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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. TestingSolutions

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

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    @moneyking - I'd try to do a full-length test each day for a week and see where that leaves you. If you're shooting for a "10" or roughly a 127, practice, practice, practice is key. Get your timing down. Don't spend much time at all reviewing the passages until your timing is perfect. Best of luck!

    @MedSurgeon - I'm so sorry that I'm just responding! Your question somehow just slipped through the cracks. Assuming you're still interested, I'll briefly respond here. Until your timing is down, I don't think it's worth your time to review your practice materials in any depth. This is because missing questions due to timing has a much larger impact on your section score than missing a few questions due to strategy. If you don't get to your last passage, you miss six questions. If your strategy is off for one particular type of question you maybe miss one or two. Keep on with your timing. Huge score flutucations are common for people whose timing is not 100%, because sometimes the passage is easy for you and you fly through. Then on hard ones, you spend a ton of time and get behind and miss them all.

    I'd recommend using the AAMC CARS pack roughly 3 to 4 weeks out from your test date. Best of luck and thanks for writing!
     
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  3. TestingSolutions

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

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    I just wanted to let everyone know that we'll be updating this thread with the feedback we received last cycle. We had a few of our editors go through it and also tried to re-arrange some of the content so it makes more sense. We'll also be adding more content to each post as time goes on, trying to make this an even better resource. If you have any feedback, please let us know. For those of you with a January test date, time to get down to business. Don't hesitate to leave any questions you have and we'll get back to you as soon as we can!
     
  4. eartwj

    eartwj 2+ Year Member

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    @TestingSolutions I want to take the test in Jan or April 2016. I am on day 3 of your guide and like it so far (thinking about buying the bundle on your site). Which date do you think would be better? I'm not sure if doing this 5 months before hand would more beneficial than doing it 2.5 months beforehand. I started off with a 120 verbal and am hoping for a 125.
     
  5. howellg

    howellg

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    @TestingSolutions I am currently studying for the Jan 23rd 2016 MCAT (roughly 2.5 months away). I took the test earlier this summer and got a 122 on my CARS section, but did great in every other section, so this time around I am trying to nail the CARS section so I can get this test behind me. On all the materials I used last summer (EK 9th Edition, Kaplan, and EK FLs) I was consistently getting around 30-35 questions correct out of 53 (which is around a 122). However, once I started using the AAMC Materials (AAMC FL and AAMC Official Guide) my scores went up a lot. For example, I got 43/53 on the AAMC FL and 26/30 on the AAMC OG. This was 2 weeks before my test date and it put me at roughly a 128. I thought I would be good and then test day came... The passages seemed longer, questions seemed like they required me to look back into the passage for the answer, and by the last passage I was essentially out of time and had to guess. I even ran out of time to even answer the last question at all. Ended up getting a 122 on the section and I was really bummed out to say the least, especially since I thought I was in such a good place before the exam.

    That being said, I have read through the guide even though I am on my second day of studying and I really like the ideas that are in this forum. They are really similar to the EK books that I used last time, but you have given considerably much more detail which is very helpful for the way I learn things.

    I have the TPR Hyperlearning Verbal Workbook, EK 101 Verbal Book, AAMC CARS Question Packs, the EK FLs (from this summer), TPR Practice Passages (from their 2015 manual), and TPR FLs 1-3. I think that there are plenty of passages for me to go through for the next 2.5 months so I am not worried on that front, but I am worried about using these passages effectively. A lot of the passages in the TPR Hyperlearning book and EK 101 book have passages that have 8 questions (more than what will be on the actual test). How many minutes should I be spending on those passages? Also, my timing has a lot of room to improve, but I don't think I am that far off so I feel like I should be attempting more than 1 or 2 passages every day for the next two weeks. Do you think there is a little flexibility in the schedule you have proposed?
     
  6. howellg

    howellg

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    @TestingSolutions Ok I have now gone on to day two and I can already tell my timing is off. I finish way too early, so maybe I am farther off than I think. But I still feel like I could use my time better if I did more than one or two passages in the first two weeks. What are your thoughts on that?

    Thanks for all this help. It is so valuable for someone like me who struggles with this part of the exam.
     
  7. TestingSolutions

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

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    @eartwj - Thanks for writing! I'd recommend you make your decision based on your overall performance on all sections, not just the CARS. With two hours of CARS study and review a day six days a week for three months, most MCATers are able to get in the 126 to 128 range. For some, depending on their backgrounds, it might take more time. I wouldn't recommend actively doing passages, at least not high-quality passages, more than four months out, as you'll burn through them quickly and most students start with good intentions but simply are unable to keep up that sort of intensity. I've taught so many students who burn out 70% of the way to their test date and end up having to reschedule. Depending on your schedule, I'd recommend taking your test in April and scheduling a very light semester academically for the spring. Use the month of January to get a head start by studying four or five hours a day five days a week. Then hit it hard for three or four months (depending on your date) and then ace it! Please let us know of your progress and how things are going for you! And of course, if you have any questions, bring them on.

    ...

    @howellg - We really appreciate you writing and sharing your experience on here, as many, many students are in a similar situation. I've heard from a lot of people that they thought the actual CARS section was harder on test day than the pre-released materials. I've yet to take the newly released FL by the AAMC, so I'll reserve judgement about it until I do, but I don't think you were the only person who was surprised by the difficulty of what they faced on test day. This is on the of the reasons why we make our practice tests so hard, we figure that it's better to train with material harder than what you'll face on test day so you'll be pleasantly "surprised." (Although the downside is that people complain and leave low reviews because the exams are too hard, but don't get me started : )

    As for timing, here is what we recommend:

    For a 5 question passage, give yourself 9 minutes.
    For a 6 question passage, give yourself 10.5 minutes.
    For a 7 question passage, give yourself 12 minutes.

    And for the 8 question passages, give yourself 13.5 minutes just so you program your brain for the right pace for answering questions on test day, but know that the CARS section only has 5, 6, and 7 question passages.

