angldrps

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I have received several PMs asking me advice on how I used the mapping strategy to raise my verbal score. From my own experience, i understand how difficult it is for a lot of students to raise their score on VB section. So, i thought i would make a thread with my tips in hopes of helping those who may be struggling.

Some Background: I took the mcat twice. On my first take (4/29/2011), i received a 7 on VB and on my retake (1/28/2012) i got an 11. While i was studying for my first attempt, i had read so many negative opinion's about kaplan's mapping strategy that i never even bothered to find out what exactly "mapping" is and how it works. I just stuck with using EK's strategy of reading the passage, looking for the main idea and then diving straight into answering the questions.Using the EK method, I was getting around 8-9 on EK 101 passages, but unfortunately my score on the AAMC VB section stuck around 6-7. For my retake, i knew i had to find another verbal strategy that would work for me. Since i was signed up for kaplan's online course, i thought i would give mapping a try...and boy, am i glad i did!

Below is an overview of how i used the mapping strategy:-

basically you read each paragraph proactively without worrying about minor details. After each paragraph, take few seconds to note down the following on a scratch paper: author's point for adding this specific paragraph to the whole passage which is also the same as the purpose of the paragraph (ex: is the author trying to advocate a certain point of view ,is he just introducing his main topics, is this paragraph just providing supporting evidence for the main point, is this para. talking about views that he doesn't agree, etc) author's opinions (ex: does the author have negative/positive viewpoint of the topic being discussed) , what views does the author not agree with and why, main topic mentioned and how its being supported. <------NOTE: You don't have to follow this list rigidly but it gives you a good guideline about the type of things you should be looking for while reading.

The list above sounds like a lot of writing but when i did it, i only wrote down few words ( never full sentences) and then moved onto the next paragraph and repeated the strategy. An example of how i may have mapped a paragraph would look something like this:

+ view
Constitution
---supported by the nation
doesn't agree with communist view
--no equal rights

I have an entire notebook filled with key words like the ones mentioned above which i used every time i practiced verbal.

Another tip: You don't have to move your eyes completely away from the paragraph when you are noting down keywords while mapping. Instead while you are writing on the scratch paper, keep your eyes on the paragraph so that you are continuously skimming the paragraph. This will benefit in two ways: you will easily figure out what other key words you need to write down, and by reading proactively the first time around and then skimming while mapping, you will greatly improve your comprehension of author's main ideas.

Tip: While you are reading, pay special attention when you come across key words such as however, unless, consequently, therefore, even though, etc.

If you think you might not be able to finish on time using the mapping strategy, then i would recommend practicing mapping untimed on a daily basis. if you utilize the strategy correctly and practice daily, you will eventually be able to increase your speed and start learning how to map quickly. After enough practice, you will realize that you are able to map mentally, which saves even more time. <--- On the real mcat I had to map at a faster rate than during my practices due to longer passages. By the time i got to last 2 passages, i found myself writing less and mapping mentally more to save time.

Another important point:i never had to go back to the map when answering questions because writing main concepts down for each paragraph helped me to remember them much more.This is because when you do mapping for each paragraph, by the time you finish the passage, you have a clear understanding of the author's opinions/ main argument and which specific paragraph in the passage has what supporting detail . Another benefit of mapping is that by noting main concepts down, you take off a mental load.

Another thing i did A LOT was when a question asked about something specific from the passage ( this is different from questions that asked about main idea, author's overall opinions) , then i would quickly glance back to the paragraph in the passage that discuss the specifics being asked by the question and read those few lines quickly and then answer the question. If you didn't use mapping then you would have to waste precious seconds looking for where in the passage the author mentioned specific details. But with mapping, i always found myself to know exactly which paragraph discussed the specifics i would need to answer the question.

Although EK 101 is great and the best book for finding mcat-type questions, i would recommend finding more practice material because in my opinion EK's passages are not dry/boring like those on aamc/real mcat. i personally used both EK and TPR verbal workbook.

For those who have just started to practice with mapping, i would say to them to use any practice material you can get your hands on. This is because even if the questions of the practice material you may be using are not a good representative of mcat-style verbal questions, you will still benefit from being able to practice mapping using the passages. For this reason, i even practiced with passages from kaplan's verbal section tests and TBR verbal book early on in my preparation, and i believe this practice was a crucial step in me being able to map quickly.

