BloodySurgeon

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In addition to this thread I recommend that others look into advice given from QofQuimica, Vihsadas, and others who've done amazingly well on the MCAT.

QofQuimica - http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=223930
Vihsadas- http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showpost.php?p=6022602&postcount=96
30+ MCAT Study Habits- http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=503250

In many respects, I should leave it to the pros to advise on Verbal.. but I've spent much of my time practicing strategies since my reading comprehension skills are poor to say the least and I want to share them with you guys.

Well here is BloodySurgeon's Verbal Guide For Those Who Can't Read "Good":


I just took my first diagnostic and I got a very low verbal score, what are the first steps I should do?

First) Try doing a passage without being timed. Read, re-read, and re-read the passage again if you need to. Write notes. Look for keywords that let you know what the authors opinion, purpose, and tone of voice is. Then spend as much time as you want on the questions. Do not mark a question unless you are 100% sure it is right. Go back to the passage and identify what in the passage makes this question correct. Finish 1-2 passages in this fashion.

Second) Spend a lot of time going over the answers. Do not just go, "oh ya" and move on. Truly identify why you got this wrong, if you got it wrong. Do you understand why it is correct? Then critique if you would be able to get this right after a week.

Third) After practicing 2 days on passages un-timed but pacing yourself so you finish within 12-15 mins per passage, try timing yourself for 8.5mins or less per passage. Are you making more mistakes? Are you spending more time on the reading or on the questions (it should be approximately equal depending on the passage difficulty)? This will allow you to key into where your biggest problem is.

Fourth) By the end of the week, re-do the first passage I told you to do un-time and try to do it under a timed condition. Are you still making the same mistakes? If so, did you review it properly? Keep a log of what passages get you the most and which are getting you the least.

Fifth) In the beginning, I recommend you do the passage types that really bug you. If you hate philosophy, do only philosophy passages for 5 days straight... if its art do that. Then after you are conformable with reading those passages, you may move on practices other passages. As a helpful hint, milk your strengths as much as possible since the test is not bias where the correct answers come from (a point is a point).

Sixth) Try different strategies and find what is best for you. Try mapping, try reading question first then attacking the passage. Try finishing the passage within 7 mins or 7.5 mins. Make sure you find what works best for you.

I understand the passages fine, but I can never finish the verbal section on time? I think I read too slowly.

Well the short way to answer this is to just practice. But just practicing for the sake of practice, is a waste of time. You need to be practicing strategy if you want to do well on the mcat and you can have strategies for everything, even the MCAT. You should first time yourself for two passages. Each passage should take about 8 1/2 mins, but some are shorter/longer than others so you should time yourself with two passages averaging around 17 mins. Record how long you are taking on just the reading the passage and how long you are taking answering the questions. The reading should take approxiametly 4 1/2 mins , whereas the questions should take you about 4 mins (this varies depending on how long or difficult the passage is though). No passage should take more than 10 mins and if it is, I suggest that you guess and move on. Might as well spend time answering questions you know rather than what you don't know. Now after doing this, you can see which part of the timing you are having most difficulty with.

I found out that I really do read slowly, what should I do?

Understand what the different type of passages are and what to expect for each one. This will allow you to highlight the important detail so you may read through the extra material quicker. Here are some guidelines of what to look for in a passage:

Science passages have a lot of questions about DETAIL. Either comparing two theories, people, dates or the likes. So think in terms of compare and contrast if there are two subject matters and keep an eye out for distinctions. Theory A think X, but Theory B think Y. If there are distinctions, most likely the test maker will ask a question about it. Try highlighting names and dates, so referring back to the passage will be easy (i.e. the first passage is about the pre-colonial era whereas the rest of the passage is describing the colonial era).

Humanities are more about the author. What is the author's opinion? (you should always think in terms of the author, but more so for humanities) They tend to ask questions like, "what would most weaken or strengthen the authors assertion." Only way to do so is to see what the author is advocating. (not always the case but most of the time--remember the author can be neutral). Distinctions again are very important. The author may make a distinction of what certain people think vs. what he thinks. Look for words like, however or but... which is pretty much saying "hey look here, he's says this but i really think this way and I'm going to ask you a question about this in a little bit so stay tune."

