5 Major Mistakes that Lower Your CARS Score

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Rebecca Nolan

Group Content Manager

Books and study materials on a desk depicting preparation for the MCAT CARS section.
Proper preparation is key to improving your CARS score. Avoid these major mistakes and boost your chances of success!

The CARS (Critical Analysis and Reading Section) of the MCAT is notorious for its complex passages and unforgiving time limits. Many pre-med students need help with this section due to its departure from their science-heavy coursework. 

However, the good news is that CARS skills can be developed and improved with practice and strategy. In this blog post, we will discuss five major mistakes that students often make, which can lower their CARS scores. Understanding and avoiding these pitfalls can enhance your CARS performance and increase your overall score for MCAT.

1. Lack of Sufficient Reading Practice

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Avoid these major mistakes and elevate your CARS score! Stay focused and committed to achieving success in your studies.

One common mistake is to be reading more diverse and advanced materials. Building strong reading comprehension skills is crucial for success in the CARS section. Engaging with subjects such as economics, philosophy, history, and music through articles, research papers, and other high-level sources can significantly improve your reading abilities. By consistently challenging yourself with complex and unfamiliar passages, you can develop the necessary reasoning skills to tackle any question on the MCAT.

While it may be tempting to avoid challenging passages, it is essential to expose yourself to those that are least interesting or most confusing. By confronting complex material, you can sharpen your comprehension skills and learn to identify main ideas, arguments, and opinions effectively. Although the same passages used in the actual MCAT will differ, the recurring themes and vocabulary will be similar. Through regular reading practice, you can train yourself to read rapidly and extract critical information efficiently, preparing yourself for success in the CARS section.

2. Misguided Emphasis on Pacing and Time Limits

Many students make the mistake of fixating on pacing and setting strict time limits right from the start. While time management is crucial, it is equally important to prioritize accuracy and understanding in the initial stages of MCAT CARS preparation.ย 

By allowing yourself to practice untimed passages, you can develop a strong foundation in comprehending each paragraph’s main ideas, arguments, and opinions. This approach will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and lost and set the stage for efficient and accurate reading under time constraints as you progress.

3. Neglecting the Broader Trend of Mistakes

One standard error is focusing solely on understanding the logic of personal questions without considering the broader trends behind your mistakes. Identifying recurring question types, reading strategies, and traps you tend to fall into is crucial. By reviewing missed questions comprehensively, you can pinpoint areas of weakness and devise practical solutions. Instead of solely relying on the correct explanations, challenge yourself to develop your answers to ensure a thorough understanding of each question.

4. Approaching Passages Without a Strategy

Approaching CARS passages without a formulated plan is a significant mistake. To navigate the section successfully, you must develop an attack strategy. This strategy should include techniques such as effective highlighting, identifying question types, and extracting arguments. By implementing a structured approach, you can apply your reading skills strategically and increase your chances of success in the CARS section.

5. Underestimating the Importance of Full-Length Revisions

Illustration depicting a person holding a pencil and sitting at a desk with a question mark above their head, representing exams and the concept of mistakes that affect CARS score MCAT.
Avoid these major mistakes to improve your CARS score! Illustration showcasing the challenges faced during exams and their impact on your CARS score.

One fatal error many MCAT students make is considering CARS full-length revisions unimportant. Engaging in thorough and consistent review sessions is crucial for identifying patterns in your mistakes and improving your performance. By creating a journal to track data about each missed question, including question numbers, types, and your thoughts

During the exam, you can gain valuable insights into your weaknesses and areas that require improvement. By matching this information with characteristics of the wrong answers you chose, you can identify patterns and develop targeted strategies to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Consistent and focused practice, combined with diligent full-length review sessions, will contribute to steady progress and overall growth in your CARS score.

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How to Grow Your CARS Skills – 3 Simple Steps

Developing critical solid Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) is crucial for success in the MCAT. While it may seem daunting, improving your CARS score is within reach with the right approach. By following these three simple steps, you can enhance your CARS skills and increase your chances of achieving a high score:

Step 1: Read Widely and Actively

One of the most effective ways to improve your CARS skills is by immersing yourself in a wide range of reading materials. Reading enhances your vocabulary and comprehension abilities and exposes you to diverse perspectives and argumentative styles. Here are some tips to make the most of your reading practice:

Diversify Your Reading

Seek various genres, including fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, history, and social sciences. That will expose you to different writing styles and subject matters, preparing you for the eclectic passages you’ll encounter in the CARS section.

Annotate and Summarize

As you read, actively engage with the material by highlighting key points, jotting summaries, and identifying the main arguments. This practice will help you develop essential skills for quickly analyzing and extracting information from passages.

