The dreaded CARS passages make many MCAT students run in fear. Just how are you supposed to make sense of huge walls of confusing text?
You’ve heard that Jack Westin CARS can help, but as a premium course costing close to $1K, you’re a little on the fence.
So, is Jack Westin CARS worth it?
It’s great to help you prepare for the MCAT and improve your reading comprehension. But not all of it is considered an accurate representation of the exams’ actual CARS questions. Instead, Jack Westin is best used to help you gain confidence and speed in your reading. It’s not to be used in place of the AAMC practice material.
But all that also assumes that you’ve got the money and (are willing to spend it) for the program. So what about the people preparing for the MCAT who don’t have that kind of budget? Is Jack Westin worth it in that regard?
That’s what this article aims to answer!
- Who and what Jack Westin is (and how it can help with CARS)
- The pros and cons of the platform
- If it’s right for you
- Other beginner tips for using it
As someone who’s gone through med school myself, I know how stressful preparation can be. You want to make sure you spend your money on the right things!
Ready to see if it’s right for you? Let’s dive in.
Who Is Jack Westin?
Jack Westin is an MCAT prep expert who runs a popular course focused on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS) section of the MCAT.
As a former premed who took the MCAT himself, he has been tutoring CARS for over 10 years. In that time he’s logged thousands of hours of teaching and tutored thousands of students.
Through this experience, Jack developed his own strategy for guiding students through the MCAT and helping maximize their scores.
All this is detailed in the official Jack Westin website’s FAQ section.
Jack is a real person. He can be heard on Ryan Gray’s podcast. You can also visit his LinkedIn profile here.
What is Jack Westin’s CARS strategy?
Jack Westin’s CARS strategy is all about improving your reading comprehension (in the same way you would any skill).
That includes reading to understand first. And doing this before thinking about the text’s meaning (or trying to relate it back to a broader context).
For students with science backgrounds this isn’t always intuitive!
It’s a strategy centered on discipline and working hard.
The strategy doesn’t advertise itself as a magic bullet that’ll raise your MCAT score by 7-8 points within a few short hours.
You’ll have to go over the material and practice questions repeatedly to increase your chances.
How does Jack Westin CARS Work?
It’s a subscription-based platform where students watch lectures explaining how to understand and do well at CARS and then move on to actual practice.
The program is regionally-based and opens up periodically throughout the year.
Why is CARS so hard?
CARS is one of the reasons many students find the MCAT hard, especially those with hard science backgrounds.
That’s because it calls on critical thinking and logic. As well as attention to detail via reading long passages.
You can’t memorize the concepts behind CARS passages as you would a science fact.
But here’s what else makes CARS so hard:
- The time constraint of the MCAT
- The pressure of performing well
- A lack of confidence when it comes to reading (and understanding) English
Obviously, most U.S. students won’t have too many problems with the latter but those that have learned English as a second language growing up (i.e. a lot of pre-med applicants), could struggle.
This is where studying English (or similar) as a major could have its advantages. The heavy reading and critical analysis lend themselves well.
How is Jack Westin’s MCAT content?
Aside from CARS (which most students recommend as Jack Westin’s best content), he also runs several other courses.
Here’s the complete breakdown:
- Complete MCAT Course: focused on mastering all sections of the MCAT
- MCAT Sciences and Strategy and Content Course: to help obtain fluence in C/P, B/B and P/S sections of the MCAT
- CASPer Strategy Course: to help ace the situational judgement test
These courses have rolling start dates, are self-paced (but include live sessions) and have varying running lengths.
They are also quite expensive.
The MCAT Cars Strategy Course, for example, costs $950. That includes 203 lectures, 34 workshops and on-demand video.
That’s a lot of money for the average MCAT prepper. Especially compared to the cheaper $30 AAMC CARS material (and the books recommended later in this article).
But let’s take a look at the pros and cons first before deciding if it’s worth it.
Jack Westin CARS Pros
- Questions are good for working on your timing and pacing
- Reliable enough to help you get familiar with the nature of CARS passages (and what to expect)
- Effective in training your abstract thinking abilities
- Great for building comprehension and critical thinking skills
- There are a ton of passages and practice questions (much more than Khan Academy CARS for example)
Jack Westin CARS Cons
- Too “easy” in difficulty compared to AAMC’s material (and the official MCAT questions)
- The strategies recommended (i.e. learning to eliminate answer choices, taking notes from paragraphs, visualizing details etc.) take too long to implement
- A lack of “personalization” of the overall strategy (something detailed by this Reddit user) that fails to match up with the actual exam
Possibly the biggest complaint about Jack Westin CARS however is that the “logic” of the questions seems to be too abstract at times.
