MCAT Science Passage Strategies Used By Top MCAT Scorers

June 25, 2024

minute read

Are your science sections suffering on the MCAT?
Do you feel like you know a lot, if not all, of the content but something is just off because it’s not reflecting in your score?

Are you looking for logical ways to approach those confusing science passages?

Do you want a quick score increase especially on the Chemistry/Physics section of the MCAT?


If so you're in the right place because in this article we’ll be covering:

  • Why you’re finding sciences passages more difficult than you should
  • Why most students are spending way too much time studying for Organic Chemistry on the MCAT
  • What you should and shouldn’t focus on when reading a science passage
  • How to get mentally prepared for the question while reading an MCAT science passage
  • A reading strategy that helps you choose the right answer a lot more often
  • A 519 scorer’s time-wasting Physics mistake you should avoid 
  • A common top scorer recommendation for those who are weak and need improvement in Chem/Phys
  • Why some premeds end up having to re-write the MCAT when they didn’t need to

Our goal is to show you how to get quick improvements in the Chem/Phys and Bio/Biochem sections, with advice, strategies, and recommendations that are straight from those high scorers who have dominated the MCAT.

With that said, let's dive into our first MCAT science passage strategy which is one of the most fundamental ways top scorers break down how much studying time and energy they're going to give to Biology, BioChemistry, Organic Chemistry, and General Chemistry.

The #1 MCAT Science Passage Strategy Is Knowing Where and How To Focus Most Of Your Attention (Hint: Not On Organic Chemistry)

Generally, the highest MCAT scorers know that Bio, BioChem, Psychology, and Chemistry make up 75% to 80% of the MCAT. This is where you want to spend most of your attention and energy.  Physics is less than 10%.

Organic Chemistry on the other hand, is generally only 5% of the MCAT. This is a difficult area to study for most students, and because it's so hard, students spend way more time than necessary on this!

The key strategy with Organic Chemistry on the MCAT  is to learn the basics, that which is easy to remember. Focus on the concepts, not the details. Don't make the mistake of taking an OChem course when the MCAT is near. It's not worth it.

What's the worst case scenario? Let's say you know nothing about OChem, but know all the other sections extremely well. The impact on your score will be minimal (5%). 

Think about it this way:

If the MCAT had 100 questions, only 5 would be OChem.

3-4 of which would be pretty straightforward questions addressing the basics, which you should have studied.

1 or 2 might be the most difficult ones for which you would need to know details for. You still could guess on those but even if you get them wrong, so what? 

Hopefully this is giving you a taste of how top scorers think through their MCAT study process. Without this type of "high leverage" strategy thinking during MCAT prep, it's extremely difficult to cross the 500 or 510 mark on the MCAT.  This is what we call "studying smart" for the MCAT.

If you want to study smart for the MCAT like this, we've got a whole guide that you can download on how top scorers studied for the MCAT, so you can apply their 'high leverage' principles to your MCAT prep right away and see your score increase with every practice exam. 

With that said, let’s move on with the next top scorer science passage strategy, which is all about being smart with HOW you select what you want to focus on in the science passage when you read.

How Top Scorers Strategically Read Science Passages To Get The Right Answer Most Often

When studying we're inclined to give special attention to or focus on something either by highlighting or underlining.
So for example, the average MCAT writer’s thought process goes something like this...
"I will underline everything I think is important in this passage"
Makes sense, right? That's what you're probably doing as well.
Except what ends up happening is that you end up underlining or highlighting 80% or more of the entire passage!

And that's not helpful at all...
Just a waste of time and leads to a lot of confusion… And confusion leads to even more time wasted.
So the question top scorers recommend asking yourself is, what should you highlight or underline to get just the right amount of information you need to choose the right answer?
The answer is to only underline keywords that you recognize from your content review.
Top scorers have realized that a lot of these MCAT science passages mention research studies and are overflowing with scientific wording that is unnecessarily advanced...

