How To Approach MCAT Passages And Figures Like A 90+ Percentile Scorer

June 22, 2024

minute read

A common recommendation we hear some MCAT “experts” make is to look at the questions first or to glance through the passage first, before properly reading the passage.

From our research of the way 90+ percentile scorers practiced for the MCAT, we don’t recommend simply ‘glancing’ or ‘skimming’ through a passage.

If you simply ‘glance’ or ‘skim’ through a paragraph, you’re most definitely going to have to revisit it. That wastes our precious and limited time. That also wastes mental energy that you want to use strategically throughout the entire 7.5 hour exam.

Instead, here's what we recommend...


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How Top MCAT Scorers Read Through MCAT Passages

We recommend reading with purpose right away.

Reading with purpose doesn’t mean to get a complete 100% understanding of everything the passage is saying. It doesn’t mean to memorize facts or read it like you’re reading a textbook...

It simply means to get a good idea of the concepts in the passage. Again, this means not focusing on the details but getting a broader understanding of what each paragraph is saying. 

Each paragraph has its own individual idea. Top MCAT scorers just aim to get the idea out of each paragraph. You can practice doing this when reading anything. You want to be able to get a general idea and purpose of the paragraph.

If you do practice this, also practice remembering that idea so you can make use of it in the very short term, because that’s what you need to do for an exam like the MCAT. 

For each paragraph, a great skill to help with this is to try and identify the key point of each paragraph (in one sentence - fewest words as possible).

We showed many examples of this for CARS passages in previous CARS dissection emails, plus the CARS Mastery Report and the CARS Dissections Report. These key points help when you need to reference the passage when answering questions.

Those key points, that you will have for each paragraph, will guide you when you need to reference the passage as you’re going through the questions and answer choices.

Instead being forced to search through the whole field of words in the passage and waste a lot of time, these key points act as your anchors. But again in order to get to these key points, you need to read with purpose and for the overall idea.

More often than not, you won’t even need to go back to the passage because you’ll have the key points readily available to trigger your memory of what different paragraphs were alluding to.

Next, you can also use a similar approach for graphs you see in passages...

How Top MCAT Scorers Approach Graphs & Figures In Passages

Just like with when you're reading the paragraphs, you don't need to memorize anything. You just need to get the idea of what the graphs and figures are trying to convey.

A good tip to get the idea from figures is to pay special attention to the title. The title often gives away a lot of information which lets you know when you'll need to be referencing the graph as you answer questions.

Another good hack for graphs is to pay attention to the X axis and Y axis and notice what their labels are. Usually X=independent variable and Y=dependant variable. You’ll get a stronger understanding of what the experiment is about by doing this and you'll quickly be able to know when a question requires you to refer back to that graph.

Lastly, we hope these top scorer "passage approaching" insights have helped you! If you want more proven strategies, tips, and hacks like these which many in your shoes have used to increase their scores to the 510+ level and get into med-school, you can get them here.

If you're studying for the MCAT and constantly feeling frustrated, worried, and overwhelmed, remember to take a little break. During that break refocus your mind to your vision and why you're doing this. Remember you have what it takes. You are smart. You are going to be a doctor....

And this one exam is not going to stop you.

You got this,

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your "MCAT Success" Mentors

P.S. If you want to work with a 510+ scorer one-on-one to increase your score as soon as possible, you can do that here.

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