck on your MCAT!
     
  37. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @academy4dawise - I'm terribly sorry it's taken us so long to get back to you. We've been short-handed for a few months at Testing Solutions and I just finished another round of finals. Thank you for understanding and also your very kind words regarding this thread. I'll do my best to answer your questions below:

    I can really relate to the above. I was unfortunate to have a long-term relationship end in the midst of my MCAT studying (very kind of her!) and it was deeply distracting. In my case, I never reached a point where I wasn't affected, but I did find that if I could break up my tasks into small blocks it was easier to let go of the intruding thoughts. I would commit to not thinking about my personal problems for the next 30 minutes and set a timer. Then I'd give myself a 5 minute break that I could do whatever I wanted with (such as think about the personal stuff). Then I'd set another time for another 30 minutes. I found that if I was actively taking a test, it was easier to not have my mind wander because of the time pressure. So I'd recommend that you do as much timed practice as possible. When it comes to actually reviewing, I find that if I'm physically writing something down with a pencil it's harder for me to lose track of what I'm actually doing. If you're reviewing using our recommended review template (Day 29 – Putting it All Together: How to Review an Entire CARS Practice Test) that you actually write out your summaries and reasoning for why an answer choice is wrong. If you give yourself a particular, concrete task, in my case, it helped a lot. I'd also recommend leaning on friends for support outside of studying and if it's a particularly difficult time, it might even be worth seeking out professional help. Having someone that is completely uninvolved to talk to, even if it's just temporary so you can better focus on MCAT studying can be helpful.

    I think very few people are able to use our 15 step guide to reviewing for every passage. I know it's very time-consuming. In an ideal world, you'd be able to, but there are other demands that pull your attention away. I'd recommending reviewing passages in detail that 1) caused you a lot of trouble. This either means you missed a lot of questions or you marked a lot of questions while you were taking the test as being difficult or particularly troubling. It's especially important to review these questions even if you end up getting them right. That's why it's critical you keep a list while you're actually taking the test. If you're feeling the crunch, I'd recommend you only review the two or three passages that really gave you trouble that day or you thought were particularly difficult. Another method is to only review questions that you either get wrong or marked as troubling you while you were taking the class. This should streamline your review down to 1 to 1.5 hours. With that said, I'd recommend that you invest most of your review time on the released AAMC passages. We here at Testing Solutions have done our best to recreate the CARS (as I am sure has EK and TPR, etc.) but at the end of the day, it's just our opinion. Investing a lot of time in reviewing AAMC CARS passages is as close to seeing what you'll face on test day save cheating (which I would not try). If between now and test day you only have time to review 30 or 40 more passages total, I'd recommend reviewing as many AAMC passages as you can regardless of whether you did well or not.

    And as to our practice tests, if there's any comfort in knowing that we design our tests to be harder (most people score close to 10% better on the real thing) then know that you aren't alone in finding our tests more difficult. It sounds to me like you're putting in the work and time. Just keep it up! As I've said before, I'm not particularly smart. I do work very hard. I think this paid off on the MCAT and has continued to pay off in medical school. As my mother seems to text me before nearly every final, "You've got this." So I pass it along to you: "You've got this, academy4dawise!!!"

    Please let us know how we can help!
     
  38. utazo

    utazo 2+ Year Member

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    TS - do you agree with this assessment of the AAMC CARS questions packs? (posted recently on SDN)

    "For CARS QPack 1, many of the answers don't logically follow from the passage. It's okay if you don't do well in this section. The second half of that QPack as well as QPack 2 are better."
     
  39. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @utazo - I'm terribly sorry for the slow responses. We've been shorthanded here at Testing Solutions recently and I just when through second quarter finals. Thank you for your patience. As to your questions:

    1) I don't think there is a reason not to move from EK to our exams. I will say that many students find it beneficial to rotate test companies eg. Ek101 for a couple of days then Testing Solutions, then TPR, then back. This keeps things fresh and also keeps you guessing instead of becoming too familiar with one way of asking questions or one way of thinking that informs a particular companies questions.