That’s why most premeds argue for practicing with the AAMC’s CARS content first!
What do other students say?
The best reviews of Jack Westin (that actually help you work out if it could be worth it) are those uploaded away from the official Jack Westin YouTube channel.
These give more reliable, honest insight…
Samuel Smith Med’s review above is a good primer on what to expect from attempting Jack Westin’s CARS passages.
Here are his main points:
- The ease of the questions can help give you a sense of “inflated confidence”
- It’s best to go with the AAMC question packs first
- Supplement with the Khan Academy CARS packages (made in conjunction with AAMC) for the best results
But he also mentions Jack Westin CARS can be good when uses as a timing resource.
Tips for using Jack Westin CARS
Some of the more general tips for getting the most out of the platform include:
- Going at your own pace
- Preparing to fail a lot (at least in the beginning)
- Attempting to complete the Khan Academy CARS questions at the same time (to help compare and track your progress)
- Ignoring the question comments (they can be a source of self doubt)
And here are some more practical tips:
- Look for patterns: analyze your incorrect questions and think about your initial reasoning
- Log your progress: use a simple Google/Excel sheet tracking the passage name, your score, time and notes on what you got wrong/right etc.
As for general CARS advice outside of Jack Westin, NXTGen Med has a bunch of aditional useful tips here…
Most of them come down to:
- Reading and understanding the passage
- Taking short notes to summarize
- Eliminating incorrect answers as you go
- Going into each new passage “fresh”
- Learning how best to allocate your time
These are very in-line with Jack Westin’s approach. But you’ll get a lot more detail (and applied practice) by actually taking the course.
MCAT Question of the Day
One huge tip for using Jack Westin CARS (and one that doesn’t cost anything) is to sign up and practice the daily CARS passages.
You can do this via signing up at Jack Westin MCAT Practice Passages or texting MCATCARS to 44222.
Every day you’ll receive a link to a page and a CARS passage that will look very similar to those you’d see on the MCAT itself.
Practice with these and push through (even if you get them wrong). You’ll definitely see some improvement as you move forward.
How many CARS passages should I do in a day?
This question all depends on how long you have until your final exam date.
Because of the time expense of CARS (and assuming you have left yourself at least 3 months prep time), it’s generally recommended to aim to do 2-3 CARS passages per day.
Try and keep your question time down to less than 10 minutes per passage.
Also, check out this article; How To Get Better At CARS For The MCAT (Reddit’s 23 Best Tips) for further recommendations.
Jack Westin CARS: Reddit’s opinion
Reddit is a solid place to weigh up opinions on the course. Here are some of the best comments I could find.
Its good for orienting yourself with CARS and for comprehension, but the questions are hit or miss. If an explanation doesn’t make sense, it’s probably JW’s faulty logic, not your own.u/lieutenantdam
Jack Westin is reliable to get accustomed to the nature of CARS passages. Great to build comprehension skills and better understanding of difficult passagse and critical thinking. However, I would not rely on it alone to score high on CARS. If anything, the AAMC CARS related questions are more reliable for achieving a high CARS score.r/Neguya
Jack Westin vs Khan Academy CARS: What’s better?
Jack Westin has a greater volume of CARS questions than Khan Academy CARS but the latter probably has the edge in terms of quality.
Khan Academy also beats out Jack Westin for the following reasons:
- It’s free
- The questions were designed in conjunction with the AAMC (arguably more representative of the real thing)
- The CARS tutoring series (another great free resource)
Here’s the introductory video from the latter.
Where else can I get CARS practice?
Aside from Jack Westin’s platform, you can get even more CARS practice via the following resources:
- Examkrackers MCAT 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning
- MCAT CARS Workbook Princeton Review
- MCAT CARS Kaplan
Many of these resources are expanded on in greater detail in this article; The Best Way To Practice CARS For The MCAT (Strategy & Resources)
Jack Westin CARS can be a great additional resource that could be worth it in the following circumstances:
- You’ve exhausted AAMC and Khan Academy’s free materials
- You’re still unconfident and unsure of how best to approach CARS
- You have the budget (and confidence) that Jack Westin’s prep course can help
For most premeds however, I don’t see it as a necessary expense. The free CARS passages are definitely worth signing up for, but, beyond that, you’re probably better off saving your money.
Still unsure? Take the free, one and half hour long MCAT CARS trial session offered on the site.
That’ll give you a better idea of what to expect and whether you can benefit!
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Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.