Crush the MCAT Clock: Mastering Reading and Time Allocation

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Session 320

Ineffective time management can make or break your MCAT score! Here are some of our best tips on how to make the best use of your time during the MCAT.

We’re joined by Geroge from Blueprint MCAT. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:27] Strategies to Improve Timing and Avoid Getting Stuck on the MCAT

Myth Busted: You’re Not a Slow Reader!

Many students often find themselves falling behind on timing during the MCAT, believing they are slow readers. However, it’s crucial to debunk this myth and understand that the average reading speed is around 250 words per minute, which is more than sufficient to tackle passages effectively.

Reading Strategically, Not Word for Word

It’s essential to read strategically to avoid getting stuck on specific questions or passages. Instead of obsessing over every detail, try reading sentence by sentence to grasp the main ideas and purpose of each paragraph.

By identifying key information and understanding the structure, whether in CARS or the sciences, you can improve your timing significantly.

'When you start to know what to look for, your timing improves because you're reading strategically, not just word for word.'Click To Tweet

Overcoming Mental Blocks and Improving Timing

If you consider yourself a slow reader, fear not! There are various techniques and resources available to help you improve your reading speed. Speed reading exercises and games can be beneficial in developing your skills. 

Remember, you’ve been reading throughout your education, so lean into your existing abilities and embrace the method to the madness of the MCAT.

Practice Makes Perfect

Recognizing important points, argument structure, scientific reasoning, and experimental passages all come with practice. By repeatedly engaging with MCAT-style passages and questions, you can train yourself to recognize crucial details more efficiently. With time and effort, your timing will naturally improve.

[05:24] Boost Your Reading Speed with SwiftRead: A Game-Changing Tool

Let me share a game-changing tool with you. It’s called SwiftRead, a Chrome extension that will revolutionize your reading experience.With SwiftRead, you can say goodbye to reading word by word.

This incredible tool takes websites, Kindle books, and more, and displays one word at a time. You have the power to set the speed to 500 or even 600 words per minute. The words fly by so quickly that you won’t have time to actually read them in your head. Instead, you’ll visualize the word and realize something astonishing: your brain understands what’s going on without the need to read every single word. It’s like a light bulb moment, trust me.

Now, here’s the exciting part. This ability to quickly grasp the meaning of the text translates into improved reading speed overall.

When you catch yourself reading every word, just pause and ask yourself, “What am I doing? I don’t have to do this.” SwiftRead gives you permission to scan the sentence instead of getting stuck on each word. Even if you occasionally miss a word, you’ll still pick up around 90% of the meaning. It’s absolutely fantastic! You’ll be amazed at how fast you can read with this tool. So go ahead, give SwiftRead a try and unlock your potential for faster reading. You’ll be glad you did!

[07:08] The Brain’s Lightning-Fast Information Processing Revealed

Processing Information Faster Than We Think

It’s fascinating how our brains process information way faster than we often realize. Sometimes, we get too caught up in the details, losing sight of the big picture. However, many questions actually ask about that big picture. This applies not just to familiar content, but even to new and unfamiliar passages.

Therefore, approaching every passage with a consistent strategy can really boost your reading speed and understanding. 

Speeding Up and Slowing Down for Effective Reading

Here’s the thing: reading doesn’t always have to be at the same speed. When something important comes up, slow down and emphasize it.

Start by scanning the first paragraph, picking out interesting facts about the respiratory system or unique cell properties, for instance. If you come across an important relationship, jot it down or even make a little diagram.

'When you read through the passage, get enough of an understanding of where you can landmark certain things.'Click To Tweet

Speed through less crucial sections, but slow down when you encounter key ideas, hypotheses, or the author’s opinion. It’s like navigating your way through a road trip, identifying the landmarks, and paying attention to the significant details.

Mastering Timing Challenges and Refining Your Approach

Managing time effectively during exams can be challenging, but you can overcome it by honing your approach.

First, make sure you have a clear understanding of what the questions are asking and what to look for in the passage. As you read, be on the lookout for key ideas and words that will help you answer the questions.

Highlight relevant information.

Highlighting relevant information can be a great tool, but remember to use it strategically. Try a technique called retroactive highlighting, where you first read through the entire paragraph and then identify the main idea and supporting details. This approach helps filter out unnecessary information and allows you to focus on what truly matters.

Identify your time-sink moments.