Reading quickly is not a good idea if you cant have a good grasp of what the passage is about. Try asking yourself if you understand the plot, the reason why the author wrote this, and the author's opinion (if he has one). If you can't answer this, you probably read too fast or just read the words and not the actual meaning. A good way to read faster is to skim through the details. It will be alright to brush through all the technical bulk of the passage if you know what you will be skipping (i.e. examples of strong woods) and if they ask about it you will know where to look. To do this though, I'd recommend either highlighting or mapping.

Many people recommend that I should map, but I waste too much time on it and I can't think of the words to write.

For those of whom that are asking yourself this very question, you are probably new to mapping and like all knew techniques it will take practice to get use to it. I think everyone who does well on VR are mapping their passages, either it be on paper or in their heads (mental mapping) they are doing some sort of mapping. Paper mapping, in my opinion, is very important for those of us who have not spent years to tone their reading skills. The only way to deburden ourselves from our cognitive load will be to make mapping so proficient that it becomes almost second nature to us. If you don't have problems forgetting where things are and already critical read, then paper mapping may not be for you. But for the majority of people. like myself, focusing for 1 hr straight causes me to lose track of where I am and where he/she said such and such. Therefore, a 1-word guide to hold the cognitive load is enough for me.

Mapping in the beginning is a good idea, because it gets you into the habit of critical reading (thinking while reading). You'll constantly think to yourself, "what should I write here, or what do I need to extrapolate from reading this." Most people who are not casual readers have trouble mental mapping and your memory fills in the gaps causing a lot of bias assumptions (which the mcat loves to test you on). Personally, at the beginning, I had trouble categorizing each paragraph, and mapping made answering questions easier because the answer choices reflected on specific topic based on a more general topic with centralized theme. However, after a lot of practicing with mapping on the paper you will be about to mental mapping proficiently and you will probably spend that extra 20 seconds on selectively highlighting or rethinking questions.

Another point I want to add is that the purpose of mapping is not to know where everything is necessarily, because most of us know where's what. The point of mapping is to take that 2 seconds after a paragraph to analyze what that passage was about. Even at the early stages of studying, I never referred back to my map... I know what I wrote because I wrote it. Questions and analyzing (critically reading) is essential what puts the mcat VR apart from any other standardize reading test. Again, experienced readers IMO don't need to map, but it could help with those of us who are having difficulties. Again this is a strategy guide, meaning there are many other strategies to be taken and to each their own.

So I'll buy your crap on mapping, so how should I do it?

Your map should help you to pick out which paragraph to refer back to and the question/answer will have key words for you to find the sentence to answer your questions. You need to know what your skimming as in "what am I missing?" so you know to look 'here' if they ask a question pertaining to it. Think of it this way. Every single answer to a question is in the passage, so why not use it? If you have time, I would suggest that you practice mapping because it takes time to get use to. At first, it will be hard to use efficient words and not take up too much time, but eventually you'll get the hang of it. Here are some tips:

1) Only write a FEW words AFTER each paragraph.
2) Don't take notes WHILE reading.. if you see something that you really think is important HIGHLIGHT it--mapping is to give you an idea of what is what in the passage
3) If the questions are based on the passage, nearly every answer will be in the passage.
4) Try practicing a few times without timing yourself and get accustomed in finding the answer.
5) I highlight only names, dates, and seemingly important texts and that's it (too much highlights distracts me)
6) Each paragraph I only map the main purpose of it (why does the author include this paragraph and not leave it out?)
7) Also a VERY IMPORTANT clue to look for is... Does the author have an opinion or not? If so, more than likely you will have a question about it. In the end write the authors tone of voice (i.e. opinionated or not).


Should I read the question before reading the passage?

Some look at the questions before the passage, but i think its a waste of time. If you don't have timing issue then by all mean do so... but IMO your probably going to refer back to the passage anyways so why do it twice?

I improved a little but I am still not where I want to be, what should I do?

