This is Part 4 of a series breaking down each section for the new MCAT 2015. Be sure to check out the whole series to get the full rundown of all things new with the upcoming MCAT 2015 because this really is a whole new ballgame! The new sections really aren’t just revamped versions of the old 3 sections: Biological Science, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning, these integrated giant sections are really brand new monster sections! On the menu today: The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills or CARS Section! The official tagline of this section is that it assesses your ability to “Analyze, Evaluate and Apply Information Presented in the Passages”. As you’re aware of by now, the magic word for the MCAT 2015 is integration and the CARS section is basically testing your comprehension by integration! Yep, integration is here too!
The CARS section is different from the others in quite a few ways. First off it’s slightly shorter, you only have 90 minutes here and about 50-60 passage-based questions (no free-standing). It’s also different from the other sections because you don’t necessarily need specific content knowledge to answer these questions; all the information needed is in the text (and your interpretation of said info). The topics of the passages fall into two broad categories and are distributed equally in the section: 50% Humanities and 50% Social Sciences. These cover big subjects like Ethics, Population Health, Philosophy, Studies in Diverse Cultures, and etc. Below is MCAT Cracker’s further breakdown of possible topics in Humanities and Social Sciences:
Notice that these aren’t the ‘Natural Sciences’ kind of subjects and that’s because Medical Schools want to see you apply your analytical and critical thinking to these areas of study too! You have to be well-rounded and well-read to succeed not just in future schooling but also to be a productive member of the healthcare community. Keeping that in mind, you should know these passages are highly stylized in writing type and contain a fancy vocabulary. They are meant to be complex and thought-provoking pieces, different from medical journals and textbooks that you’re used to. You’ll have to read the text and consider the author’s intentions, tone, point of view then be make inferences and suggestions based of all that. If it’s been a while since you’ve had to do this kind of reading, that’s completely understandable! Recreational reading? Who’s got the time? With practice, *coughMCATCRACKERcough*, you really can hone your Critical Analysis and Reasoning skills set! Check out the AAMC’s spiel on the CARS section here and MCAT Cracker’s full introduction video to it below:
Although there are no Foundation Concepts covered in this section like the rest of them, here are the skills and percentage breakdown being tested here:
1) Foundations of Comprehension (30%) – Summarizing the text and developing the overall meaning
2) Reasoning Within the Text (30%) – Evaluating and critiquing the big picture!
3) Reasoning Beyond the Text (40%) – Synthesizing, adapting, and reinterpreting the concepts and content of the passages
This Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section is not to be taken lightly and the skills they’re testing really are important for you sooooo PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! This is not just reading comprehension; you gotta Analyze, Evaluate, and Apply your reading of the text! Hop to it! Go to MCAT Cracker and PRACTICE!