The MCAT Tutor: 4 Last Minute Tips to Raise Your Verbal Score

Posted by Josie Fisher on 1/23/15 11:00 AM

Hang on tight for your impending MCAT flight!

Are you two weeks away from your MCAT test date and feeling stressed that your MCAT verbal score is lower than you hoped? Has your verbal score plateaued over your last three practice tests?

Don’t worry – here are four easy MCAT test prep tips that can help you boost your verbal score in these last few weeks. While you’re digging into your MCAT review in New York or Boston, these tips will help you work more quickly so you have more time, and then, use the time that you have more wisely and effectively.

Use process of elimination.

I’m sure your online MCAT tutor or private MCAT tutor in New York has drilled this into you, but make sure you always use process of elimination. You can often quickly narrow it down to two choices, but picking the right answer from the final two options is the tricky part. Instead of trying to pick which answer choice is correct, it’s easier to figure out which answer choice is wrong.

Remember that partly wrong is all wrong! If half of the answer choice is incorrect, the entire answer must be wrong (even if half of the answer choice seems more correct than the other option). Moreover, you don’t have to know why the correct answer is correct; you only have to know that the other three answer choices are wrong. Once you have eliminated three choices, don’t waste any time trying to figure out why the final choice is right. Time is a precious commodity on the MCAT verbal section! 

Do the easiest passages first.

Do you find philosophy passages especially daunting? Leave them for last! Do all of the passages that don’t immediately give you a sinking feeling in your stomach first. If you read the first sentence or two of a passage and feel like you don’t really understand what’s going on, that’s a good hint to leave the passage until the end. There are two reasons to skip hard passages: the first is better time management; the second is better management of your mental state.

It’s easy to spend twelve minutes on a tricky passage, but if you do, you are left with less than seven minutes for the rest of the passages. If you make sure you get all of the easy passages done first, you’ll know how much time you have left to allocate to the hard passage(s). Otherwise, you can find yourself scrambling with only three minutes to complete an easy passage on which you could have gotten all of the answers right had you had enough time.

A huge portion of the MCAT verbal section is purely mental. If you’re feeling confident or disheartened, that attitude can sway your score by several points. If you do the easy passages first, then you’ll feel good throughout most of the verbal section. If you find the first passage to be extremely difficult, you will feel disheartened and distracted as you work through the rest of the passages. You may spend too much time dwelling, and not enough time focusing on the easy problems. You may feel as if you are going to get a bad verbal score (which is a self-fulfilling prophecy). Don’t fall into this trap – leave the hardest passages for last!

Read the question stem carefully.

This seems obvious, but it is very easy to skim the question and focus instead on the answer choices. This is a mistake. You have to be sure to pick the answer choice that is most relevant to the question stem, not the statement that most agrees with the argument made in the passage. Sometimes you can even answer the question correctly without ever reading the passage! (Though as an MCAT test prep tutor in New York, I strongly recommend that you do read the passages.) When reading the question, pay attention to the verbs used in the question stem – they’ll give you a hint as to whether you are looking for information used directly in the passage, or applying the argument put forth in the passage to a related topic.

Reframe the question stem.

Often, MCAT verbal question stems are worded in a complicated way—with double negatives and complex verbs that you don’t use in your daily vocabulary. In order to make sure you know what the question is asking, reframe the question stem into a question that you easily understand. Use more simple verbs and reframe two negatives into a positive, thus making it much easier to recognize what the question is asking. You can’t figure out the correct answer if you don’t know what the question is asking!

Before the exam, take a deep breath and try to remember these techniques, as they'll help maximize your time and help you score higher on the MCAT.  For now, try to incorporate these strategies into your MCAT review sessions in New York. 

For more relevant MCAT tips from our MCAT test prep tutors in Boston and New York, check out these blog posts: Getting Over Test Day Nerves for the MCAT, Stomping the Verbal Reasoning Section, and Why Reading is the Best Way to Boost Your Verbal Score.

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Tags: MCAT