    2) I think using the AAMC Q packs is a great idea. As you wrote in a more recent post, I do think that the first part of Q1 is of a little less value in terms of the explanations provided, but I still think they are worthwhile in terms of practicing taking the real thing. So I wouldn't skip those questions.

    Best of luck on your MCAT and please let us know how we can help!
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2017
  40. mikeman1994

    mikeman1994

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    Hi Testing Solution,

    So I have been following your strategy as best as I can, and my timing is close to perfect. Of note, sometimes I end up with 2-3 minutes left over by the time I finish a practice CARS section (after 9 passages). Also, I can finish reading each passage between 4:30-5:00 minutes and I have been trying to improve this, but the closest I got was to 4:30.

    However, my main concern is that I constantly mess up the first passage. I usually get 1-3 correct on the first passage and then it improves as I continue, and I might miss 1-3 questions for the rest of the passages. So, do you have any recommendation for improving my initial start mishaps?

    Also, when I review the questions that I end up missing, I can either (1) predict the answer correct or (2) use the "why is this choice incorrect?" method and I would deduce my correct answer! Now, I already guarantee one is incorrect (the answer I chose), but how could I prevent this from happening? There isn't really a trend in what question types I miss, and they are random each time. Do you think more practice is required here?

    Thanks
     
  41. Marsay

    Marsay 2+ Year Member

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    I am having issues with getting the right answers. As mentioned above by someone I usually miss between 1 to 3 questions, even after I understand the passage. I'll have a good idea of the passage and move on to the questions, but when I look at the answers they are based on a detail in the passage. But your guide says not to focus on the details, but all of the answers point back to a detail in the passage? So how do I know when to go back and try to find a detail? Sometimes I spend so much time looking for the details, I go over my time. I was wondering if you have any advice, because it doesn't seem that just getting an understanding of the "big picture" is enough??? These answers are so similar that I'm having a hard time trying to figure out which is right or wrong for which reason all in like 9 or 10 minutes, without going back to the passage. I'm currently taking Test 3.
     
  42. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @aurevoir0711 - Thank you for writing and I'm very sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I've just finished finals and have been trying to catch up on Testing Solutions stuff since. Thank you for your patience. I'll do my best to respond to each point you bring up, but please let us know if we don't address everything.

    I'd be interested to hear how things have progressed since your last update. A few things strike me right from the beginning: 1) You seem very thoughtful and reflective. These are traits that are important for doing well on the CARS. The issue is translating them into points when answering questions. I agree with you 100% that just blindly doing passages does not equal improvements in score. This is why it is so important to approach the CARS in a methodical way. While I would never say that there is only one way to do well on the CARS, I am very confident that there are many bad approaches that can be avoided. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel. As you seem to have concluded on your own, taking notes while actually taking the test is almost always a bad idea. As is skipping around. Before we dive into CARS stuff here are two initial thoughts that I think you should think about: 1) Where is your vocabulary level in English? Many, many ESL students do well on CARS each year. This in and of itself is not an insurmountable obstacle. With that said, if your vocabulary is not up to par for the CARS, it will be impossible to do well. How many words per passage do you not understand? Start keeping a list of these words. If there is more than one or two per passage, you're going to have to work on vocabulary first. I'd also recommend taking this vocabulary test (TOEFL® Vocabulary test - free timed practice quiz). 2) My second non-CARS point you mentioned is not being able to stay awake during humanities passages. I'm not sure if this was a joke or if you really are sleep deprived, but if you're not getting reasonable amounts of sleep, there is almost no chance you're going to do well on the CARS. The CARS is a 100% reasoning test. Unlike the other MCAT sections, for the CARS there is no outside preparation that can carry you on test day. The only thing you're doing when you take and review CARS passages is strengthening your reasoning ability. You (including the whole world) are severely hampered in your ability to reason through arguments and read critically if you are tired. If you find yourself staying up to late or getting up to early, you have to rearrange your life to get more sleep. Period. There isn't any avoiding this.

