tutankh

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Jun 15, 2004
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I am really struggling with VR:mad: I tried all the various strategies, but I am just not able to get to those passages. My comprehension is very poor and I’m a very slow reader. Somehow if I concentrate on a particular essay and take my time on it (>=15 min), then I tend to do better. Based on that I tried to adjust my speed with no luck.

I have been thinking about the following strategy:
-Focus on doing well on at least 4 passages especially those with 7 questions) using MOST of the allotted 60 minutes (about 50 min or so) to do about 28 questions or so.

-Guess on the remaining 3, and if lucky, I may gain about 5 points.

Do you think this is a good “desperate strategy”? At this point I am so frustrated and discouraged to the extent that I will settle for an 8. What raw score do I need “roughly” to attain this score at a minimum?

Please help!
 

lilmisskrissyo9

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Apr 4, 2008
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I was thinking about the same strategy. VR is the section I am terrible at. None of the strategies work for me as well.
 
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tutankh

tutankh

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Jun 15, 2004
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I was thinking about the same strategy. VR is the section I am terrible at. None of the strategies work for me as well.
Agree. And no matter how much I practice, it makes no difference:mad:

I am usually able to finish the other sections with a few minutes to spare.
 
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RogueUnicorn

rawr.
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Jul 15, 2009
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I am really struggling with VR:mad: I tried all the various strategies, but I am just not able to get to those passages. My comprehension is very poor and I’m a very slow reader. Somehow if I concentrate on a particular essay and take my time on it (>=15 min), then I tend to do better. Based on that I tried to adjust my speed with no luck.

I have been thinking about the following strategy:
-Focus on doing well on at least 4 passages especially those with 7 questions) using MOST of the allotted 60 minutes (about 50 min or so) to do about 28 questions or so.

-Guess on the remaining 3, and if lucky, I may gain about 5 points.

Do you think this is a good “desperate strategy”? At this point I am so frustrated and discouraged to the extent that I will settle for an 8. What raw score do I need “roughly” to attain this score at a minimum?

Please help!
this will be a decent strategy if you have not much time left for the MCAT. otherwise, i'd try to raise my reading ability by reading ALOT of well written high level prose (e.g. NYTimes). If you get 6 of 7 in those 4 passages, that's 24 points, plus 3 more points on statistical grounds (a quarter of the remaining Qs). A raw 27 on most administrations will get you about an 8
 

DOC209

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Jun 14, 2009
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not a good strategy at all....if you want to get a 9+ score on VR you need to read every passage and answer every question (at least educated guesses)...

I read a bit of the VR in EK series and they make a good point that even a slow reader could still read all the passages and have enough time to answer every question.... if you have time i would suggest getting EK's books on VR...

So far these are thy main tips ive gotten our of EK VR.... dont skim, try not to look back, main point, focus and answer/ read every answer/passage.... makes sense to me.
 

ShinyDome19

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Hey Tutankh, Ill throw my two cents into your strat & difficulties with VR. But, before I do, lemme give you my background:
I have been in your shoes when it comes to the VR portion of the exam. I am an extremely slow reader and have taken the MCATs three times now where my VR score has maintained a constant 6, while my sciences average between 8-12. My VR scores were not crappy because I didnt practice enough: I have done the entire EK 101 passages book, all of the passages from the Kaplan program, the entire VR book from the Berkely Review and every single practice exam offered by AMCAS. After getting two interviews this past year and not accepted by either, I spoke with the admissions couselors as to what I should do. Both recomended that I retake the MCATs and get my verbal up atleast to an 8 or 9 by adjusting my strat.. With that I retook the exam a fourth time and I am extreemly confident that I attained the target VR score, if not exceeded it. (I took the exam on June 18...should get my scores by July 21st).
The Strategies I have tried:
The first time I took the exam, I used the Kraplan VR method, which is to map out the passage, writing down short phrases for each paragraph to help you remember what the paragraph was about. This, IMO, was a terrible strat. and was only useful on paper based versions of the exam, where you could write your notes directly to the side of the passage.
The second time i took the exam, I practiced using a similar strat to that of Kaplan, except i just tried to keep the topic of each paragraph in my head. I had done extremely well with this on practice exams. But when I took the real exam, the first two passages had something like 9 paragraphs in them, and that just blew me out of the water.
The third time, I threw out all of Kaplan's and tried the EK strat, which focuses a little more on main idea of the passage...The sad part about this exam, I ended up taking it while I was sick, so not only was my reading slower than normal, my attention was constantly being turned to blowing my nose. But, I realized two very important problems with all of my attempts at doing the VR:
1) I had a tendancy to read outloud to myself, which caused my reading speed to decrease significantly (It became very apparent to me when I was sick)...and I think also hurt my comprehension quite a bit because under normal circumstances I dont read to myself out loud.
2) I had been wasting a lot of time and putting a ton of strain on myself in trying to remember dozens of facts within a passage, when in actuality, all I really needed to find were the 5 to 8 facts which the questions referenced.
3) I had a tendency to get stuck on one to two extremely difficult passages which resulted in my running out of time.

