All About CARS

The CARS section is uniquely designed to test the analytical and reasoning skills that are vital for success in medical school. Before we get into specific strategies and building all the necessary skills you need to do well in this section, let’s look at what we are up against.

What is CARS?

While CARS is similar to other verbal reasoning tests you might have encountered in your academic career, most students find it to quite a bit harder. It will involve reading passages that come from a wide array of disciplines within the social sciences and humanities and then answering questions that test your ability to comprehend, analyze, and reason through the content presented. The AAMC tells us that the types of passages you will encounter are the ones you will have read in college, which might have been true if you majored in the humanities, but for most students these passages are going to feel fairly foreign.

Passage Overview

In this section, you’ll encounter passages that are typically between 500 and 600 words (I swear they are always this long even if they end up seeming much longer on your actual test). These passages are complex and thought-provoking. They feature sophisticated vocabulary and, at times, intricate writing styles. The key here is that everything you need to answer the questions is contained within the passages themselves. No additional coursework or specific knowledge is required, but you’ll need a strong vocabulary and a solid strategy to do well .

Diverse Content Areas

The content you’ll encounter in CARS spans a vast range of subjects, including ethics, philosophy, diverse cultures, population health, and many other disciplines in social sciences and humanities.

Types of Passages

You will come across two main types of passages:

  1. Social Sciences Passages: These tend to be more factual and scientific in tone. They might discuss psychological and sociological theories or patterns of civilizations based on historical artifacts.
  2. Humanities Passages: These often focus on the relationships between ideas and are likely to be written in a more conversational or opinionated style. Topics might range from how art reflects historical changes to philosophical discussions.

Question Distribution and Timing

The CARS section consists of 53 passage-based questions and you will have 90 minutes to get through all the questions. These questions are categorized into three main areas:

  • Foundations of Comprehension (30%)
  • Reasoning Within the Text (30%)
  • Reasoning Beyond the Text (40%)

The types of questions are kind of irrelevant as the AAMC’s categorization of questions is often flexible. While we won’t focus on the AAMC categories we will look at specific types of questions and how to tackle them.

While I could write a while book about the complexities of the CARS section we are going to stop this overview here as it is really only designed to help you get a sense of what the section is like and what we are building all these skills and strategies for.