MCAT Question of the Day: What are some proven biohacks or neurophysiological exercises that increase speed and comprehension in CARS Passages?

Besides learning the basic elements of verbal reasoning like Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic, there are a number of neurophysiological exercises or biohacks that you can use to increase your speed and comprehension.

It seems counterintuitive. The grades and success that you’ve enjoyed so far have all been the product of hard mental work, studying really hard and grinding it out. But the science is very clear, and the research is very deep on how engaging in certain practices that are totally physiological can significantly improve speed and comprehension. And when I say the research is very deep, we’re talking about over 10,000 peer reviewed studies from places like Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, and other first rate research centers.

So what does the science tell us? Two things: how to remove the negatives and increase the positives, how to get rid of those factors that decrease performance and acquire the methods that increase performance.

Let’s take a look at managing and even eliminating the negative performance factors first. The two biggest negative performance factors are stress and anxiety, not precisely the same things but very similar in their effects. Stress and anxiety both cause negative neurochemical and neurophysiological effects.

Neurochemically, as stress increases, excess epinephrine is released into the bloodstream which then begins to inhibit neurotransmitters. It’s like putting water in your gas tank. Physiologically, excess stress and anxiety begin to engage the limbic system, and as the limbic system is engaged, it becomes a drag on cognitive function, sort of like trying to run in waist deep water.

But there are a number of practices or biohacks you can use that can greatly reduce, and even eliminate excess stress and anxiety in a test taking context.

The first and really foundational practice is meditation, not just any form of meditation, but Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM significantly raises the stress and anxiety threshold, and can even eliminate stress entirely. Moreover, it increases frontal cortex engagement and greatly enhances focus. We have a free meditation exercise in the form of a sound file and also an extensive video on the research on our blog page. There’s a link in the description below.

A second practice that increases speed, cognition, and performance is the adoption of certain types of body movements and postures. For example, just enthusiastically making the victory sign can increase hormonal output associated with cognition by 20%. One of the pioneers in this field is Amy Cuddy at Harvard and in one of her videos she shows how assuming certain postures and body movements increase performance. There’s a link to her video in the description below as well.

Another practice that has a significant impact is adopting a high phytonutrient diet. The research clearly indicates that this type of diet not only increases neural cell ATP but even increases the number of mitochondria. You’ll find a link below that introduces you to the work of Dr Terry Wahl’s.

So now you’re starting to see that there really is a connection between physiology and cognitive performance. And these three types of modalities, though very rudimentary, are also very effective. If you start to use just these basic practices together consistently, you’ll see real results in your MCAT practice tests and your MCAT practice questions in less than two weeks and they take very little time.

What we’ve done in our courses  has been to get into the much more advanced research and design of multiple practices, and our research has shown that when a medley of 6 advanced neurophysiological exercises are put together and practiced regularly, it can increases performance in the CARS Exam by as much as 2 points from the exercises alone.

So by all means, do not ignore the neurophysiological aspects of cognition. They make a really significant difference and don’t take much time at all.

If you’d like to know more about the neurophysiology of cognition and other proven methods of increasing your performance on the CARS Exam, join us for one of our free classes.  We have free classes that you can attend to find out more about these methods and how to increase speed, pick out main and key ideas, deal with unfamiliar topics, analyze questions, and other issues as well. To sign up for a free class, just click the link below.

After all, who couldn’t use 2 more points in their CARS score.

Best wishes as you prepare for the exam.