Try getting all the questions right on the passages that you feel most confident with, because there will always be one passage on the tests that will leave you stumped. Instead of being discouraged, do extremely well on the easier ones and let the hard ones sleigh. Remember your score is not based on what you get right, but how many of them you do. Try practicing everyday and maybe read an hour of outside material like The Economist or The New Yorker. Keep a log of the questions that really get you. I have a notebook that I keep to myself and I record any word that I don't know but think I should know (especially a word I don't know in the question) and I look it up by the end of the day. At the end of the week, I review those words along with questions I got wrong because I didn't think the right way...

Answers to keep an eye at:

Be wary of EXTREME answer choices unless the author has an extreme opinion. If the answer choices have always or never, they are USUALLY never right.

'However when they ask for something that "most strengthens" or "most weakens" an argument, you want to pick an extreme answer choice (added by Bravesfan113)'

Also look for answer choices that use the words like might, maybe, or possibly. REMEMBER this is about the author.... so if you hear the authors opinion that's a red flag for a question answer.

[Added Excerpts from My Log]

BloodySurgeon's Log:

Verbal Log:

1) Which of the following is a claim made by the author but NOT supported in the passage by evidence, explanation, or example?

-->If it is not stated, it is not the answer
-->If the sentence is on its own, it is usually the right answer
-->An assertion might be supported within the same sentence

2) This new information would most CHALLENGE the claim that:

--> The "claim" has to be one made in the passage. If it isn't, then it is not correct.

3) For which of the following conclusions does the passage offer the least support?

-->There may be no support for an answer. However, you must ensure that the answer choice falls into the category of being a "conclusion."

4) Author provides no support or substantiation

-->Answer could be something that was never stated

5) The passage suggests that its author would probably disagree with which of the following statement?

--> If the passage does not suggest this statement, then we cannot argue that the author would agree or disagree based upon passage information.


Final Note:

There is no right, easy, or magic way to score high on the VR. It will come down to practicing and hard work as with everything else in life. You can practice your VR by doing passages, with or without strategies (the way you feel most conferable with) and then review your answers thoroughly after you're done. This include the questions you got correct and the one you didn't. I would go over the other answer choices as well and try finding the answer by knowing all the wrong answer choices. It will take dedication, determination, and persistence to change your low verbal score. But aren't these the qualities medical schools consistently look for in their applicants? You will have good days and you will have bad days. When your at your worst remember what it's all for and you will get through it. I wish everyone best of luck and l I hope you guys enjoyed my Verbal Guide... PM if you have any question....
 
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ShanShan

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thanks for typing all this up! :) I'll be certain to refer back to this page once my finals are over. I owe you big time if I get over 10 on VR.
 
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DrLuv

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WOW. It's like you wrote this JUST for me. Thanks so much, I'm sure this will really help. :D
 

bravesfan113

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surgeon, what are you getting on verbal? i'm hitting around 11-12 on the AAMC practice tests but i'm not improving, and i don't like mapping. when i practice i don't know if i'm getting anything out of it. maybe i need to start making a log of the questions i miss, or working on my timing (i finish right on time, but i don't have a lot of time to double check answers that are in the passage)? it seems like i either really understand a passage and get every question right, or i am lost on a hard passage and end up missing a few questions. there's no in between, and the determining factor is the difficulty of the passage. i would LOVE a 14 in verbal, it would make my life so much easier :rolleyes:
 

BloodySurgeon

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surgeon, what are you getting on verbal? i'm hitting around 11-12 on the AAMC practice tests but i'm not improving, and i don't like mapping. when i practice i don't know if i'm getting anything out of it. maybe i need to start making a log of the questions i miss, or working on my timing (i finish right on time, but i don't have a lot of time to double check answers that are in the passage)? it seems like i either really understand a passage and get every question right, or i am lost on a hard passage and end up missing a few questions. there's no in between, and the determining factor is the difficulty of the passage. i would LOVE a 14 in verbal, it would make my life so much easier :rolleyes:
I think you are doing great! My advice are generally for those with lower verbal scores than what you have. As you were saying, your only problem is getting those few questions right. I think if you keep a log of why you get those few question wrong and refer back to them it'll really sink into your head and you wont make the same mistake again. Like me, your probably getting a question wrong and go... "ohhh i got that wrong because I forgot to see it this way again." Or, "oh ya, that answer doesn't share the same tone of voice as the author and that adjective is too extreme."

