Reading comprehension is arguably the most important component of the MCAT. There is the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section, but it is really integrated throughout the exam. Even if you know all of the science facts cold, you still need to be able to read passages, assess the information, figure out what they are getting at with the question, and answer appropriately. In this post, we will go over why reading comprehension is so important and how you can improve your reading comprehension.
Why MCAT Reading Comprehension is Important
As we mentioned above, reading comprehension is vital to MCAT success, even on the science-heavy sections. The reason the MCAT tests this skill is because medical school requires you to process a lot of reading and information, and to be able to apply scientific principles to that information. Much of the clinical guidelines and research are described in medical journal articles, which are akin to a very long MCAT passage. Medical schools want to know if you can handle the reading rigors of scientific writing and the MCAT helps assess this with the CARS section and with the passage format of testing.
How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension
The single best way to improve reading comprehension is to read and to increase your exposure to complex reading passages. If you are in high school or starting college, try to develop a habit of reading—newspaper articles, scientific journals, biographies, and anything that might catch your interest. The more you read, the more it will expose you to different styles of writing and syntax that will help you in your endeavors for the MCAT. Take classes on history, politics, English, or sociology—all of these have lots of reading requirements.
If you are more pressed for time to prepare for the MCAT, a helpful trick might be to try going through some LSAT reading comprehension passages (with explanations for the answers). LSAT reading passages can be very difficult and can prepare you for MCAT reading comprehension. If you need a more immediate solution, it might be good to come up with a purely test-strategy approach to the passages that will help get you through the exam. Chris’s post on GRE Reading Comprehension offers some great strategies and approaches.
Reading comprehension is a critical step to doing well on the MCAT and also in becoming a physician. While it can be scary, reading comprehension can certainly be learned and improved upon.