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Discussion in 'Testing Solutions, LLC' started by TestingSolutions, Apr 20, 2015.
Does this guide work well for an ESL student?
sboadi - I think they're pretty good, although know that most of their "new" passages are from past years materials. I review TPR up above on Day 29. Best of luck!
mnhockey7 - I'd recommend taking them as full-lengths, leaving them towards the end of your preparation, as most of the material out there is not as accurate. Just my two cents, but I think it's better to take them together. We're going to release a workbook for this guide with separate individual passages down the road. Until then, I'd recommend using other materials to break up your passages per day.
geauxmed - Until you're finishing your passages on time, without rushing, I do not recommend you spend much time reviewing at all. It's ok to spend a few minutes going over your incorrect answers to satisfy your curiosity, but the in-depth review strategies that make up the later posts of this guide, simply are not going to benefit you that much. The day off approach is only to be applied when you're taking full-lengths. When you're doing daily passages, I recommend focusing on timing. Once you've got your timing down, review the passages doing the keyword review I outline. If you follow this guide, it explains how you should be reviewing, when and to what depth depending on your progression and scores. I'll go back and try to make it more clear, but the day off strategy is only when you're doing full-lengths, and reviewing full-lengths in depth, which comes much later in your preparations.
reflexive - I think it will work for ESL students, but you might have to invest a little more time in rereading the passages. Let me know how it goes for you and if you have any questions.
Thanks for reading and writing! I've been traveling in Africa, so I haven't had as much access to internet. I'll try to keep up on answering this posts though!
Thanks for the reply! I actually don't have an issue with timing. I have been studying for a while now so it didn't seem ideal for me to start at day 1 of this guide; I've already worked my way up to section tests. So I skipped to the review part of your guide, and saw that you broke it down to reviewing the passage, question, and answers, separately. I wanted to double check that even though you discussed this in 3 separate days, you still meant that we review all 3 parts in the same sitting.
When do you typically start improving in scores? Because, Ive been able to improve on my time and finish one to 2 minutes early however I only get 50-60% correct. Last go around I took forever most of the time but got more towards 70% and up correct.
geauxmed - Yes! That point really didn't come through, so I'm going to go back and rework those three posts some so it's clearer, but that is exactly right. When you are doing a full on review of a practice test/ passage, I recommend following the three posts in their outlines of how to review each respective part.
Sboadi -It usually takes students between 20 and 30 passages to get their timing down and then another 20 to see a jump in their scores, so in that regard you're normal. I must emphasize though that you have to stick with a strategy. I don't know what you mean by "took forever most of the time," but you can't jump back and forth between timing strategies, so if one test you're trying out your own pacing, but the next you're trying mine, you'll just end up really confusing your brain on what the correct pacing is. If you have one or two minutes left at the end of the passage, allow yourself to start going back a little bit more to the passage to double check answers or to find a detail. Also, pick one or two strategies from this guide and start to focus on implementing them. Keep us updated on your progress and let us know how the more advanced strategies are working for you.
I would like to buy the bundle but it only comes up as individuals ones on Amazon. I am taking the the July 17th exam and I got 65% on your exam one that I borrowed from a friend. Is that ok with 3 weeks to go and all your exams left?
Please let me know how I can get the 1-7 bundle for 29.99. Thanks
@doccp here is the link to buy the bundle. http://www.mytestingsolution.com/mcat/
First of all, really appreciate what you wrote down here. This thread really gives a insight how to do well on Verbal.
I have been following your strategy for few weeks. At the beginning, I did really improved with my timing and score. However, when I starting to do passages on the screen (I practice passages on paper in the first place), my pace and score become horrible. I thought it is just the matter of time, after more practices everything should be ok. But it does not follow my plan. As more passages I do, I found out the more I can not understand the passages. It's chaos. I do not even know what to do. My test is Aug 6th. And I did a testsoultion full section this morning and got 121. I really feel bad and do not know what to do. Can you help me?
Thanks so much for all of this. I could use all the help I can get.
I used your testing Solutions materials for my January 2015 MCAT.
I honestly thought they were much much much harder than the real thing, and are not representative of the real test at all.
In fact all they did was destroy my confidence and I stopped using them. I used Princeton Hyperlearning and made a 10 on the real VR section of my MCAT.
Just my two cents.
what do you got on TestSoultion passages normally?
7's on their practice tests. The questions and passages are very convoluted compared to the real AAMC test. I agree that harder practice can be better, but not for verbal. It needs to be close to the real thing. People have trouble with the verbal, but its really not that bad if you practice like 30-40 mins a day for 3 months while you are studying for the sciences.
This is my favorite post. I follow a similar strategy of separating the claims from evidence, but haven't been actively looking for implications and inferences. I had a couple questions:
1. Are argumentative and descriptive the ONLY two types of passages we'd see on the exam? There's no narrative or literature passages?
2. The separating claims and support strategy helps in the traditional thesis-based essays; however, it's ineffective with passages that are full of different kinds of claims and opinions with very little support/elaboration as those are hard to keep in mind (e.g. advocates of gay rights say A, their opponents say B, religious people say C, scientists say D, Supreme Court says E, and so on). It also doesn't work when it's a narrative passage. How do I implement claims/support strategy here?
3. I've been reading the long New Yorker articles for practice concentrating/focusing. Do you think it's worth the time to deeply dissect some New Yorker passages (or regular CARS passages for that matter) to separate EVERY claim from evidence and predict the possible implications and inferences? I want to get better at predicting the implications/inferences through this exercise.
4. In terms of passage reading, you advocate the slow and careful approach. How many minutes do you recommend in reading? Currently takes me 4-5 mins reading, and I'm timing myself similar to what you recommended but -1 minute for each.
5. Lastly, do you recommend to absolutely not go back to the passage at all? I constantly feel the need to do so for Roman numeral and Except questions (yet I still have low accuracy in those).
Thanks very much for the thread and for your advice!
I appreciate the Advice!
Sorry to everyone for the slow responses. I've been traveling in Africa and haven't had access to internet.
@doccp – I think it's fine to take a test a day for 2 to 4 days in a row, but make sure you don't burn yourself out. That can be very damaging to your score, especially if it occurs near your test date.
@rraidermd – Thanks for helping out and posting the link!
@matthew87922 – I think my first piece of advice would be to not panic. There are usually some growing pains when you first start to take your practice tests in a digital format. If you're having trouble understanding passage, I'd recommend not doing too many passages in a row. Do one or two passages in a row under timed conditions. How do you feel then? It might be that trying to do 9 passages in a row is just too much for you right now. If so, then try and build up little by little, adding another passage every few days. If you're still not understanding the passage, I'd recommend spending an extra minute or so reading through the passage slowly. Use our framing strategy we outline in this series and try the paragraph summary exercise we describe in our reviewing posts. Finally, our practice tests are hard. Whereas the MCAT has 3 to 4 hard passages per test, we have 4 to 6. Whereas the MCAT has 3 to 4 medium passages we have 3 to 5. The MCAT will usually throw you one or two very easy passages. We do not do that. Every one of our passages is designed to be challenging in it's own way. It's critically important you use AAMC's practice materials to guage your true performance. If you're worried about your scores, take a few of the practice passages from their CARS question packs. Practice materials are for practice so you do well on the real thing. Don't invest too much time or worry into scores at this point, I know it's hard, but it's what you've got to do.