I did 2-3 practice passages everyday for about 2 months and for the 3rd month, I practiced using the VB section in each FL test.

Hope this helps.
 
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Hi angldrps,

First of all, congrats on your VR11! I wrote the MCAT in the summer of 2011 and didn't do too well on verbal, which is why I have to retake this summer. In terms of what you said about mapping, you are ABSOLUTELY right! All the negative reviews on SDN deter people (myself included) from trying the mapping strategy, which is known to be beneficial to many. Of course, if you already talented at VR then mapping may not be needed, but there are many people that are in a situation where they are struggling to hit their MCAT VR score and have to do it again. Just the other day after doing a kaplan passage I was contemplating mapping JUST to see what happens, since I still have a few months before I write the MCAT. After your post today, I am definitely going to give mapping a shot for the next 2-3 weeks. By test day, hopefully, I will be mapping in my head if I practice enough (fingers crossed!).

Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to make this post. Time to MAP!

Regards,
Angular
 

angldrps

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i am glad atleast 1 person may benefit from my post. One more tip i forgot to add which really helped in saving time was i would use short forms of words and other signs while mapping. For example, instead of writing constitution, i would just write something like consti. . Last thing you wanna worry about is spelling because as long as you know what you just wrote down, thats all that matter. feel free to pm me if you have any specific questions.
 
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misplacedshadow

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May 28, 2011
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I have received several PMs asking me advice on how I used the mapping strategy to raise my verbal score. From my own experience, i understand how difficult it is for a lot of students to raise their score on VB section. So, i thought i would make a thread with my tips in hopes of helping those who may be struggling.

Some Background: I took the mcat twice. On my first take (4/29/2011), i received a 7 on VB and on my retake (1/28/2012) i got an 11. While i was studying for my first attempt, i had read so many negative opinion's about kaplan's mapping strategy that i never even bothered to find out what exactly "mapping" is and how it works. I just stuck with using EK's strategy of reading the passage, looking for the main idea and then diving straight into answering the questions.Using the EK method, I was getting around 8-9 on EK 101 passages, but unfortunately my score on the AAMC VB section stuck around 6-7. For my retake, i knew i had to find another verbal strategy that would work for me. Since i was signed up for kaplan's online course, i thought i would give mapping a try...and boy, am i glad i did!

Below is an overview of how i used the mapping strategy:-

basically you read each paragraph proactively without worrying about minor details. After each paragraph, take few seconds to note down the following on a scratch paper: author's point for adding this specific paragraph to the whole passage which is also the same as the purpose of the paragraph (ex: is the author trying to advocate a certain point of view ,is he just introducing his main topics, is this paragraph just providing supporting evidence for the main point, is this para. talking about views that he doesn't agree, etc) author's opinions (ex: does the author have negative/positive viewpoint of the topic being discussed) , what views does the author not agree with and why, main topic mentioned and how its being supported. <------NOTE: You don’t have to follow this list rigidly but it gives you a good guideline about the type of things you should be looking for while reading.

The list above sounds like a lot of writing but when i did it, i only wrote down few words ( never full sentences) and then moved onto the next paragraph and repeated the strategy. An example of how i may have mapped a paragraph would look something like this:

+ view
Constitution
---supported by the nation
doesn't agree with communist view
--no equal rights

I have an entire notebook filled with key words like the ones mentioned above which i used every time i practiced verbal.

Another tip: You don't have to move your eyes completely away from the paragraph when you are noting down keywords while mapping. Instead while you are writing on the scratch paper, keep your eyes on the paragraph so that you are continuously skimming the paragraph. This will benefit in two ways: you will easily figure out what other key words you need to write down, and by reading proactively the first time around and then skimming while mapping, you will greatly improve your comprehension of author's main ideas.

Tip: While you are reading, pay special attention when you come across key words such as however, unless, consequently, therefore, even though, etc.

