10 Ways to Improve Your MCAT Reading Comprehension

August 25, 2023
8 min read


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 08/21/23

Mastering MCAT reading comprehension is a key skill for aspiring medical students, and with the right approach, it can be both attainable and rewarding.

A person writing notes

Whether you're a pre-med student gearing up for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) or a future healthcare professional looking to enhance your critical reading and reasoning abilities, this article will guide you through practical strategies to boost your performance in the MCAT reading comprehension section. 

These easy-to-implement tips will help you minimize all the stress and anxiety that comes with test taking. Let's explore how you can ace the MCAT's critical analysis and reasoning skills (CARS) section with finesse.

image of dots background

Why Is MCAT Reading Comprehension Important?

Reading comprehension is incredibly important for several reasons. First, it's a vital part of the MCAT, and acing this section is essential for getting into medical school. The CARS section assesses your ability to understand and analyze complex passages, just like doctors need to do in their profession.

Beyond the MCAT and medical school, doctors deal with a ton of reading materials like research papers, patient records, and medical literature. Having strong reading comprehension skills helps them stay up-to-date and make informed decisions for their patient's well-being.

Having excellent reading and information comprehension skills is also essential for a doctor's critical thinking and judgment. Doctors need to fully understand complex information to diagnose and treat patients effectively.

For example, imagine a scenario where a doctor needs to explain a complex medical condition to a patient. With strong reading comprehension skills, the doctor thoroughly understands the research papers and medical literature on the condition. As a result, they can simplify the information, using clear language and analogies that the patient can grasp easily. 

This empowers the patient to make informed decisions about their treatment, leading to a stronger doctor-patient relationship built on trust and understanding. Additionally, in a medical team setting, effective communication among doctors and healthcare professionals is critical for coordinated patient care. 

It also boosts collaboration. When each team member comprehends medical information accurately, they can collaborate seamlessly, leading to better patient outcomes and a more efficient healthcare environment overall.

Remember, improving your MCAT reading comprehension goes beyond test prep. It sets a solid foundation for success in medical school and sets you up to become a skilled doctor and communicator, positively impacting the medical field.

How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension Skills for the MCAT

A female student writing notes

If you’re wondering how to improve reading comprehension for MCAT, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get into everything you can do to ace the MCAT. By keeping these tips in mind, you can set yourself up for success. 

Read Regularly

Reading is essential for improving your reading comprehension skills for the MCAT. Make it a habit to read various materials, like scientific articles and news pieces. The more you read, the better you'll understand different topics and writing styles. 

This exposure helps build your vocabulary, enhances comprehension, and expands your knowledge base. It also improves your ability to tackle complex passages and draw inferences quickly. Regular reading also increases your reading speed, which is crucial for the timed MCAT exam. So, grab a book or article, and start reading regularly to boost your MCAT readiness.

Focus on the Key Takeaways

Summarizing the main points of a passage helps reinforce your understanding. Writing what you’ve read in your own words allows you to process the information easier and identify the key concepts. 

This active engagement improves your comprehension and memory. Summarizing also prepares you for answering passage-related questions during the test. Practice this technique regularly to boost your performance in this part of the MCAT.

Pay Attention to Structure

When you read MCAT passages, take note of their structure. Look at the introduction, main body, and conclusion. Understanding how a passage is organized helps you easily follow the author's arguments.

The introduction sets the stage and establishes the main topic, the body paragraphs contain the key information and support the author's arguments, and the conclusion wraps up the passage, summarizing the main points.

Knowing this structure helps you follow the flow of ideas, retain information, and anticipate what's coming next. It's a helpful strategy to improve your reading comprehension for the MCAT and perform better on the exam. Practice recognizing passage structures to boost your confidence on test day.

Be an Active Reader

Being an active reader is a key strategy for strengthening your reading comprehension skills and improving your MCAT CARS score. When you read, make sure to engage with the text by asking yourself questions. Wonder about the main ideas and purpose of the passage. 

Try to predict what the author will say next, and think critically about the information presented. 

By actively interacting with the material, you'll deepen your understanding, stay focused, and absorb the content more effectively. 

This active approach to reading will enhance your ability to comprehend complex passages on the MCAT and improve your overall performance on the exam. So, make it a habit to be an active reader, and you'll see significant improvements in your reading comprehension skills.

Use Context Clues

Using context clues is a powerful reading comprehension tool that can help you unlock the meaning of unfamiliar words. When you come across a word you don't know while reading, don't panic! Instead, take a moment to analyze the surrounding sentences and the overall passage for hints about the word's definition.

Look out for any nearby synonyms or antonyms that might provide clues about the word's meaning. Sometimes, the author might use similar or opposite words to give you context. Pay attention to how the unfamiliar word fits into the overall context of the passage—this can offer valuable insights into its meaning.