@belle88 – Thanks for writing. I'm glad it's been useful!
@Gandy741 – Thank you for your feedback. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't have a positive experience using our tests. Our goal isn't to build confidence, our goal is to provide our customers with very difficult practice materials so they can score in the 90th percentile (128, 11+) and higher on test day. You of course are entitled to your opinion, but I will write that I receive two or three emails a day like the one I just received where the customer writes, “Thank you for the awesome practice tests! They have been invaluable in my preparation for the 2015 MCAT.” Like I wrote to Matthew87922, we include a higher percentage of hard passages in our tests, because we believe that if you want to achieve an ultra high CARS score, that you have to train under harder conditions than you'll face on test day. As for our questions and passages being convoluted, well the CARS section is highly convoluted as you well know.
Anyways...I'll stop with our defense here, as your experience is your experience and you are most certainly welcome to share your opinion here or anywhere else, and I do appreciate your feedback. If you truly believe our practice materials did not help you prepare for the CARS section and you do not believe they were representative of the CARS section, I'd be happy to offer you a 150% refund of your purchasing price. Simply email your order number and paypal email address to [email protected]. I really don't mean to be argumentative and I'm sorry if I have been, but we spent a lot of time creating these tests and the far majority of our customers are exceedingly pleased with the quality and pricing of our tests.
@basophilic – Thanks for your questions. I'll deal with them one by one.
1) As you detail in your other questions, there are slight variations on passage types, but the broad categories of argumentative and descriptive are all you need to do well on the CARS. Some companies will have you spend a lot of time determining this or that about the passage ahead of time. They recommend these strategies, because they need to give you something for the high price they're charging. Use these two broad categories to determine what kind of passage you're going to read.
2) Rarely in passages that have multiple claims are the arguments developed to such a degree that the claims and support are not obvious. What makes a multiple claims passage difficult is the fact that there are multiple claims and you have to be careful not to confuse them. This is one of the only situations when I recommend using the highlighting feature. Highlight a particular position, group, or argument so you can keep track of who is saying what. You are very unlikely to have multiple highly developed arguments presented contrasting one another in the same passage. If there are multiple claims, they are usually baby claims.
3) I don't recommend spending time on anything that isn't CARS. New Yorker articles will help you stay informed, but will do very little for you concerning the CARS. For one, there aren't questions, two the length is completely off, and three, the topics and way of writing sometimes are off. There are enough CARS practice materials out there (new and old) for you to use CARS passages if you're going to break down the claims. I recommend doing this practice though in your review after you've taken the passage under timed conditions. For one thing, you'll be doing actual practice and second, you'll be likely to spot the pieces more quickly since you've already been through the passage once.
4) Eventually shoot for 3 to 4 minutes for reading the passage. I'd recommend you use our timing. Taking 1 minute off per passage is going to hurt your chances of developing an intuition about the correct pacing for the CARS section. If you finish each passage 1 minute sooner than you ought to, at the end of the test you'll have 9 minutes left and probably have missed 2 or 3 questions you didn't have to. The goal is to finish on time with no time left. I break down how to actually take a practice test in this guide. I can't recommend using our timing approach enough. Otherwise, you're just going to be making it more difficult on yourself for when you start taking full-lengths and want to improve your percentage correct.
5) My advice for returning to the passage is not to do it if you are still struggling to finish every passage on time. If you're not comfortably finishing your passages within the allotted amount of time, you shouldn't be going back to the passage under any circumstances. If you're finishing on time, then you can go back to the passage. Going back to the passage will increase your percentage correct, but percentage correct doesn't matter if you're not getting to the last two passages of the test. Don't go back to the passage until you've mastered your timing.
@Sboadi – Thanks so much! Glad we could help!
While your response has been professional and I see where you are coming from I think you should know that a large part of the MCAT is confidence. I used Berkeley Review for review of the other sections so believe me I know what taking harder practice passages does for you on the real test. However, yours were so much harder, that I believe they were warping my thinking on the verbal and I actually bombed a verbal test on one of my AAMC tests as well.
I thank you for the refund offer. I may or may not take you up on that in the future.
I can finish the passages on time but my percentage correct is so low for every passages. Sometimes I even get a zero out of seven. I'm on Day 21 and how can I improve my performance?
Thanks much for the great advice. A small question: I tend to make more stupid mistakes near the end of the CARS section and I know it's because of fatigue. I've been trying to work in the deep breathing technique for a few seconds. But what else can I do? I know the obvious answer is take lots of full timed practice CARS tests, but what should I focus on to improve the endurance? I was thinking maybe I should do 12-passage full sections in 2 hours.
@TestingSolutions I've been following your posts and I'm almost done with phase 2 of your 90 day plan. I've been consistently scoring in the low 30's on your exams as well as NextStep 108 CARS.. my scores don't seem to be improving and I'm beginning to worry for my exam, which is in a month.. Do you have any other suggestions? I've been taking 2.5-3 hours reviewing each full length, rereading the passage twice and making paragraph summaries as well as frame/subject/point sentences. Thanks for your help!
I felt the same @hummi but I'm now starting to see improvements. For me it was practicing to understand the main idea of each paragraph as I read. But I definitely didn't improve as fast as @TestingSolutions claimed. As I'm just now starting to see lots of improvement and I'm like 70 passages in lol he claimed around 40. But whatever, I guess to each their own. Verbal was just a struggle for me.
@Gandy741 – Please do let us know if you'd like a refund. Best of luck on all your future endeavors!
@reflexive – I think my first question would be, how many passages are you doing a day? How is your timing? If you're timing is down, I'd recommend that you start reviewing your passages as we've outlined here. If it's not, I'd recommend continuing to do the keyword review until your timing is on track. Are you able to use our frame, subject, and point approach to getting to the main idea? Timing is the first step, but it's not everything. Next, you'll need to start developing your summary ability and breaking down the passages. If your timing is down, I'd recommend moving on to in-depth reviewing of your passages, as we've described. The key is to do a ton of passages...and invest a lot of time in methodically reviewing the passages.
@basophilic – I wouldn't recommend doing any more than 9 passages in 90 minutes. This isn't going to help you, as it will goof up the way you pace yourself, your energy, and your timing. If you still feel like you're tired at the end of tests, I'd recommend taking more tests. Such as doing three days in a row, where each day you take a full-length, and then on day four take a break. Towards the end of my verbal studying, to build endurance, I would take a practice test a day six days in a row and then on the seventh take a break. This really helps with endurance.
