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Verbal Reasoning and reading the Economist

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JLeBling

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I know a lot of people extol periodicals such as The New York Times, The Economist, and the Wall Street Journal as reading aids to improve MCAT verbal reasoning scores.

Being a long-time econo-political junkie, I've been reading these for quite some time (+2 years). I am not as familiar with The New Yorker however. Although the articles are always biased by the political climate du jour, but they are well written, concise and super interesting (The Economist's International, Business, Finance & Econ, and Sci-Tech are my favorite). There are clear introductions and conclusions, with a transparent theses. This means it is very easy to understand what the author is talking about and what his/her stance is on the topic. Not to mention, there are subheading that neatly summarize the topic at the beginning of every article.

These are writings that people WANT to read. Why else would they have millions+ regular subscribers? If you want to read something interesting and fun, read them. But when was the last time you completed a VR passage that was well-written, interesting and concise?

Exactly.

If you want to improve your VR score, in addition to practice passages, I would suggest training your mind by reading the most inane drivel you can possibly find, NOT this fine literature. The less interesting and more convoluted it sounds, the better! Listen to Arthur and use your Library Card!

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert. This is just what I am noticing as I practice EK practice passages. My score on the (cold) AAMC3 VR=9... So we'll see how well I do on the real thing.

SUGGESTION: Supplement your MCAT practice passages with GRE and other standardized test passages as well!

Don't get discouraged!
 

neilpryde21

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I actually found the Economist to be quite helpful but for probably a different reason than most people. By reading many different articles about different areas of the world with many names and regions that I was unfamiliar with, it made me much more comfortable when reading passages on practice MCATs about topics that I was not completely familiar with. I'm no expert either though, since I scored an 11 but I was typically in the 11-13 range on my practice tests so actually wasn't too happy with my verbal score on the actual exam. However, I did initially start in the 8 range but was following an old strategy that I used on the SAT to get above a 700 on the CR but didn't really work well on the MCAT. Also I will add that on the actual MCAT, and I think other people would agree, the verbal passages tend to be more interesting than what you encounter on practice tests.

Additionally, I've tried taking several LSAT passage sections since my sister is studying for the LSAT and while it could help some people, I just found the style of articles too different from the MCAT verbal passages so I definitely did not benefit from using them but maybe that is just me. I remember looking at a GRE practice test and if I remember correctly, it's style is pretty different from the MCAT verbal section so I'm very hesitant in recommending using those resources. I'd say if you are out of MCAT verbal passages, then I would use those but otherwise, I'd stay with MCAT passages only.

Sorry, I'm not trying to be a douche by disagreeing with you on all these points, I'm just speaking from my own experience.
 

mr chievous

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I actually found the Economist to be quite helpful but for probably a different reason than most people. By reading many different articles about different areas of the world with many names and regions that I was unfamiliar with, it made me much more comfortable when reading passages on practice MCATs about topics that I was not completely familiar with. I'm no expert either though, since I scored an 11 but I was typically in the 11-13 range on my practice tests so actually wasn't too happy with my verbal score on the actual exam. However, I did initially start in the 8 range but was following an old strategy that I used on the SAT to get above a 700 on the CR but didn't really work well on the MCAT. Also I will add that on the actual MCAT, and I think other people would agree, the verbal passages tend to be more interesting than what you encounter on practice tests.

Additionally, I've tried taking several LSAT passage sections since my sister is studying for the LSAT and while it could help some people, I just found the style of articles too different from the MCAT verbal passages so I definitely did not benefit from using them but maybe that is just me. I remember looking at a GRE practice test and if I remember correctly, it's style is pretty different from the MCAT verbal section so I'm very hesitant in recommending using those resources. I'd say if you are out of MCAT verbal passages, then I would use those but otherwise, I'd stay with MCAT passages only.

Sorry, I'm not trying to be a douche by disagreeing with you on all these points, I'm just speaking from my own experience.