    Anyways, I think you've got a good amount of materials available to you. The reason we start you off slow with the number of passages is that usually people start off with good intentions but then don't get as much done as they hope. Building slowly over time ensures you acclimate to each new level of time commitment, but also, and this is the most important piece, it strengthens your ability to read critically for longer and longer periods of time. Almost no one can read and answer question straight for 90 minutes. In fact, few can do more than three without a huge drop off in percentage correct (if you don't believe me take five passages, back to back, and I guarantee you that your last two will be your worst percentage correct. If I'm wrong, write me and I'll give you our testing bundle for free.) Pre-meds are hard workers and starting off slow is foreign, but trust us, it works. If you look towards the end of our series, we have a review of all the different resources in the order that we recommend them. There is also a three month schedule that outlines how we recommend you approach studying. Timing is the #1 problem for MCATers as you well know. It's impossible to score 125+ if you're having to rush the last passage or two. Please don't hesitate to ask more questions and let us know about your progress and how we can help!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
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  8. kstorm

    kstorm

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    Hello,

    I am just starting off my MCAT prep. I have done a few verbal passages untimed and usually get about half right. Obviously my goal is to eventually be scoring 130+ and that's going to take a lot of work. Which I am 100% willing to put in.

    I have EK 101, NS 108 passages, all AAMC materials, PR HyperLearning, will be purchasing Testing Solutions and am willing to buy other materials you might recommend.

    What tips do you have? I struggle with getting the questions right even when untimed so I imagine with time it will be a bigger issue. Do you think I should be reading other materials like NY Times, WSJ, etc.? I am taking the April 23rd test.
     
  9. Honeybee_94

    Honeybee_94

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    Thank you so much for posting these helpful tips! I have a quick questions I read later on that you do not recommend practicing from old practice books. I was just wondering if you know any reserouces that will offer practice cars sections besides the aamc website. I just want to practice before buying them and wasting the good passages early on.
     
  10. TestingSolutions

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

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    @kstorm - Thanks for writing. A 130+ is an ambitious score, but it is possible if you put in the time. I'd recommend starting on day one and going through our guide here. You'll pick up a bunch of useful tips along the way that will build overtime into a comprehensive MCAT CARS strategy that will serve you well on test day. It's so important to be intentional in how you approach the CARS section, as many test takers piece-meal their strategy together, which unfortunately, rarely produces the desired results. Go through this guide. We talk about which resources to use and which to avoid. Early on, all you'll need is the TPR Verbal Workbook or EK101. Later, in our guide we talk about other possible resources. Best of luck and please keep your questions coming!

    @Honeybee_94 - Thank you for your interest in our guide. We hope it is useful! I'm not completely sure I understand your question. Older resources are fine, particularly in the early stages of practice, but as your test gets closer, it's better to switch to AAMC released materials, which are without a doubt, the best CARS resources available. Towards the end of our series on Days 28 and 29, we review what to do in terms of resources and schedules. I'd recommend starting with TPR Verbal Workbook or EK101 while you're going through our guide and then once you get further down the road, switch to the AAMC released material, which thankfully there is now more of. Please keep the questions coming!
     
  11. TestingSolutions

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

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    Hey Guys!

    We've got a beta-version of our online platform up. Over the next few months, we'll be putting each of our practice tests up online. Anyone who buys our bundle will receive online versions of the tests for free as they become available. T1 is currently up!
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
  12. Honeybee_94

    Honeybee_94

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    Hi thanks again for all the helpful tips!
    I have a few questions, sometimes when I read a passage, I just will have no idea what the passage is about. Its either the heavy vocabulary that was used that throws me off or the passage itself did not make sense to me. What should I do if I read the passage and it doesn't make sense to me and I dont have enough time to read it again? Do I just try my best answering the questions?
    also what should I do if I come across a passage with heavy vocab that I am not familiar with?
    and is there something that I can do to strengthen my vocab?
    Thanks!
     
  13. gigi24

    gigi24

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    First off, this guide is excellent, thank you for this.

    I am a retaker from September where I was completely hammered by CARS :(. I will be retaking in January. I was doing pretty good in the AAMC CARS practice material however my timing was way off in the real exam. That is one of my key weaknesses I am trying to work on this time around.

    However, I continue to have issues. I followed and completed your guide, today I took the first of your practice exams (which is a very fair exam and closely mirrors the actual!) and scored a 123/124. Should I be worried at this point? I find myself losing time and rushing once again (and probably continuing to psych myself out). I want to go back to the "beginning" and take practice passages without looking back at the passage at all when answering questions, my only problem is I have exhausted all of the AAMC CARS Q Packs, TPR, and EK101. I have been using TBR and as you mentioned are just not up to par as the other materials. I'm thinking of using the rest of your practice exams and breaking them up to mini practice exams, is this a good approach? Do you recommend any other materials or have any other advice?
     
  14. cuteejudee

    cuteejudee

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    Thank you so much for posting this, it has been very helpful to read.

    I am still confused when you say to not review passages until you've reached the golden score of 127-128 how do I know if I have reached that when I am only doing 5-6 passages at a time? Is there a certain number that I should be getting right?
     
  15. TestingSolutions

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

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    @Honeybee_94 - This is very common early on. I'm going to re-post an earlier post about what to do when you don't understand a passage. Here you go!

    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 reviewing 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.​
     
  16. TestingSolutions

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

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    @gigi24 - Thanks for your feedback as to T1. I think you have a few options (and know that you are not alone in this situation). I think the AAMC materials can still be valuable to you even though you've seen them before. I'd recommend re-working through all of the passages. Also notice that they came out with a new full-length, which is another CARS section you haven't seen, so be sure to get this. I'd recommend taking a look at Next Step's verbal book. I haven't yet had a chance to go through it, but I don't think you'll be hurting yourself to do some of their passages. I'd make getting through the AAMC materials your highest priority, followed by scattering in our practice passages. I think breaking our tests up makes a lot of sense. I do want to warn you that our practice tests are very hard. People sometimes complain about this and often score a point or two higher on the real thing than they do on our tests. Just know that this is the case so you're not discouraged. We think the AAMC is the best indicator of your performance and we design our passages to be the heavier weights you practice with at the gym. Please keep the questions coming and let us know of your progress. Until you get your timing down, don't let yourself go back to the passage after your first pass. Also, remember to keep doing passages and more passages until your timing is down. Until you get your timing down, reviewing isn't really that beneficial. Best of luck!

    @cuteejudee - I'm not sure where you're quoting from. We recommend that until you get your timing down (which is to say that you aren't rushing to finish your passages and questions) that it's a better use of your time to be doing more passages than to be reviewing your passages. The number one reason people do poorly on the CARS is because their timing is off. Once your timing is down (even if your score isn't at a 127-128 range), then it starts to make some sense to invest time in reviewing your strategy mistakes, but until then keep doing more passages.