@hummi – How many passages a day are you doing a day/ have you already done in total? When you review the practice tests, are you understanding the passages better than you did when you were taking the test? What sorts of questions are you missing? Are you able to narrow down the answer choices to one or two or are you completely lost? When you read passages when you're taking an actual practice test, do you feel like you understand what's going on? My first recommendation would be to make sure you understand what's going on in the passages. I'd invest time in breaking down the passages, but it's possible that you need to be doing more practice. 2.5 hours seems a little high for reviewing a practice test. I recommend reviewing every passage, and then just questions you miss or that trouble you. Try increasing the number of passages you're doing a day and bring down that review time some. Most students start seeing improvements around 40 passages as I've said, but it usually takes somewhere around 200+ passages to get to that 128+ range. Of course these are just estimates and are different for each person. Feel free to answer some of the questions I've posed and we'll find where you're process is breaking down.
@rraidermd – I'm not sure of the wording I used, but I definitely don't mean to make any guarantees about scoring in a particular range after a certain number of passages. So I apologize if I came across as making some sort of infomercial you'll get these results in 20 days or less sort of claim. Usually, students start to see some improvements after having done 40 passages or so with our strategies and review techniques. It usually takes around 200+ to get into the 128+ range, but this of course is a rough estimate. Everyone is different and some people are just naturally more inclined towards the CARS, just as others are better with the sciences.
Just to be clear in case something I said in the past sounded otherwise, most students have to do a ton of passages (200-250) to do well on the CARS. I did 400+ passages when I was studying for the verbal on the old MCAT. There are no shortcuts or magic tricks. This guide is just intended to offer the tips and strategies that I found useful and that other students I've worked with have found useful. I have no magic pill that guarantees score increases....doing well on the CARS is a lot of hard work and there aren't any strategies I can give that change that. There are no shortcuts for the CARS. 95% of students, including myself, have to put in the time to see results.
Again, I'm sorry if anything I've written in this thread has implied or explicitly stated otherwise.
I'm happy to announce that we've taken much of your feedback into account, edited these posts and turned them into an eBook available on Amazon. Eventually, I'd like to turn it into a PDF doc and offer it free to the SDN community, but until then anyone who has purchased our bundle offer can just message me or email [email protected] to get a free copy of the book. If you haven't, but would still like the eBook, for the next week (Until 7/31), anyone who leaves a post on this forum saying what their favorite tip or strategy they picked up from this guide was will also receive the book free. I'll message you privately on how to get it.
Hope everyone is well and enjoying the summer. For those of you with test dates in August coming up, keep up the hard work! You're almost there. The pain of studying right now will only last so long, but your MCAT score will be forever! And for those of you who took it on the 17th and 18th, enjoy your time off. You've earned it!
Didn't buy the bundle. I did think your posts are so useful I saved each post in a word doc (80 pages) I would really like the book. Favorite tips read slow to understand and don't go back to passage when answering questions. Also don't over highlight or take notes.
@TestingSolutions I've been following this guide for the past week now and I am really pleased with the abundance of info you've provided. Before reading this guide, I was using the EK CARS strategy, which was good for nailing my timing but it was not as comprehensive. I started this guide on Day 10 and have been doing the keyword review everyday. I noticed that I do significantly better on a passage whenever I finish 2-3 min before your recommended time (5/6 or 6/7 on average), but significantly worse (3/6 or 3/7) if I take the whole time. I don't know if its the type of passage that I'm doing or if I'm not understanding the main idea. Do you have any advice?
Q2: Also, would you recommend reviewing the question stems and answer choices prior to getting to Day 30? Unfortunately, my exam is on September 12th and I don't have 90 days to see major results. I am more than willing to spend as long as it takes each day to get into the 129+ range within the next couple weeks. I am on schedule to finish content review by next week and will be working on FL's and practice passages for the next month and a half. Could you give me a condensed plan or some high yield advice that can boost my score in the little time that I have?
I'd like to start off by thanking @TestingSolutions for such an amazing guide! It's definitely light years ahead of big testing companies in terms of practical tips and tricks for CARS -- my favourite tip you covered was about thinking like the test writer in order to create our own question sets.
I also wanted to ask, I've been working on CARS for around a month now (~2-3 passages a day averaging close to your prescribed time limit:~ 5Q-9mins, 6Q - 10.5mins, 7Q- 11mins) but I've felt as if I've hit a peak/max, consistently averaging 127-128, but I'd really likely to push my score closer to a 129 or above. I've tried to integrate some of your tips and review strategies into my studies but do you have any other suggestions for heightening scores into the 90th percentile range?
Thanks for all the time you've put into the thread! I definitely appreciate it and I'm sure many others do as well!
@Chewy2015 - Great questions! I'll take them in order,
Q1) While I wouldn't say this is terribly common, I have come across this before. I wouldn't be surprised if your score decreases are a result of what I call "hyper-vigilance." The MCAT is such a high stakes test, that students tend to think they have to get every point they can, so they OVER think everything. They second guess themselves on every question with every answer choice. For test takers like you, who don't have trouble getting through reading the passages, you're left with a lot of time, and it's tough to know when to say, I've answered this question and move on. "hyper-vigilance" is kind of like when you repeat a word to yourself (e.g. tomato) a hundred or two times. Towards the end, the word sounds really weird...it almost sounds wrong. It's because you're focusing too much. Anyone, in a rushed environment can make use of faulty logic and convince themselves a wrong answer is right. This happens all the time. If you're expecting yourself to make mistakes, it's all that much easier to overthink your first instincts. I have a few recommendations for you:
a) If you're finishing 2-3 minutes ahead of time only missing 5/6, it's time to stop timing yourself per passage. Don't even pay attention to the clock. Move at the pace that you feel comfortable with through the passages. You've reached the point where you've got your timing down. Pacing isn't an issue for you anymore. Spend more time on difficult passages, and spend less time on easier ones, but move at the pace that feels right to you.
b) Don't allow yourself to second guess your thinking. If you came to a conclusion that this or that answer choice was correct, and feel like you did a thorough job, let go of the question and move on. Don't over think it. I have seen so many students overthink themselves out of a ton of points. Don't let this happen to you.
Q2) If you've got your timing down like you say, you definitely should be reviewing your passages. In fact, I'd recommend that you skip ahead to the how to review practice test posts. I'm going to upload some forms in the next post that you can use to review your practice tests. Part of the reason this guide is set up the way it is, is that most students struggle with timing, so I don't get to the mechanics of how to review a passage until the end. If you've got your timing down, by all means, go ahead and start reviewing your passages, question stems, and answer choices, as this will be where you pick up those last few points.
@Enigma123 - Thanks for your kind words. I just sent your eBook over to you. My recommendation would be to up your passage count and spend more time reviewing the questions you're getting wrong or marking as troubling you. Unfortunately, there aren't any easy switches to flip that get you into that 90% range. In my own case, I needed to do around 400 passages to get me to the 98 - 99 percentile mark. Breaking down the passages in detail. Going over the answer choices that tricked me and the question stems I didn't understand. That's the only real way I know how to improve your score. Timing gets you to the point where you're at, but to get to the next level (in large part) it's going to come from doing a ton of passages and spending many boring hours reviewing them. The question sprint I discuss on Day 25 in this guide (we rearranged the days a little bit in the eBook, so it's Day 30 in there) is a great way to pick up an extra question or two a test. It is a lot of work, but it truly is amazing how much information you can get from the question stems and answer choices alone. If I could give you a magic pill I would, but all I've got is to continue to review your passages the way we outline and try to employ the question type tips and avoid the wrong answer pathologies. Please keep us updated on your progress. I'm really impressed how quickly you got into that range. It usually takes most people more than a month!
