In today’s episode, we talk about the best ways students can work through MCAT passages.
If you’re struggling with finishing sections of the test within the time limits, this episode should help. We discuss how to maximize your time and effort as you’re working through MCAT passages.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
Every Student Is Different
What works for your friend or classmate might not work for you. Each student has to do the work to find their own best approach to working through MCAT passages.
This is why Next Step focuses so much on 1-on-1 tutoring. They offer courses, books, practices tests, etc., but at the core of who they are is tutoring because they recognize that every student is different.
3 Tools Available for Working Through MCAT Passages
- Paper and pencil – Note-taking
- Onscreen highlighter – Highlighting
- Your eyeballs – Reading
Using these tools, find your best approach in some combination or permutation.You have 3 tools to help you work through MCAT passages: (1) pen and paper, (2) the on-screen highlighter, and (3) your eyeballs.Click To Tweet
How to Experiment with Your Approach to MCAT Passages
The way you can start experimenting with your approach to MCAT passages is to isolate one technique and then another technique. Figure out what works for you from each approach. Then start bringing them together into your ideal combination.
First, just use the highlighter and do a paragraph at a time. Learn as much as you can from this approach. Ask yourself why you highlighted this word and why not this other word. What does that word reveal about the author’s opinion? How can you catch a word like that in the future?
Then do note-taking. Take little quick notes after each paragraph, or summarize the author’s points quickly as you read through. Then work through various exercises that isolate different reading techniques. Read the questions first, or skim the whole MCAT passage before reading it more closely, etc. See which of these approaches work for you.Mix and match these different approaches to working through MCAT passages until you find the combination that works best for you.Click To Tweet
Then start to bring together the different approaches. Try what worked best from each. Try different combinations. Do this until you find the right equilibrium that you’re successful with and comfortable with.
Verbal MCAT Passages and Science MCAT Passages
The tools available to you do not change between the verbal passages and the science passages, but your ideal balance for how you use the tools is likely to be different. Here are the most common approaches:
- For science passages: Students tend to read very briskly and focusing mostly on the figures and diagrams. They are sparse with the highlighter, with more note-taking (noting cause and effect relationships, drawing out flowcharts).
- For verbal passages: Almost no note-taking, and a focus on using the highlighter to capture the author’s opinion and main argument points.
But again, you need to try it for yourself. Try different approaches. Be flexible, and see what seems to be helping you get the question correct without spending a bunch of extra time.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my book about the MCAT, co-written with Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep): The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.
- Related episode: How Can I Improve My CARS Section Score on the MCAT?
- Related episode: MCAT Biology Passage Questions: Breaking Them Down.
- Need MCAT Prep? Get tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!