    Look at it this way, if you have to speed through the last two passages, you'll probably miss somewhere around 7 out of the last 11 questions, whereas if you manage your time well, you'll probably only miss 2 or 3. This means that if you get your timing well, you'll see your raw score go up by around 5 questions which translates to around 2 or 3 scaled points. That's the difference between 124 and a 127, which is quite a pay off considering that fixing your timing isn't that hard. Improving your strategy is very possible and is what we spend the majority of this guide on, but it takes a great deal more time and energy and probably will net you another 5 to 7 questions correct. We suggest you pick up the easier questions first. Let us know how we can help!
     
  17. cuteejudee

    cuteejudee

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    I definitely have the timing down, I even finish with a minute or so to spare. At this point I am not getting many in a set correct, usually 2/7 or 3/7. Any tips for improving those scores?
     
  18. TestingSolutions

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

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    @cuteejudee - Glad to hear your timing is down...but now you want to start bringing those scores up. Basically, the latter 25 days of this guide are all about improving your score, so as to tips, I'd tell you to do what we tell you in this guide. I think the biggest things I would recommend is

    1) Do a 15 second pre-read of the passage to make sure you understand the general form of what you're going to be reading about.

    2) Really focus on getting to the main idea of the passage. This is the "Why did the author write this passage?" question. Take a look at our post on "painting to the main idea" for Day 10.

    3) When you review your practice tests, re-read the passage before reviewing the questions and write a one sentence summary for each paragraph.
    With that said, I'd really recommend you go through this whole guide, as there is a lot more you can do to improve your score. Unfortunately, there are no easy or quick fixes. "Tips" are rare on the CARS. There are a few things you can do to make the section easier on you, but you're going to have to do a lot of work to get a great score. Best of luck and please feel free to leave any questions you have here!
     
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  19. babyelephant

    babyelephant 2+ Year Member

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    Holy omg .. .I am having a hard time reading thro this... There is just so much text and filler... It is giving me a heart attack... I need a concise version..
     
  20. TheOneAndOnlyJamesFranco

    TheOneAndOnlyJamesFranco 2+ Year Member

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    @TestingSolutions

    Before I launch into this, I will provide some back story... So I tested last Jan and got an 8 on verbal and am retaking in 33 days because of the now CARS.

    I have read most of the 30 days, and am 3/4 done with the EK reasoning book (I will finish the last chapter this week)...

    In terms of scores on things:
    KAP FL avg (from 4 exams): 125
    TPR Demo: 125
    NS FL avg(from 3 exams): 126
    EK 1 + 2 : 77% and 60% respectively

    I am halfway through EK 101, TPRHL, NS 108; averaging -2 wrong per passage, -1.7 wrong per passage, -2.13 wrong per passage (respectively)

    So last week I have been using the TS passage review sheets and have been categorizing my mistakes and it has been extremely helpful in identifying my problem areas...

    Which is overwhelmingly Passage Detail! And under my dozens of sheets of passage detail mistakes, the common Q stems that seem to trip me up are along the lines of "the passage suggests.... this assertion is supported (or NOT) by evidence...."

    It seems that when I go back to review problems however that I usually can identify the correct answer right away and sort of look at myself like wow that was kinda stupid... But when I do that, it is hard for me to willingly "make a sheet" for that mistake and so sometimes I feel like I am just spinning wheels...

    Also, My current strategy in general is to spend more time on reading, so I can comfortably race through the questions, as opposed to looking back all the time. I spend generally 6min reading/4min questions.

    So a few questions:

    How can I shore up on my problem areas?
    What would be a reasonable plan for the rest of my 33 days? (I still have ALL of the AAMC material and am considering throwing some TS tests in there!)

    I have been trying to do a FL section per day (or at least 5 passages) but at this rate between FLs every other day, I feel like I sort of stuck time-wise...

    Thank you for your help, and this guide of course, I am just hoping to not make the same fatal mistake this time around and paint the same "verbal deficit" narrative for my retake!
     
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  21. babyelephant

    babyelephant 2+ Year Member

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    ^ Can u tutor me ? I have a hard time with passage and I need help of verbal
     
  22. thrace91

    thrace91

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    Thank you so much for posting all of this! I'm following your 30 day guide for the January MCAT (today I'm at day 16) and I have a question about question types. I'm having a hard time distinguishing between implication and application questions. I'm also wondering if we are supposed to be consciously identifying question types while practicing/on test day, or if it is something to do while correcting so that this way of thinking sinks in to some degree and can help on more of a subconscious level when actually doing passages.

    Also, what words/phrases do you recommend highlighting on the day of the test (ie modality words, names, claim sentences...)?

    I scored 89% on the official CARS practice test, which I was very happy with. However, it is not representative of my typical verbal performance (pre 2015 MCAT). I voided my score twice because of verbal (finishing only ~4/7 passages which I did not even feel confident about). I am hoping that the extra 1.5 min/psg will be a big help. I 'm sticking to your advice/assignments. Hopefully, I will start achieving a consistent CARS score, as opposed to feeling like my performance is wholly dependent on luck.
     
  23. TestingSolutions

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

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    @babyelephant - Unfortunately, Testing Solutions currently does not offer any CARS tutoring. Jack Westin, a regular poster on these forums, does, however, and while I've never had any personal contact with him, it seems that he does a good job. Just google his name and MCAT CARS. Also, we offer this entire guide in an eBook form that is available on Amazon and in our practice test bundle package for a deep discount or if you wait around, every so often we will post a link on this thread to download it for free. Best of luck on your MCAT and thanks for writing!

    @TheOneAndOnlyJamesFranco - Thanks for writing and good questions! I'll deal with them in order: 1) In terms of problems areas, I'd recommend you take a brief look at all your review sheets and see if any particular sorts of questions seem to continually trip you up. If you see that question type, review our posts here and read in detail the solutions as to see how such arguments work. Be on the look out for this particular question type when you're actually taking a test. As yourself, is this question type X? If it is, slow down some. Invest a little extra time and you'll see yourself picking up a few extra points here and there. 2) I'd do all of the AAMC CARS material. Do not even think about taking the MCAT without having done all available practice materials. Spend a lot of time going through the solutions, identifying arguments and reading and re-reading the passages for the main ideas. I'm not sure what you mean by sort of stuck time-wise. If you mean it feels like you're spending all your time doing problems, scale back slightly and make sure you're giving yourself enough time to review incorrect and troublesome questions. This is the number one way you'll improve your score after getting your timing down. Please keep us updated on your progress and good luck on your MCAT!
     