I wanted to provide links to some useful CARS Handouts we created. Enjoy!
Argumentation Handout - This is a summary sheet on our posts on how to breakdown arguments.
Keywords Handout - This is a summary sheet with all of the need to know keywords for the CARS.
Question Types and Examples Handout - This is a summary sheet of all the question types as well as example question stems for each.
How to Take a CARS Practice Test - This sheet includes all of our tips and best strategies for actually taking a practice test with all 9 passages. We recommend printing this out and having it near you while you take your first few practice tests to remind you.
How to Review a CARS Practice Test - This is a summary sheet of all four of our posts on how to review a practice test. Print this out and keep it close by to reference as you review your tests.
Passage Review Worksheet - This is a worksheet we recommend you fill out as you review your passages. It takes you step by step through the Testing Solutions review process allowing you to find your weak areas and capitalize on your strengths.
Sometimes ,with the harder passage, I have no clue what they are talking about even when I am reviewing them. Do you have any tips or suggestions on what to do?
I've been doing the EK for a couple of days with no problems, but I realized that the time alloted in the EK verbal exams is 85 minutes for 60 questions, meaning less time per question and possibly easier questions/passages. In a 6 question passage it's calculated one gets 8.5 minutes per passage, and i've been going at the 10.5 min pace. would you suggest for the EK passages to follow their guideline or yours?
*I just want to apologize for my slow response. I'm the only person that watches this account, and I'm currently traveling in Africa, so my access to internet has been limited.
@Karan226 - There are a few really important pieces of advice for passages that feel overwhelming. First, let's take a look at what you'll want to do when you're taking a CARS test and get hit with a hard passage.
What to Do When You Are Struggling to Understand a Difficult Passage:
Tips for when you're taking a CARS test:
1) The first thing you need to do is to stay calm. Don't let the "I'm not going to get into medical school" meltdown occur. Everyone that is taking the MCAT is going to be facing the same difficult passage you are and they're no smarter than you. When you realize it's a difficult passage. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
2) Remember that often times, difficult passages have easy questions. What counts on the MCAT are the questions, not your comprehension of the passage. Theoretically those two will correspond, but not always. When the MCAT serves up a hard passage to you, part of what they're trying to do is get into your head and freak you out. Slow down, and realize that while the passage is hard, the questions will as often as not be much easier.
3) You're going to want to read through the passage at a slower rate than you would for a medium or easy passage. At the beginning of your prep for the CARS, I recommend a standard set of times depending on the number of questions. As you develop a sense of the correct pace for the CARS, you can step away from those passage times and invest more time in the harder passages, while spending less time on the easier ones. Once your timing is down, I'd recommend taking 5 or even 6 minutes to read a really difficult passage, while maybe only 3 for an easy one. It's ok to read slow. It's even ok to reread a sentence or two, or even a paragraph if you think it will help.
4) Remember that you're only going to be tested on between 20% and 35% of the content in the passage, thus 100% mastery is not necessary nor is it expected by the AAMC. Read for structure not details. I like to think of hard passages as kind of like climbing a mountain. You've got to look for your next handhold. Pick up as much information as you can,. Try to find the one idea or point you think the author is making in the paragraph, and let go of the rest.
5) You don't have to get every question right to do really well on the CARS. You can miss up to 8 questions and still get a 128. Even if your percentage for a hard passage drops down to 50%, you've only missed 3 questions, which in the grand scheme of it all isn't really that much. The real danger is spending far to much time on a hard passage, and messing yourself up for the rest of the test. Remember that the question that keeps you out of medical school is not the one you missed, but the one you spent too much time on.
Tips for when you're review a CARS test:
1) Difficult passages require significantly more effort and time than easy passages review. If you find yourself with one of those passages that you feel like you don't understand at all, sit down and fight with it. Spend as much time as it takes. I highly recommend using our review method while filling out our passage review worksheets. (Download the following handouts: How to Review a CARS Practice Test and Passage Review Worksheet).
2) If you're studying for the MCAT you're obviously a bright person. There is no reason that you shouldn't be able to understand a passage. If it takes an hour for you to get through it, fine, spend an hour. These are the opportunities for you to grow and strengthen your CARS taking skills. Struggling to understanding a difficult passage in the review phase is one of the best ways to improve your reading comprehension and developing your CARS skills.
3) Have you been consistently doing our "Keywords Review?" This really strengthens your ability to breakdown passages and see their mechanics and flow. Take a look at Day 8 for a refresher.
4) While we have a series of posts that go in-depth on how to review a CARS passage (Download the tip sheet above), I'll do a brief overview here:
a) Wait at least four hours to review your practice test
b) Read the passage once through without a timer. Keep yourself moving at a good place, but take as much time as you need to understand it.
c) Read through the passage again but this time, after every paragraph, write a one or two sentence summary. Reread the paragraph as many times as you need until you are able to write a summary.
d) After writing a summer for each paragraph, "Paint Your Way to the Main Idea." (Take a look at Day 10 if you need a refresher)
- What's the frame of this passage?
- What's the subject matter of this passage?
- What's the point of this passage?e) After "Painting your Way to the Main Idea," write down a one or two sentence summary of the entire passage.
5) Reviewing passages takes a lot of time and energy, especially if you're reviewing a hard passage. This is why it is important to give yourself a break and some time in between taking the practice test and reviewing it. If you're reviewing your practice test when your energy is slow and you're tired, it's unlikely you'll make much improvement or learn much, because you'll just be doing it for the sake of doing it. Work hard and struggle with these passages, and if you review them like we advise, you will improve.
6) Finally, if you're having a complete breakdown, it's possible there is a language issue. If English is your second (or third) language, you might need to do some extra reading such as the New York Times, Economist, or a philosophy textbook for a few months before studying actively starting to study for the CARS. This is the only time I advise this sort of reading, but 3 or 4 months of reading one or two articles a day has helped out many of ESL MCATer.
7) If English is your first language, but you're still having a complete breakdown, take a highlighter and go through the hard passage you're not able to understand and mark any words whose meaning you couldn't explain to a ten year old. If you have more than one or two words per passage, you would probably benefit from a vocabulary building course, as you might be losing out on a lot of meaning. It's incredible how we just skip over words we don't know without realizing it. You'll have to be diligent in reviewing your passages to make sure your vocabulary is where it needs to be at.
8) Is it possible you have ADHD or a learning disability? The MCAT gives testing accommodations for such things. This is noting to be ashamed of. There are a ton of docs out there right now that had to face similar obstacles. It's better to find out now and get help than waiting until later.