So, this brings me to the fourth, and what will be my last time taking the exam. My strat. for this was to go through all of the passages at the beginning and look for the one with the longest and most difficult looking questions. Once I found that one, answer all of the questions with B or whatever, then go back to the first passage and start. For each passage I previewed the questions and picked one to two key words from each question. When I came across something in reference to those words, I highlighted it and read the sentence before and after carefully. This resulted in my only having to remember approximately 5-8 differnt words per passage. I found that looking for specific words/phrases in the passage actually helped me read the passage rather quickly since I could skim the fluff between the starting sentence of a paragraph up until i found a keyword. But also helped me stay focused on the text, so comprehension was rather easy. As far as the reading outloud thing goes, I was able to keep myself from doing it throughout most of the VR section, though from time to time I did find myself muttering to myself.
Most of the time I was able to answer the questions without looking back at the passage, however on the occasion that I did, it was very easy to find the portion of the passage to which the question was in reference to.
Hence, when I finished the VR section, I felt much, much better about it than I had ever before on any practice or previous exam. I did still have to guess completly on half of one passage on top of the 1 i guessed on initially, however that is much better than having to guess on two to three complete passages as I have had to do in the past.

So, my opinion on your strat. about expecting to guess outright on three passages would be to maybe limit yourself to 1, maybe 2 and simply adjust your strat. If you guess on three passages, assuming 6 questions each, you have a 25% chance of guessing each question right. That puts you at getting approximately 4-5 questions right out of the 18. Assuming you dont miss more than those ~13, according to the AAMC MCAT #9 you'll get around a 9. But, if your basing your reading speed and comprehension off of practice exams and what not and not the real exam, from my experience, you'll read even slower on the actual exam because you'll be even more worried about making mistakes and what not. So, yeah I wouldnt outright guess on three passages. I would definately work to adjust your strat.
Also, so you know, I work in a medical school and have talked to probably a couple hundred medical students about their VR strat and very few of them said they actually "read" the passages completely. Most of them suggested variations of skimming the passages.

Once my MCAT scores are posted in a week, Ill try and come back here and post them to give my final strat. some credibility or completely discredit it.
 
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tutankh

tutankh

10+ Year Member
Jun 15, 2004
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Hey Tutankh, Ill throw my two cents into your strat & difficulties with VR. But, before I do, lemme give you my background:
I have been in your shoes when it comes to the VR portion of the exam. I am an extremely slow reader and have taken the MCATs three times now where my VR score has maintained a constant 6, while my sciences average between 8-12. My VR scores were not crappy because I didnt practice enough: I have done the entire EK 101 passages book, all of the passages from the Kaplan program, the entire VR book from the Berkely Review and every single practice exam offered by AMCAS. After getting two interviews this past year and not accepted by either, I spoke with the admissions couselors as to what I should do. Both recomended that I retake the MCATs and get my verbal up atleast to an 8 or 9 by adjusting my strat.. With that I retook the exam a fourth time and I am extreemly confident that I attained the target VR score, if not exceeded it. (I took the exam on June 18...should get my scores by July 21st).
The Strategies I have tried:
The first time I took the exam, I used the Kraplan VR method, which is to map out the passage, writing down short phrases for each paragraph to help you remember what the paragraph was about. This, IMO, was a terrible strat. and was only useful on paper based versions of the exam, where you could write your notes directly to the side of the passage.
The second time i took the exam, I practiced using a similar strat to that of Kaplan, except i just tried to keep the topic of each paragraph in my head. I had done extremely well with this on practice exams. But when I took the real exam, the first two passages had something like 9 paragraphs in them, and that just blew me out of the water.
The third time, I threw out all of Kaplan's and tried the EK strat, which focuses a little more on main idea of the passage...The sad part about this exam, I ended up taking it while I was sick, so not only was my reading slower than normal, my attention was constantly being turned to blowing my nose. But, I realized two very important problems with all of my attempts at doing the VR:
1) I had a tendancy to read outloud to myself, which caused my reading speed to decrease significantly (It became very apparent to me when I was sick)...and I think also hurt my comprehension quite a bit because under normal circumstances I dont read to myself out loud.
2) I had been wasting a lot of time and putting a ton of strain on myself in trying to remember dozens of facts within a passage, when in actuality, all I really needed to find were the 5 to 8 facts which the questions referenced.
3) I had a tendency to get stuck on one to two extremely difficult passages which resulted in my running out of time.

