Is Reading Outside of MCAT Passages Helpful?

Premed students are always looking for ways to better prepare themselves for the MCAT. As a result, we’ve been asked if reading outside of practice passages can be helpful. And if so, what should you be reading?

Well the answer to the first question is: Absolutely! The more types of passages you read and the more topics you read about will help prepare you for the wide variety of passages that can possibly appear in the MCAT Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills (CARS) section. So the next question is what should you be reading outside of MCAT passages?

One of the things we recommend to our students, just as we do with vocabulary (see “How to Improve Your Vocabulary for the MCAT”) for more information about that), is to read in areas that you would normally never read. Read what we call arcane passages, challenging passages. Why? So that when you come upon a challenging passage in an area that you’ve never read before in the actual MCAT exam itself, it’s really no surprise since you’re used to going through those types of passages.

Specifically, the kinds of reading we recommend for this are first, The Economist magazine. And with The Economist magazine they have both an online edition and a print edition. Go to articles that you would never think about reading: articles on monetary policy in the European Union, on recent developments in the oil markets in Venezuela, etc. Read about things that you would normally not have any interest in. This allows you to get used to decoding a passage irrespective of whether or not you are familiar with that topic area.

Additionally, The Economist, is one of the best written publications and all of its articles are written in a way much like the MCAT CARS passages are written. Reading arcane passages helps you learn how to get through a MCAT Passage, even if it’s about an unfamiliar topic, just by following the ideas.