@ballin4dapandas - This is a really good question. You're actually using EK's 101 Verbal Book the 2002 edition. The 2002 edition was formatted for the MCAT of two iterations ago, when the verbal section consisted of 9 passages, 60 questions, and 85 minutes. Then in 2008 they published their most recent version where they made the adjustments for the verbal section of the pre-2015 MCAT, of 7 passages, 40 questions, in 60 minutes. Now the MCAT has returned to 9 passages, but instead of 60 questions, there's 53, and the AAMC decided to throw on an extra 5 minutes.
Here is a brief thread on SDN breaking down the differences between the two books (2002 vs 2008). They have yet to publish anything that is CARS specific, yet. I'm sure they will though.
You should be fine using the EK 101 book, but I'd recommend skipping the natural science passages, as those aren't going to help you much, since the CARS only has Social Science and Humanities passages. I wouldn't use the EK 101 book for actually taking practice tests, as the timing and question counts are off. It's a fine book for using as your daily passages, when you're wanting to take three or four passages a day. When you get to taking full-lengths though, look else where. To answer your question about timing, you should be using 9 for 5Q, 10.5 for 6Q, and 12 for 7Q. Their timing is based on the really old version of the MCAT, when the format was as I described above with more questions and less time.
I think EK has some really great passages. Their two big downfalls are that some of their questions don't resemble what you'll see on test day (and way too many passage detail questions) and that towards the end of the book, there are a lot of typos. I thought the first 2/3 of the book was pretty strong, but in the last 1/3, the quality of the questions and passages dropped. Towards the end, make sure you check your answers with the actual answer explanations as if you use the quick answer table, 2 to 4 questions are marked incorrectly in each of the last 3 or 4 tests. (It's been awhile since I've taken the passages in the book, so I don't remember which tests or questions they are.)
I hope this helps. Please keep the questions coming if you have any more, and keep us updated on your progress!
This is one of the most amazing threads I've seen in many years at SDN. I have to tip my cap to Testing Solutions for the well-thought and genuine responses to questions from all over. Having been in MCAT preparation for several years, I can say without hesitation that CARS is the area where students see the least improvement. But it's more often than not a refusal to let go of bad habits and realize that you need the right mindset to do well at CARS. Unlike the sciences and psychology section, there is limited (if any) content to absorb for CARS. Basic knowledge can help on certain passages, but too much background information can undermine your passage-information-only processing during questions. It is a reasoning exam, and much of the reasoning style in this section does not parallel how we are trained in the sciences. For many of us, it hurts to study CARS.
I have read through a reasonable amount of what is posted here and must say that there are a few absolute gems. The biggest take-home message is that there is no secret trick or magic strategy that if learned will make CARS go from Cruel A** Reading Stuff into Cool And Really Simple. You have to actively read and build a strategy to follow. Most importantly, you cannot give up when you don't see the results you want immediately. I have seen students over the years work like crazy at verbal (CARS) and see no progress until one day they have a great verbal section on a practice test and their confidence skyrockets. From there on out, they show an improvement.
I haven't read everything here, so I haven't reached a full conclusion about the method. But I can say there are many things so far that match exactly with what we continually try to tell our students in the live course. Perhaps we say things differently, but the message is similar. To the point I've read, this seems like wisdom gained through experience. If you have the time, this is worth reading. Heck, just reading through the 30 days will be a lot of reading practice.
Great job TS.
Edit: I ended up pushing aside my anxiety and reading your posts up to day 17. I feel like I "see the light" at the end of the tunnel now. If you have anything to add to what I mentioned then that would be great, but not at all needed if you cba! Thank you for all of the great work you put in to this.
Thanks for all of the effort you put in to this @TestingSolutions. I test on Sept 11 and I've been doing lot's of CARS practice but I don't seem to be improving a whole lot. I've been tracking my progress in excel and I'm very disappointed with the progress thus far.
I was using EK101 from days 1-18 (3 passages/day), TPRH verbal from 19-25 (3 passages/day), and currently using next step 108 from day 26+ (y-axis is % correct).
Since I started doing the next step CARS (from their verbal 108 book) I've been doing a full CARS section each day, and following that up by reviewing the previous days CARS also. I review passages by re-reading the entire passage slowly and trying to get a clear idea of of what the main idea is. When doing a full section, I've noticed that I typically miss 2-3 questions per passage, but then there's 1-2 passages where I only get 1-2 questions correct. How do you think I should approach this section moving forwards? I saw your "1 month away" panic post on the previous page where you mentioned that it's best to not review passages until I hit that 127-128 mark, but given my current 'progress' do you think that's a good idea? At the same time I understand that reviewing doesn't appear to be very beneficial either (based on my scores).
I've noticed that I definitely try and read too many details, and since I've started doing the next step CARS sections it takes me just under 6 minutes to read the passage, and 4 minutes to answer the questions (I never feel rushed for time because I always finish within 10 minutes). I want to read through all your posts, but am feeling overwhelmed by all the details. What do you think are the most pertinent things (or specifically which posts I should be reading) given my situation?
edit: Just completed another CARS practice section from next step and got 56% correct. This is truly depressing. I previously did highlighting and quick note taking after each paragraph, but followed your advice and did not do that this time around. I felt better doing passages in this manner and tried my best to pay attention to structure and not details + was completing each one with a minute to spare. I have included an image below of a fairly representative score distribution if you are curious..
@BerkReviewTeach – Thank you for your kind words. As someone who used your science passages to prepare for the MCAT myself, your comments are especially meaningful coming from such a reputable company. I couldn't agree more with you in regards to “refusal to let go of bad habits and realize that you need the right mindset to do well on the CARS.” It seems that most students resist letting go of their old ideas, at least at first. Also, your point about there not being a secret trick or magic strategy is so on the mark. I've seen so many students go from this strategy to that strategy looking for some magic bullet out there that will give them the score they want. Unfortunately, that bullet does not exist, and they end up just wasting a lot of time and practice passages trying out the newest whacky idea they've read online. Doing well on the CARS is simple, but not easy. Success equals doing tons of passages, reviewing them correctly, and using the correct strategies when actually taking the test. That's all there is to it in a nut shell. The tips we've outlined in this guide help support progress, but they will not make up for poor preparation or not doing enough passages.
Best line I've read on SDN, “For many of us, it hurts to study CARS.” No truer words have ever been written on this forum. Thank you again for writing!
@novak123 – First of all, I know personally how frustrating the CARS section can be. I've also seen it run over a lot of my students. There is nothing worse than investing a ton of time and then getting back a disappointing score. It feels like all your hard work and time were for not.
Don't believe those feelings though. Preparation for the CARS section is not a linear process. Look for the general trends and realize that you have to take in the big picture. With that said, I know your test date is a month out so you are definitely feeling the pressure. Don't even begin to consider pushing back your test date for another three weeks. It shouldn't even be a thought in your mind. As others have said, CARS is almost like a switch that has to be flipped and once it's flipped everything changes. It's just getting you to that point. I'll try to speak to each of your points in order.
