The following paragraph and related questions can give you an idea of what the MCAT CARS section of the test is like. Keep in mind that this is only an excerpt; an actual passage would be much longer, and would have from five to seven questions associated with it. (The answers are at the end so that you can try this out on your own.)
MCAT Practice Questions: CARS
1. Based on the passage, which of the following statements must be true?
A) If morality is extremely demanding, then one always ought to act so as to produce the best possible circumstances.
B) If moral standards do not preclude the personal projects humans find most fulfilling, then they are not that extreme.
C) Some people always act in ways that produce the best possible circumstances.
D) Morality precludes the personal projects that humans find most fulfilling.
2. Which of the following claims provides the most support in the passage for the “simple principle?”
A) Ethical projects should be completely without constraints.
B) Objections to the simple principle are difficult to imagine.
C) Moral theories are not less valid if they require great sacrifices.
D) Nobody always acts to produce the best possible circumstances.
Are You Prepared for CARS on the MCAT?
The answers to the questions are Question 1: B and Question 2: C. Bear in mind that these are very challenging questions that require critical analysis skills, and they are based on a very demanding passage. However, this is typical of what the MCAT is likely to present, and the name of the section says clearly what you need to have: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
Question #1 Explained
Question 1: The correct answer is B. The sentence in the passage is an “if X then Y” construction. For any “if X then Y” statement, the contrapositive will always be true: “if not Y, then not X.” This corresponds to answer choice B. Answer choice A is the inverse, which is not necessarily true; “if X then Y” does not necessarily mean that “if Y then X.” Answer choice C is something that might be true, but the question asks what must be true, which is not the same. Answer choice D is too extreme, as the author did not state that this was always true.
Question #2 Explained
Question 2: The correct answer is C. The benefits of the “simple principle” are discussed in the second paragraph, and the answer is stated almost word for word in the second sentence. Answer choice A is too extreme; although the author said constraints are difficult to imagine, he did not say that they should not exist. Answer choice B is exactly the opposite of the passage; several objections are laid out in the first paragraph. Answer choice D is also opposite, because it is used to argue against the “simple principle” rather than to support it.
The skills you need to do well on the CARS section of the MCAT are different from those on the rest of the test: there is no set content that you can learn. However, CARS requires certain strategies and skills, and these can be learned: reading efficiently by finding the most important information without getting caught up in details; understanding inferences, assumptions and arguments within passages; and practicing questions that are similar to those found on the MCAT CARS section.
You can learn more about the CARS section of the test in the larger context of the entire MCAT here.
MCAT CARS: What the AAMC says
The AAMC defined the three types of questions that we’ve discussed, as well as the types of passages that you’re likely to encounter on the MCAT CARS section. You can visit the AAMC site to learn more about the MCAT Blueprint.
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MCAT Physical Sciences Section
What does the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section cover?
The MCAT Verbal Reasoning section is designed to test critical thinking skills. All questions in this section are based on passages. The topics of the passages can vary from scientific material, to social commentary, to literature, to opinion and editorial pieces. Questions will focus on interpreting the author’s focus and intent in the passage, and will often present hypothetical scenarios that require test-takers to make inferences and predictions. The section does not test grammar, vocabulary, or spelling. The MCAT Verbal Reasoning section focuses entirely on passage content, writing style, bias, use of evidence, argument, and fundamental composition techniques. Varsity Tutors offers resources like free MCAT Verbal Reasoning Diagnostic Tests to help with your self-paced study, or you may want to consider an MCAT Verbal Reasoning tutor.
How many problems are on the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section, and how much time do I have to complete them?
The MCAT Verbal Reasoning section consists of 40 questions. 60 minutes are allotted for this section. This section consists of approximately 8 passages, with 4 to 8 questions each. There are no discrete questions in the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section.
Should I guess on the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section?
There is no guessing penalty on the MCAT. Scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly, and are not affected by questions skipped or answered incorrectly. It is a good strategy to answer every question on the exam, even if you must guess.
What kinds of problems are on the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section?
Questions in the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section are all multiple-choice and passage-based. Questions frequently ask test takers to identify the author’s position on an argument, then apply their interpretation of the author’s argument to different situations and scenarios. For example, questions commonly ask how the author would respond to a hypothetical situation in relation to the passage. Other questions ask about the reasoning behind the author’s use of evidence, the author’s tone or opinion, or the author’s choices in composition style. While the answers to some questions can be found directly in the passage material, most MCAT Verbal Reasoning questions require interpretation of the passage and extrapolation from the presented material.
How should I study for the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section?
Use these free MCAT Verbal Practice Tests, provided by Varsity Tutors, to get a sense of how you might do on the MCAT’s Verbal section. These practice tests contain passage-based questions in the format of the official MCAT exam to help you become familiar with testing format. Each test covers a variety of question types. You can use this tool to help identify specific topics for review, allowing you to focus your studying and improve your MCAT mastery.
You can also use Varsity Tutors’ other free MCAT Verbal Reasoning resources to help you study, such as free MCAT Verbal Reasoning Diagnostic Tests, free MCAT Verbal Reasoning Flashcards, and free MCAT Verbal Reasoning Questions of the Day. Our free MCAT Verbal Reasoning resources are written by teachers, professors, content specialists, and tutors. Explanations are given for each question, so if you miss a question, you can find out where you went wrong.
How can I prepare for the MCAT Verbal Reasoning section?
There are a variety of Full-Length MCAT Verbal Reasoning Practice Tests available through Varsity Tutors’ Learning Tools. Any of these complete practice tests can assist you in getting a general overview of your knowledge level. The free practice tests can also help you assemble a custom review plan, as the results page following the test tells you which of the topics you already know, and which topics need further review. The results page also offers a variety of other great resources, such as clear, simple explanations of the correct answers and links that take you to more review opportunities on key concepts. When you feel ready to test your new knowledge, assess your progress and refine your study plan by taking another Full-Length MCAT Verbal Reasoning Practice Test. There are also other free MCAT Verbal Reasoning Practice Tests that consist of a concept-specific selection of 10 to 12 questions to give you a cross-section of topics from the Verbal Reasoning section of the official MCAT. You might think of them as little quizzes, which you can use to hone your skills. In addition to the MCAT Verbal Reasoning Practice Tests and MCAT Verbal Reasoning tutoring, you may also want to consider using some of our MCAT Verbal Reasoning flashcards.
Our completely free MCAT Verbal practice tests are the perfect way to brush up your skills. Take one of our many MCAT Verbal practice tests for a run-through of commonly asked questions. You will receive incredibly detailed scoring results at the end of your MCAT Verbal practice test to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Pick one of our MCAT Verbal practice tests now and begin!