MCAT 2015 Basics
The new MCAT 2015 is very different from the MCAT of years ago. The standard MCAT, which everyone knows and loves, will make its last appearance in September 2014. After that, the MCAT 2015 takes its place in January 2015. With this new version, new test sections emerge. One of the four sections is called Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS). Here's what you can expect from it: the questions, skills required and content involved.
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Basics
Although the total testing time is referred to as "approximate" by the AAMC, here are the statistics provided about this section:
- 60 questions
- 10 reading passages with 5-7 questions following each
- Most reading passages are between 500 – 600 words
- ~90 minutes of testing (a little over an hour and a half)
- Multiple choice questions with four answer choices
- Reading passages taken from Social Sciences and Humanities
CARS Skills Required
Although you've probably taken many reading comprehension tests before now, the MCAT reading section is complex. The writing is complex. The vocabulary is complex. And like it or not, the content is complex, as well. So, you'll need to use all of the reading comprehension skills in your arsenal in order to be able to process the information presented and answer the ensuing questions.
- Foundations of Comprehension: 30% of your questions will test your ability to understand the basic components of the text and infer meaning from rhetorical devices, word choice, and text structure
- Reasoning Within the Text: 30% of your questions will require you to integrate different components of the text to increase comprehension
- Reasoning Beyond the Text: 40% of your questions will require you to apply knowledge or extrapolate ideas from the passage to new contexts and assess the impact of introducing new factors, information, or conditions to ideas from the passage
CARS Content Tested
Unlike the three other sections in the MCAT 2015, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section does not require any outside knowledge. All of the information you'll need to be successful lies within the passages themselves. However, it's in your best interest to practice answering the types of questions you'll see on this exam and reading passage that are similar in order to hone those CARS skills.
Five of the passages you'll read will be humanities passages, or those with subjects related to the following list. These passages may offer opinions, and will often be written in a conversational style. Pay careful attention to the author's tone, author's purpose and word choice to get a sense of the underlying themes and assertions presented.
- Popular Culture
The other five passages will be related to the social sciences, or topics dealing with subjects from the following categories. The MCAT CARS writers are especially deft at weaving several concepts together in order for you to evaluate and analyze data, so be sure to make inferences and check your reasoning processes before answering.
- Cultural Studies
- Political Science
- Population Health
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Wrap-Up
This section does not require the usage of mnemonic devices to memorize lists and lists of terms and ideas. It does, however, require practice because reading difficult passages in a timed setting can be daunting if you haven't prepared enough. If you manage your time wisely, however, you can actually fit studying into your busy schedule. Just be sure to plan far enough in advance so you're not trying to battle test-taking anxiety along with test prep strategies, too.