Many students shirk the duty of studying and practicing for the Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT, thinking that it’s either easy or less weighted than the science portions of the exam. However, if you take a step back, it seems important to practice and study for a section of the test that accounts for 1/3 of your total score. Many people underestimate how challenging the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT can be. What does this mean for you? If you put more effort into verbal reasoning, your score could place your application above those who failed to realize the importance of studying.
The following discusses the overall approach to doing better on the verbal reasoning section, ultimately by following the guidelines recommended by the AAMC.
Necessary Verbal Reasoning Skills
The Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT is not much different than other reading comprehension exams you’ve taken in other standardized tests. The verbal reasoning section is a 60 minute section, consisting of 40 multiple-choice questions. Verbal Reasoning is used to measure your ability reading and comprehending new content, recognize the mean focus and ideas of a passage, interpret the underlying meanings of the writings, and develop new ideas from what you have read.
The AAMC outlines 4 major criteria for doing well on the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT – Comprehension, Evaluation, Application, and Incorporation of information. While those guidelines are good to start with, let’s see how these guidelines can be interpreted into plain English – Who, What, When, Why, and How.
You should be able to identify a central theme or overall idea of the passage you are given to read. For practice, try to create a single sentence in your own words that describes the message that the author is trying to convey. Determine the author’s hypothesis, and explore whether or not the author was able to affirm this hypothesis.
Next, you should have the ability to recognize the structure of the passage as if it were an outline. Highlight the author’s hypothesis and conclusion, determine the subtopics, and the evidence provided by the author to support his/her ideas. Also be able to identify positive and negative innuendo that isn’t explicitly stated by the author in the passage.
You should be able to judge the quality of all arguments and claims of a passage using the evidence provided by the author as justification. To start, find holes in the author’s arguments. Read the passage as a skeptic and be able to point out evidence that the author may have overlooked.
Using the passage, create a situation in which you think the passage will be obviously justified. Also, create a situation in which the passage could be proved untrue. Use the evidence given by the author to support or reject the hypothesis using the information from an article.
Also, be able to use the information provided in the passage to solve problems outside the scope of the article. Once you have finished reading the article, you should be able to develop a new theory or idea using the information and conclusions from the passage.
Incorporation of new information (Conclusion)
Determine additional information that could support the ideas and hypotheses of the article. Or consider additional information that could be used to disprove the article completely. Alternatively, consider how the overall hypothesis could be changed to further support the author’s conclusion.
This type of reasoning is common in research publications, so adapting the approach to literature should be fairly easy for most science majors. Just as in experimentation, consider how you could build on the theory of the author. Consider how information from your own experiences could provide the author with a new direction.
Verbal Reasoning Study Resources
Here are some study guides and resources to help you study for the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT.
Kaplan Test Prep
- Kaplan MCAT Verbal Reasoning and Writing Review
- Kaplan MCAT Review Complete 5-Book Subject Review
- Test your knowledge – take a FREE MCAT practice test today!