“What’s my CARS strategy?” Students often ask me how to study for CARS like it’s completely alien to the rest of the test. While this foreignness is somewhat exaggerated, it’s clear that CARS differs significantly from the other sections. If you’d like a free one-on-one consultation about improving your CARS score, email me to set up a time!
Here are some tips for a better CARS strategy.
Regular practice is definitely the best CARS strategy to improve your score. CARS scores often improve more slowly than you expect, so making a half-point improvement weekly is more likely than burst of two points at a time.
The rule of thumb is two CARS passages daily, which I think is reasonable; you can fit this into about 40 minutes per day, 20 to do two passages and 20 to go over them. Take these passages from different sources early in your study (AAMC Question Packs and Khan Academy are two good and inexpensive sources) and move toward more AAMC problems closer to the test.
Go through your missed questions and understand whether you missed the question due to 1) misreading of the passage 2) misunderstanding the question or 3) difficult/tempting answers choices.
There are a few other ways to break this down. When you miss several on a passage, categorize the passage as humanities or social science, concrete or abstract. Note any patterns in the passages you do poorly on. Often, students alternate between near-perfect passages or 50% missed, telling me that there are some passage types that they need work on.
If you’re pretty consistent with the number of problems you miss per passage, look at the question types you’re missing. Are the detail questions? Big-picture questions? Reasoning questions? Those are three categories of question that require very different skills.
Finally, there are 4 types of wrong answer: extreme, out of scope, misuse of details, and opposites. When I worked for a big test-prep company, I learned about these reasons for wrong answers. If I would have known this when I took my MCAT I might have done even better! It’s useful to categorize good-looking but wrong answers.