So, this brings me to the fourth, and what will be my last time taking the exam. My strat. for this was to go through all of the passages at the beginning and look for the one with the longest and most difficult looking questions. Once I found that one, answer all of the questions with B or whatever, then go back to the first passage and start. For each passage I previewed the questions and picked one to two key words from each question. When I came across something in reference to those words, I highlighted it and read the sentence before and after carefully. This resulted in my only having to remember approximately 5-8 differnt words per passage. I found that looking for specific words/phrases in the passage actually helped me read the passage rather quickly since I could skim the fluff between the starting sentence of a paragraph up until i found a keyword. But also helped me stay focused on the text, so comprehension was rather easy. As far as the reading outloud thing goes, I was able to keep myself from doing it throughout most of the VR section, though from time to time I did find myself muttering to myself.
Most of the time I was able to answer the questions without looking back at the passage, however on the occasion that I did, it was very easy to find the portion of the passage to which the question was in reference to.
Hence, when I finished the VR section, I felt much, much better about it than I had ever before on any practice or previous exam. I did still have to guess completly on half of one passage on top of the 1 i guessed on initially, however that is much better than having to guess on two to three complete passages as I have had to do in the past.

So, my opinion on your strat. about expecting to guess outright on three passages would be to maybe limit yourself to 1, maybe 2 and simply adjust your strat. If you guess on three passages, assuming 6 questions each, you have a 25% chance of guessing each question right. That puts you at getting approximately 4-5 questions right out of the 18. Assuming you dont miss more than those ~13, according to the AAMC MCAT #9 you'll get around a 9. But, if your basing your reading speed and comprehension off of practice exams and what not and not the real exam, from my experience, you'll read even slower on the actual exam because you'll be even more worried about making mistakes and what not. So, yeah I wouldnt outright guess on three passages. I would definately work to adjust your strat.
Also, so you know, I work in a medical school and have talked to probably a couple hundred medical students about their VR strat and very few of them said they actually "read" the passages completely. Most of them suggested variations of skimming the passages.

Once my MCAT scores are posted in a week, Ill try and come back here and post them to give my final strat. some credibility or completely discredit it.
Thank you so much. You make me feel a bit better. I recently got the EK book and I am looking into it, so hopefully it will have the magic solution to my problem;)

With science books, I usually skim through and so far I have been able to get what I need out of them w/no problem, even with the most advanced textbooks, but that strategy does not seem to work for VR:mad: For one thing, my #1 killer is boredom. As I’m reading most of the passages, I get this evil feeling of wanting to choke the passage writers for their effort in making the passages more complex that what thy are:eek: Then the frustration takes over me and I become paralyzed and lose complete interest in continuing with the passage.

Good luck to you and keep us posted.
 

LostInStudy

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Jan 14, 2008
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Everyone feels like this in the beginning when they are struggling with verbal but you have to practice the boring passages so you can convince yourself that they are interesting.