If you think you might not be able to finish on time using the mapping strategy, then i would recommend practicing mapping untimed on a daily basis. if you utilize the strategy correctly and practice daily, you will eventually be able to increase your speed and start learning how to map quickly. After enough practice, you will realize that you are able to map mentally, which saves even more time. <--- On the real mcat I had to map at a faster rate than during my practices due to longer passages. By the time i got to last 2 passages, i found myself writing less and mapping mentally more to save time.

Another important point:i never had to go back to the map when answering questions because writing main concepts down for each paragraph helped me to remember them much more.This is because when you do mapping for each paragraph, by the time you finish the passage, you have a clear understanding of the author's opinions/ main argument and which specific paragraph in the passage has what supporting detail . Another benefit of mapping is that by noting main concepts down, you take off a mental load.

Another thing i did A LOT was when a question asked about something specific from the passage ( this is different from questions that asked about main idea, author's overall opinions) , then i would quickly glance back to the paragraph in the passage that discuss the specifics being asked by the question and read those few lines quickly and then answer the question. If you didn't use mapping then you would have to waste precious seconds looking for where in the passage the author mentioned specific details. But with mapping, i always found myself to know exactly which paragraph discussed the specifics i would need to answer the question.

Although EK 101 is great and the best book for finding mcat-type questions, i would recommend finding more practice material because in my opinion EK's passages are not dry/boring like those on aamc/real mcat. i personally used both EK and TPR verbal workbook.

For those who have just started to practice with mapping, i would say to them to use any practice material you can get your hands on. This is because even if the questions of the practice material you may be using are not a good representative of mcat-style verbal questions, you will still benefit from being able to practice mapping using the passages. For this reason, i even practiced with passages from kaplan's verbal section tests and TBR verbal book early on in my preparation, and i believe this practice was a crucial step in me being able to map quickly.

I did 2-3 practice passages everyday for about 2 months and for the 3rd month, I practiced using the VB section in each FL test.

Hope this helps.
Quick question when you say you did 2-3 practice passages, do you mean 2-3 actual passages that are 5-7 questions per passage or actual 2-3 mcat verbal sections?
 

angldrps

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Quick question when you say you did 2-3 practice passages, do you mean 2-3 actual passages that are 5-7 questions per passage or actual 2-3 mcat verbal sections?
i mean 2-3 passages not full verbal sections. The only time i did full verbal sections were when taking full length tests (i took about about 15 FLs so had plenty of practice).
 

misplacedshadow

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i mean 2-3 passages not full verbal sections. The only time i did full verbal sections were when taking full length tests (i took about about 15 FLs so had plenty of practice).
I am also assumming you did those in timed conditions right? How long did you time yourself in each passage?
 

angldrps

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in the beginning my practice was untimed. This was simply because i was still teaching myself how to correctly map . The more i practiced this way the faster i was able to map. Once i was fully comfortable with mapping, i started doing timed passages; around 8 minutes per passage.

when i did full verbal sections in FLs, i hardly ever looked at the timer. This is because looking at the time left after every passage tends to make me nervous. So, i just moved from doing one passage to another. The only time i paid attention to the timer was when it was down to last 20 minutes. I told myself that as long i have no more than 2 passages left for the last 20 minutes, i am doing fine with time. When using this strategy on the real mcat, i realized that i had to work faster/map mentally on the last 2 passages because i was running out of time.

An important thing you should be teaching yourself during your preparation is to learn how not to get stump by hard/ambiguous questions and to just pick the best answer and then move on! Not being able to do this is what kills most people's timing. You could have answered other easier questions in all the extra time you spent dwelling over the few hard questions.
 
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Freeinfinity

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Hmm...interesting. It sounds like I've been using mapping all along (in a mental form mind you...I only did some highlighting for key phrases.) I think if you can get the timing down, it can be quite useful.
 

misplacedshadow

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Hmm...interesting. It sounds like I've been using mapping all along (in a mental form mind you...I only did some highlighting for key phrases.) I think if you can get the timing down, it can be quite useful.
Hey Forthefuture, how have you been scoring using these strategy?
 
