Comprehension Problems- Deconstructing the Passage line by!

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Senior Member
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Feb 28, 2004
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I have a serious problem with comprehending verbal passages. I'll read a passage and have no idea what i just read. I need to be taught HOW to read.

This is what I'm trying to do:

1) Read Critically, ie ask questions actively.
2) Read for Main idea.
3) Map the passage to get a feel for where specifics are located.
4) Stay Confident, reduce anxiety.

However, I really cant do these things if I dont know what the hell the author's talking about...I guess I dont know HOW to read (feel free to mock me).

If theres anyone who can and is willing to help me, I'll email you a sample AAMC passage - I'm requesting that you go thru this passage with me, so that i can see what goes thru your head whilst youre reading? I'd really like to get insight into what your thinking when your eyes scan the words, how you're able to translate words on paper into actual concrete ideas in your head, how to REGISTER WORDS-->THOUGHTS, etc. I've got a long way to go...

Is the biggest problem for me the intimidation and unfamilarity I have with this type of writing?


The 9th Flotilla
15+ Year Member
Apr 7, 2003
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this what you need to do:

I posted this in an earlier post:

Read the entire passage very very quickly and comprehend as much as you can. A lot of people have trouble with this.

Therefore, I suggest people read the editorials on the NY Times as rapidly as they can without losing comprehension.

For the 2 easy passages dont spend more than 2 min each
4 medium passages shud be no more than 2.5 min each
2 medium hard passages shud be no more than 3 min each
1 killer passage shud be no more than 4 min

So total passage reading time comes out to 24 minutes.

Dont waste time annotating! circling etc

Also take a look on the "verbal annotate or not" post in this forum.


Full Member
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Mar 14, 2000
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Hello, first of all I must say that you should never be discouraged.
I probably can't give you the best advice on how to improve your verbal skills b/c I have the same problem but I can help you find why you are having problem with reading..
Look back and think carefully why you think you have poor reading comprehension skills. People probably ask you if English is your second language. Personally I don't like this "simple" question b/c a great variation exists among those who consider them as ESL.
(i.e. English is a member of the Indo-European family of language: easier to learn English as a cognate-language for those who speak French, Spanish...etc. harder to learn for those who speak Korean, Japanese..etc)

If English is your native language, then have you been reading many books, magazines or newspapers with variety of subjects? Are you just having difficulty with specific type of passage?
How good is your vocabulary? Trouble getting the gist of the passage?
Try to get the whole picture. Know your weakness..
In my opinion, good reading comprehension skill (capturing main point) is a MUST before you improve critical reading skill and able to tackle these types of questions that give me headache (for example, inference, incorporation, application).
I hope this helps...

P.S. I barely could read and understand any of the MCAT passages 6 months ago. Now I can read and understand most of the MCAT passages. Now I gotta slowly work on timing...


10+ Year Member
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Oct 7, 2002
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Everyone has a different approach to verbal, I'll tell you mine.

Most of the time wasted in a passage is not because of slow reading, it's wasted on answering the questions. So, increasing your reading speed will do little for you, you must increase your effeciency in answering questions.

IMHO, if you read the passage properly and understand it the first time, you will have an easier time answering the questions.

That being said, I read the passage at my own pace, I read it normally, like I'm reading to understand something. I don't use any gimicks like mapping, asking questions and all that good stuff. Occasionally I underline or cirlce to emphasize key points.

Everyone has a different style, try different things and you'll find yours. Better hurry up if you're taking april. Best of luck.