  24. TestingSolutions

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

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    @thrace91 - I wouldn't recommend identifying question types on test day. It's just not that useful. It is very useful when reviewing and can be useful when taking practice tests, especially if you identify one or two question types you really struggle with. If Implication questions keep fooling you, learn to identify them ahead of time. When you come to an implication question, invest a little more time into it. Try to remember what you've learned about these question types and put it into practice. Doing it on the real thing though can just waste precious energy. As to highlighting keywords, I wouldn't recommend it unless they are really critical to the passage or particularly helpful to you. I'd use the keyword highlight review method we discuss in this guide to get your mind thinking along those lines, as it can be helpful for seeing the flow of the passage.

    As to the difference between Implication and Application questions, it can sometimes be difficult to tell, because both take information from the passage and use it external to the passage. I think the best way to distinguish the two is that an implication of the passage is a stand alone item that needs nothing else but the passage to be valid. It makes sense on it's own. An application needs something else such as a particular context. For instance, after reading a passage on one author's opinion of the US military, an implication of the passage (and the author's argument) is that peace is better than war. An application of the passage, depending on what the question asks, is that more money should be invested in foreign aid and domestic projects than further developing the military. "Peace is better than war" is a stand-alone conclusion, whereas "increasing foreign aid and domestic projects while decreasing the development of the military" would seem to be a more contextualized, practical application. Does this make sense? Again the difference isn't always that big. You want to think external to the passage but necessarily true for both question types. Please let us know if this doesn't help! Best of luck on your MCAT!
     
  25. TestingSolutions

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

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    SDN Exhibitor
    I know some of you out there are working your way through this guide as your January MCAT date approaches. All of us here at Testing Solutions just wanted to wish you well and to encourage you to keep it up!! You're almost there and once you're done with the MCAT, you're done with the MCAT forever. Don't leave anything on the table. Remember, winners are willing to put in the work that losers won't. When you're ready to quit, that's the time where you get your advantage.
     
    doctorold likes this.
  26. mnhockey7

    mnhockey7

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    Oct 10, 2014
    @TestingSolutions

    I am currently studying for a May test date and working through your program. I have only the Next Step 108 passage book for passage practice (I am not going to take full lengths yet) because I exhausted TPR and EK last year and don't want to use them again. I saw you were going to review the Next Step passage book, however am not sure if you have done so?

    My question is if you think it will be "decent" practice for simply passage practice? And, if the material is adequate enough. I have done a few passages thus far and scored nothing less than 2 wrong per, however really struggled with Verbal on my previous MCAT. I am not sure if this is attributed to the ease of the questions, or if your strategies are working well haha! I will be using your exams for practice exams FYI.

    Thank you for all the work you have done with this program. Its great!

    -Mnhockey
     
  27. LoveDocMD

    LoveDocMD

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    Dec 9, 2015
    Hey Testing Solutions, I hope you're still active here. Just wondering if you would consider the word "Usually" to be a modality keyword and if so, under which category (High, medium, low) would you have it fall under? Thanks!
     
  28. LoveDocMD

    LoveDocMD

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    Dec 9, 2015
    Also, one more question! Would you highlight the
    Also, one more question. Would you highlight the author's claims as an Opinion key word?
    On another note, thanks again for the great deal on the 8 CARS practice tests!
     
  29. xDriftAway

    xDriftAway 2+ Year Member

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    Sep 23, 2014
    Hi, thank you so much for your advice on this forum. What you said here caught my attention. What are your thoughts on following a day-to-day schedule in general when studying for the MCAT? (e.g. Day 20 I'll do this, Day 25 I'll do that, etc.) I feel like I'd freak out if I stick to a strict schedule and constantly remind myself how much time I have left. My test is in April and I've just been doing a whole bunch of practice passages since last month. My plan is to start taking practice exams in February. Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
  30. TestingSolutions

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

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    @mnhockey7 – So sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I was out of the country for a few weeks and no one else was able to log in. In regards to the Next Step book, I’ve unfortunately not yet had the chance to go through it. I don’t think it is a bad resource, but you do have to be careful, especially if it will be one of your primary sources for CARS passages. Did you buy the AAMC CARS materials? These are going to be critical to your preparation. I think the EK and TPR materials will be of limited value since you’ve already seen them, but it might not hurt to sprinkle passages in. Also, if you look at the resource review we have, there are a number of other resources that EK has put out that has CARS passages in them. This is also true of TPR. These might be good sources for other reasonably high quality passages. I think they will be “descent” practice passages, but I wouldn’t bet the entire farm on them (which is to say don’t make them your only source). I suspect it’s a little of both in regards to practice passages. It depends on long you’ve been practicing, but usually people see gradual improvement when it comes to the MCAT, not a sort of overnight quantum leap.

    Please let us know if we haven’t answered your questions, do stay in touch. We’re here to help in any way we can!


    @LoveDocMD – “Usually” is definitely a word that expresses the modality of an argument. I would say it ranks somewhere between high and medium. On the spectrum, the highest would be a word like “Always” where as the lowest would be a word like “Never.” The word “sometimes” would probably be roughly in the middle or a medium word, so “usually” would be somewhere in between, but closer to the high category. As to the author’s claims as an opinion word, it depends on what sort of claim it is. Is it an opinion or is the author discussion scientific facts? In theory, the fact that the earth revolves around the sun is a “claim” but it is such a well supported claim that it wouldn’t be considered an opinion per say, at least how we usually use the word, but would instead be considered a fact. In most cases on the MCAT CARS section, you’ll be dealing with the author’s opinions, so it’s a safe bet to highlight them as opinions when you’re doing the keyword review. And we’ll always be active on SDN! (We love SDN!) I was traveling for a few weeks and no one else had the time to log on. We’ll be back to a regular schedule, so please feel free to post any questions you have!