    As to CARS advice:

    1) How's your timing now that you've stopped taking notes? Do you find yourself running out of time or rushing? This is an easy way to pick up points early on in your studying. One of our most popular posts talks about this explicitly: Day 3 – Reviewing/ Timing

    2) You said you're having trouble understanding hard passages so take a look at this post: What to do when you're having trouble understanding a difficult CARS passage.

    3) I'd recommend you take 4 or 5 AAMC released CARS passages so you can see for yourself what the real section is like. Each test prep company is offering you their interpretation of the CARS section. While some interpretations are better than others, there is no better place to go than directly to the source: the AAMC. This will give you a sense of how you're really doing.

    4) The #1 mistake people take when studying for the MCAT is to take it when they aren't prepared. But with that said, you've got plenty of time before your test date so don't let a particular date put pressure on you. Just keep an open mind and work hard taking and reviewing CARS passages.

    Best of luck and let us know how we can help!
     
  43. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @wannabedoc1994 - I hope I've more or less addressed your other posts, but I didn't want this one to go without a reply. I think three months time is more than enough to see improvements from the 70th percentile into the 90th+ percentile. This is a raw to scale conversion table we created based on the results of the AAMC's released Practice Test 1.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see moving from the mid 70th percentile (126) to a mid 90th percentile (129) is a difference of 6 or 7 questions correct. If you improve your time (2 or 3 more questions right), improve your reading comprehension and summary skills (2 or 3 more questions right) and learn to recognize some of the AAMC's trickster answer types (1 or 2 more questions right), you're to your goal score. This is very do-able. Best of luck and please let us know how we can help!
     
  44. LoveBeingHuman:)

    LoveBeingHuman:) 2+ Year Member

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    @TestingSolutions

    I am very interested to know your opinion regarding the Next Step book that had 108 CARS passages. I've found it very difficult compared to most CARS practice materials. However, when I review the practice passages after taking them, I find that a lot of the answers are debatable and I personally feel as if they were very subjective and answers were based on opinion a lot of times. Specifically, I felt as if the book did not do a good job of certain assumptions (by that I mean that often the correct answer they gave in the solution was based on weak inferences and sometimes the answers they said were wrong were wrong because they prohibited inferences that most would claim are reasonable inferences to make from the passage).
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
  45. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @aimforthesky - While I have opinion about the other sections, I don't have enough experience to feel comfortable talking authoritatively about what is going to be best for most students in the way I do for the CARS. I think there are many similarities though, chief among them being learning to let go of the harder questions. I think this is the single easiest way to improve your score on the MCAT as a whole. You don't have to learn any new content. All you have to do is let go of harder questions so you have the time to better answer the easier questions you already know how to answer.

    Sorry I can't be more help. Best of luck!
     
  46. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @medstudent8 - Well it's great you're able to move through the passages. I think the most important question to ask yourself is whether or not you understand the main point of the passage once you finish. We always stress reading for structure over reading for the details. Do you know the structure of a passage when you finish it in 2.5 minutes? If you're zipping through the passage at that speed, it might be worth your time to stop after every paragraph and try to summarize it in your head in a few words, answering the question "Why did the author just write that?" I don't recommend this for most students, because they're usually struggling to finish the test on time, but if you're having the opposite problem, it might be worth a try and see if that helps even out your pacing and also increase your comprehension.

    Best of luck!
     
