Start Your Engines…Sketchy MCAT is Taking on the CARS Section (2024)

Turn your MCAT CARS practice into one picture worth a 600-word CARS passage. Learn how Sketchy CARS takes visual learning to the next level.

Sketchy makes learning unforgettable for really challenging topics—you know, like the kinds of topics on the MCAT. Take a look at our lessons and you’ll find everything from organic chemistry to physics.

The only thing is… the MCAT isn’t only about science. Uhhh what?? Yeah, there’s more to life acing the MCAT than all that biochem and genetics studying you’ve been doing. There’s this thing called


CARS stands for Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills and it’s a MCAT section full of really hard-to-read passages about subjects that include the humanities. Then there are 53 tricky questions to answer. All under a tight time limit of 90 minutes.

Huh…say that again? The CARS section on the MCAT is:

      • Hard-to-read passages you have to internalize on the spot
      • Tricky questions that are easier if you remember the most important parts of the passage
      • Tight time limit that rewards quick and efficient thinking

Wow, it would be really nice if there was a method proven to help you

      • Encode information in your brain really quickly (like, say, from a hard-to-read passage)...
      • Recall that information with excellent accuracy (when you see the questions)…
      • And save a ton of time in the process

Hold up—this sounds a lot like a method we know all about at Sketchy. It’s the method of loci, the same process underlying every Sketchy lesson ever made. If a memory palace can help you memorize the Krebs cycle could it also help you memorize the key points of a CARS passage to ace the questions?

We thought it might. And after combining our creative powers at Sketchy HQ, we made a major MCAT breakthrough.

Start Your Engines…Sketchy MCAT is Taking on the CARS Section (1)

First, a little background. You probably already know this, but basically every CARS course in the world tells you to do something while you read. There’s no better way to doom your CARS score than to just passively scan your eyes over the passage and get nothing out of it. So every course, or tutor, or “Top 10 CARS Tips” article is going to tell you to map the passage, or highlight key terms, or ask yourself questions while reading, or something along those lines.

But there’s one problem all those typical CARS methods have in common: they’re all words. Words, words, words. You have a whole brain in your skull just begging for visuospatial stimuli, and you’re feeding it nothing but text! So we say: when working on the MCAT CARS section, don’t make an outline, don’t lean on your highlighting tool – try visualizing and take advantage of your imagination.

Take a passage like this:

Successive generations of academics and scholars have studied both fiction and nonfiction writings from Norse history. The focus of these studies has not just been the purported writings contemporaneous to the Vikings themselves, but also texts from the intervening years since, reflecting on the history and myth less-further removed than we are in the present day. This reflection across multiple eras of history can, with the proper perspective and analysis, create a kinship between today’s scholars and the rugged, lived experience of a civilization long departed.

Which is going to help you better understand this paragraph, and recall it to answer questions: A hastily-written paragraph summary on your noteboard, like

Studies of mult. Norse eras = connections btwn past + present

Or this:

Start Your Engines…Sketchy MCAT is Taking on the CARS Section (2)

Now imagine, across an entire passage, creating a mental canvas of every major character and interaction, full of emotion and drama, searing it into your brain so it makes sense and you spend less time researching the passage to answer the questions. You do that nine times to finish the section, you kick the CARS section to the curb, and you slow walk to med school. It’s a whole new way to CARS, it really works, and it’s actually a lot of fun. (Though you don’t have to tell anyone you’re having fun studying for the MCAT if you don’t want to.)

In our MCAT CARS course, we don’t just wave our hands and say “draw pictures with your mind.” Building on the foundation of our proven Sketchy method, we use some seriously awesome art and a whole lot of Sketchy flair. But we didn’t stop there. For this new course, we combined art and animation with real footage of a real Sketchy Genius to lead the way. You’ll learn how to make the BEST visualizations for maximum stickiness and efficiency. We walk through official AAMC content to prove that it works on real MCAT CARS passages from the actual testmaker. And it’s not all about the visuals – we’ve even got a few extra passage-reading and question-answering techniques up our sleeves for good measure.

There are also a lot of automotive puns. Sorry, sometimes we get CARried away.

Start Your Engines…Sketchy MCAT is Taking on the CARS Section (3)

Sign up for a free trial today to see our basic CARS rundown free of charge, and then sign up for our brand-new MCAT Prep Essentials bundle to see the entire course. In addition to all 300+ of our science videos, you’ll get the full suite of our brand new CARS course. It’s filled with:

      • Strategy videos
      • Secret hacks
      • Passage visualizations
      • Question solvers

PLUS we’ll include a code that lets you access all the MCAT practice that the AAMC has on offer. That’s right, get your AAMC practice now with Sketchy. The MCAT Prep Essentials bundle is your comprehensive recourse to crush the MCAT. So pick up the course, rock the MCAT, and we’ll see you in med school.

