Day 3 – Reviewing/ Timing
Ok, hopefully, your burn through CARS material is in the mail, and you did your one passage yesterday. If you didn’t, today’s a new day offering you a fresh start. Remember to take every passage under timed conditions. Our goal early on is to build your intuition about the correct pacing for the CARS section. This is why it is so important to do your passages timed and especially in the early stages, to do them within the time intervals I laid out on Day 1. If you’re getting through a 7 question passage in significantly less time than 12 minutes, try and slow down a little bit to make sure you’re not missing anything.If you’re taking much longer than 9 minutes on a 5 question passage, try speeding up some and letting go of the harder questions in the passage sooner. As we proceed through these first 30 days, I’ll outline a more nuanced timing strategy where you aren’t so worried about the number of questions and minutes, but for now, you’re training and getting comfortable. Keep up the hard work. As with all new things, it’s new and uncomfortable at first.
1)For the first week, do one passage a day, no matter what!
2)Use the following time intervals for the CARS section:
a.For a passage with 5 questions | 9 Minutes
b.For a passage with 6 questions | 10.5 Minutes
c.For a passage with 7 questions | 12 Minutes
Reviewing/ (Timing again!):
So now on to some new material for today. One of the major misconceptions most pre-meds have about studying for the CARS section is the emphasis placed on reviewing passages and questions. To get an ultra-high score, you’re going to have to review your tests in great detail. For those looking to score in the 90%+ range, you’ll need to be able to identify question types, wrong answer pathologies, and parse the author’s arguments into their components. These are all critical skills for top tier success, but they are not foundational skills. I cannot count the number of students I’ve taught and tutored who spent hours trying to master advanced strategies by reviewing their practice tests in great detail but yet were still consistently rushing the last third of the test: basically sprinting through the last three passages and question sets. Studying the advanced strategies first is like trying to run a marathon before you can walk. It just doesn’t work. I’m going to say something controversial, but it is the critical first step to getting a great score on the MCAT CARS section, whether you’re shooting for an average, above average, or ultra-high (Stanford/Harvard) score.
Until you’re able to consistently finish your CARS practice tests on time without rushing through any passages, you shouldn’t be reviewing your practice tests. Instead, you should be taking more practice tests.
I know this is heresy for some, but if my teaching and tutoring experiences have taught me anything it is this: Most students have the ability to score well on the CARS sectionon day one. The problem is their pacing.If they were able to master their pacing, they would start with a strong score. This means a few things:
Don’t waste time reviewing your practice tests until:
- You are consistently finishing your passages without rushing.
- You are consistently finishing your passages without staring at the clock to regulate whether you should speed up or slow down. (We are trying to build your CARS pacing intuition, which does not mean staring at the clock all the time).
- You are consistently letting go of hard questions without getting snagged on them and wasting precious time.*This is the single easiest change that MCATers can make.
1) The first time you think to yourself, “I’m spending a lot of time on this question” look at the clock and give yourself 30 more seconds.
2) Eliminate any answer choices you can.
3) After 30 seconds, guess, mark the question for reviewing later, and tell yourself “I’ll come back to this once I get the easy ones.”
4) If you do this, you will have time at the end of the test to come back, and more often than not, giving yourself a little time to clear your head, you’ll see the question anew and what you were missing the first time.
Once you master your pacing, then it’s time to move on to the advanced techniques we’ll explore later in our 30-day learning phase. For those of you seething at the mouth right now, we will go over my detailed approach to reviewing CARS passages, questions, and answer types soon. You will develop your advanced CARS techniques, but you’ve got to master the basics first. Until then, keep doing your daily passage and focus on not getting snagged on the hard questions.
Just because it’s so important, I’ll say it again, practice letting go of the hard questions. Getting your timing down is the easiest way to make huge improvements on the CARS section. You’re already smart enough to do well on the CARS right now. It’s just that you’re not used to the correct pacing yet, and you aren’t in the habit of letting go of the difficult questions that most test takers get wrong anyways.
Remember: The question that will keep you out of your top medical school is not the one you get wrong, but the one you spend too much time on.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow!
Today’s Assignment: Do One CARS Passage Under Timed Conditions
“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.”
– Ralph Martson