By practicing the use of context clues, you'll not only expand your vocabulary but also enhance your overall comprehension skills. Understanding the meaning of unknown words will enable you to grasp the passage's content more effectively and navigate through the text with confidence. 

Time Yourself

To improve your timing for the MCAT, time yourself while practicing reading passages. It helps you get used to the pressure of working within the time limit during the actual test. Setting a timer allows you to assess your reading speed and comprehension under time constraints.

This practice also allows you to prioritize key points in the passage efficiently and develop a solid test-taking strategy.

If you consistently find yourself struggling to finish within the time limit during practice, don't be disheartened. Instead, view it as an opportunity for improvement. Identifying these areas of difficulty helps you pinpoint where you need to focus your efforts to enhance your reading speed and comprehension.

Analyze Answer Choices

To excel in the CARS section of the MCAT, check out the answer choices carefully. Learn to spot common patterns and eliminate obviously wrong options quickly. The passage should always support the correct answer without introducing new information. Consider the passage's tone and context when making your choice. 

Trust the passage and avoid assumptions. If you're unsure, use the process of elimination to narrow down options and increase your chances of selecting the right answer. This skill will improve with practice, leading to better performance on the MCAT.

Review Your Mistakes

Improving your performance on the MCAT involves a crucial step: reviewing your mistakes in practice exercises. It helps you identify weak areas and understand why you made errors. By recognizing the reasons behind your mistakes, you can learn from them and avoid repeating them in the future. 

Understanding your errors allows you to adjust your study approach and focus on improving specific content areas or question types. As you learn from your mistakes and make progress, your confidence grows, which is essential on test day. Additionally, keeping track of your improvements motivates you to stay on track and work towards your goals. 

Reviewing mistakes reduces test anxiety and helps you approach the actual MCAT with a sense of preparedness. Applying the lessons learned from your practice mistakes ensures that you minimize the chances of making similar errors during the real test. Learn from your mistakes to improve your skills and excel on the MCAT.

Take Practice Tests

Taking practice tests, including CARS sections, is crucial for MCAT preparation. These tests help you get familiar with the exam format and build your test-taking endurance. You learn to manage your time efficiently and pace yourself by simulating the real test environment.

Regular practice tests help identify weak areas, so you can focus on improving specific content. Tracking your progress through multiple tests gives you a clear sense of your readiness for the exam.

The CARS section can be challenging, but consistent practice with dedicated CARS tests 

sharpens your critical reading and reasoning skills. As you see improvement in your scores, your confidence grows, which is essential on test day.

Overall, practice tests are integral to MCAT preparation, ensuring you're well-prepared and confident when facing the exam.

Seek Feedback

Try your best to seek help. Getting feedback on your practice work is a smart way to improve your MCAT skills. Whether it's from an instructor, peer, or expert MCAT tutor, their input can offer fresh perspectives and valuable insights. Feedback helps you identify blind spots, clarify misunderstandings, and learn new strategies.

Positive feedback boosts your confidence, while constructive criticism helps you address weak areas. Additionally, personalized advice tailored to your needs enhances your preparation.

Engaging with others in the learning process also fosters a collaborative environment. Embrace feedback as an opportunity for growth and use it to fine-tune your skills, build confidence, and excel on the MCAT.

By using these tips regularly, you'll enhance your reading skills, benefiting your performance on the MCAT and preparing you for medical school success.

FAQs: MCAT Reading Comprehension

To help you master the CARS section, take a look at our answers to these common questions about MCAT reading comprehension. Let's dive in.

1. How Can I Improve My Reading Comprehension for the MCAT?

To improve your reading comprehension for the MCAT, read regularly, use context clues to understand unfamiliar words, practice with MCAT-style passages, and seek feedback from instructors or peers.

2. Does the MCAT Test Reading Comprehension?

The MCAT has a section called the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section. It tests your reading comprehension, critical thinking, and reasoning abilities. You'll encounter challenging passages from different subjects and answer related questions. 

3. How Long Should It Take to Read an MCAT Passage?

The time it takes to read an MCAT passage varies from person to person, but on average, it's recommended to spend three to four minutes per passage to allow enough time for understanding and answering questions.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it up, becoming skilled at MCAT reading comprehension is essential for your medical journey. It's not just about doing well on the test; it shapes your success as a future doctor. Strong reading skills help you understand complex medical information, make informed decisions, and communicate effectively with patients and colleagues.

By following these tried and true tips, you can improve your reading comprehension for the MCAT and set yourself up for a successful medical career. Dedicate yourself to practice, and you'll excel in this crucial aspect of your medical journey. Best of luck!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Get Free Consultation
image of dots background

You May Also Like