I'm going to write a few of my logs for ya in a little bit so you get the idea. I also do this for all the sections on the mcat.
 

bravesfan113

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thanks surgeon. i'm happy with an 11 or 12, but i don't want to get overconfident and i want to give myself some leeway on test day. i'm trying to consistently practice as i study the sciences. i think i'll start keeping some sort of log w/ reasons why i missed questions or things to look out for. good advice.

by the way, eliminating extremes has really helped me a lot.. but you may want to clarify for some people.. when they ask for an example that "most strengthens" or "most weakens" an argument, you want to pick an extreme answer choice here

that may be obvious, but i just want to make sure people don't automatically eliminate extreme answer choices on these types of questions ;)
 

BloodySurgeon

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I've posted some of my log entrees if you wanna take a look at it. and yes i contradicted myself by saying don't write examples... i went ahead a deleted that statement.
 

BloodySurgeon

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Also, I map out my passage but rarely refer back to them. Its just so I give myself that pause to ask myself what is the point of this passage. And having a systematic method lets me enter the same train of thought every time I take a test. I don't like going into a situation and try to wing it as I go. I want to sit down have the test and think to myself... I will do A then B then C.
 

bravesfan113

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hey surgeon.. you may want to add this to this section, just so you don't lead people astray:

Answers to keep an eye at:

Be wary of EXTREME answer choices unless the author has an extreme opinion. If the answer choices have always or never, they are USUALLY not right

however when they ask for something that "most strengthens" or "most weakens" an argument, you want to pick an extreme answer choice
 

JA Prufrock

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There's a grammatical error in the thread title: it should say "goodly"
 

iA-MD2013

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Thank you BloodySurgeon! That was very nice of you to type that up.
What verbal prep have you been using? I've been using the tpr and ek 101 passages. i have access to the kaplan, but it seems much different than the aamc. what do you think?
 

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Wow. Great post!! It's always good to have differing perspective on the same subject. What works for me, may not work for you and such and such. :p
 
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Wow awesome post!! :)
thanks for typing it up!!
i'm not scoring high so i'm going to definitely be using your advice. will let you know how it works out! wish me luck!
 

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Additionally, be wary of answer choices that seem verbatim of the passage. Usually the test maker puts that out to trick the reader.
An awfully long post... how did you do on the VR section btw?

The strategy I used: spend 8 minutes per passage. Read for four minutes, answer questions for four minutes. No circling, underlining, writing, highlighting, etc. Got an 11.

I would advise that everyone try this out at least once before the exam. I think a lot of people over-complicate the VR section.
 

hypnix

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What would you suggest doing if you can understand hte passage, but rather it's your lack of understanding of the question? I feel like I can read a passage and I map in my head and get the main idea of each paragraph and get the feel of the author's tone and what not, but I just seem to be really bad at answering questions. At least I've been struggling a great deal in verbal as of late. I don't know what I am doing wrong.

Got any tips for answering questions?
 

BloodySurgeon

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What would you suggest doing if you can understand hte passage, but rather it's your lack of understanding of the question? I feel like I can read a passage and I map in my head and get the main idea of each paragraph and get the feel of the author's tone and what not, but I just seem to be really bad at answering questions. At least I've been struggling a great deal in verbal as of late. I don't know what I am doing wrong.

Got any tips for answering questions?
I try making a log on some of those common questions that I get wrong and why I got it wrong. For example, I am very cautious about extreme answer choices because they are usually wrong. I think answering questions incorrectly after truly understanding the passages is just a matter of practice. But practicing aimlessly will get you nowhere. Try keeping track of what and especially WHY you are getting questions wrong. This of course is a very general tip but again you had a very general question.

Every individual is different and has different weaknesses. Maybe you get suckered into wrong answer choices because they are quoting the passage. I don't know, I haven't seen you do any problems.

Also... I am in NO way, shape or form a great verbal test taker.... I don't score 14's or 15 on verbal like some of these ppl you hear about in this forum. I am just giving my advice for those who were struggling as I was (started with a VERY low verbal score) and want to get in the double digits or close enough.
 