I actually agree. I'm taking an Anatomy and Physiology course and am being exposed to a lot of unusual anatomy terms that I never knew. I no longer get intimidated when I see BS passages with unfamiliar language since I'm used to it. The same concept could apply to VR.
 

JLeBling

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Sorry, I'm not trying to be a douche by disagreeing with you on all these points, I'm just speaking from my own experience.

No need to apologize, and disagreeing with me doesn't make you a douche, lol!
I'm still trying to figure it out, so I'm just throwing ideas out there to see what other people think.

I think one of the things that would help improve your VR score is possessing an extensive vocabulary. To improve on this, regularly reading anything with big words and having a dictionary at arms length to look up unfamiliar terms will probably suffice.

I actually agree. I'm taking an Anatomy and Physiology course and am being exposed to a lot of unusual anatomy terms that I never knew. I no longer get intimidated when I see BS passages with unfamiliar language since I'm used to it. The same concept could apply to VR.

If I understand correctly, BS is heavily content based with a sprinkle of "critical thinking". Whereas VR is just straight up "critical thinking". EK says you are supposed to forget about everything you know regarding a specific topic and rely solely on the passage when answering the questions. If you tried to do that with BS you would get pwned like a n00b. So it's apples and oranges.

So basically what I'm trying to say is, yes The Economist is really great, and I encourage you to read it and to read anything that interests you so that you may gain more worldly knowledge, but I don't think reading it will improve your VR score. It is too well written. The facts are delivered clearly and systematically (they have charts, graphs, pictures, maps), there is no "inferring" the author's main point: although sometimes I question the conclusions they draw from the data, the data is always clearly linked with the arguments they are trying to make. The Economist provides you with a snapshot of events around the world from the perspective of a suit wearing, globe trotting businessman looking to flip a profit on his latest capital venture (or something like that), hence the name. Every article revolves around the use of markets as a tool to benefit society.

There is not much critical thinking required to figure out what the author is trying to say. The format goes something like this:

Introduce problem limiting economic growth, or potential area of growth:
Is it: corruption, inefficiency, monopoly, lack of competition, over-regulation, lack of education, innovation etc.
What are economic ramifications?
How do we make it profitable?
What kind of politics are interfering?
etc.

That's it! No ambiguities, no subtle nuances and no implicit assumptions! But this is totally in-congruent with the VR.

So what alternatives are there?

I'm thinking Shakespeare....... :smuggrin:
 

JLeBling

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But then again, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about and I'm just a lunatic....

Grain of salt.
 

mcloaf

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Just dropping in to say that if you approach BS as having a sprinkle of critical thinking you are in for a bruising. Yes, BS requires content knowledge in a way VR does not, but the point is not to just repeat stuff you've memorized. The content is used merely as the base for critical thinking. There will be a few brainless trivia questions, but without a fair amount of problem solving and critical thinking your score in BS will not be outstanding or even passable.
 

jbg

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Just dropping in to say that if you approach BS as having a sprinkle of critical thinking you are in for a bruising. Yes, BS requires content knowledge in a way VR does not, but the point is not to just repeat stuff you've memorized. The content is used merely as the base for critical thinking. There will be a few brainless trivia questions, but without a fair amount of problem solving and critical thinking your score in BS will not be outstanding or even passable.

agreed. I just took the MCAT not a long time ago and my bio was the strongest (scoring 11s and 12s on practices), but on the actual test, I got a 10. My MCAT had passages from research papers. It was pretty intense just to say the least.
 

JLeBling

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Just dropping in to say that if you approach BS as having a sprinkle of critical thinking you are in for a bruising. Yes, BS requires content knowledge in a way VR does not, but the point is not to just repeat stuff you've memorized. The content is used merely as the base for critical thinking. There will be a few brainless trivia questions, but without a fair amount of problem solving and critical thinking your score in BS will not be outstanding or even passable.

BS is not even close to the same as VR. I understand the game plan for attacking BS. Study everything with obsessive detail. Make connections between all the concepts, know what everything does and why.

VR.... is from another planet!
 
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