Tracking progress is ok, but I wouldn't spend to much time on it. I definitely wouldn't be staring at that graph This doesn't actually help you accomplish anything, it only gives you a false sense of security at best, but in reality, I'm guessing that you wouldn't get any peace from it unless it was a positive linear slope up to 90%+ correct. I'd let go of this. Write down the percent correct if you like, but in my opinion it would be better to just forget the CARS tests after you review them. It doesn't matter. (This isn't the case on the science passages, as I'd recommend reviewing missed questions again after some time interval to make sure you truly learned from your mistake, but this does not apply with the CARS.)
I can't speak for the Next Step 108 book, so I don't know of the quality of the passages. EK101 and TPRH in particular are in general strong resources. When are you planning on using the AAMC CARS question packs? Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to use these. If you're a month out and you're hoping to do a few full-length practice tests, you really should be sure you get to the AAMC question packs sooner than later. You absolutely should not take the MCAT if you haven't done the CARS question packs (well...all the question packs for that matter.) No one, including us, can get the CARS section exactly right except the AAMC, because they define what the CARS section is. MCAT prep without doing all the AAMC released material is not MCAT prep...it is a waste of time and money.
You ask “How do you think I should approach this section moving forward.” It's not clear to me how your doing on timing. You say you take 6 minutes to read a passage and then give yourself 4 minutes to answer questions. This timing should be flipped. The questions are what count, not the passages. 70% of what you read in the passage is wasted and will not help you answer a question. You have to push yourself through the passage. I would set a timer for four minutes at the beginning of every passage. When that timer is up, move on to the questions. Doing this for a day or two will get you moving in the right direction in terms of pace. Reading at that speed does not allow you to get stuck in the details.
I don't recommend reviewing passages until you hit the 127-128 mark if you're still having problems with your timing, which is to say that you aren't able to finish the test in time and are leaving questions blank or are having to rush through the last passage or two. It sounds like you're not struggling to finish (although you need to reallocate your time). If you're not struggling to finish, I think you're fine reviewing CARS passages. How you're reviewing your tests though is critically important. We have a tip sheet on how to best review passages you can download here, as well as a worksheet you should fill in as your review every passage. It is critical you review your practice tests correctly, or you're just wasting your time. You say “reviewing doesn't appear to be very beneficial” and I say, well it depends on how you're reviewing.
Stop reading too many details. Don't let yourself. Push yourself through the passage.
I wouldn't spend too much of your time reading through this guide until you get some peace and stability with your scores. Reading about question types and how to break down arguments, would indeed be overwhelming later in the game as you're seeing your score bounce up and down (notice that it is indeed up at times. You are doing quite well on most of your tests. If you were in terrible shape, your score would be in the basement on every test.) I'd hold off until later and honestly if you're taking it in a month, you're better off taking a section test a day (or maybe two days on, one day off) and reviewing the passages via our method in detail.
If you're really worried, stop and take 4 or 5 AAMC CARS passages timed individually from the question pack and use as those are a much better gauge of where you're at.
I'd lay off the Next Step book and return to TPR or EK101. I'm not saying they're bad, but you're putting a lot of faith in them at a critical point when your confidence is waning. Or maybe rotate between the books every couple of days.
Are you actually following our tips on how to take a CARS test? (e.g. breathing before each passage, doing the passages in order, etc.) Here's a summary handout. Don't expect to see a huge jump in scores overnight. It seems to me like you're jumping around from strategy to strategy. I would not recommend highlighting or taking notes, as I believe this is distracting. Your first test stopping those behaviors isn't likely to be your best test, as you're changing a major component of your approach. The CARS takes a ton of time. Keep doing passages, keep reviewing passages and you will see improvement.
Finally, while I admire your detail and precision in tracking your progress I think it may be counter productive. For one thing, it takes more time than you think, and it is so much easier (and sometimes more fulfilling) to tinker with an excel doc to get it just right than to face down another CARS passage. I spent so much time getting a tracking excel doc just right for my first month and then I didn't even end up using it. This is another reason you see so many different MCAT schedules on SDN. It's so much easier to spend time planning out what you're going to do than actually doing it.
Keep the questions coming and please do let us know how things are going.
Hello! I was recommended this thread by @BerkReviewTeach. I read through all of your 30 days preparation process and i have to say that it was one of the most nuanced and thorough analysis of the CARS section. Thank you so much for writing this thread. I have extrapolated some of the info given here and have made a file filled with all of your strategies. Your method makes the most sense to me however, my scenario is a little bit different. Unlike most people here, I will not be taking MCAT any soon because I am a prospective freshman in college. But I have had trouble with Critical reading since high school because I immigrated from Pakistan 4 years ago and that was the first time i spoke English. Hence, without further ado, my main question is, what would you recommend for a person like me. I have actually had much success with writing analytical essays however in high school and that was the only reason I passed my AP English tests with 4's. Should I continue your 30 days process in a much slower format, giving enough time for each part? or is there anything else you'd rather have me do.
tkh525 - Thanks for writing! This is a great question. With you being a prospective freshman, you've got quite a bit of time between now and your test. I think having two or three years of college in English under your belt will help quite a bit, so I wouldn't worry too much. My general recommendations would be to:
1) Take two or three introductory humanities/ social sciences courses (e.g. philosophy, literature | sociology, psychology, or anthropology) which will allow you to get used to reading, writing, and thinking at the level of English the CARS will test.
2) Since you have so much time, I'd also recommend you read one or two news articles a day, from a website like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Economist. This is only advisable for students who are 8 to 12 months out from their test date and for whom English is not their first language.
3) I'd try to read one or two literary novels per year (I'm sure you'll be busy with other things), but make sure they are sophisticated and difficult for you to read.
4) I'd start actively working on CARS 4 to 5 months out instead of 3. In the extra time, I'd recommend you just add another month or two of practice tests before you start taking full-lengths. When the time gets closer, leave a post on this thread and I'd be happy to work up a schedule. Before that though I wouldn't recommend working on CARS actively. You should invest your time into your studies, making sure you have a solid GPA.
5) If you feel like your vocabulary might be weak, pick up a copy of this book and work through it. Then use a flashcard program like Anki (a great, free resource in general for the MCAT as well as students everywhere) to drill home the vocab.
To answer your general question, yes these strategies will work for you. The only point you'll want to keep an eye out for is to make sure that you're developing your capacity to read critically in English. This only comes with practice, so you'll have to practice a lot. This is a struggle for native English speakers, so expect to have to invest more time and effort to get the results you want, but there is no reason you can't do well on the CARS with English being your second language (or 3rd?)! Best of luck as you start your freshmen year...and BTW, I'm thinking about learning Urdu!
I've gotten a few messages from people asking for me to break down a couple of passages and dissect their arguments into claims and support, so here is our Breaking Down CARS Passages Handout. I'll try to write some questions this week for the two passages and will post those here too. Best of luck to all of you that are taking the August MCAT! Keep up the hard work. You're almost there.
