August 13, 2013
May 2, 2013
When preparing for the MCAT, most people can see the reason for needing to know Biology and General Chemistry because they are considered essential for practicing medicine. A case can also been made for learning Organic Chemistry and Physics since they are the basis for biological molecules and the processes which run the body. Hands down the biggest complaints that I hear are about the Verbal Reasoning section. Everyone wants to know: “How does my Verbal Reasoning score show my ability to be a good physician?” or “How does analyzing a passage about poetry make me a better doctor?”
Well, I am here today to defend the Verbal Reasoning section against the onslaught of criticism and general distaste that it receives from many MCAT test-takers. Here are a few reasons that you should love Verbal Reasoning-
1. Your score on the Verbal reasoning section is the factor that is most closely correlated with your success on the USMLE or board exams. Now, why is that? The skills needed in Verbal Reasoning involve taking in a large volume of information, processing that information and deciding what is relevant to answering the questions. Incidentally, those are the exact same skills which are needed in a clinical setting. Patients will provide a large volume of information through which you will need to sift, decide what’s important and make your diagnosis. Every day you spend struggling with a Verbal passage helps prepare you for your boards!
2. When practicing medicine, you will need to deal with people, customs, and beliefs which are unfamiliar to you. You will need to treat them much like you would treat the poetry passage. Both will provide you with novel information to process and challenging information to reason through to find a solution. By working with unfamiliar topics now, you are dealing with the frustration of not understanding a topic long before you ever work with a patient whose views are entirely foreign. So, yes, that passage about Chaucer will help make you a more understanding and empathetic physician in the long run.
3. We all know that the curve on Verbal Reasoning section is one of the least generous. This makes it a section that is ripe with opportunity. Each point that you increase on your Verbal score is putting you ahead of thousands of other applicants. Yes, it is hard to improve. However, when you do improve, it is a substantial accomplishment.
Hopefully this inspires you to take a fresh look at the Verbal Reasoning section!...read more
October 25, 2012
- How does this author structure their passage? You have to know why any individual paragraph is there, and know that the purpose of the other information in that paragraph is likely to support the main idea of the paragraph! It is important, as a skill, to think about structure because when passages deviate from the expected structure there are likely points to be gained in your score (they're going on and on about advantages of something, and ... never mention disadvantages? That's odd! They must be biased.).
- What is the author's opinion? And -- for that matter -- if they mention other sources, what are their opinions? Opinion is always rich with opportunities for questions, of all different types
- What are the author's biases? Similar to the opinion, but you have to judge how neutral (or fair) they are. A whole passage defending a painter’s decline in status, for example, is filled with biases, opinions, etc. and you have to keep them straight!
- What is the significance of such a passage? The MCAT likes people who challenge the status quo. That's why "traditional" views are often refuted and "new" views are touted.
April 25, 2011
By Sam Asgarian, Kaplan Elite MCAT Instructor
Physicians are mainly scientists by training. Ask a typical pre-med what classes they’re taking and they’ll probably name a slew of science classes that most undergrads would cringe at. The MCAT too is unique in the amount of science it includes; while most standardized tests are composed of a language section and a math section, the MCAT has very little direct math and lots of science instead. The exam does, however, have a language section. It might come as a surprise to many people that this section, Verbal Reasoning, is considered by many medical schools to be the most important section in determining an applicant’s potential to be a great physician.
One thing that makes the MCAT demanding is the sheer volume of content it covers; students spend a great deal of time in the classroom and at home pouring over the different topics, formulas, and pathways to learn it all. As a Kaplan instructor, however, I remind students all the time that knowing all that information is useless if you can’t recall it quickly and effectively. When a physician walks into an exam room, she has to be able to filter through the plethora of knowledge she has and diagnose the patient in a timely manner. Can you imagine how you would feel if your doctor told you she needed a couple hours to think about what you might have and that she’d get back to you once she thought of it?
The Verbal Reasoning section is crucial because it differentiates the test-takers who have no issue memorizing the content from the test-takers who are great at thinking critically. There are no formulas or molecular theories in the Verbal section - instead, you are presented with some information (a passage), asked to read between the lines and find the topic, the scope, and the purpose of the passage as a whole, and answer questions about that passage to ensure that you understood it. Does that sound familiar? It should, because each time you walk into a clinic to see patients, you’ll be expected to read between the lines of their history and use the fund of knowledge you have to treat them. The patient may tell you that he fell and hit his head (the topic). You’ll need to think critically and find out if he fell because he’s clumsy or because he may have an underlying illness (the scope). Then you’ll have to find out how much damage he sustained so that you can treat him and make him better (the purpose).
An MD is different from a Ph.D. in that an MD needs to interact closely with people to learn more about them, gain their trust, treat them, and ensure their health and well-being. While the Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences sections are great at measuring a test-taker’s scientific knowledge, the Verbal Reasoning section tests an MCAT student’s ability to communicate with, understand, and relate to people through strong language skills. For this reason, the section is an extremely important part of a medical school application and cannot be neglected. At Kaplan, students are trained to look beyond the words for clues to what the test-makers are trying to convey in a Verbal Reasoning passage. Ultimately, our students learn to differentiate what is important from what’s just “filler” in a passage, and to predict where the questions are going to come from. This ultimately allows them to hone in on the correct answers and do extremely well in a demanding and vital section of the MCAT!...read more
December 13, 2010
January 11, 2010
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