An Ode to Verbal Reasoning

May 2, 2013
Emily Hause

Doctor_consults_with_patient_(4)When preparing for the MCAT, most people can see the reason for needing to know Biology and General Chemistry because they are considered essential for practicing medicine. A case can also been made for learning Organic Chemistry and Physics since they are the basis for biological molecules and the processes which run the body. Hands down the biggest complaints that I hear are about the Verbal Reasoning section. Everyone wants to know: “How does my Verbal Reasoning score show my ability to be a good physician?” or “How does analyzing a passage about poetry make me a better doctor?”

Well, I am here today to defend the Verbal Reasoning section against the onslaught of criticism and general distaste that it receives from many MCAT test-takers. Here are a few reasons that you should love Verbal Reasoning-

1. Your score on the Verbal reasoning section is the factor that is most closely correlated with your success on the USMLE or board exams. Now, why is that? The skills needed in Verbal Reasoning involve taking in a large volume of information, processing that information and deciding what is relevant to answering the questions. Incidentally, those are the exact same skills which are needed in a clinical setting. Patients will provide a large volume of information through which you will need to sift, decide what’s important and make your diagnosis. Every day you spend struggling with a Verbal passage helps prepare you for your boards!

2. When practicing medicine, you will need to deal with people, customs, and beliefs which are unfamiliar to you. You will need to treat them much like you would treat the poetry passage. Both will provide you with novel information to process and challenging information to reason through to find a solution. By working with unfamiliar topics now, you are dealing with the frustration of not understanding a topic long before you ever work with a patient whose views are entirely foreign. So, yes, that passage about Chaucer will help make you a more understanding and empathetic physician in the long run.

3. We all know that the curve on Verbal Reasoning section is one of the least generous. This makes it a section that is ripe with opportunity. Each point that you increase on your Verbal score is putting you ahead of thousands of other applicants. Yes, it is hard to improve. However, when you do improve, it is a substantial accomplishment.

Hopefully this inspires you to take a fresh look at the Verbal Reasoning section!


Emily Hause Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over eight years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.

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