When I first started verbal I was getting 8-9s and I've been practicing for a month and haven't checked scored myself lately but let me give you some advice. NEVER EVER EVER skip or guess on whole passages. 1 passage is fine if you are running out of time but NEVER more than 1. I suggest that you don't worry about your score because honestly it can't go any lower and work on just reading the passage ONCE AND ONLY ONCE but don't waste your time on going back and trying to remember details or figure out something initially, for all you know it could not even be asked. When you read try to get the general idea of what the author is saying and what kind of point of view he has. Also try to mentally map the passage, and I don't mean the crappy kaplan method but instead just know what points of view and what points were said in what area. So for example when you're reading a paragraph just think "well paragraph 2 is blah blah idea/suggestion that the author believes and the rest is just support/examples of it". Those three things are the most you will ever need to get out of the passage initially. If a question asks for something in detail then you have your mental map so just go back and take a quick few seconds to figure out what it says.
For questions, read the question slowly the first time and try to understand what it is asking for then go through each choice and try to eliminate 2 choices. This is usually not too hard for ~60-75% of questions. Then don't spend too long, again DON'T SPEND TOO LONG picking between the 2 choices you have left. Read the two choices again and just pick whatever you think is right. You should spend AT MOST 1 min on a question but most will be less probably closer to 30 secs. Spend no more than 4 mins max reading through each passage the first and only time. Don't reread sentences and try to understand them perfectly.

Just practice, practice, practice and eventually you'll just start picking the correct of the 2 answers and be able to narrow the other harder 25% to 2 choices more easily also. When you practice this just worry about your timing, don't worry about scoring for say the first 15-16 passages since you don't have much time.

Hope this helps and let me know how it works for you if you decide to try it out,

-LIS
 
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tutankh

tutankh

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Jun 15, 2004
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Everyone feels like this in the beginning when they are struggling with verbal but you have to practice the boring passages so you can convince yourself that they are interesting.

When I first started verbal I was getting 8-9s and I've been practicing for a month and haven't checked scored myself lately but let me give you some advice. NEVER EVER EVER skip or guess on whole passages. 1 passage is fine if you are running out of time but NEVER more than 1. I suggest that you don't worry about your score because honestly it can't go any lower and work on just reading the passage ONCE AND ONLY ONCE but don't waste your time on going back and trying to remember details or figure out something initially, for all you know it could not even be asked. When you read try to get the general idea of what the author is saying and what kind of point of view he has. Also try to mentally map the passage, and I don't mean the crappy kaplan method but instead just know what points of view and what points were said in what area. So for example when you're reading a paragraph just think "well paragraph 2 is blah blah idea/suggestion that the author believes and the rest is just support/examples of it". Those three things are the most you will ever need to get out of the passage initially. If a question asks for something in detail then you have your mental map so just go back and take a quick few seconds to figure out what it says.
For questions, read the question slowly the first time and try to understand what it is asking for then go through each choice and try to eliminate 2 choices. This is usually not too hard for ~60-75% of questions. Then don't spend too long, again DON'T SPEND TOO LONG picking between the 2 choices you have left. Read the two choices again and just pick whatever you think is right. You should spend AT MOST 1 min on a question but most will be less probably closer to 30 secs. Spend no more than 4 mins max reading through each passage the first and only time. Don't reread sentences and try to understand them perfectly.

Just practice, practice, practice and eventually you'll just start picking the correct of the 2 answers and be able to narrow the other harder 25% to 2 choices more easily also. When you practice this just worry about your timing, don't worry about scoring for say the first 15-16 passages since you don't have much time.

Hope this helps and let me know how it works for you if you decide to try it out,

-LIS
Great advice, along with the others, and I will definitely try them.

You are correct, beside finding the passsages boring, I also keep going back to reread and try to understand every word (a bad habit from reading science textbooks:))

I am starting today, and will keep you guys posted on my progress.
 
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tutankh

tutankh

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Jun 15, 2004
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Ok, I have been trying to implement the above strategies, all of which I think are excellent, but they do require time, something I do not have much of as I am sitting for the 8/25 exam. I tried other strategies as well, to no avail.

So as they say, desperate people do desperate things, I decided to stick to my original plan, by focusing on the first 5 passages, and guessing on the last 2. Based on my reading speed and "low" comprehension level, I found that I can manage to thoroughly read and comprehend the first 5 passages, and be left with only about 2-3 minutes to guess on the last 2 passages. Using this strategy so far, I have been getting 8/9 on the AAMC exams (3 so far). My focus now is to practice on making better educated guesses on the last 2 passages to improve even more. It seems that the raw scale works on a 2 point system, so 23 is 7, 25 is 8, and 28 is 9. So if I can manage to answer 28 questions out of 40, then I think I will be able to attain my goal of 9 on the VR, my biggest hurdle.

What do you guys think?
 
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