How to Improve on the MCAT Reading Section

For both science majors and non-science majors, native English speakers and ESL students, the reading comprehension part of the MCAT (called the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, or CARS, section) can be daunting. The difficulty comes from having to read a long, complex passage and then needing to absorb that information in a short amount of time, under pressure. This post will go over some strategies on how to improve on the MCAT reading section.

How to Improve on the MCAT Reading Section

You may have heard this from many people regarding any type of improvement on reading: the best way to improve reading comprehension is to read more! We have a list of recommended reading to help boost your reading comprehension. The more you can read, especially outside of what you need to for school, and the more you try to grapple and understand difficult passages, the better you will be at the MCAT reading section.

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What if I don’t Have Time?

Reading lots and slowly building up your comprehension skills is great to do, but probably isn’t that helpful if you are planning to take the MCAT soon! April has a great post with some tips for studying for the MCAT CARS section. Below are some tips of my own:

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  • Read the questions for the passage first. That way, you will know what to look for when you read the passage, and the questions will prime you on material that you will need to pay attention to.
  • Take notes on what you are reading. Read it through once quickly to get the main idea, and then write one sentence to summarize the passage as a whole. Then you can read it once more to get the details that you need, writing down notes as you read to keep your concentration.
  • Be sure to pay attention to which types of questions you get wrong and why during your practice. It may be related to understanding the big picture or remembering all the details.

It is possible to improve your MCAT Reading performance. Good luck!


  • Burton

    Burton is an MCAT blogger. He was an undergraduate at Harvard, where he majored in History before switching gears to pursue a career in medicine. He did a post-baccalaureate and is currently a fourth-year medical student at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is applying for a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Outside of things medical, he’s a huge sports fan and loves football, basketball, and baseball.

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