MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Study Guide

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The critical analysis and reasoning skills section is very different from the other three sections of the MCAT. Rather than focusing on scientific skills and knowledge, this section measures your ability to understand and reason about texts from subjects in the humanities and the social sciences.

What Do I Need to Do to Register for the MCAT?

Once you begin, your seat will only be reserved as long as you are actively completing the registration process. If you delay too long to, say, search for your credit card, you may lose your spot.

So make sure you have everything you will need to complete the process before you begin. That includes:

  • Your valid, government-issued ID so that you can register with your name exactly as it appears on the ID you will take with you on test day.
  • Your credit card so that you can pay the $315 registration fee.
  • Your list of 3 possible dates (selected from the 15 available dates during the year)
  • Your list of 3 possible testing center locations (selected from the list of all locations where the test is offered).
With three options, you will be able to immediately choose an alternative if your first choice is unavailable. This ensures that you don’t get stuck with a date or location that is extremely inconvenient for you or doesn’t leave you with enough time to fully prepare.

What Skills Are Tested on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section?

While it might seem out of place on the MCAT at first, the goal of this section is to measure your comprehension skills as well as your ability to reason about and draw conclusions from passages that deal with more complex and nuanced concepts rather than the hard facts and data in the other sections.

You will need to demonstrate three key skills in this portion of the exam:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Reasoning within a text
  • Reasoning beyond a text
There are 53 multiple choice questions which will all be related to passages that you need to read. About half of the passages will discuss a subject in one of the humanities (art, literature, history, philosophy, etc.) and the other half will discuss a subject in the social sciences (anthropology, political science, sociology, economics, etc.).

While the topics may not seem like they relate to medicine, the skills in dealing with nuanced ideas and concepts that don’t always have obvious answers will be essential both during medical school and throughout your career.

What Will Test Day Be Like?

On test day, you will need to show up at the testing center at 7:30 A.M. The actual test begins at 8 A.M but showing up 30 minutes early allows you enough time to check in and get familiar with the center.

You should bring the same ID you used to register, a small meal or snack to eat during your break, and a light sweater or jacket in case of temperature changes in the testing room. The test itself is entirely computer based and you will have 90 minutes to complete this section.

The full MCAT, however, lasts a total of seven and a half hours so prepare yourself for a long, mentally-taxing day and try to leave the rest of your day after the test free so that you can relax and recharge.

How Is the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section Scored?

Like the other sections, this one is scored on a scale of 118-132. There isn’t a minimum score required but you definitely don’t want to slack on this portion of the MCAT. Aim for at least 127. You will receive your official score report about four weeks after the exam but you can get preliminary results shortly afterward so that you can find out immediately whether you need to schedule a second attempt or not.

How Should I Prepare for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section?

Preparing for this section is less about remembering and recalling specific information and more about working on your reading comprehension skills and perhaps developing your vocabulary and reading speed.

Practice makes perfect in this case and that means you need a comprehensive study guide like the one available from Mometrix. In addition to a thorough review of the core concepts and vocabulary that will help you master this section, it will provide practice questions and practical test day tips for avoiding test anxiety and performing your best even under pressure. We even include videos that cover the topics you need to understand.

You should also use the flashcards from Mometrix to strengthen your vocabulary and work on your speed. You can read the definitions or descriptions on the back and then ask yourself a series of comprehension questions about what you read on the flashcard. You can also have a friend quiz you!


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: December 4, 2019