  47. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @academy4dawise - I'm all turn around as to whether or not I addressed this particular question so I'm sorry if I already have. I just wanted to make sure it didn't go unanswered. I think the answer to your question depends on 1) How much time you have before your test date and 2) If you think you're seeing some of the words jump out at you while you're taking the passages. The goal is to see words like "and" and think "okay these ideas are going to be connected." Or see "because" and think "okay we're having a chain of reasoning that X occurred as a result of Y." Or you see "but" and think "we've got a contrast between A and B." If you're not at this point with the higher level keywords, I'd recommend you spend a little more time on it. I'd also recommend that you actively look for them while taking the passage. Maybe set out a goal and list out 10 of your top keywords on a scrap paper and then write a tick mark beside each word whenever you come across it. Eventually, that awareness will become second nature. With that said, if your test date is right around the corner or you feel like you need to move and better work on your summarizing abilities (as we outline in our guide to reviewing practice tests: Day 29 – Putting it All Together: How to Review an Entire CARS Practice Test) then I think you can feel okay letting it go or doing it with one or two passages out of your whole practice test.
     
  48. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @Thoroughbred_Med - They were some excellent questions! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I just got through finals and it sucked away all my attention. Now I'm back though! I did my best to respond to the member's questions here. Let me know if you think I missed anything. Best of luck!
     
    Thoroughbred_Med likes this.
  49. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @Midnighturtle - Thanks for the kind words! Please keep us updated on your progress and let us know if there's anything we can do for help. Sometimes progress on the CARS isn't a straight line, but over time, with consistent practice and learning the techniques and strategies that have worked for others can really pay off. Best of luck!!
     
  50. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @mikeman1994 - Great questions (and not uncommon ones at all, so know you're not alone!).

    1) It sounds like it just takes you a few minutes to get comfortable and in a place where your mind is on track for CARS. I'd try two approaches

    A) Sometimes when people start a CARS test, the rush of it all starting blasts them for the first minute and then they realize they haven't really retained much and they either go back and reread or push through. I wonder if this is happening at all for you? Maybe start each CARS test by counting to 15 silently in your head to calm yourself down. I actually did this because I found starting a new section to be stressful. Once I got into the "zone" of taking the test, I wasn't that bothered by it all but starting was always tough.

    B) If this really is a thing for you, give yourself a little extra time at the end and return to the first passage at the end of the exam. It's likely you'll see the errors you made early on and might even turn your worst 1st passage into your best passage of the test. By saving an extra 4 or 5 minutes over the other 8 passages, you'll likely pick up another 2 questions correct which is a major (and easily won) improvement.​

    2) As to your second question, I think the best way to improve this is when you're reviewing. I recommend that while you are taking your practice passages that you keep a piece of scratch paper nearby and mark down any question that you aren't 75% sure about. These will be the questions you review (and the ones you get wrong). After you finish the test, mark the questions you got wrong, but don't mark the correct answer or look at the reasoning. Then return to the test after letting the test set for at least an hour or two and retake the questions you missed. Since you know what the wrong answer is, you've made the question a little easier on you. If you are able to reason to the right answer, take a moment and jot down a note or two where you got off track and why you selected the wrong answer choice. We go into greater depth about how to do this on Day 29 – Putting it All Together: How to Review an Entire CARS Practice Test. Over time, you'll stop making the same mental missteps because you'll more easily recognize them because you've been analysing them when you review.

    Best of luck on your MCAT!
     
    mikeman1994 likes this.
  51. TestingSolutions

    TestingSolutions Eating CARS for Breakfast Since 2013 Exhibitor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

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    @Marsay - Thanks for your question! It sounds to me like there's a breakdown of comprehension on some of the passages you're taking. The CARS is not a detail test. You will hardly ever see a question that asks, "What did Bill say" to which the answer is a direct quote from the passage. With that said, you have to understand the passage, the arguments being made, the examples that are given as evidence and the connections the author uses to bring it all together. This is the basis of comprehension and is exactly what the CARS is testing. We wrote up a post about how to work on comprehension and I think it might be useful to you: What to Do When You Are Struggling to Understand a Difficult CARS Passage

    Best of luck and please let us know how we can help!
     

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