The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT is challenging for many students. Even those who have immersed themselves in the humanities may find this portion of the test more difficult than they anticipate. Even for the most confident and facile readers the CARS section can pose hurdles; the passages can be dense. The Khan Academy provides a quick video overview of the CARS section of the MCAT. All premed students—whether those with science or humanities backgrounds—should prepare for CARS by becoming familiar with both its format and the types of questions posed.

For some students, CARS is especially challenging. It is also the section of the test which is hardest to improve; improving content knowledge on the other sections of the MCAT usually equates with score improvement. Since the CARS section has no real content, gains are harder to realize.

I have specific techniques that help students increase their score on the CARS section of the MCAT. There is one strategy, in particular, that helps students improve—and it is relatively easy to do. But it requires diligence and discipline, with steady reading done on a daily basis. To improve your CARS score try the following strategy:

1. Over a span of at least several months (two at a minimum) read the OpEd pages of major newspapers daily. OpEds are found on the back page of the major news section of newspapers and represent the opinion of writers not affiliated with that particular paper (usually). An example is the OpEd page of the New York Times. The Washington Post’s OpEd page is here and the Los Angeles Times is here. These can easily be accessed online at no cost.

2. Choose at least one OpEd to read each day and become accustomed to the writing style (usually dense prose). If possible, read two or more. Read these articles every day for at least a week.

3. After the first week or two, begin to set a time limit for the articles you read. The time limit might vary according to the length of the piece. The point is to speed up your reading and stress yourself slightly so that you’re forced to read fast. Become accustomed to this more fast-paced style of reading for at least several weeks. Continue to read OpEds every day. Continue reading

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Yale medical school has announced that it plans to reduce student debt by 50%; the goal is for students to graduate with <$60,000 in debt, well below the average nationally ($196K in 2018).  The Association of American Medical Colleges has a plethora of information about medical school affordability and aid.  With the recent announcement by NYU medical school to go tuition free many medical schools are scrambling to reduce student debt; Yale is the latest school to announce news about financial aid incentives.

Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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NYU has announced that it will open a new medical school on Long Island and will begin accepting applications in the 2019-2020 cycle. It will be a three-year program—with no tuition—and will focus on training primary care practitioners. The program received preliminary accreditation from the LCME. Matriculating students will also have a conditional acceptance to a residency program at Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, New York, where the school is located. Only 24 students will be admitted to the first class, with a maximum of 40 in subsequent classes.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, California is opening a new medical school in 2020; they will begin accepting applications in the 2019-2020 cycle. They announced recently that they will waive tuition for the first five classes; this will undoubtedly create a surge in applications. Information about the admissions process for the first class of 48 students can be found here. The school has preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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There are several written parts to the medical school application but the central component—and the one in which applicants have the most open space to convey their past experiences and future goals—is the personal statement. In the AMCAS application the prompt for the personal statement is:

Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.” 

Prompts in the other applications (TMDSAS and AACOMAS) are similar. The space allotted in the AMCAS application is 5300 characters, including spaces, which is approximately one single-spaced page. In that short amount of space you must articulate clearly your reasons for wanting a career in medicine. Your medical school personal statement should be a convincing piece of prose: through your writing you need to convey your excitement about your chosen profession, along with evidence that you’ve tested the profession through clinical experiences.

I have read and helped applicants refine their personal statements for 25 years. To write the most effective possible statement adhere to these basic principles:

Draw in the reader:  The personal statement should have both immediacy—drawing in the reader instantly—and big-picture goals. It should help the reader understand what you’ve done to learn about the medical profession and convey your broad interests and what you eventually hope to accomplish as a physician.  Continue reading

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The Association of American Medical Colleges is hosting a virtual medical school fair on Feb. 21st from 11am – 8pm EST. Click the above link to register. Enjoy!

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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UCLA’s School of Medicine has raised the bar on its GPA and MCAT scores for applicants to be eligible for admission, sparking some controversy about the effect this might have on holistic review of applicants and the resulting diversity of the medical school’s student population.  The new cutoff numbers will be 3.4 and 512, according to the proposal that will be implemented in the 2019-2020 application cycle. Students offered a different proposal to counter the proposed policy change.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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As a premedical advisor for the last 25+ years, I have ample experience guiding students through the challenging science prerequisites for medical school admission. At Johns Hopkins and Goucher, where I directed their postbac programs, I helped non-science students transition to full immersion in science courses and I encouraged students to adopt study skills suitable to science. As a medical school admissions consultant, I guide students through their premedical courses and the medical school application process. The following basic tips will help premed students master the sciences.

1. Details, details, details. Learning science is like learning a new language. When learning a new language you must pay attention to detail. Trying to learn science without memorizing formulas or reactions is like trying to learn a language without paying attention to vocabulary.

2. Read ahead. Premeds are pressed for time, but this technique reaps rewards. Prior to a lecture, skim the chapter/s to familiarize yourself with the material and any terms, graphs, charts or formulas; the lecture will be much more understandable, and you’ll learn and understand more.

3. Take good notes. You don’t have to write down everything that’s said in class. But pay attention to the important details, especially examples that will help you remember concepts later, when studying.

4. Review class notes. Reviewing—and perhaps rewriting—your notes will help reinforce material. This should be done within a day or two of the lecture to be most effective. If something is not clear from your notes, look up what you don’t understand. Continue reading

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New this year, AMCAS has instituted the “Choose Your Medical School Tool“. This is designed to help medical schools shape their incoming class with more precision. The tool will also push applicants to refine their choices according to a timeline imposed by AMCAS. In its explanation of the tool, AMCAS emphasizes strongly that the tool does not replace normal communications between schools and applicants. You should always keep schools notified regarding your decision to accept an offer of admission, stay on a waiting list, or withdraw from consideration. The Choose Your Medical School Tool is intended to supplement individual communications between applicants and medical schools. This is how it will work:

February 19:  Starting on this date, applicants will be able to select “Plan to Enroll” for the school you like best from amongst those where you have been admitted. You can still hold other acceptances elsewhere.

April 15:  By this time AMCAS wants you to have narrowed down your school options to three from amongst those where you have been admitted or waitlisted, and then you will ultimately narrow it to one by April 30th (see below), unless you remain on several waitlists. If you are certain of your choice at this point you can opt for “Commit to Enroll” for that school.

April 30:  By this date you should have made a final decision about where you will enroll, choosing “Commit to Enroll” — unless you want to remain on a waitlist (or more than one).  You will withdraw all other applications (including waitlist positions) if you select Commit to Enroll. In essence, if you select Commit to Enroll you are guaranteeing a medical school that you will matriculate.  If you choose one school but want to remain on a waiting list you would leave the selection as “Plan to Enroll.”  Only after you’ve made your final decision will you switch to “Commit to Enroll.”

Refer to the AMCAS information (link above) for the exact wording and instructions.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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Leapfrog, an organization that tracks hospitals’ safety records, has given UCSD top honors for having the best teaching hospital in the nation. Information about UCSD School of Medicine can be found here.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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