Thank you so much for your elaborate reply. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into guiding every student towards the right path. I do read all of the newspapers you have recommended. Also I am taking honors psychology this semester and will be taking further more introductory humanities courses as a part of my honors classes. And yes, Urdu was my first language, and Pushtu second! Glad to know someone didn't confuse Urdu with Hindi or Punjabi! lol
Respect for your time and effort!
This was beyond valuable... I will report my progress after taking a practice MCAT, but I already feel that I have improved drastically in my ability to work through the CARS section. Thank you for investing so much time into helping us succeed!
I just purchased the bundle offer you have because honestly I'm doing well on the other 3 sections, but when it comes to CARS according to Kaplan Full length tests I've been in the range of 122-124. My test is 5 weeks from now, and I wanted to know what is the best strategy I should follow. I know that timing is definitely a problem for me, and I heard that the real MCAT's passages are much longer than most test prep companies. So when I heard about testing solutions a lot of people said that the tests reflect the actual MCAT. In terms of length would it be similar? Also I saw that it said that I should do 5-6 passages a day timed, but do I review these passages after? I'm confused about that. I have the 8 testing solutions tests, EK 101 Passages, all the CARS material AAMC gives and 3 more Kaplan full length tests. I would really appreciate any guidance to what I should be doing in terms of CARS. I want to do what ever I possibly can to do well! Also how would I know I'm in the 127-128 range in the EK books? Thank you!
@pb7192 - So first, know that 5 weeks is enough time to make significant improvements in your score if you go about it the right way. I'll deal with your points below, but don't worry, there is hope!
1) All MCAT passages are 500-600 words. I can't speak for other companies, but nearly all of our passages are the 600 word max. I'd encourage you to read through this guides earlier posts when we talk about reading speed. The reason you're having trouble with timing does not have to do the length of passages, it has to do with you going back to the passage too often and likely not letting go of difficult questions. I'd recommend that you:
Don’t waste time reviewing your practice tests until:
- You are consistently finishing your passages without rushing
- You are able to consistently finish your passages without staring at the clock to regulate whether you should speed up or slow down. (We are trying to build your intuition).
- You are able to consistently let go of hard questions without getting snagged on them and wasting precious time.
*This is the single easiest change that MCATers can make.
a) The first time you think to yourself, “I’m spending a lot of time on this question” look at the clock and give yourself 30 more seconds.
b) Eliminate any answer choices you can.
c) After 30 seconds, guess, mark the question for review later, and tell yourself “I’ll come back to this later once I get the easy ones.”
d) If you do this, you will have time at the end of the test to come back, and more often than not, giving yourself a little time to clear your head, you’ll see the question anew and what you were missing the first time.
2) Take a look at our what to do in case of emergencies post on Day 30, as I talk specifically to the case of being a month out from your test date. I explain exactly what you should do.
3) As I said above, our passage lengths mirror real CARS passages exactly.
4) You need to pick up the AAMC Full-Length and CARS questions packs ASAP. I'd recommend doing our passages one day, and there passages the next and continue to rotate back and forth.
5) Until you are no longer having timing issues, you shouldn't be reviewing your practice passages, but instead doing more practice passages.
6) I'd recommend you read over the first three days of this guide in particular, as it explains how you should be timing your passages as well as the score conversions from the old. Improving your timing has to be your #1 goal. I'd be shooting for 9 passages one day and then a break day (rinse and repeat), or 9 passages on day one, 9 passages on day two, rest on day three and then rinse and repeat. Like I said, we go into greater detail on how to approach your (very common) situation on Day 30.
Thanks for writing and please don't hesitate to leave more questions! Best of luck.
I just wanted to congratulate all of you who took the MCAT on the 21st and 22nd. Regardless of how things turn out, it's an accomplishment to have studied and sat for the thing. Many, many students don't even make it that far. Take the next month and relax! (before your classes get going!) You deserve it.
For those of you with September test dates, I wanted to post a handout we created recently that breaks down the arguments made in two different passages. We basically go line by line in our analysis of the passages, so for those of you still trying to practice how to identify the different parts of an argument, this should be a big help.
Please feel free to ask any questions!
Hi Sir, I would like to thank you for your thread on 30s guide to MCAT cars success! I have been following the thread and I am now at day 20! I have been doing some TPRH and EK 30 mins exam! I have troubles understanding passages with strange sentence structures and unknown words, and usually even though I understand the main idea, it isn't enough to answer some of the questions that require specific keywords mentioned by the author to support the answer. However, I have more easier time understanding the passages if I take my time to reread the sentences that I don't understand. But the problem is I would have trouble with timing. Usually for Ek 30 mins I get around 6-7 verbal score and for TPRH(2011) been getting 3-4 verbal score! I have done already around 55 passages! Any help will be greatly appreciated!
Please feel free to ask any questions![/QUOTE]
Hi @TestingSolutions I notice I keep missing questions on 1) Application 2)Strengthen/Weaken and 3)Inference
Seeing that these are all along the same idea (reasoning outside the text)
I was wondering if you had a strategy as to how to effectively approach these questions?
Sorry for my slow response, I just got back from traveling in Africa all summer and haven't had much access to the internet.
@moneyking - Thanks for writing! It is rare for a students' problem (especially when the student is missing 50% or more) to be one with sentence structure or unknown words. Few questions on the CARS are so specific that one or details would cause to miss it. (This isn't always true with all questions, but it definitely isn't the cause for getting a 3 or 4). My first question off the bat would be if English is not your first language. Unfortunately, CARS requires more work for ESL students, but it is not impossible. There is a post on the previous page written for ESL students taking the MCAT. Assuming that is not an issue, and that you have no major reading/ learning issue, the most important step for getting your timing down is to not return to the passage after you read it if you are still having trouble with timing. If you're shooting for doing 4 or 5 passages a day, I'd recommend doing one each individually, using our recommended times depending on the number of questions. Read the passage as slowly as you need to in order to feel you have a good grasp. Don't shoot for mastery, but it's a complete waste of your time to just push through if you don't understand what you're reading. Invest the time up front, reading the passage being sure you are comprehending what you're reading. Then move on to the questions. This is the key point: until you're easily (and regularly) able to finish your passages without being rushed or having time trouble, DO NOT allow yourself to return to the passage at any time while answering the questions. Once you finishing reading through the passage, that is it. You can't go back anymore. While this sounds scary, you'll be surprised when you actually try it, that your score does not drop much if at all, in fact your score may go up because you're not rushing through the last few questions of the passage. The reason you're having time trouble is because you're spending too much time answering questions. The number one cause for spending too much time on answering questions is going back to the passage.
With that said, if you're scoring 3 or 4 on TPRH verbal tests, you may need to step back from preparation and make sure you're not having a larger problem with reading comprehension/ the English language. If you look on the previous page of this thread, I go into detail on what to do if you are completely lost when reading a passage. This post also has advice in cases where there may be larger issues at play. Keep us updated on your progress and don't hesitate to ask follow up questions!