SamuraiPanda

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I find myself quickly eliminating answers down to 2 choices, but I always struggle to decide which is better. I end up spending most of my time on questions deciding between the last 2 answers, and I'll often end up getting it wrong because I'll take too much time and forget a key word in the question or something.

Do you have some sort of strategy for how to decide between the last 2 answer choices?
 

BloodySurgeon

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I find myself quickly eliminating answers down to 2 choices, but I always struggle to decide which is better. I end up spending most of my time on questions deciding between the last 2 answers, and I'll often end up getting it wrong because I'll take too much time and forget a key word in the question or something.

Do you have some sort of strategy for how to decide between the last 2 answer choices?
Usually when it's down to two answer choices the difference will be in the subtle wording of the answer. Maybe one is more extreme and says ONLY while the other says may or possibly. You will have to look for the authors tone of voice with the answer choices as well as what she would agree with. Imagine if the author was taking the test with you and you are finding choices he/she would choose. Never spend too much time on one question and if you find yourself in that position you just have to guess and move on. Try finding a pattern of the wrong answers you are choosing and it will make you more aware of what to watch out for when choosing between the two. Best of luck and I hope I was helpful.
 

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Why not sticky this thread or add it to the Useful Links section?
 

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Another way to analyze what you're getting wrong that I found helpful: When reviewing what you got wrong, write down what your thought process was in getting the wrong answer. Then write down any reason you can think of that explains the right answer. (Don't write a paragraph - just a short sentence for each). THEN look at the solution. I say write it down, because for me, it forces me to verbalize my thinking.

Also, when reading, if you don't understand a sentence or even a paragraph, don't waste time trying to, and don't stress about it. I've found that if a question is asked about it, the question will clarify the concept for me.

Finally, I find over and over again that when I'm tutoring someone in this, they tend to read these passages like they read text books - for memorization. DON'T DO THIS. Map stuff in writing or in your head (Bloody Surgeon is absolutely correct about this), and move on. You don't have to remember any of what you just read after you go to the next passage.

I got a 13 in VR the first time I took the MCAT, and was making 11 - 15 on my practice tests this time. Good luck everyone!

S.
 
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amar21

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WOW

I was just about to go through my verbal sections today and make a list of the 4-5 things you mentioned above haha. Those are the questions I always get wrong and its always due to deviations from what you stated.
 

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Hello, thanks for this great post

one question though....can you explain if it is possible to map/annotate passages on the CBT verbal?

i agree that mapping helps, but i dont want to practice with it if it wont be possible on the real test
 

BloodySurgeon

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I am a litte unclear of what you are asking me but my verbal guide can be applied to both the cbt and paper based test. during your exam, you will be provided with scatch paper as well as pencils. you could use this for mapping, problem solving or whaever you like. i hope this helps
 

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Hi BloodySurgeon,

Thanks for the reply...I see you PM'd me as well, sorry I missed that

I guess what I was asking is that can you highlite, underline, etc the passage on the computer screen? I think I read that you cannot, so I was asking to make sure.

I will try your suggestion on mapping on a scratch paper, but I just feel that it wont help much.....but I guess joting some things down on scratch paper is better than nothing.

For me, marking-up and circling key words on the the actual passage really helps, so its too bad that we cant highlite the computer screen.

Anyway, thanks for your help and responses.

BTW, does anybody know how the prep-companies suggest mapping on scratch paper (I guess something like write the main point of each paragraph?).........I have looked at the old PR verbal strategies, where they suggest circling transition words, etc....but these are only applicable for paper-based exams
 

BloodySurgeon

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Taken from the AAMC website (http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/testexpfaq.htm):

Can I make notations on the screen as I am taking the test?
You will be able to highlight passage sections and to strike out answer choices. Making notations on the screen is a functionality currently being explored.
Currently there is no function to make notions on the screen such as notes, circling key words or the likes but you will be able to highlight passage sections and stike out answer choices.
 
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wow thanks. Im getting 6-8, i just started my studying in june for the aug exam so i have some time....but i'm definitely going to try to keep a log

i'll keep you posted if it works! thank you :thumbup:
 
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Hi Surgeon,
Your advice is everything I've heard from multiple sources, all summed up nicely in one post. It's amazing, thanks!

