Verbal Reasoning MCAT - It's Possible to Improve Your Score

Afraid of Verbal Reasoning MCAT? Don't be, there are several ways to improve your MCAT reading comprehension.

The MCAT Verbal Reasoning portion of the Medical College Admission Test assesses your ability to:
  • Understand
  • Evaluate
  • Apply information and arguments
from material presented in reading passages.

Basic Directions

The Verbal Reasoning MCAT consist of several passages ranging from 500 to 600 words with approximately 5 to 10 questions based on information presented in the passage. There are a total of 40 multiple-choice questions which must be completed in 60 minutes. It is not possible to study in advance the material presented on this section of the Medical College Admissions Test. But you should know that passage topics are drawn from the following subject areas:
  • Humanities
  • Social sciences
  • Natural sciences (not tested elsewhere on the MCAT).
Also this means that the content that you need to learn in the Physical and Biological Sciences will not be tested in the MCAT reading comprehension section.

Tips and Advice

You should be able to answer the multiple choice questions based solely on the information presented in the passage. There is no set way to study for Verbal Reasoning MCAT, it most likely will be a process of trial and error until you find the method which works best for you.

My advice is to practice, practice, and practice!

Changing your approach to MCAT Verbal Reasoning will not happen overnight but it is possible if you are willing to put in the time to work at it. Also, if you can get a high MCAT score on any other portion of the test then you can do likewise with much MCAT Verbal Reasoning review.

One major mistake you want to avoid is completing the passages out of order.

The MCAT is a timed exam and you do not have the luxury of cherry picking where you will get started. The goal is to just jump in and focus on the material in front of you.

This MCAT reading comprehension skill goes against what you may have heard from other places but this is where you have to use your human judgment. There is no way to determine whether a passage will be easy or hard by the topic presented. The topic may seem complex but this may be compensated by having easier questions.

Spend time with the questions. You actually want to spend a majority of your time with the questions and not reading or re-reading the passages. You will find after MCAT Verbal Reasoning review that it is highly unlikely that the questions will ask you to regurgitate a fact directly from the passage.

As the name implies you need to be able to comprehend what you have read and make interpretations. Therefore, use the questions to your advantage and not the passage itself.

There is no penalty for guessing so if time is running out just choose any one response for each question.

Boosting Your Verbal Reasoning MCAT Score

If you are unable to complete the Verbal Reasoning section within 60 minutes or your score on practice tests are not as good as you like you may wish to try the following approaches:

  • Read the passage once and then spend a majority of your time with the questions and answer choices.
  • Learn who the author is by making a short sketch about their basic background. This will help you see the author for who they are and how they would respond to various questions presented. Essentially, build up a stereotype of the author.
  • Unlike the hard sciences the answer will not be clear. If something is very obvious than most likely it is wrong on the Verbal Reasoning MCAT. In virtually all instances the ambiguous and unclear answer is correct.
  • Read as though you were reading a novel. Do not try to memorize specific facts and their location in the text. The goal is to get the big picture and know what the author's perspective is on the topic. If you can do this you will be able to answer many of the questions correctly.
There are no hard and fast rules to guarantee success in the Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT exam. It will be difficult for some while others will not need to devote a lot of time to this section. Just continue to evolve your test taking strategies until you find what works best for you.

I would encourage anyone who is having difficulty with the Verbal Reasoning portion of the MCAT to review my ebook, How to Beat the MCAT because there is a full chapter devoted specifically to tackling this rigorous section of the MCAT. You'll get a lot more tips there than what was found on this page along with actionable steps you can take to get the boost in your MCAT reading comprehension.