Of all the MCAT sections, the most dreaded is often the verbal section. Not only is it considered one of the more important sections on the MCAT itself, but it is a section that is very difficult to study for. Unlike the biological and physical sciences section, you cannot see improvement in this section with brute memorization. However, it is still possible to do well. Just follow these steps and see your score improve!
- Give yourself a good amount of time to study for the MCATs, both in general and specifically for the Verbal Section. You cannot simply expect to increase your score cramming ands studying the week before the MCAT.
- Buy a practice verbal passage book. Exam Krackers has a 1001 Verbal Passage book that is highly regarded and recommended by past MCAT takers.
- Do practice problems from one or two sections every day. Time yourself when you take these practice problems as well. Unlike the other MCAT sections, which are mostly memorizing concepts and formulas, the Verbal section is a little more abstract. This requires a little bit of practice every day in order to train your brain to think like the MCAT Verbal section testwriters think.
- Make notes of the questions you get wrong. Often times you will begin to notice a pattern in the type of question you get wrong. You may find, for example, a lot of the questions you get wrong are questions that have out-of-scope answers. You can learn from this mistake by trying to avoid these types of answers.
- Always try to understand the main point of the passage. Some people find it helpful to make an outline. I personally don't. However, I sometimes make a "mini-outline" where I try to write one or two words to summarize each paragraph. That way I can quickly look back and see what paragraphs I need to go back to if I am stuck on a question. Give both the outlining and mini-outlining a try during your practice exams and passages to see if it helps and works for you. Regardless of you outlining or not however, it is imperative that you can come out of a passage with some sort of idea on what it is about.
- Read in context. You do not need to understand every word to understand the sentence or paragraph. Often times you can figure it out based upon the tone and actions of words around the unknown word. Try it; it really will work and you will eventually see a rehal in your score!
("rehal" isn't really a real word but you should have been able to figure out it means something like improvement based on context).
- Read a little bit everyday. Go and especially search out styles of writing and/or topics you may not be familiar with. I would recommend something like Wall Street Journal or NY Times. It will help you in terms of comprehension and as a side benefit, it will bring you up-to-date on news and hot topics. This will be useful for your writing section!
- Read actively. Most people, when faced with a dense and difficult passage, will try to skim the passage and gloss over it. This is the exact opposite of what you should do! Read actively and try to understand the passage the first go around. If you find yourself zoning out, stop and take a deep breath. Then try again.
That being said, there is also a balance between understanding the passage well and time. You do not want to sacrifice time for comprehension, especially if it will hinder you from answering all the questions.
- Time yourself. The biggest challenge for most people taking the MCAT Verbal section is time. There isn't a lot of time to answer the questions and if you run out of time before completing all the questions, your score is going to take a significant hit. Time yourself and constantly try to speed up your time while answering all the questions correctly. You need to average about 8.5 minutes per passage in order to finish the entire section.
- Be careful regarding outside knowledge. While many passages are of obscure topics, once in a while, you will see a passage that explains a topic you are familiar and/or passionate about. Be careful not to give into the temptation of using outside knowledge to answer the questions. You need to make sure you take the questions at face value using the information in the passage.
- Don't freak out. Take a break if you are studying and are getting panic attacks or worried.
If you are struggling during the exam, just push on through and remind yourself that 1) you studied hard and 2) if you are struggling, others must be too.