@baller2015 - Well, my first recommendation would be to take a look at our posts dealing with each of those questions types in particular. There is a larger theme to all of these questions types and why you're probably missing them. Remember that every question and correct answer choice must be 100% justifiable and air tight. There is a reason why the correct answer is correct, and the wrong answers are wrong. This reason with reasoning outside of the text questions is the point of connection between information provided in the passage and the new situation be it an application, inference, or the weakening or strengthening of a position. The easiest way to get to this point of connection is to look at each answer choice and try to draw a line from that answer choice to something in the passage. If you had to draw a physical line from the answer choice to the most relevant section of the passage, where would that line go? If you can't draw a line, which is an incredibly general way of filtering out answer choices that don't connect, then the answer choice is almost certainly wrong. This technique eliminates all of the trickster answer choices that have no connection to the passage. Next, ask yourself, is this answer choice necessarily the case in all situations? Will the idea represented in this answer choice ALWAYS strengthen or weaken the author's position? Will this application of idea XYZ in the passage always be the case? I call this the "necessary and always" test. If it isn't necessary and always the case, then the answer is likely incorrect, because with reasoning outside the text questions, you're basically walking out on a tree limb. The farther you go out, the more likely you are to fall, because the branch can't support the weight. The MCAT expects its test takers to find the correct line of reasoning outside of the confines of the passage, thus the reasoning must be superb.
Let me know if this doesn't make sense. Keep the questions coming! Best of luck.
Thank you for the reply.
My exam is on September 23rd and I have decided to focus mainly on CARS because the Medical School I am trying to apply to only looks at CARS. So far I have done around 65~ passages; doing 1-3 passages per day (from TPRH 2011 verbal workbook) while I was doing content review for the past month. However, I have decided to let go of doing the content review for the sciences and focus mainly on CARS. I have done 1-60 of AAMC CARS Qpack 1 and scored 40%. I also did the NS diagnosticfor CARS and got 123. I have 18 days left till my exam, and I am planning on studying 10-12 hours per days just on CARS (in total 200 hours~). The materials I have are(will only be doing the CARS section):6 TPR FLs, 3 Kaplan FLs, 4 EK FLs, 5 NS FLs, All new AAMC materials, and 8 old AAMC Fls. Also Ek101 2002. Is it possible for me to improve my score above 11 within this period of time. And How should I go about doing so?
The problem I have is inconsistency, some passages I can get 6/6, 6/7, and some passages I go 0/6, 2/7 (the ones I don't understand fairly well). My timing isn't a problem anymore, I read the passage in ~4 minutes and spend the rest of the time on the questions.
@moneyking - Thanks for writing. I'd first like to say that I know of no medical school in the United States that only looks at CARS, so my first comment would be to make sure you're correctly informed. Also, not doing any work on your other sections in the last month, regardless of how strong your scores are, does not seem like a good idea. If you scored 40% on the AAMC CARS material, which is by far the most accurate of anything available (because it is real MCAT material), you have 17 days until your exam, and your goal is to score above an 11 (not an 11, but above it), my advice is that you're going to need to postpone taking the MCAT until January. An 11+ score corresponds to getting at least 85% of your questions correct, and closer to 90%+. I don't mean to be a downer, but I have never worked with a student who has made that kind of improvement in such a short time. Unlike the sciences, the CARS is not something you can cram for. I wouldn't be surprised if your score actually went down spending 1o-12 hours per day on CARS. That just isn't how this section works. Unlike the sciences, the CARS section is like an art. With the science sections, if you just learn the material, then you're set. This isn't the case with CARS. I'd recommend taking the January MCAT and spending the fall studying CARS at a more reasonable pace. Most schools will not accept your September 23rd test date for an application this cycle anyways, so in either case, you're going to be applying next cycle. Why put yourself at such a disadvantage for no reason? I think the number one mistake MCATers make is taking the MCAT when they aren't prepared. My recommendation would be to not take the MCAT right now.
Like I said, I generally try to be encouraging, but this is a situation where we have to be honest. To get a 123 to a 128 usually takes around 2 to 3 months of hard, consistent work. I've never had someone make such a jump so quickly. The risk you run in trying to do so is burning through all the good CARS materials available, thus if you have to take the MCAT again, you have no good material to practice with (as practicing with reused material is significantly less productive.) If you decide you're still going to go through with it, read my Day 30 post about what to do when you're 30 days and 7 days out from your exam. These strategies might help you some.
Best of luck on whatever course you decide to take.
Thank you for the reply, I really appreciate it. I'm from Canada and here they don't care how many times you retake the MCAT. So might as well try and get a feel for it if anything, or void it if I think the CARS didn't go well. Well I would like to update you on my situation; so I started doing the EK101 2002, and my scores for the first 4 tests were as follows: 3,6,7,8(just made 8). I feel like I'm improving and understanding the pathology to the answers, and I have adapted to not completely bomb passages I don't understand. As of now I'm not looking to score really high, a 10 or greater is still a good shot at the med school. What do you think would be the best route with the material I have?
Thanks once again!
A little about my situation before my question
I was prepping for an August test date when I had to cancel because I knew my CARS was so bad and I had not improved one bit. My timing was ridiculously slow, it’s like I was directing a movie in my head about the passages and I wasted so much of my time. I tried multiple strategies that just didn’t work for my timing and it reflected in my score. I was essentially rushing, freaking out that I was wasting time and then guessed.
I happened on your 30 day guide and bought it along with your tests. For sure now my timing has improvement ridiculously!!! (Seriously, I could spend 16-18mins per passage, and I honestly have no idea what I was doing in that time frame). I’m still not consistently finishing on time though ( max 1 min over), and when I do, I feel rushed. I’d say at this point maybe 20% of the time I finish on time without feeling rushed.
Question: I’m currently on day 25, and still haven’t done a proper review yet coz of my timing. Do you suggest I continue with increasing the passages per day or reduce it? If not do you have any suggestions that I can use to get my timing down or modifications I should make to the study guide for myself. I ask especially since it’ll soon be time to do the full length test and you suggest not doing it if timing is still an issue
I don’t consider myself to have good pacing intuition yet, but I try to limit looking at the clock to after the passage is read so I gauge how much time I’m spending on the read (or if I feel like I’ve been reading the passage for a long time). I’ve totally stop making MAPS for the passage, but I still highlight (it’s not excessive but it’s definitely more than2-3 per passage)
My scores are still all over the place as well, I’ve had perfect scores and 1/7. There isn’t a certain question type that I can identify as a weakness or strength. Is there more I can do to improve passage comprehension without sacrificing time? Is this type of inconsistency normal? I would really like to start doing passage reviews like you suggest but since I haven’t got timing down I haven’t, and I feel like I’m missing out on the important points I could learn from the passage review.
PS the resources I have are TPR CARS review and workbook(been doing all my passages from here), their online passage (about 8 left), testsolutions 1-7, AAMC CARS pack and a couple of full length tests for AAMC and TPR
Oh! also when would you recommendation using the AAMC CARS pack for the practice in the course of the 30 days?
I tried to give as much useful info that I could think of, sorry for the long email but thanks in advance for your response