CARS Lesson 5 — Blind Review
A technique for CARS practice
There are two paths to the correct answer in a CARS question. The first path is to recognize the correct answer, simple as that. Alternatively, you can eliminate the other three, and the correct answer will be the one remaining you can't eliminate. Doing CARS right means following both paths in a parallel way. There are some questions where you're sure you see the correct answer, and the discipline to always eliminate the other choices saves you. It will save you from learning that the answer you were sure was 'correct' was appearing to be correct. This produces an uncomfortable realization of human fallibility. The question writer at AAMC is looking for you to be their mark. They are a master of sleight-of-hand. Mental discipline goes a long way.
Additionally, there are also the subtle, difficult questions you are uncertain about, even after everything you've done. You know you have to move on. Play a get-out-of-jail-free card. You don't have all the time in the world. Even on the way to a great score, a person will leave some questions behind they are uncertain about. You have to trust the odds and keep moving.
But what if you had all the time in the world, how would things work out? What if you could spend more time with the passage? What if you could evaluate the answers from every angle? What if you had more time to think? Blind review is a practice method for CARS that helps ingrain the comprehension level and thought processes that close the circle and get these questions right. Any person learning a difficult piece of classical music knows how valuable it is to start first at a slower tempo and speed up after you play it slowly without mistakes. If you just practice CARS in the traditional way, taking timed tests and going through the answers afterwards, it can be too much learning what you did wrong without ever learning how to do it right. The method of blind review combines timed practice with learning to think the questions through all the way.
This method starts out with a session of regular timed practice. However, after you get done, you wait to score the questions. You wait to learn which answers were correct and incorrect until after you've had a chance to carefully analyze the passages and questions more thoroughly. You're still going to get your original score. The session will still have the same diagnostic value it ordinarily would have had, but you will be learning a great deal to improve your thought process in the questions. Learn what it feels like to see the passages and questions all the way to the bottom of the well, and then fit that into exam pace.
After you complete the test or question set, do NOT check the answers. Be sure to toggle "Review Answer" to the off position if you are at AAMC question pack. If you are using blind review with a full length practice test, you need to give yourself extra time through the accommodations settings, but stop when you are supposed to. When your allotted time is finished, don't score the test yet. Go back through the questions and write down the question number of every question you were uncertain about. If you think there's even a small chance you missed the question, write the number down.
Next, go back and review every question un-timed. Go back to the passage. Get a clearer understanding of the author's argument. Study the questions until you have exhausted your thought process. Take your time. When you decide to make a change to an answer, don't replace it in the system or on your original answer sheet. You are still going to want to see how you scored in real time. Make the change on your list. If you change an answer, make notes as to the rationale, ie. "Didn't notice the author was actually criticizing this point of view" or "The causal connection in my original answer choice is too strong".
Now you can score your original answers. Your first score shows how you performed in time, but you also have a second score reflecting the answers you changed during your blind review. The second one will almost always be higher, although the further along in CARS preparation you get, the closer the two should become.
In comparing the two sets of answers, you will notice there are different categories.
Ones you changed and got correct - These are good. You had improvement. Look closely for what changed in your reasoning so that next time you'll get it right the first time.
Ones you changed and got incorrect - Try to understand what it is that drew you from a good answer to a bad one. Sometimes there can be a bias against your original intuition as a way of attributing the uncertainty you feel. (If neither the original nor the second were correct, then you really need to track down the issue. That question really tricked you.)
Ones you didn't change - The ones you got correct are fine, but pay extra attention to any that you still missed. These are important. There is an idea you still need to grasp.
Ones you didn't mark but missed - These questions were super tricky for you. Start a collection of these questions and make additions in future blind review sessions. You will start seeing patterns that will help you make adjustments.
Assignment: Perform the first 7 passages (questions 1-43) from Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Question Pack, Vol. 2. Remember to toggle 'Review Answer' to the 'OFF' position. Give yourself 75 minutes for the timed portion of the exercise. Before scoring the passages, perform a blind review!