An MCAT Tutor's Steps to Verbal Success

Posted by Farees on 4/3/17 6:19 PM

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All the way back in high school, I got a perfect score on the critical reading portion of the SAT. In college, I got a perfect score on the verbal section of the old MCAT. The point is that what is tested on the verbal section of the MCAT is the quintessential “test-taker” skill that has to be developed at some point through practice and self-reflection. Once you have it, you’ll be able to use it again and again in every standardized exam you’ll take over your career. If you’re lacking in this area, time to hit the verbal gym ASAP!

Watch your diet

Read sites like RogerEbert.com, Nytimes.com, or Politico.com. Surf Wikipedia and read about your favorite rock star or author or film. Read anything that is intelligent writing. By the same token, avoid reading simplistic stuff, like celebrity news, sports news, etc. Get your mind used to understanding complex concepts and relationships efficiently. Become a shameless book snob.

State of mind

Your mind needs to be “on” during a verbal passage. You must be very active and engaged and constantly referring back to the passage. MCAT Verbal is not like curling up in an armchair with a book. It is more like a mental marathon. Become accustomed to this state of mental exertion and build up your verbal stamina; you can accomplish this by a) reading material you are unfamiliar with and b) practicing verbal passages.

Steps to Follow

1) Read the passage (2 minutes)

  • Become mentally familiar with the passage so that when you refer back to it, you remember roughly where different ideas and pieces of information were located. Just like the second time you drive someplace, while you may not be able to give details of the entire journey, you’ll be able to describe it generally. And for sure, if you take the trip again, you’ll remember when you arrive at an intersection if you have to turn left or right. The crucial point here is that this familiarity you acquired isn’t due to a conscious effort on your part to memorize the journey, but simply because you drove the route in an engaged manner. Somebody dozing off in the passenger’s seat might not have a clue. Sit in the driver’s seat during MCAT verbal.  
  • Read passages from first word to last  
  • Only highlight items referred to in the question stem, main theses, important people etc, if you must. It is better to do without it if you can, since you introduce an element of personal error through highlighting that could possibly skew your reading of the passage. 

2) Answer questions, first pass (2 minutes)

  • Do process of elimination to get rid of obviously wrong answers.
  • Select your final answers for the easy questions and tentative answers for the difficult questions.
  • Skip questions at your own risk—new format makes this harder.
  • Pay attention to “except/not/least”
  • Do not overlook 1st and last paragraphs when referring to passage.

3) Answer questions, second pass (2 minutes)

  • Go back through the questions a second time, giving the more difficult questions a second look. Finalize your answer choices. By this point, you should have a very solid understanding of the passage since you’ve spent some effort looking through it in the first pass.

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