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Hi Angldrps

Thank you for taking the time to write such a well put strategy for the VR. Your strategy on VR couldn't have come on a better time. I've been practicing 3 passages a day using TPR. On average I only got 4/7 questions right per passage and I've been looking for a method to improve on it. Then yesterday I took the kaplan practice diagnostic at one of their kaplan event. I was overwhelmed with the score I got on VR. Like How the hell did I get that?! it was unbelievably low. I would share it but I'm afraid I'll just make a fool of myself even more. Anyway, I will give the mapping strategy a try and see how it goes. I always thought mapping takes a lot of time so didn't think much of it but its worth a shot I guess.

My MCAT is not until May. I'm doing my content review right now and physics is taking up a lot of my time.

If you don't mind sharing, how much time did you spent on content review? did you master all the content materials before doing questions or did u just went straight to the questions? I tend to hold back from doing questions and passages until I finish all my content reviews. Any advice?
 

Freeinfinity

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In the practice tests with EK101 and AAMC FLs, they were almost always 10s. I'd say about 80% of the time. Keep in mind verbal is my weakest section (science major here) and that I started with a 6 on my first EK101 test. Be wary that the passages in the actual test are significantly longer (by 1-2 passages each). I was not prepared for that, hence why I think I got an 8 on the 1/28 test. I'm considering a retake if I can master the timing for these longer passages. If only the test makers would just give us 10 extra minutes. That would make my life so much simpler.
 

angldrps

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Hi Angldrps

Thank you for taking the time to write such a well put strategy for the VR. Your strategy on VR couldn't have come on a better time. I've been practicing 3 passages a day using TPR. On average I only got 4/7 questions right per passage and I've been looking for a method to improve on it. Then yesterday I took the kaplan practice diagnostic at one of their kaplan event. I was overwhelmed with the score I got on VR. Like How the hell did I get that?! it was unbelievably low. I would share it but I'm afraid I'll just make a fool of myself even more. Anyway, I will give the mapping strategy a try and see how it goes. I always thought mapping takes a lot of time so didn't think much of it but its worth a shot I guess.

My MCAT is not until May. I'm doing my content review right now and physics is taking up a lot of my time.

If you don't mind sharing, how much time did you spent on content review? did you master all the content materials before doing questions or did u just went straight to the questions? I tend to hold back from doing questions and passages until I finish all my content reviews. Any advice?
when i started to prepare for my retake, i had most of the content review already done from studying during my first attempt. Still, i spent a whole month going over all the concepts which greatly enhanced my comprehension of all the topics.

This is what i would recommend to you: Focus on getting all your content review done. But, it is very important that while you are doing content review, you are also doing content specific practice material. For example, after learning about light and optics, i would take kaplan's online chapter quizzes (descretes) and then some kaplan topical tests (these are passage based). these quizzes and topical tests specifically only tested me on light and optics. After this, i would move on to the next concept topic and do some more concept-specific practice questions/passages. By using this approach, you will be learning concepts and practicing at the same time. Once you have gone over all the content, you can then move onto taking full length tests. Hope this helps!!!!!
 
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when i started to prepare for my retake, i had most of the content review already done from studying during my first attempt. Still, i spent a whole month going over all the concepts which greatly enhanced my comprehension of all the topics.

This is what i would recommend to you: Focus on getting all your content review done. But, it is very important that while you are doing content review, you are also doing content specific practice material. For example, after learning about light and optics, i would take kaplan's online chapter quizzes (descretes) and then some kaplan topical tests (these are passage based). these quizzes and topical tests specifically only tested me on light and optics. After this, i would move on to the next concept topic and do some more concept-specific practice questions/passages. By using this approach, you will be learning concepts and practicing at the same time. Once you have gone over all the content, you can then move onto taking full length tests. Hope this helps!!!!!

Thank you for the advice! greatly appreciated.
 
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I have found it to be a waste of time to write things down, but I guess different strokes for different folks...
 

moto_za

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Thanks for the post angldrps! Did you also triage the passages using the Kaplan method? Do you think it would be helpful?
 

angldrps

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Thanks for the post angldrps! Did you also triage the passages using the Kaplan method? Do you think it would be helpful?
i did all the passages in the order they were given in. I found it a waste to spend any time determining which passages i would find easier and which ones harder. Even during my practices, i would never be able to accurately determine just by glancing at a passage if i would find a certain passage to be hard or not. As i mentioned above, i was short on time near the end on my real mcat and if i would have spent any time prioritizing passages, i am sure i would have not been able to finish in time.
 

aspiringdoc09

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I'm glad you found something that works for you. Honestly, I just tried on 3 passages and I am still missing half the questions and wasting more time which will lower my score even more. However, I am timing myself so it may make this strategy worst to start off with. I find myself spending 10+ minutes versus 8 or less just reading w/o writing notes. I'll admit that I am more aware and proactively reading using this method.

pros: awareness of passive reading so I will be more proactive
cons: wasting too much time jotting stuff down and not forming complete picture but understand the pieces.