    @xDriftAway – I think day to day schedules are fine, in fact I think it’s important to have structure to your schedule. While you’re studying for the MCAT, MCAT has to be your #1 priority if you want a great score. Nothing can come before it. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but it’s true for the majority of students. If your other studies come first, MCAT suffers. If your job comes first, MCAT suffers. If having a good time comes first, MCAT suffers. Remember that this is only 3 to 4 months of your life that then affect the rest of your life. Make the sacrifice now and enjoy the benefits of it forever. I write all of this to say that you should look online for a good, well-regarded MCAT study schedule and then follow it as if it were the word of God. The comment you quoted is not directed towards using a schedule but towards the countless schedules that pop up here on SDN. MCAT studiers spend hours and hours perfecting their schedules but then never end up doing them anyways (I was guilty of this big time). There are a number of very strong schedules in the sticky section on this forum that are great. A number of people have used them and done well. Ultimately the equation for doing well on the MCAT is pretty simple, study for 4 to 6 hours a day for 3 to 4 months, spending 30% of your time reviewing material, 40% of your time doing practice problems and tests, and 30% of your time reviewing your wrong and troubled questions. If you do this, you’ll be on the path to a great MCAT. I think taking practice tests starting in February is a good time. Just be sure you invest in reviewing them. This is where you’ll make your biggest gains. Don’t stress yourself about a schedule, but it is important to make sure your preparation is well-rounded and systematic. A haphazard approach can leave you with some big holes that you might not realize you have until test day. Best of luck and keep the questions coming!
     
    xDriftAway likes this.
  31. Arsenalfcfan1

    Arsenalfcfan1 2+ Year Member

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    May 8, 2015
    I recently started the 30 day guide which i purchased from amazon. I am on day eight and i have seen a significant change to my score compared to day one when i got a 1/7 i am not averaging a 4/7 . Not the greatest but i am okay with how consistent I am so far. Anyways i was just wondering i know you recommended TBRH and EK but which one of them would you say i should use more? I also have the nextstep 108 practice can i use that as well or should i just stick to the TBHR and EK. Thank you and have a wonderful day
     
  32. mnhockey7

    mnhockey7

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    @TestingSolutions

    Thank you for the response! Unfortunately, I have used the AAMC question packs for the old verbal reasoning so that may not be a good option for me either. Thats where I am kind of at a stand still haha.

    But to respond to your statement on materials: the Next Step 108, your full length CARS exams, and TPR and AAMC full lengths will be my entire CARS practice. I can certainly look into the other resources EK and TPR have put out, I wasn't aware of this. I'd like to think this would be a solid amount of CARS practice come May when I take my test with a decent variety, wouldn't you think?

    Also, with my progress, I have been practicing only for about 2 weeks or so... I think in combination with your tips and just a better attitude overall this time that may be the reason (despite some of the Next Step questions possibly being unrealistic of the actual exam (I am trying to stay optimistic, however!)).

    -Mnhockey
     
  33. xDriftAway

    xDriftAway 2+ Year Member

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    Sep 23, 2014
    Thank you so much for responding to my previous post! I appreciate the input. I did your 30 days of training, practiced with numerous passages, and got my timing down. I just took 4 practice CARS exams and I didn't do so well...
    TPR Practice Exam 1: 31/53
    TPR Practice Exam 2: 32/53
    TPR Practice Exam 3: 32/53
    TPR Practice Exam 4: 27/53

    Any advice? Would you say that the average person gradually improves in CARS? Or is it more of a sudden jump in improvement? I have 8 weeks until my exam.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
  34. Chemist93

    Chemist93 2+ Year Member

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    Aug 25, 2014
    Hi there,

    I was looking for a bit of advice on how to improve my CARS score, after my last MCAT. I took the MCAT in 2014 and scored a 10 in verbal. This past summer I worked through TestingSolutions, but I guess because I was so heavily focused on other sections as well, and with only 6 weeks of prep I was only able to score a 126 on CARS.

    I am a Canadian student, and the school I have the best shot at has a CARS cutoff of 130. Ideally I would like to score even a 131 if possible as this would open a lot of doors for me. I was hoping you would be able to guide me on what my next steps are for studying for CARS. I have at least 3 months I can devote to CARS alone, as I am quite strong with the other sections of the test. My issues aren't with timing or understanding of the language, as I find myself usually caught between two answer choices, and not confident on what the right answer choice is.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
     
  35. Zen Arcade

    Zen Arcade 2+ Year Member

    28
    4
    Jun 18, 2015
    @TestingSolutions
    Hi,
    I am getting a little discouraged over CARS and could use some advice as to where to go from here... I read through the guide and thought it gave some good advice. I have been practicing timing and feel like I am getting quite a bit better at picking up the pace; I'd say I have gone through at least 100 passages thus far. I think my biggest problem is getting a good grasp on the some of the passages. When I have context and have some understanding about what the passage is about I usually do very well at understanding the main point and answering the questions correctly- passages such as psychology, arts, ect. However, I tend to get super lost after a paragraph or so on many of the philosophy and history passages; to the point where i hardly pick up on anything later on in the passage at all due to zoning out. This causes me to get almost all of the questions wrong on that passage and waste a ton of time. Where should I start with improving at understanding the more abstract and detailed passages? I have over 3 months until the exam, but have been doing horrible at CARS compared to the other sections.
     
    twinBqt likes this.
  36. zack929bb

    zack929bb 2+ Year Member

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    Dec 29, 2012
    @TestingSolutions or anyone else

    Does anyone have input on how to implement this with studying science content? I'm doing a 5-6 month study schedule since I work 40-50 hours a week, and I'm having trouble putting this into the schedule on top of my science study schedule.
     
  37. TestingSolutions

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

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    SDN Exhibitor
    @arsenalfcfan - I'm glad to hear you're seeing some improvement. The CARS section is a marathon, so slow and steady will always serve you better. I'd recommend starting with "the" TPRH workbook and once you finish those passages, move on to EK101. You must make sure you leave ample time in your study schedule to go through all of the AAMC CARS question packs. Many students leave these questions to near the end, but then never get to them. I recommend you take the AAMC material roughly 2/3 into your active studying. I don't know a lot about Next Step. What little I do know, I write about at the beginning of this guide in the Review of CARS Materials. Best of luck and please keep your questions coming!

    @mnhockey7 - I think you'll be pretty well set with those materials, just make sure you invest the necessary time to review your passages once you get your timing down. Reviewing tests is one of the best ways to improve your score. Please keep us updated with your progress and let us know if there is anything else we can do to help!

