Improving Timing on the MCAT

A lot of students struggle with timing on the MCAT. They feel rushed to get through all of the passages and questions. What if I told you it’s possible to finish the whole MCAT CARS section with 3-4 minutes left over? It’s just a matter of knowing how to study.

There are 3 elements in regard to finishing an MCAT section with time left over. The first is understanding (aka: cognition). The second is speed and the third is retention (remembering what you read). So what you need to be able to do is read very quickly, understand exactly what you’re reading and then retain the key ideas that you’re reading.

The first element of cognition is centered around how well you understand language and how well you understand the structure of essays and the structure of sentences. This domain of knowledge is called rhetoric. If you can look at an essay and quickly know its structure and how to pick out the key sentences, then you’re going to be able to read and comprehend it more quickly.

Once you’re able to pick out those key sentences, the ones that really matter as opposed to the ones that are incidental, the key to quick reading/comprehension is then knowing what parts of a sentence are important. A strong knowledge of grammar will let you do this quickly and easily. The same applies to questions and answers.

The second element, speed, doesn’t come from rushing and it doesn’t come from tricks. It comes from mastering the fundamentals. Once you master the fundamentals of grammar and rhetoric, speed will come from repetition. Think about the first time you had to balance a chemical equation. It probably took you a while. But by the end of the semester you were probably to do it a lot faster. Why? Because you practiced over and over again. The same is true with critical analysis and reasoning skills and mastering the MCAT. The first step is thoroughly knowing the material and the second is then repetition, which is the only way to consistently improve your speed.

The other thing that will really increase your speed is focusing on neuroscience exercises that will lower your stress response, integrate brain function, engage a larger portion of your frontal cortex and give you that clarity of focus so that you can read and analyze faster and retain the key information better. Not sure what we mean by this? Then check out our articles on increasing cognitive functioning: "Improve Your MCAT Score By Increasing Brain Functionality" - "Why Mood Management is Critical for Scoring Well on the MCAT" - "Improving Cognitive Functioning: Where to Learn How"

We use these steps with all of our students and many of them do, as promised, finish the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT with extra time left over. Remember, first is knowing the material, second is practicing, and third is improving your cognitive functioning, which will help you with retention.