Conquering The MCAT As An ESL Student

June 25, 2024

minute read

The MCAT isn't fair.

You spend months memorizing hundreds of different topics - some you’ve never studied before, buy prep books, and then finally write the 7.5-hour long exam

And for this MCAT Mastery mentor, there was another unfair disadvantage she had going into the MCAT!

CARS is difficult enough on its own, but for Merrina it was even more difficult because she's an ESL student. So, passages were harder to read, and questions were even harder to answer.

Despite having an uphill battle with MCAT prep, Merrina didn't give up and found the strategies to conquer CARS as an ESL student and score 518 on test day! 

Whether you're an ESL student yourself or you just want to make CARS a little bit easier, Merrina's got you covered: 

We’ll pass it to Merrina from here!

I took the MCAT in June of 2021 and got a 518.

I know this is a good score, but since English is my second language, I actually had a hard time achieving this.

I moved to the United States when I was 16 years old. Before that, I was learning English throughout my schooling in China, but I had yet to use it in real life or extensively in my science subjects.

When I took the American College Test (ACT) in high school, the reading section was my lowest. I couldn't read fast enough to understand everything and answer the questions correctly.

The Most Challenging MCAT Section For An ESL Student

I quickly realized that the CARS section is very similar to this reading section of the ACT. I felt intimidated by all the long sentences and convoluted words I didn't understand.

 I ultimately needed help understanding passages due to my lack of understanding and if I added the time limit, I wouldn't be able to read through the whole passage and answer the questions correctly.

After working really hard to figure out what works best for me, I could do the passages within the time limit and ended up with a 127 on the CARS section, which I'm very proud of.

How I Scored A 127 In MCAT CARS As An ESL Student

I will share with you things that I did that could help you if you are also an ESL student.

First, I recommend you do at least one CARS passage every day. It doesn't matter how busy your schedule is or other things you have going on. Just set aside about ten minutes to do one passage.

That's not too hard, right?

Reading is like building muscle memory. The more you do it, the better your brain adapts to reading material fast and grasping the information in a limited amount of time.

Secondly, if you need help understanding a long word, like an adjective, don't worry about it. It's generally okay to only understand some things in a sentence as long as you understand the nouns and verbs.

Number three, I recommend that you highlight keywords while you're reading. This way, when you return to the passage, you're only dealing with a limited amount of information instead of the entire passage again.

The keywords you highlight should ideally be nouns or key terminology. You should not be highlighting adjectives that only serve to describe a noun.

My fourth tip is to shorten the sentences to make them easier for your brain to understand. Some examples include removing the fluffy adjectives and changing from passive to active voice. This way, you have fewer words to read, and it's easier to understand.

I'll give you an example!

Let's say I have a sentence that says "the molecule was carefully prepared by a conscientious scientist."

This is a very long sentence with several adverbs or adjectives, such as carefully and conscientious. They don't help you understand the sentence better, so I recommend cutting them out. 

This sentence is also in passive voice. If I change it to active voice, it will have fewer words, becoming easier to understand. By modifying the sentence, I now have "a scientist made the molecule."

Isn't that so much easier to understand?

MCAT Success As An ESL Student Is Possible

So, if you are an ESL student like me and want to do well on the MCAT, don't panic. Don't doubt your abilities because you absolutely can succeed.

Although you will be fighting an uphill battle, with the right amount of strategy and practice, you will be able to score well, just like your other classmates.

I hope you will consider incorporating the tips I just shared with you and sign up for the free resources from MCAT Mastery.

Merrina’s Parting Words

With that, I hope you get into your dream medical school and become a great physician. If I can do this, then so can you!

Good luck with the rest of your MCAT preparation, and we shall see you soon.

If We Can Do It, So Can You!

What did you think of Merrina’s tips for studying as an ESL student? It’s The MedLife Mastery Team back again and if you are also an ESL student like Merrina, don’t feel discouraged! If we can succeed, so can you!

Merrina’s journey to conquering CARS isn’t just super helpful, but it’ll really motivate you to keep pushing forward with MCAT prep.

If you find Merrina's approaches to tackling CARS helpful and you want to make things even easier, having someone personally guide you through CARS passages step-by-step will be a game-changer in getting you to your score goal!

You should also check out our CARS Mastery course, where you’ll learn 130+ scorer strategies on how to think through and dominate this section!

Remember, even when it feels like the odds are against you, there are ways you can turn the odds to make them in your favor….

It just takes patience, learning proven techniques, and a never-ending determination to achieve your dream.

You got this!

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

Your MCAT Success Mentors

About the Author

We're a team of future doctors passionate about giving back and mentoring other future doctors! All mentors on the team are top MCAT scorers and we all are committed to seeing you succeed in achieving your physician dreams ???? To help you achieve your goal MCAT score, we take turns hosting these Live MCAT Courses and are also available for 1:1 private tutoring!

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