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.