Are you spending too much time rereading the passage from the beginning? Are you struggling to locate specific information? Analyze your process and refine it accordingly. Making predictions based on your understanding of the passage can also save valuable time.

Don’t let stress get the best of you.

Develop a method to tackle those questions efficiently. By doing so, you can optimize your reading speed and confidently conquer exam questions.

[11:06] Maximizing Efficiency on the MCAT: George’s Perspective

The Power ofthe Targeted Question Approach

When it comes to the MCAT, there are passages where a specific approach can work wonders. Having taken the MCAT twice, George says he has been through that too.

In the Chem/Phys section, you’ll encounter questions that seem unrelated to the passage, almost like pseudo discretes. They test your ability to apply concepts rather than relying heavily on passage information. Picture this: a lengthy passage on acid-base titration, with questions about pKa, random equations, and obscure concepts dressed up in MCAT.

In these cases, if time is of the essence, George’s recommendation is to skip straight to the questions.

Prioritizing Discrete Questions and Gaining Points

Imagine you’re finishing up the Chem/Phys section with one passage remaining and seven questions to tackle.

Start by addressing the discrete questions first. By doing so, you secure those points right away. Then, assess if there are any quick facts or details you can extract from the passage to further support your answers.

After all, accumulating points is what matters most in this high-pressure situation.

Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

This targeted question strategy is not a universal solution for every passage. For instance, in the CARS section, where testing often delves into overall ideas and relationships, blindly going straight to the questions can be detrimental.

It’s crucial to grasp the bigger picture before attempting to answer specific questions. As you read through the passage, ensure you have a solid understanding of its main points and purpose.

Using Predictions and Locating Support

Once you’ve absorbed the passage’s content, approach the questions with a clear understanding of what they’re asking. Make predictions based on the question’s requirements and search for specific sections in the passage that may provide the necessary information.

In the CARS section, pinpoint where key details might be located – paragraph one, paragraph four, or perhaps in the methods and results. Use these concrete pieces of support to answer questions effectively.

'When you read through the passage, get a good idea of what the passage is saying.'Click To Tweet

Avoiding Memory Overload and Emergent Strategies

Jumping straight into the questions without fully comprehending the passage can lead to difficulties in recalling important details. Trying to memorize seven questions and their answers before diving into the passage is a daunting task. Hence, having a consistent approach is essential, especially when time is limited.

While this targeted question strategy can serve as an emergency fallback for quick discrete points, it is not advisable as a universal approach to every passage.

'Having a consistent approach definitely helps.'Click To Tweet

[15:05] ​​The Power of Having a Systematic Approach

When it comes to conquering the MCAT, having a systematic approach is key. By following a consistent method, you can ensure that you don’t miss any important details while also increasing your efficiency. Let’s break it down:

Begin with a Clear Plan

Start by establishing a standard order in which you will analyze the passage and questions. This ensures that you approach each section in a structured manner, preventing you from overlooking anything.

Know What You’re Looking For

Before diving into the passage, identify the specific information or key concepts you need to find. Having a clear objective allows you to focus your attention on relevant details, saving time and reducing distractions.

Follow a Step-by-Step Process

Progress through the passage systematically, paying close attention to each paragraph or section. This approach helps you stay organized, ensuring that you cover all necessary information and avoid haphazard reading.

[16:05] Strategic Flagging and Avoiding Burnout in Exams

In both life and exams, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to take a step back and prioritize your well-being. Sometimes, pushing through a question or concept that you don’t understand can lead to burnout and hinder your overall performance. Here are some key insights from George:

Cut Your Losses Strategically

If you come across a question or concept that you’re struggling with and it’s consuming too much time, it’s wise to move on and focus on the other parts of the exam. By doing this, you can secure the points you know you can earn and revisit the challenging question when you have more time and mental clarity.

Flagging with Purpose

Not every difficult question should be flagged. Instead, strategically flag questions where you have a grasp of the concept but need more time or a different perspective. Save flagging for questions that involve complex calculations or require further analysis to differentiate between answer choices.

Take a Step Back

When you flag a question, give yourself a breather and shift your focus to other items. This break allows you to approach the flagged question from a fresh perspective, potentially leading to a breakthrough moment.

Prioritize Easy Points

Completing the easier questions first ensures that you secure the available points without dwelling on challenging ones. Once you’ve tackled the rest of the exam, you can return to the flagged questions with a clearer mind and give them your best effort.



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