Meeting with an obstacle (not again)

Hi… Today I came home from a Kaplan prep-class feeling pretty depressed. We haven’t had first practice exam yet though I feel already miserable…
We had a verbal section today and student usually take turns in order and answer to a question or paraphrase each paragraph. There are only about 10 students in my class but
what I hated to realize was that I couldn’t keep up with other students in verbal lecture class. It’s this verbal section that everything that I’ve planned and expected seem to go awkward…
When students actually got to participate in class, it was obvious to see how much I still needed to overcome BASIC verbal skills before I even tackle difficult reading passages… I was totally disappointed at myself and embarrassed to see even some non-native English speakers doing much better than I do. There were some passages I totally could not understand without reading them twice or more. And the more I have trouble answering the questions in front of the class, the more I feel discouraged, embarrassed and lose focus during the lecture. I felt so stupid about myself that I realized I was STILL having difficulty with English. I was crying when I came home from the lecture.
Growing up, I was never good at reading comprehension. I know my problem is but I can’t seem to understand how long and how much I should study for this verbal. Maybe I have a language learning diability.
I wonder if my life would’ve been better if I had majored in design or architecture that kind of stuff in college since I have poor reading skills and knowing that I’ve always been more artistically creative. In short, dreaming of success besides academic was always easier for me.
I’ve actually started studying (20-30hrs/week maybe) since August last year working part-time and I’ve been studying hard-core about 60hrs/week for the past 2 months trying to catch up lot of things… No socializing… No new year, no christmas .not to mention weekends… nothing… Nevertheless, I didn’t care. I actually enjoyed studying every single day and felt great every time I see some progress.
I was on fire. I could’ve studied more…
This may sound insane but that was how I much extra time I needed in order to overcome this language barrier and improve my reading skills PLUS reviewing my old pre-reqs.
Now I’m not sure if I really want to go to next kaplan class and find more about how language disable I am…oh crap
I really like the teachers though. They all seem great.
I’m doing fine in other science classes…
I’m sorta losing my overall confidence all of sudden… Maybe I need another year of preparation just for the verbal…!!

I apologize for posting this long, boring, whining and my another helpless story…
It just makes me feel better to talk with OPM members whenever I’m struggling with pre-med issue…


I’m no MCAT expert, but I was fortunate to have great English teachers all through school, so you can take this for what it’s worth.

First of all, please don’t beat yourself up over this. Lots of people have different levels of reading comprehension. The American educational system barely teaches proper English anymore, and in any event people don’t read as much as they used to. Secondly, don’t compare yourself to other people in the class. Even if they sound smart, it’s no guarantee they’ll do well on the exam (or make good doctors, for that matter). You’re not competing with them; you’re just trying to do your personal best.

I believe that reading comprehension can be improved through practice. Kaplan may or may not be the best way to do it. I somehow doubt it’s the best simply because you can’t shove this stuff down someone’s throat in a 9 week lecture course.

Anyway, I recommend you start with a collection of great essays, articles, and speeches, of which there ought to be quite a few at the library. Winston Churchill, for example. Force yourself to read the essay, or a chapter of a book, then try to write a one-sentence summary of it. Then, try to write an outline of the essay; if the essay is well written, your outline will illustrate how to state the case, prove it point by point, and then sum it all up in a conclusion.

Active reading is what they call this kind of technique. The most basic kind of active reading is taking notes while you read. Write clearly and in your own words. If you take notes in your own words while reading, it will help you to clarify your thoughts and remember what it was you read. Ask questions, too; if a passage makes no sense, make a note of that and move on. Go back later and see if it has become clear.

There are a number of other tricks to help you digest the material. For example, you can read it out loud, even tape record yourself and listen to it later to see how much of it you remember, or you can read just the first sentence of each paragraph to get the barebones meaning. Try repeating the contents of the article to your spouse or a (patient) friend, using your own words.

I found this site ( which has a pretty good list of active reading strategies. Anyway, good luck!

How are you on the science sections? Just wondering. I tore up the verbal (11) but it was HALF of my score!
All of my kids are math and science oriented (meaning it seems to come naturally to them) and labor over writing, etc. Me, I can whip out papers in half an hour. I would give ANYTHING if memorizing OChem mechanisms and formulas came as easily!! I guess we all have our areas. Just don’t get discouraged, and keep studying!

Fundee, this is really hard and I’m sorry. In your other posts you’ve mentioned being tested for learning disabilities and you’ve also talked about the difficulty you have since English is not your first language. I regret that I don’t know exactly what to suggest, but I think that perhaps you might start by going back to the person or institution that did your earlier testing. What sort of resources do they have? What would they suggest? There are tutors for ESL and there are tutors for folks with various learning disabilities. I think that you would be wise to spend some more time figuring out just exactly what your learning issues are - is it the English? the LD? both? - and then investing in some one-on-one support to help you.
The MCAT is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of difficult verbal comprehension testing - it is REALLY hard. (maybe the LSAT is worse, I don’t know) Your confidence needs a boost: maybe you could do some language prep and testing using GRE materials or other testing stuff that is not quite as dense as the MCAT. (in addition to the suggestions already made about materials to read)
You are also putting a lot of pressure on yourself with your timetable. While a goal with a specific date is good, I think it’s getting in your way at this point. You’re trying to improve skills that people spend a lifetime on. If it turns out that it would be better to delay your MCAT while you continue to work on your language skills, is that truly the end of the world? What is the worst thing that will happen if you get into medical school one or two years later? You’ll be one or two years older… well, that may not make you happy but I hope you can see that it would not be a personal catastrophe.
Finally, it sounds like you are living, breathing, eating, sleeping the MCAT. This is not good for anyone no matter how much preparation they need! Find something that gives you positive feedback and makes you feel good about yourself… whether that’s volunteering, working out, getting involved in politics - whatever, you just need a break. My personal bias would be to do some medically-oriented volunteering that helps inspire you to plug on and reminds you in a positive way of what your goal is, but really, the most important thing is to take a little of the pressure off.
Hang in there!

Hi Fundee,
Don’t use any practice testing from Kaplan or any other test prep center as a guage of how good your English skills are. Remember that they want to sell test prep courses for you. You have been studying and working in this country so you have some good basics. I have spoken with you and I know that you have the foundation. Now you can build the house.

Thank you all for the response.

BTW I’m not thinking about requesting accommodation for the exam cause there is just too much crappy work to go through. It’s wasting my money and time… Besides it’s no gurantee… I heard AAMC is very strict about allowing accommodation for ADHD students…

Also I think it’s crucial for me to get used to taking exams in a time-restricting environment.

I wouldn’t even dream about applying medical school if I believed myself that I cannot learn how to deal with ADHD and overcome language barrier… It’s not that I can’t understand English itself… It just takes longer time to process the meaning when I read unusual, complex or long sentences. I need lots of practice… It’s getting better and better…slowly…