Practicing passage problems after passage problems is essential for the CARS section on the MCAT. The CARS section does not cover any previous knowledge from your pre-med courses and tends to be the most difficult section on the MCAT. Here are the best available practice resources for CARS.
When it comes to practice problems, the AAMC should always come first. This is simply because they are the creators of the MCAT and therefore any problems produced by the actual test-makers will be most accurate to the MCAT language.
The AAMC sells 2 question packs devoted to the CARS section. Each question pack has 120 questions. They also have 4 practice tests, as well as the official guide to the MCAT, which has additional CARS practice passages.
All the CARS passages are online and formated exactly like the actual MCAT providing a test day experience for every practice session.
#2 The Princeton Review MCAT CARS Workbook
After the AAMC, The Princeton Review CARS workbook is the best for practicing the CARS section. With almost 300 pages of practice problems and solutions, this book provides a lot of great extra practice.
The number 1 important quality of this book is its relatability to the actual MCAT exam.
The Princeton Review does a great job of capturing the elements of the AAMC’s CARS passages. Specifically, the length of the passages, the way certain sentences are stressed more than others, and, most importantly, the lack of interesting articles that the AAMC likes to use.
The CARS workbook does an excellent job with reviewing passages. The solutions section reviews each answer choice, explaining why the correct answer was right and the incorrect answers were wrong.
They will also provide you the “bottom line” of the passages which is the overall theme of the passage. This is similar to a thesis for an essay. Having this “bottom line” in the solutions really helps gauge whether or not you actually read the passage properly and understood what it was trying to say.
In addition to the “bottom line”, The Princeton Review will tell you the difficulty level of the passage and whether or not you should have done that passage first or later. Being able to distinguish the difficulty level of a CARS passage is crucial for timing.
The reality is that you will only have time to do about 7 of the CARS passages properly. You will have to rush through the final 2 passages and you want to make sure you save the most difficult ones for last. You want to make sure you spend the most time on passages you know you can get 100% correct.
Finally, the solutions section offers a great chart to document your progress. This chart has you put in the passage number, the type of question you got wrong, the attractor that led you to that answer, and a place to explain what you did wrong. This helps you keep track of what kind of mistakes you are making and how you can improve.
The major pitfall of The Princeton Review CARS workbook is its price and availability. Purchasing this book new can be expensive due to the lack of production The Princeton Review seems to be doing.
There are a lot of used copies you can find. However, be careful when purchasing a used MCAT book. You need to make sure you get one that is minimally marked up. There is no point practicing CARS passages that have all the correct answers circled.
Out of all the CARS practice problems out there, aside from the AAMC, we believe The Princeton Review CARS workbook is the most accurate study source. With great problem explanations and the ability to chart your progress, this book is a no brainer first choice for your MCAT CARS practice arsenal.
#3 Examkrackers 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning
This book is recommended by almost all of the MCAT test-taking experts. The Examkrackers 101 Passages in CARS contains, as you might have guessed, 101 passages. The additional practice is pivotal to doing well on the MCAT.
When comparing Examkrackers’ relativity to the MCAT passages with The Princeton Review CARS workbook, The Princeton Review wins. Purchase this book after you have completed all of the AAMC CARS and The Princeton Review Workbook passages.
The questions in this book tend to be more difficult than what you would expect on the real MCAT. Keep that in mind when you are correcting your mistakes!
It can be discouraging to think you are doing worse than you actually are. On the other hand, it is better to have practice passages that are more difficult instead of easier than actual MCAT problems.
Examkrackers’ MCAT 101 CARS passages provide very detailed explanations to the correct and incorrect answers. They do a great job of going into detail about the logic behind the correct answer.
One common complaint is the number of typos found in the solutions’ sections. There are a noticeable amount of grammar mistakes as well as correct and incorrect answers in the wrong place. Slightly annoying but definitely not a deal-breaker. Just keep an eye out for mistakes and you will be fine!
Unlike The Princeton Review CARS workbook, this book is relatively inexpensive and much easier to find.
Examkrackers offers a great extra resource of CARS passages. The questions tend to be more difficult than what you would expect on the actual exam but otherwise very accurate to the actual MCAT exam.
Note: There is a newer addition designed for the post-2015 MCAT called Examkrackers MCAT 101 Passages: CARS. We still recommend the older edition based on student feedback. It is still very accurate to the new exam and arguably written better than the new edition. Also, it’s cheaper!
#4 Next Step CARS
If you are still needing more practice (We always recommend more practice!), Next Step’s 108 passages for CARS is a close contender. With over 500 pages and 108 passages, Next Step offers the most in the market.
This next step book tends to be easier than what you would expect on the actual MCAT. Therefore, we give it a fairly low accuracy rating simply because you don’t want to primarily study material that is easier than the real deal.
However, Next Step has a good variety of passages. They are good about hitting all the categories that the MCAT tends to hit (Art, History, Social Sciences, etc.) within their “practice exams.”
Next Step tends to shine in the solutions department. They provide great explanations to all the answer choices both correct and incorrect. In addition to this, Next Step will provide a quick summary/notes for each paragraph of the passage and they will include an overall summary of the passages’ main idea.
This helps develop the skill of quickly discovering the main idea of a passage and tying it together with every paragraph. Very important when it comes to time management on the actual exam.
Overall the Next Step CARS practice book is worth the investment. Next Step has been leading the MCAT prep industry in problem explanation and they do not fall short with CARS.
The only major problem is that their questions tend to be easier than what you would expect on the actual MCAT. As long as you keep this in mind and make sure you are not overly confident for the real deal, this book is still considered one of the top 3 third party resources for CARS practice.
How To Ensure Success With The CARS Section?
As mentioned earlier in this article, practicing MCAT CARS passages over and over is key to your success. Make a habit of consistently practicing at least 3 passages every day while you study for the MCAT.
If you study for 90 days, you should end up doing at least 270 practice passages. This will require purchasing several of the above resources, but I promise it will be worth it in the end. If you practice 270 practice passages, you will do well on the CARS section.
By the way, if you are needing more help improving your MCAT CARS score, check out my article on how to improve your MCAT CARS score containing essential tips.