    @xDriftAway - I need a little more information to know what to recommend to you.
    1) Were you rushed to finish these passages?
    2) Were there any particular types of passages or questions that seemed to cause you problems?
    3) How would you rate your comprehension of the passages on your first reading? Did you have to go back to the passage often for details?
    Generally, students seen gradual improvements, but for students who struggle with their timing (i.e. having to rush through the last one or two passages), simply instituting our tips regarding timing and not going back to the passage can lead to pretty large jumps in scores. My guess, based on your results, is that timing is still a struggle. I'd recommend re-reading through Day 5 and really making sure you take all our tips to heart. Please keep us updated on your progress and let us know how we can help!
     
    xDriftAway and Arsenalfcfan1 like this.
  38. TestingSolutions

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

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    SDN Exhibitor
    @Chemist93 - If timing isn't an issue for you, which is to say that you can get through all nine passages without rushing, then it's time that you start to focus on reviewing your practice tests in detail. I'd really recommend you go through our guide day by day, as there are a lot of helpful tips throughout, but the most important for you at this stage in terms of how to review are going to be Day 9 – How to Use Keywords and Day 29 – Putting it All Together: How to Review an Entire CARS Practice Test. With that said, learning the question types and answer pathologies are also going to give you a big boost. Once you do all of this, (and I should add, you should be doing 5+ passages a day six days a week), take a look at Day 30Advanced Study Techniques. Best of luck and please keep us updated on your progress!

    @Zen Arcade - This is a common problem that many MCATers have. I've included advice below regarding how to improve your comprehension during the test and then also what to do longer term when you're reviewing them.

    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 or a passage type you struggle with. Take a few extra 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. Furthermore, if you start to say to yourself, "Oh this is the passage I always do bad on" you'll be sunk before you even begin.

    3) For passages that are particularly tough for you, you're going to want to read through the passage at a slower rate than you would for other passages. Don't try and treat it like a "normal" 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.

    6) Are you using our "Day 5 – How to Approach the MCAT CARS " tips every time you take a passage?

    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. 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.​
     
  39. TestingSolutions

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

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    SDN Exhibitor
    @zack929bb - This is a really good question. We recommend that you spend roughly an hour and a half on CARS six days a week. Our recommended schedule is

    1) Do your CARS passages very first thing during a study block (1hr)
    2) Take a break (15 minutes)
    3) Do your science passages and review (However much time you're planning to do that day
    4) Review your CARS passages / Read that day's 30 Day Guide to MCAT CARS Success post.​

    This schedule allows you to make the steady progress you need with CARS (i.e. prolonged and gradual exposure to CARS passages) and then gives you a "decompress" period to let the passages and test settle so that you are "fresh" in terms of your CARS abilities when you come back to review the practice passages. Take a look at our 90 Day Schedule if you're wondering how to integrate CARS study into your overall schedule.
     
    twinBqt likes this.
  40. LordH

    LordH

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    Nov 3, 2015
    Hi TestingSolutions,

    Thanks for the really great guide; I'm around day 20 and I'm seeing my timing improve! When I first started I was barely finishing on time and now I always have around 2 minutes to spare per passage!

    Quick question: do you recommend against doing passages in a physical copy of a book? Since the MCAT is CBT, do you think doing passages not on the computer is a poor way of practicing verbal? I ask because I have a hard copy of the Berkeley Review verbal book, so I'm wondering if you think this hurts in any way.

    Thanks!
     
  41. mcat27826481

    mcat27826481

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    Feb 15, 2016
    Hello TestingSolutions,
    I am studying for the April 2016 MCAT and I am having trouble with CARS. I ordered your practice tests back in the summer and took the first three tests and did awful. So I found the 30 Day Guide to CARS Success and followed it religiously for the full 30 days. I worked out of TPR Hyperlearning Verbal workbook. I saw a large improvement in my scores and reading speed and intuitive abilities. I then decided to go back to T4 and try again as part of my phase 2 and I did equally awful. I scored 17/53 back in December when I did T3 and this time I got 18/53. The passages are nothing like the TPR passages and all of the answer choices look the same to me. Do you have any advice on how to proceed? I felt better about my CARS ability until I took that practice test and now I feel like I have made no progress and my CARS score is hopeless. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  42. DocByDesign

    DocByDesign

    4
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    Jul 14, 2015
    Hey There Testing Solutions,

    My Thank You to Testing Solutions
    First, I would like to say thank you for your guide. What a blessing it was to be able to have a virtual CARS tutor for the past 30+ days. I really enjoyed your posts, your encouraging words, and your solid practical advice. I have been following it and have started to have more confidence when approaching CARS passages. I know that I still have some improvements to work on.

    CARS Practice Today
    Today, I did a 7 passage timed CARS test using passages from the Old AAMC. I did this all in one sitting. It was a total of 39 questions. I used the timing that you proposed for the 5, 6, and 7 questions. I subtracted 3 minutes from the time to give myself a round 70 minutes. When taking the exam, I found myself running out of time. Running out of time was something I frequently did before coming across your 30 day guide. It was like I reverted to my old self when put under pressure.

    When I was taking the CARS exam today, I noticed on passage 5 I was at ~22mins. So I decided to do your strategy of reading the first and last sentences of the passage and then spend time answering the questions. This helped me shave some time off but I still felt as if I still spent the same amount of time answering the questions. After doing this for passage 5 and 6, I was left with approximately 5 minutes left to finish the last passage. This means I spent 8.5 minutes for passages 5 and 6. The timer ran out and I reluctantly added the 3 minutes I originally took off to my time and proceeded to finish.

    The results was 79% correct (I forgot to make my final selection on one answer. I narrowed it down to the correct answer and a wrong answer. If I picked the correct one, my score could have been 82%). Essentially I averaged ~1.2 questions wrong a passage. I attribute the minimal questions wrong without reading the whole passage to your question hunting technique.

    My CARS Background
    Now, when I did the daily passages as your 30 day guide suggested, I never ran out of time. In fact, I had some time left over to scan over some questions I wanted to spend more time on. I generally felt more confident as I went on day by day following your guide.

    I have tried your question Hunting (quite fun), I have highlighted my passages with Keywords when going over a passage, I have found the who, what, where, when, how, why of each paragraph for some passages, I have rewritten questions to make them easier to understand and I tried a combination of reading the first and last sentences of passage with question hunting under a 5 minute timer using Kaplan passages. I have tried the majority of your strategies.