Practice Close Reading

Pay attention to the structure of the text, the author’s tone, and the underlying assumptions. Look for connections between paragraphs and identify the author’s intended message. This analytical approach will sharpen your critical thinking skills and enable you to grasp complex arguments effectively.

Step 2: Practice Strategic Reading

CARS passages can be lengthy and challenging, requiring a strategic approach to ensure efficient comprehension and accurate answering of questions. Employ the following strategies to optimize your reading experience:

Skim and Preview

Before diving into the passage, take a few moments to skim the text. Pay attention to section headings, topic sentences, and keywords. This preview will give you a sense of the passage’s structure and allow you to anticipate the main ideas.

Identify the Author’s Argument 

As you read, focus on understanding the central argument or thesis of the passage. Recognizing the author’s viewpoint and identifying the supporting evidence will help you navigate the questions and select the most appropriate answers.

Analyze Question Types

Familiarize yourself with common question types in the CARS section, such as main idea, inference, and tone. Understanding these question types will enable you to approach each question with a targeted strategy and avoid falling into traps.

Manage Your Time 

Time management is crucial in the CARS section. Allocate a specific amount of time for reading and answering each passage and stick to it. Practice timed sections to improve your pacing and ensure you complete it within the allotted time.

Step 3: Review and Learn from Mistakes

Learning from your mistakes is an integral part of improving your CARS skills. Follow these guidelines to maximize the value of your review sessions:

Thoroughly Analyze Incorrect Answers

When reviewing questions you answered incorrectly, go beyond simply understanding why the correct answer is right. Identify the underlying reasons for selecting the wrong answer and pinpoint any misconceptions or gaps in your understanding.

Track and Analyze Patterns

Keep a journal or spreadsheet to record the questions you frequently miss. Look for patterns in your mistakes and analyze the underlying factors contributing to those errors. This systematic approach will help you address specific weaknesses and develop targeted strategies to overcome them.

Seek Feedback and Guidance

Consider seeking instructors, CARS tutors, or study group feedback. Discussing challenging passages and questions with others can provide valuable insights and alternative perspectives. Additionally, leverage resources such as online forums and practice


The CARS section of the MCAT can be challenging, especially for students more accustomed to science-based coursework. However, by understanding and avoiding common mistakes, you can improve your CARS score and enhance your chances of success in the MCAT. 

At Medic Mind, we understand students’ challenges in preparing for the CARS section of the MCAT. We aim to provide you with the resources, guidance, and support you need to excel in this critical section. Why not speak to an MCAT CARS tutor today to see how we can support you.

With consistent practice, a strategic approach, and a commitment to growth, you can conquer the CARS section and achieve your academic goals. Remember, the CARS score is not an insurmountable obstacle but an opportunity to showcase your critical thinking and analytical skills.


โ†’ Q1: How can I improve my reading comprehension skills for the CARS section?

A: To improve your reading comprehension skills for the CARS section, engaging with diverse and advanced materials is important. Seek articles, research papers, and other high-level sources covering economics, philosophy, history, and music. 

โ†’ Q2: What strategies can I use to approach CARS passages effectively?

A: Approaching CARS passages effectively involves several strategies. Before diving into the passage, take a few moments to skim and preview the text. Attention to section headings, topic sentences, and keywords to understand the passage’s structure and anticipate the main ideas. While reading, focus on understanding the author’s argument or thesis and identifying the supporting evidence. 

โ†’ Q3: How can I learn from my mistakes to improve my CARS skills?

A: Learning from mistakes is integral to improving your CARS skills. When reviewing questions you answered incorrectly, go beyond simply understanding why the correct answer is right. Thoroughly analyze your incorrect answers to identify the underlying reasons for selecting the wrong option and pinpoint any misconceptions or gaps in your understanding. 

โ†’ Q4: How important are full-length revisions for CARS preparation?

A: Full-length revisions are highly important for MCAT CARS preparation. Engaging in thorough and consistent review sessions allows you to identify patterns in your mistakes and improve your performance. Create a journal or spreadsheet to track data about each missed question, including question numbers, types, and your thoughts during the exam.

RNolan Profile picture
Rebecca Nolan
Group Content Manager
Certifications: BA History of Art, PGCE Education, PGC Advanced Educational Practice
Education: University: University of East Anglia
Lives in: London

Rebecca studied at History of Art at UEA before deciding on a career in education. Having worked with children from 3-18 years old, she has worked both in the UK and international schools including Dubai and Zurich, where she was Head of Primary. Rebecca has extensive knowledge in curriculum design and has worked with various curricular models including English National Curriculum and International Baccalaureate.

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