Start Your Engines…Sketchy MCAT is Taking on the CARS Section (4)


Start Your Engines…Sketchy MCAT is Taking on the CARS Section (2024)


How many questions can you get wrong on MCAT CARS? ›

In the CARS section with 53 questions, you can usually get: 5 wrong answers (90% accuracy) and score 130 (top 5%) 10 wrong answers (83% accuracy) and score 127-128 (top 25%) 15 wrong answers (72% accuracy) and score 125 (top 50%)

How hard is the CARS section of the MCAT? ›

That being said, the CARS section of the MCAT is more difficult to study for. It tests your ability to comprehend and analyze text, which is a skill that's built over time. If you know you want to attend medical school, you should begin reading regularly right away.

Is 127 on CARS good? ›

Achieving a 127 indicates that you have performed above the average and have demonstrated a strong grasp of critical reading, analytical thinking, and reasoning abilities. Many medical schools have a benchmark score for CARS, and a 127 could meet the requirements of several institutions.

Is 493 a bad MCAT score? ›

Attaining a score of 493 on the MCAT means you performed in the 29% percentile. An even distribution for the section scores is preferred.

How many questions can I miss on cars to get a 128? ›

There are 9 passages on each MCAT CARS exam. If you miss one question for 6 passages and then 2 on the other three, you are looking at a solid 127 or possibly even a 128. I think that's really do-able, especially on the new MCAT CARS section. As you miss more than 13, you gradually go towards the other scores.

What is the hardest section to improve on the MCAT? ›

What is the hardest section of the MCAT? The two sections that students typically have the most difficulty with on the exam is either Chem/Phys or CARS.

What is the most heavily tested subject on the MCAT? ›

The biological and biochemical sciences are the most heavily tested subjects on the MCAT.

Is the CARS Q pack 1 harder? ›

The AAMC offers two CARS Question Packs—called Volume 1 and Volume 2—and between the two of them you get a total of 43 passages. It's worth doing every single one of them. But there's a few other things you should know about them before you start. The first thing is that Volume 1 is actually harder than the real MCAT.

How to get better at CARS MCAT? ›

Here are some recommendations to improve your CARS score:
  1. Read more! Focus on the topics that you don't like — I'm looking at you dense philosophy passages. ...
  2. Work on some untimed practice to hone your comprehension. ...
  3. Change up how you review questions you missed. ...
  4. Identify why you are missing questions.

What is the easiest section of the MCAT? ›

Not Preparing for MCAT CARS

MCAT CARS is often considered the easiest section of the MCAT since it does not test specific knowledge in any particular subject. However, this does not mean that MCAT CARS does not require preparation.

How to get a perfect score on CARS? ›

One top scorer recommendation is to allocate 9 minutes/passage and leave 9 minutes as leeway/fudge factor. Once you have your time constraint per passage, it is crucial that you maintain your attention span. Some people have a hard time staying focused and staying "in the passage" when reading the passage.

Should I retake a 515 MCAT? ›

While going from 515 to 517 looks good, going from 498 to 501 looks great. So statistically speaking, unless you're already in the very highest tier of test takers, chances are that retaking the MCAT will result in a better score and will ultimately benefit your application.

Can a high GPA offset a low MCAT? ›

What can outweigh a low MCAT? The most traditional strategy for offsetting a low MCAT is having a very high GPA. These two application elements are often considered in relation to each other. So, having a high GPA can truly save a lower MCAT score!

What is a 50% on the MCAT? ›

50th percentile – total score: 501/502; score for each section: between 124-126. 75th percentile – total score: 509/510; score for each section: between 126-128. 90th percentile – total score: 515; score for each section: between 128-130.

How many questions can you miss on the MCAT to pass? ›

On the MCAT, there is no penalty for wrong answers, so students are encouraged to put an answer down for all questions. The highest MCAT score one can get is a 528, which equates to a student getting a scaled score of 132 on each of the four sections.

How many questions can you miss on the MCAT to get a 125? ›

The truth about MCAT scoring is that missing six questions could equate to a score of 131 or it could be a 125, depending on the test difficulty.

What is the average MCAT score for cars? ›

MCAT Percentiles for the CARS Section

The average MCAT score for the critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) section is 124.7 in 2023-2024, down from 124.9 in 2015. To score in the 90th percentile, you must have scored 128 or higher.

Does taking the MCAT 3 times look bad? ›

Taking the MCAT twice is fine; even three times shouldn't impact your admissions too much. However, any more tries can begin to damage your application. If you're struggling to acquire your intended score on the exam, book a one-on-one tutoring session with one of our consultants.


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