I will try proactive reading w/o jotting to see if it works. Will let you all know how I fair. If not, back to drawing board because I am normally starting at VR 6/7.

Thanks.
 

Whiteshoes

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Hi angldrps,

How long did it take you to start improving from 6-7 to at least 8-9 using this strategy? I only have a month left. Im currently scoring 6-7's
 

angldrps

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I'm glad you found something that works for you. Honestly, I just tried on 3 passages and I am still missing half the questions and wasting more time which will lower my score even more. However, I am timing myself so it may make this strategy worst to start off with. I find myself spending 10+ minutes versus 8 or less just reading w/o writing notes. I'll admit that I am more aware and proactively reading using this method.

pros: awareness of passive reading so I will be more proactive
cons: wasting too much time jotting stuff down and not forming complete picture but understand the pieces.

I will try proactive reading w/o jotting to see if it works. Will let you all know how I fair. If not, back to drawing board because I am normally starting at VR 6/7.

Thanks.
As i mentioned earlier, I spent few weeks doing passages Untimed to properly learn how to map and get comfortable with it. If i would have started off doing what you are doing- timed passages-I am sure i would have missed many questions as well. Early on in my prep, i had experienced the exact same cons as well. This strategy is not something that you can just get good at within a few weeks instead it takes months of daily practice (well, this was the case for me).

you can definitely try to practice just by mentally mapping instead of writing things down if it may help you. However, mental mapping didn't come to me until it was months into my prep.
 
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angldrps

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Hi angldrps,

How long did it take you to start improving from 6-7 to at least 8-9 using this strategy? I only have a month left. Im currently scoring 6-7's
If you practice daily with several passages/full verbal section, then 1 month is enough time to raise your score.
 

jgalt42

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I've tried mapping this week and maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I'm missing more than I usually miss :( I know it might have to do with the fact that I'm still new at this. I also have about a month left.
 

jgalt42

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I do feel a lot better after mapping a passage because I feel like I understand the passage a lot better. But I guess what I'm concerned about and what everyone's concerned about is how that translates to correct answers.
 

angldrps

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I do feel a lot better after mapping a passage because I feel like I understand the passage a lot better. But I guess what I'm concerned about and what everyone's concerned about is how that translates to correct answers.
Gaining a better understanding of what the author is trying to convey in the passage is the key to doing well. When i was using EK method during my first mcat attempt, i found myself not being able to identify main points/authors opinions which consequently led to to a low score. To go from understanding the passage to being able to answer question correctly requires practice because once you get into a routine of doing verbal passages daily, you will eventually be able to gain mcat "intuition", be able to anticipate questions while reading the passage, and be able to identify common 'traps'.

No matter what strategy one uses, there are no shortcuts/quick fixes especially for those of us who are not naturally good at the VB section. For me personally, it took weeks and weeks of daily practice to be confident that mapping strategy will work for me on test day.

I know that I can offer all the advice in the world but your frustrations would not lessen as long as you keep getting questions wrong. All i can say is KEEP PRACTICING!!!
 

redsun2

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I have been trying the mapping strategy for a few weeks, been doing at least 3-5 passages a day. Weekends doing full length Verbal. All timed, 8 min per passage.

Some passages I will doing much better with mapping.
It allows me to understand the main idea much better than EK strategy, and make me get the purpose of each paragraph easier.

But my problem is, a lot of the time it is not how mapping works, it is the type of Passage that kills me.

Like some crazy humanity, philosophy, writing of fiction/poetry, crazy ideology stuff, and random history analyzing atticles, that I have no ideas what the author is trying to say.
It is that I have to re-read the sentences or paragraphs over and over, and still have no clue.
Time run out-->nervous-->read faster-->confused, lost focus--> negative cascade...

