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Improving reading comprehension

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cuphea

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First I would like to say I have terrible reading comprehension skills. I have about 1 year to prepare myself for MCAT CARS. I have read a lot of tips/advice on improving in CARS, but they are geared towards improvement in a few months. For someone who has about a year to prepare what do you recommend? Do you recommend I ..

-read tons of ny times/ economist articles and ask my self questions

-read novel after novel,

-master the SAT reading section and practice from GRE prep books

Or do you have any other suggestions?
 

Lucca

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Reading comprehension is a difficult thing to prep for. Ask 10 people and you will get 12 opinions. The most direct way to prep for CARS to practice the CARS section. Reading comprehension is important on the entire exam, especially in CARS, but ultimately the best practice is the real thing. Apparently, the CARS section is not very different from the old Verbal so there are plenty of materials out there for you to do that kind of practice. That being said, practice is better reserved for a dedicated study period where you are actively trying to "learn the test", so to speak.

In terms of improving general reading comprehension I think the best publications out there are Harper's, McSweeney's, and the Economist. NYT opinion pieces are good because they are short and very easily digestible but I don't think they are really very challenging, but the CARS section is honestly not that very challenging to comprehend, the trick is learning how to think like the test writers. Non-fiction is probably more useful to you than fiction for the CARS section since most of the material will be analytical rather than literary. In other words, you are more likely to see a section analyzing Proust than reading the man himself. Not that you shouldn't read literature anyway.

The exercise I recommend with whatever material you use is one typically learned in any introductory philosophy course:

On the first read of an essay or chapter you should be able to:

1. Identify the author's argument.
2. Identify the author's position and imagine where another might oppose her.
3. Identify where in the essay what kind and how much evidence the author employs to defend their argument.

On reflection or on second/third read you should be able to:

4. Determine the consistency of the author's argument.
5. Determine the strength and relevance of each piece of evidence the author has offered you.
6. Understand which parts of the author's argument are the strongest or weakest.

All of these 6 points translate to one or more types of questions often seen in the MCAT CARS section. Commonly seen: "What is the author's main point?", "Which statement, if true, most weakens the author's argument?", "Which of the statements from the passage most strongly supports the author's claim?", etc. etc. etc.

If you are able to identify those six basic components, and do so repeatedly, you will get better at doing it reflexively whenever you read anything and once you start practicing the real CARS section, you will reap the benefits.

I would pick three publications and follow them (for free) over the period of the year. Better yet, pick publications which are all over the political spectrum so that you can get used to digesting arguments from different authors and schools of thought (also, so you won't run out of free articles for the week so quickly) and pitting them against each other in your head. E.g., The Nation for the left, Harper's (center-left)/Economist (center-right) for the center, and The National Review for the right. All high quality, all very different from one another.
 
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avgn

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10/10 post above me. Don't waste your time reading fiction
 

Lawpy

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    Reading comprehension is a difficult thing to prep for. Ask 10 people and you will get 12 opinions. The most direct way to prep for CARS to practice the CARS section. Reading comprehension is important on the entire exam, especially in CARS, but ultimately the best practice is the real thing. Apparently, the CARS section is not very different from the old Verbal so there are plenty of materials out there for you to do that kind of practice. That being said, practice is better reserved for a dedicated study period where you are actively trying to "learn the test", so to speak.

    In terms of improving general reading comprehension I think the best publications out there are Harper's, McSweeney's, and the Economist. NYT opinion pieces are good because they are short and very easily digestible but I don't think they are really very challenging, but the CARS section is honestly not that very challenging to comprehend, the trick is learning how to think like the test writers. Non-fiction is probably more useful to you than fiction for the CARS section since most of the material will be analytical rather than literary. In other words, you are more likely to see a section analyzing Proust than reading the man himself. Not that you shouldn't read literature anyway.

    The exercise I recommend with whatever material you use is one typically learned in any introductory philosophy course:

    On the first read of an essay or chapter you should be able to:

    1. Identify the author's argument.
    2. Identify the author's position and imagine where another might oppose her.
    3. Identify where in the essay what kind and how much evidence the author employs to defend their argument.

    On reflection or on second/third read you should be able to:

    4. Determine the consistency of the author's argument.
    5. Determine the strength and relevance of each piece of evidence the author has offered you.
    6. Understand which parts of the author's argument are the strongest or weakest.

    All of these 6 points translate to one or more types of questions often seen in the MCAT CARS section. Commonly seen: "What is the author's main point?", "Which statement, if true, most weakens the author's argument?", "Which of the statements from the passage most strongly supports the author's claim?", etc. etc. etc.

    If you are able to identify those six basic components, and do so repeatedly, you will get better at doing it reflexively whenever you read anything and once you start practicing the real CARS section, you will reap the benefits.

    I would pick three publications and follow them (for free) over the period of the year. Better yet, pick publications which are all over the political spectrum so that you can get used to digesting arguments from different authors and schools of thought (also, so you won't run out of free articles for the week so quickly) and pitting them against each other in your head. E.g., The Nation for the left, Harper's (center-left)/Economist (center-right) for the center, and The National Review for the right. All high quality, all very different from one another.
    10/10 post above me. Don't waste your time reading fiction

    Agreed. Really this comes down to making active reading a natural habit. This is why ESLs can excel in the MCAT verbal. The same skills can be used for other sections especially for analyzing and critiquing research studies.

    If you want a challenging read, philosophy works are good. You can read and analyze The Metaphysics of Morals and Of Grammatology if you're ambitious.
     
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    ace_inhibitor111

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    All the four people I know personally who got a 130+ on the exam are avid readers who have been reading mostly fiction since an early age. Most of the people online who I have seen get a 132 have also said they read plenty of books in their spare time. Obviously, doing CARS passages will lead to more direct improvements, but if you have an entire year to prepare I would suggest following what they're doing.

    Though the actual content of the CARS section isn't literary, difficult literature (not like Joyce, more like Faulkner) contains certain sentence structures and ideas conducive to building the type of logic required by the CARS section. I actually don't think opinion sites like the New Yorker or the Economist are very helpful.... They are a little too easy to understand, and are written by peers basically. Most of the harder passages on CARS are written in the 1950s-1980s.

    Edit: what I would do if I were in your shoes would be going through the syllabus of a class like "Great Texts of the Western Tradition" and reading the books on the list
     
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