I'm retaking the MCAT in April. I was scoring 7-10s on practice VR sections before taking the MCAT in September but managed to stoop to a 6 on the real thing :'(

My question is: how many passages a day or per week do you reccommend I start doing in order to be ready for April. In other words, how should I be pacing myself?

Also, I've heard that reading things like the Economist and The New Yorker will help, but what exactly should I be focusing on when reading these outside sources? Should I be practicing VR strategy or just reading to see how much I can understand. Should I read every day?

Thanks in advance for any advice you are willing to offer!
 

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I need some advice of approaching the passages in terms of enhancing my scores. I have the EK 101 and the Kaplan Verbal. Is it worth it to start my review by doing all of the practice exams in both books and try my best to finish on time. Or should I instead do it passage-by-passage with a timer timing 8 min per passage? Keep in mind that I just began my verbal review. I intend to also buy the TPR and TBR books as well to supplement my learning and provide me with more passages. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 
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I need some advice of approaching the passages in terms of enhancing my scores. I have the EK 101 and the Kaplan Verbal. Is it worth it to start my review by doing all of the practice exams in both books and try my best to finish on time. Or should I instead do it passage-by-passage with a timer timing 8 min per passage? Keep in mind that I just began my verbal review. I intend to also buy the TPR and TBR books as well to supplement my learning and provide me with more passages. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
I also bought the TPR verbal before reading this thread and I'm not sure if I should follow their advice or just do what this thread says. I have the EK 101 passages and the TBR verbal with all it's passages, and I"m making a 5 in VR, so it can only go up....:luck:
 
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Hi BloodySurgeon,

Thanks for the reply...I see you PM'd me as well, sorry I missed that

I guess what I was asking is that can you highlite, underline, etc the passage on the computer screen? I think I read that you cannot, so I was asking to make sure.

I will try your suggestion on mapping on a scratch paper, but I just feel that it wont help much.....but I guess joting some things down on scratch paper is better than nothing.

For me, marking-up and circling key words on the the actual passage really helps, so its too bad that we cant highlite the computer screen.

Anyway, thanks for your help and responses.

BTW, does anybody know how the prep-companies suggest mapping on scratch paper (I guess something like write the main point of each paragraph?).........I have looked at the old PR verbal strategies, where they suggest circling transition words, etc....but these are only applicable for paper-based exams
i hope the surgeon is present.. it appears like his last post was in 2008, but you do raise a lot of questions that i was thinking!

Surgeon, if youre still posting, could you please address this question! Thank you
 
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The CBT tools according to Princeton Review are the following:

Highlighting (Does not persist once you leave the passage)

Strike-outs: Eliminating an answer choice

Mark button: flags question so you can return to them if time permits

Review button: basically shows the status of all questions e.g. flagged, answered, unanswered

Exhibit: Opens periodic table

For the writing sample portion: simple cutting, copying, and pasting will be allowed in this section through use of buttons on the screens. No keyboard shortcuts are allowed. No spell check either.


Also thanks for the advice bloodysurgeon. I tried to follow Vhisda's time allotment of 6.5 min, but I was doing so bad on the questions. I think I was panicking with the short time ticking down. However with 8 min, I drastically increased my accuracy and even had time to spare for double-checking work (though I found gut instincts are usually correct).

Reviewing mistake is such a painful process though..
 
Mar 19, 2010
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Chicago
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Medical Student
Princeton review suggests mapping on the workbooks for now, and eventually turning it into mental notes --except for harder passages, though they really advice you skip the KILLER passages and randomly guess on it.

Main point
Attitude of author
Pupose (of each passage)
Support

As you read do it in reverse order known as SPAM
 

kehlsh

Medic Commando
7+ Year Member
Dec 27, 2009
1,137
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Resident [Any Field]
However, the verbal score is much more than meaningless for many reasons.
A low verbal score doesn't hurt much, but a relatively high verbal score can help an application a little bit too right
and this is coming from pre-psychology
verbal is like the single most important component of the MCAT, dood
 
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