For example, I just did a full length Princeton Review verbal, first set. I only finished 3 passages, guessed on 1 by skimming passage and questions, and then 3 other is some articles that will take me >10 min just to read each of them (exclude question).
It seems the difficulty and randomness of the passage is what is killing me.

Also, mapping seems not to be working to well for detail oriented questions.
In Kaplan, there seems to be a lot of detailed questions.
My friend can read and answer question in 8 min, and have a very good understanding of main idea of passage, even to the level of details. And he is not like stressing out when he is doing it. While versus me, when I map, I got the broad picture very well, but missing the detail.

So overall, my question is :
1) How to deal with Strange / random / crazy passages?
2) How to get to details using mapping, in timed condition?

(I took MCAT twice, low verbal...(4, 5), and averaged 6 in EK and AAMC. Now, after practicing for so long, still my score fluctuate a lot depend on the kind of topic in the passage, sometims I think it is an easy and interesting passage, and end up 0/8 !!! While sometimes get 7/8, or 5/6. )

Please, help me, Verbal is really killing me!
 

angldrps

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I have been trying the mapping strategy for a few weeks, been doing at least 3-5 passages a day. Weekends doing full length Verbal. All timed, 8 min per passage.

Some passages I will doing much better with mapping.
It allows me to understand the main idea much better than EK strategy, and make me get the purpose of each paragraph easier.

But my problem is, a lot of the time it is not how mapping works, it is the type of Passage that kills me.

Like some crazy humanity, philosophy, writing of fiction/poetry, crazy ideology stuff, and random history analyzing atticles, that I have no ideas what the author is trying to say.
It is that I have to re-read the sentences or paragraphs over and over, and still have no clue.
Time run out-->nervous-->read faster-->confused, lost focus--> negative cascade...

For example, I just did a full length Princeton Review verbal, first set. I only finished 3 passages, guessed on 1 by skimming passage and questions, and then 3 other is some articles that will take me >10 min just to read each of them (exclude question).
It seems the difficulty and randomness of the passage is what is killing me.

Also, mapping seems not to be working to well for detail oriented questions.
In Kaplan, there seems to be a lot of detailed questions.
My friend can read and answer question in 8 min, and have a very good understanding of main idea of passage, even to the level of details. And he is not like stressing out when he is doing it. While versus me, when I map, I got the broad picture very well, but missing the detail.

So overall, my question is :
1) How to deal with Strange / random / crazy passages?
2) How to get to details using mapping, in timed condition?

(I took MCAT twice, low verbal...(4, 5), and averaged 6 in EK and AAMC. Now, after practicing for so long, still my score fluctuate a lot depend on the kind of topic in the passage, sometims I think it is an easy and interesting passage, and end up 0/8 !!! While sometimes get 7/8, or 5/6. )

Please, help me, Verbal is really killing me!
i am sorry you are having so much difficulty. Good news is that MCAT verbal questions don't focus as much on details as they tend to focus on big picture/main idea type of questions. Is english your second language? If so, then that's maybe why you are having so much difficulty.
Also, even if you are getting all the questions wrong, are you spending a lot of time post-phrasing each question ? are you going back to pin point exactly why you got every Q wrong? When i started doing this, i realized I was making common mistakes which I could avoid next time. I suggest after doing a passage, take out a sheet of paper and write down did you miss the Q because you didn't realize author was talking about ideas he doesn't agree with, you didn't understand why the author put a specific detail in the passage, you have no idea what the paragraph's point is, etc.

Also for how long have you been doing UNTIMED mapping? it took me a while to get a hang of it. In the beginning of my practice I was also getting A LOT of questions wrong, but I knew that unlike with EK technique , mapping is at least allowing me to get a better understanding of the main idea so I just stuck with it. It was only with practice I got better. There is not much more I can do to help you . Why don't you have your friend who is doing better sit with you when you do verbal so he/she can possibly tutor you?

Edit: Do NOT sit for the MCAT again until you are getting consistent 8-9 scores on AAMC verbal sections, as these are the BEST representation of the real MCAT's verbal
 
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