This is the kind of stuff the test creators include to try and throw you off your game.
You're not expected to understand any of that stuff. What you are expected to understand, are the content terms that you DO recognize.
Which means that if you're doing practice passages, you need to already be quite familiar with content that you're going to have to know for the exam, so you can pick up on the right keywords.
Bringing your attention to keywords in the passage will help you when you read the question.
Top scorers have realized that when you do this, you'll find that you won't need to think about the answer too much because you’ll already be mentally prepared for a question about those keywords.
This saves you time by helping you not get stuck thinking about, and getting caught up in useless information that just ‘seems’ important. This strategy helps you focus on strictly the content within the passage, making it easier for you to get the right answer a lot more often.

See Also: How To Increase Your Bio/Biochem Score on the MCAT Fast: 4 Top Scorer B/B Strategies

Some top scorers even recommend to not focus too much on the tables, graphs, or figures. Only consider them if the question actually asks you to.

Other strategies mention that you SHOULD look at these things before reading the passage. When there are mixed messages like this, we recommend you try both approaches and see what works best for you!
Over time and with practice, you’ll be able to easily highlight those things that you know you’ll be asked a question on.
In fact, you’ll probably realize very soon that this is not hard to do. For instance, a passage that mentions a specific molecule to be a competitive inhibitor, is indirectly telling you to be prepared for a question on it.
Just remember, in order to apply this strategy effectively, you have to have good familiarity with the content. That doesn’t mean memorize formulas, it means understand concepts.

How Top Scorers Boost Their Chem/Phys Score + Overall MCAT Score In Record Time

We provide you with top MCAT scorer wisdom not only so that you can learn from their successes, but also their mistakes.

Knowing these mistakes and avoiding them saves you all the time and energy that it would cost you if you made them yourself.

One 519 scorer (132 in both C/P and B/B) said that before MCAT prep, she hadn’t taken physics in over 2 years. So she went hard doing content review and memorized ALL formulas...
But during the MCAT exam, she never had to use even one formula! All the questions were based on theory and concepts.

Does that mean don't memorize any formulas? Not really - it just means that you should keep in mind that understanding the meaning of equations and their use is more important than just memorization.

Another common top scorer recommendation if you’re weak in Chem/Phys, is to do tons and tons of practice passages...

According to 515+ MCAT scorers, if you keep doing practice passages, that’s probably all you need to do to increase your score in this section. Physics especially, is best mastered with practice. (Also don't forget to target your weak areas until there are none left.)

See Also: How To Increase Your Chem/Phys Score on the MCAT Fast

A lot of students who don't practice enough or who don't know if they're studying and writing practice exams in the right way, find themselves worried, especially when looking at their MCAT score.
If you’re ever feeling worried, nervous, frustrated, confused, or scared during your MCAT prep, we want you to remember that many top MCAT scorers struggled with similar challenges like you all throughout MCAT prep…
But they all found or figured out the most effective MCAT prep strategies to maximize their score.
Unfortunately however, it might surprise that you before they figured out the best strategies to get a competitive score, some top scorers had to write the MCAT more than once.
It took them months of prep, hundreds of dollars, actually writing the MCAT, AND getting a mediocre score that’s now on their record, to realize that they should have approached MCAT prep differently the first time.
It was a huge unnecessary sacrifice to just simply have the wake up call that they needed to figure out the right strategies to get their desired score.
Unlike you, most of them didn’t have us telling them that’s how it’s done!
In the end, it worked out for those who learned the proper MCAT prep strategies, which automatically took their score from low to competitive.
But there were always the majority of re-writers who could never figure it out and ended up testing for a third time or just giving up and sending in applications... disappointed and not looking forward to what the future had in store for them.
It’s scary to think being in that position is very possible. Which is why we always urge everyone in the MCAT Mastery Community to do everything you can NOW to prep for the MCAT in the smartest way, so you don’t have any regrets later...

And the smartest way is to copy the already-proven MCAT study strategies of top scorers.

If you decide to use these top scorer strategies, you can be sure this is the last time you ever have to write the MCAT.
You can be sure you won’t make the same pointless sacrifices that others have made, before you realize that all you needed was a simple, proven, map to dominate the MCAT...
You got this,

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Mastery Mentors

P.S. If you want one of us on The MedLife Mastery Team who aced the MCAT, look at your current MCAT study methods and make a custom strategy plan for you, we can do that for you too!

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