In my advice for preparing for the CARS section of the MCAT, I always put a lot of emphasis on “practicing”. I also mentioned reading leisurely as a key component to successful prep. This may seem vague if you’re just starting your MCAT prep. So what exactly is the recommended reading for the MCAT CARS section? The answer will vary based on what your individual weakness is.
Work on Your Weaknesses
If your weakness is speed, then constructing your reading list is simple because you can read a variety of material to improve your reading speed. Begin by reading things that you enjoy. I have held subscriptions to women’s lifestyle magazines since I was about 10 years old. I truly believe that reading magazines from cover to cover for most of my life has helped me to achieve an above average score on the MCAT. If you enjoy science fiction or legal thrillers, then you should read that. Always keep reading material that you enjoy readily accessible. Even when you are fully enthralled in completing practice passages it’s a good idea to have reading material that will allow you take a break without really taking a break from preparing.
Read… a lot!
If your weakness is comprehension, it certainly won’t hurt to read material that you enjoy, but you should build your reading list with material that you find to be more challenging and you should also practice summarizing what you’ve read. As a journalism student I was required to read the New York Times every day and write an analysis of an article from each issue. This was MCAT prep, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
Think of the types of novels that are assigned in your English courses and the corresponding assignments from your professors. Most likely, your teachers and professors required you to pick out themes and main ideas and other literary devices. They gave you vocabulary tests on words that you weren’t familiar with. Improving your comprehension for the MCAT should be no different. Becoming proficient at these skills will translate seamlessly to the CARS section. For the purpose of MCAT prep, first pick out a novel or news article that is both challenging and though provoking, you can even start with your English course’s reading list or a reputable newspaper like the New York Times. Then, write a summary of what you read. Finally, write an opinion of what you read to include things like whether or not you agree with the author. Repeat this process as often as necessary while also completing MCAT practice passages and question sets (like the ones offered by the AAMC) and you will notice your score improving.
Complete List of Recommended Reading for MCAT CARS
Something you enjoy-For me this included magazines and memoirs. Reading things you enjoy will help to improve your reading skills overall.
Something you’re apathetic about– This can be a newspaper, or something assigned in your English course. This will help you practice your comprehension and analytical skills, especially since you will often come across topics that you find difficult to understand and prose that may be hard to decipher.
Something you find uninteresting– Reading things that are “boring” will help to improve your stamina because everything you read on the MCAT won’t be interesting. You may find it difficult to focus on material that’s boring. This is a good way to exercise that muscle.