MCAT strategies

Hi Everyone,

I have been a silent viewer for a while. Congratulations for everyone who did well on the April MCAT. I am in the process of studying for the August MCAT and am taking a princeton review class. I am struggling with strategies. The instructors keep saying not to read the passages and just scan them in less than one minute. Does that actually work? I can scan in one minute but not really understand what the heck the passage is about. I noticed that in the diag test many of the questions were free standing and not related to the passage. Is the real MCAT the same. I have not done any of the AAMC practice tests yet but will do the first one this weekend. Any advice will be appreciated. My first diag was 20. For those of you with Kaplan or Princeton Review experience, how much do you actually improve during the course?. I just finished the first week of classes.

Thank you



there is no rule on the improvement. I only improved 3 points. But there were people in my Kaplan class who improved 10 points or more.

I found the scanning technique very good. There are lots of questions in physical and biological sections that you can answer w/o using information from the passage. But for example when you have passages describing experiments, you should read them b/c the questions that follow are based directly on the passage.

And never scan passages in the verbal section. You need to read these…and you need to read fast .


I think there are pros and cons to the scanning technique…I’m using the Examkracker prep course which is adamant about NOT scanning. Personally I think you have to do what works for you…if you’re a great scanner go for it. I have not been successful with scanning, I just find that I save more time if I take the two minutes to read the passage rather then scanning and then having to go back over the passage when I have a question I’m not sure of. Yes most of the questions can be answered alone but sometimes the passage (especially if you understand the science behind it) can help with the harder questions. I think the key with reading though, is to read it but don’t waste time trying to fully digest and understand the passage.

But like I said try both and see what is more successful for you. I know people who scan and it works great.

Good luck,


I agree with Bea–there’s scanning and there’s scanning. Read the passage, but don’t waste your time on sentences that don’t make sense to you at first glance. Assume they’re baloney and go on to the next. If you scan so lightly that you can’t tell the main idea of the passage, you’ve gone too fast and missed too much. Find a middle ground.

Thank you for your input. I do find the princeton review approach to verbal reasoning very helpful. As far as the physical sciences and biological sciences I still trying to figure out what works for me. Thank you again


I agree with Denise. Also, I think a lot of it depends on how you’re doing with time. If you find that you’re running out of time with a considerable # of questions remaining, you may need to do more scanning.

Personally, I consider myself a very slow reader, however I tend to be able to answer questions quickly after the passages, so I opted to not go with Princeton’s strategy and to instead read the passage a little more carefully, doing exactly what Denise suggested regarding sentences which at first read seem incomprehensible. Using this technique I had ample time at the end of each section.

And I agree WHOLE-HEARTEDLY with Kasia’s caution regarding the verbal section–don’t scan these. This is the section which gives most MCAT test takers difficulty. I also did not really use the Princeton strategy for this section of the exam. Instead, I simply went through the passages from first to last each time I took a practice exam (and in the real thing) and never ran out of time; however, if I came to a passage that seemed incredibly difficult, I would put off that passage until I was finished with the rest–I didn’t want the added stress of feeling like I might not finish on time or knowing that I had to “guess” on all the answers from the passage I just read.

One great thing about Princeton is the # of practice tests you take. You can go into the first three trying different techniques to really get a feel for what’s going to work best for you. And then you’ve still got two more to really practice what you found to work in the previous three. Obviously, by taking more practice exams from other publishers and the AAMC you can even do more refining. You are taking an important first step in improving your scores, and that is to try to determine a strategy that is going to work well for you. What Princeton suggests may be right for you in one area and not in others–just figure out what’s going to get you the score you want and feel is representative of your skill/knowledge level.

Enjoy these last couple of months of preparation! (Can one actually say that about MCAT prep??!! )


I agree regarding the number of tests that princeton let you take. I only took the first one so far and already identified some of the strategies that definiately do not work for me. I am planning on taking other tests during my preparation so I know it will only improve. I find the versbal reasoning part the hardest, but I attribute it to the fact that English is not my first language. It takes me about 3-4 minutes to read the passage in a manner in which I understand what is going on and able to answer the questions. I have been finishing passages on an average of 10 minutes per passage so I am working on improving time and accuarcy. Other than that I find the preparation quite enjoyable (I know some would think I am insane but I do like the challenge). I look at it as one more obstacle to pass along the way.