Why your CARS score is dropping

by Gabe

You should always expect some variation in your CARS score, so don't freak out if you go up or down by a bit.

But if your score has been dropping significantly and you haven't changed your strategy recently, then the most likely problem is that you’re overthinking the questions.

If you:

  • often end up between two answers and pick the wrong one
  • ever worry about answers being “too simple” or “too easy”
  • or feel like you understand the passages but keep missing the questions

...then you are probably overthinking the questions.

That might seem like a strange answer to you. Aren't you supposed to think carefully about the questions? Shouldn't you be thinking a lot about them?

Not necessarily. Let me explain why.

Unlike a lot of third party CARS (Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc.) the AAMC questions are mostly trying to test how well you can apply your knowledge of the passage in a simple, intuitive way.

To be clear, I’m not saying that their questions are easy. But even when they're hard, the correct reasoning is usually simple. So your first, gut instinct guess for a question is usually correct. When you overthink a question, that means you’re not trusting that gut instinct guess. Without even realizing it, you’ll often end up creating complicated arguments for why the correct answer is bad and the wrong answer is good. In other words, you’ll talk yourself into getting the question wrong.

To flesh this out more clearly, here's what happens when you overthink a question:

  • You see an answer (the correct answer) and you think, Hmmm that sounds good
  • But then your overthinking mind kicks into gear and you start to find problems with that original answer. You say, Well, maybe it might not be right because of X, Y, or Z.
  • Then you look at a different answer (the wrong one) and start coming up with overly complicated arguments for why it might be right.
  • Then, finally, you've convinced yourself to pick the wrong answer.

To fix this, you need to try to keep it simple. Try to avoid answers that you have to come up with a complicated argument to justify. Instead, listen to your gut instincts. If an answer sounds good to you, then trust that — it's probably right! Confidence is the key here.

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