    Where I Would Like to Be
    I am starting to understand how to 'approach' passages but I still have not learned how to 'attack' passages. I want to be able to read a passage, mentally highlight the important information, mentally strikeout the fluff, systematically answer all the questions and not rush for time. I am starting to understand that it does not matter what passage is presented in front of me, the strategy to dissect it and answer the questions is the same. I just have not been able to make this reproducible (especially for passages where I just have no idea what they are saying! It is as if I am reading English for the first time). In passages that I can 'feel' what the author is saying, I get all the questions correct. In passages where I can't 'feel' what the author is saying, I get the majority of questions wrong. You know that matrix-effect you alluded to in your posts, how do I get to that level?

    My Ask
    1. How do I make sure I have enough time to really read each passage and answer the questions? The feeling of running out of time makes me check the time incessantly, making me more focused on the time than the task at hand. With individual passages I have enough time to finish. When I do passages together like today, I run out of time.

    2. How do I learn to understand the disconnect I encounter when I understand a passage and when I don't understand a passage? I want to reconcile this difference and make all passages easy for me to understand. In fact, is there a way to not really understand the passage but still get the questions correct?

    3. I found that when I try to 'attack' the passages that I could easily get a 'feel' for, I spend more time on the passage and get the questions wrong. Should I only 'attack' the passages that I don't understand? (by attack I mean knowing the main point of each passage before I move one. Knowing the thesis, supporting details, the how and why of the paragraph). This takes a lot of metal capacity to do so. I am assuming this is what you do when you read every passage. How do you do it but still read with flow?

    4. When I narrow questions down to two selections. I pick the wrong answer. No bueno. How do you pick the correct answer when you narrow down questions? Do you read the question again? Do you come back to it after doing the rest of the questions for that passage? Do you look for extreme words and mark the other? Do you pick the one that comes close to the main idea?

    5. How do you actively stop panic when taking a practice test? I wear ear plugs so when I start to panic I can hear my heart pounding. (its kinda funny but very accurate). I tried the 15 sec breathing, but it seems not always work.

    6. In one of your posts, you mentioned scanning a passage before you start. I couldn't find your steps for scanning. Can you tell me how you scan a passage in 15 seconds? I think this will be helpful for me in gaging the difficulty of the passage and then approaching it differently.

    Lastly, as I continue my CARS practice (writing the MCAT in April) can I come back to this forum and ask you questions?

    Next Steps
    - wait and hear your advice
    - continue practicing with the material I have
    - start practicing with Testing Solutions materials ( I bought all 8 of your CARS practice tests). I wanted to start this mid-February. Which is now :)


    Hopefully, I was clear with the problem that I am having. If you need any clarification, I am here to answer. I am grateful for the guide you have made. It has given me a new perspective on how to approach the CARS section. Although my post is quite long, I reckon the headings have made it easy to follow. Looking forward to hearing back from you. Cheers.
     
  43. TestingSolutions

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

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    SDN Exhibitor
    @LordH - I don't think there is anything terribly wrong with doing passages in a book, especially early on. I'm pretty obsessive, so when I was going through the EK101 book, I copied the tests into PDF form and then took them on my computer. Then I used the book when reviewing. I'd recommend that you only use CBT formats for practice as your test date gets closer.

    @mcat27826481 - Thanks for writing. In general, studying for the CARS is difficult, takes a lot of time, and includes some ups and downs, so don't be too hard on yourself. In regards to our practice tests, when we wrote them, we aspired to make them roughly 10% to 25% harder than the real MCAT. The truth be told, sometimes we overshot a little bit and now realize we made them "too hard" (if there is such a thing, since we do believe that practicing with harder passages will lead to better scores in the end). With our internal research, T3 was the test that was deemed to be the "hardest" of our released tests and we are currently finishing up a major editing project/ score correlation project, where last year we had people take our practice tests and then tell us how they did on the real MCAT. We realized through this process, that a few passages across our tests needed to be made easier. A general principle is to never pin your hopes and confidence on particular CARS practice test score, especially if it's not an AAMC released practice test. My recommendation would be to continue doing (and reviewing) as many passages as you can on a daily basis. I know ti is slow going at times, but little by little, you'll get there!
     
  44. TestingSolutions

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

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    Jan 7, 2015
    SDN Exhibitor
    @DocByDesign - Thanks for your post and filling us in on your progress and what you've found useful thus far. I'll answer your questions below:

    1) You say that you don't have issues with timing when you break up the passages and do a few at a time. I'd recommend going back to that strategy. What's probably happening is that you're trying to do too much all at once and your mental focus is waning towards the end of the test. You're able to keep up with the "correct" pacing until passage 5 or 6 and then that's when things break. I'd recommend that you practice taking 5 passages a day for the next week. If your timing is ok and your scores are in range of what you've been scoring normally, the following week add another passage, thus 6 passages a day. Do this each week until you reach a taking a full test a day. If you find that your timing is off, repeat that number of passages per day for another week until it gets comfortable. Just to be clear though, I'm recommending that you add all the time together for each passage and take the passages one after another. For example:

    Passage 1's time + Passage 2's time + Passage 3's time + Passage 4's time + Passage 5's time = Time for the Entire Set of Passages
    Take the passages all together, as this allows you to practice managing your time on a larger scale that is more similar to the MCAT.


    2) There is not a way to "not understand the passage and still get the questions correct." The truth is that some passages are more difficult than others and you will sometimes struggle to know exactly what the author is getting at. The best thing to do, as I say throughout the guide, is to continue to do as many passages as you can. Once you get your timing down, reviewing the passages as we outline in our review guides and handouts (Checkout Day 29 – Putting it All Together: How to Review an Entire CARS Practice Test) will be the best way to build your comprehension. Don't try to do this though until you're able to consistently finish 9 Passages in a row without timing issues.


    3) I think you should always try to use our "Painting to the Main Idea" (Day 11 – CARS Question Types: The Main Idea) to "Attack" every passage, but don't try and be hyper-vigallente with mastering every detail of the passage. Remember that only 20% of the passage will be tested in the questions. I suspect part of your timing issues are related to you focusing too much on the passage. Read slowly without skimming through the passage, getting the structure and layout of the passage without snagging yourself on too many details. Once you get to the questions, if one requires a detail, you'll be able to go back and get it.


    4) It's difficult to know exactly why you "always" pick the wrong one. If you really do always pick the wrong one, starting pick the one you think is wrong! That's kind of a joke, but really there is something to be said for looking at your thinking patterns and what continues to lead you to the wrong answer. I suspect that you forget about the times where you correctly pick between the two remaining choices but focus and remember (painfully) the ones where you pick wrong. There is no magic trick here to guarantee you're going to always pick the right answer. My best advice with this is to look for the most direct connection (the straightest line) between your reasoning and answer selection and the passage. The CARS rarely requires mental gymnastics to get to the right answer.


    5) Force yourself to count your breath at the beginning of each passage and if you find yourself "breaking down" pull back from the passage and deal with it right then and there by counting your breath up to 10. I know this may seem like a waste of time, but you will be able to finish your test at your best instead of being on the verge of a panic attack the rest of the test. If your stress is getting out of hand, it might be a good idea to look into some resources regarding anxiety and stress management. We outline some practical tips on Day 10 – Health, Wellness, and Stress Management – The Second Key.

    6) We go through how to approach each and every passage on Day 5 – How to Approach the MCAT CARS Section – The Passage. Step 3 outlines how to properly preview a passage.

    Please do leave your questions here on the thread. We'd love to help in any way we can, and remember that for every question you ask, there are probably five people on here that will benefit from it. Best of luck!
     
  45. DocByDesign

    DocByDesign

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    Jul 14, 2015
    @TestingSolutions

    Thank you so much for your reply! I appreciate the time and effort you put into it.

    1) I will definitely do the 5 passages this week and subsequently graduate from there.

    2) Roger that. I will do more passages. I do see that as I continue to practice, it is getting easier. There are those days where it goes south. I am working on minimizing that by honing in on the strategy that works for me.

    3) I do suspect that I do in fact try to capture all of the details presented within the passage. I know this because I feel overwhelmed when I come across a detail heavy passage. This proves to be detrimental as I capture less than I think I do. This shows with my constant visits back to the passage. Figuring out the structure of the passage is key. I am practicing on doing this by letting the keywords guide me. I am practicing on welcoming that uneasy feeling I get when I don't grasp everything the author is saying. Remembering that 20% rule keeps me going.

    4) I will look for the answer that gives me the direct connection. The only difficult part is when two answers both seem to be correct. What I am going to do is compare the answers against my main idea and see which one matches it the best.

    5) Yes, I have taken up the meditation. I do have to admit that I have skipped some days. Thanks for the reminder. I will incorporate it once again. I will also force myself to count my breath and not produce more anxiety knowing that I am using up time. Like you said, finish your test at your best! (I like the way it rhymes :)).

    6) Thank you for pointing that out. I see, the 15 seconds is spent reading the topic sentences just to get a feel of the passage. I will give that a try.

    Thank you once again. I will make adjustments and see how I improve from there. Can't wait!
     
  46. To be MD

    To be MD Med School Or Bust 5+ Year Member

    897
    893
    Mar 15, 2011
    TestingSolutions and SDN friends,

    I'm about 2 weeks through the guide. I was scoring in the 125/6 range, and now I am in the 127/8. I can't wait to get a 132.

    Thanks, TS
     
  47. TestingSolutions

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

    351
    197
    Jan 7, 2015
    SDN Exhibitor
    @DocByDesign - Please keep in touch and let us know how things are progressing. And of course, if there's any way we can help, do let us know!

    @To be MD - So glad to hear things are moving in the right direction!! Keep it up! You'll get there if you keep working hard, doing a ton of passages, and investing the time that the MCAT requires. I can promise you a year from now, you won't regret it!
     
  48. Chaotic Harmony

    Chaotic Harmony 2+ Year Member

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    Jul 31, 2014
    Hi TS,

    Recent test taker here (Jan 2016). I ended up with 124 on CARS. My other sections were good (127+). I was averaging a 126 on CARS leading up to the test. Very disappointed since I felt the CARS section on my actual exam was more straightforward than any practice material and I thought I did well. Im preparing for a potential retake in the late spring and I am planning to use this guide to make sure my CARS score gets to the 129 range consistently.

    Since I've used up pretty much all the AAMC material including the practice tests and Q packs, what would you recommend I do for additional practice?
     
  49. maisam567

    maisam567

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    Feb 25, 2016
    Hi Testing Solution. I have a simple question.Sometimes when I'm reading questions or more important answer choices, I am unfamiliar with certain vocabulary. I've gotten answers wrong because I didn't know a certain word that they used. Do you think that will come with more practice? What do you recommend because when I check my answers or the particular word after, I'm like OH MAN..if only I knew what that word actually meant?
     
  50. TestingSolutions

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

    351
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    Jan 7, 2015
    SDN Exhibitor
    @Chaotic Harmony - You're in a situation that many, many people face. You obviously have the intellectual prowess to do well on the MCAT in general and the CARS in particular, it's just a matter of using the right techniques. I'd recommend picking up the EK101 book, as well as the TPR Verbalwork book. I don't want to turn this into an infomercial for our products, but you can see what other people have said about them on Amazon.com. We're curently offering a bundle package.

    Those would be the three additional resources I'd recommend. If you work through all those passages, and then re-work all of the AAMC passages, I think you'll be set. I'd leave the AAMC passages for the end though to try and give yourself a chance to forget everything. Don't be discouraged, many people are able to improve their CARS scores on the second go if they put in the time and effort!


    @maisam567 - This is a relatively common issue and I don't think it should present any long term problems if you're willing to put in the extra work. 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) to drill home the new vocab. While you continue to take passages, any word you're not 100% sure about its meaning, put it on an Anki flaschard and then reviewing it. I suspect the you're probably only missing 3oo to 400 words, as the vocabulary of the CARS section is not too advanced beyond a college level. You should be able to learn that many words in about a month (10 words a day). Great question!
     
  51. TestingSolutions

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

    351
    197
    Jan 7, 2015
    SDN Exhibitor
    Many of you have mentioned that sometimes our exams can be discouraging because they are so difficult. We believe that it is better to practice with harder passages so that in the long run, when you take your real MCAT, the CARS passages will seem "easy." With that said, we realize that confidence and knowing where you really stand is also important, so over the last 8 months, we've worked with clients who have purchased our exams and through our feedback program have been able to create accurate scale conversions for each of our tests in relation to how past clients scored on the real MCAT. I've attached a PDF of this scaled score conversion chart to this post and we will be including it in all future exams released. We hope this will help translate your raw scores on TS practice tests to what you would be likely to score on the real MCAT.

    You can download the score conversion table here!
     

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