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Video transcript
- [Voiceover] Hello, my name is Jennifer Riley, and I'm a cognitive scientist who studies text comprehension and reasoning. The goal of this video is to help you better understand the new section of the MCAT, called the critical analysis and reasoning skills section. Its main purpose is to figure out how well you can understand and reason about the things you read. In this part of the test, you'll read nine passages. Each one is about 500 to 600 words long, and you'll usually be asked between five to seven questions about each passage. In total, you'll go through 53 questions in 90 minutes. That means you have about 10 minutes per passage, on average. In terms of the topics that you'll be reading about, approximately half of these passages will come from the humanities, such as literature, philosophy or ethics. The other half will come from social sciences, such as psychology, sociology or economics. For example, one of the passages that's in the Khan Academy MCAT collection discusses how people negotiate deals with one another, and when they believe they are getting a fair deal. Another passage is about how computers, rather than just being tools used by humans, might actually be changing the way that humans think. The passages come from a lot of different areas, and are meant to stretch your mind a bit. You'll probably find that the topics of these passages will be unfamiliar. You're not expected to already know about any of these topics. Sometimes the writing styles will be complicated. Some words may be new to you, and some passages may be tough to understand. Just remember, everything that you need to know to answer the questions will be in the passages. You're not expected to know any background information. In fact, to do well, you really need to just focus on the passage, and not information that you already know from elsewhere. There are three types of questions you'll be asked to answer in this section. The first type is called foundations of comprehension. These questions mainly ask you to answer questions about the author's intended message. They'll ask you about the overall idea, or about why the author used specific words or phrases, or why the author organized the passage in a specific way. The second category is called reasoning within the text, and these questions mainly ask you to think about the reasoning within an author's argument, such as, what claim is an author trying to support with a piece of evidence? Or, is an argument flawed? The third category is called reasoning beyond the text. Questions in this category ask you to apply ideas from the passage to new situations, or to think about how the author's main message would change if there were new information to consider. This new information will be given to you in the question. About a third of the questions will come from each category. You should expect about 30% foundations of comprehension questions, 30% reasoning within the text questions, and 40% reasoning beyond the text questions. People often wonder how the skills that are tested by the critical analysis and reasoning skills section will ever be useful for a future physician. These questions are on the MCAT because doctors need to be able to reason through a lot of clinical information. For example, these skills are needed when you need to analyze information to come up with a treatment plan that makes sense for a patient, and also so that you can explain your reasoning to others, including the patient, family members, or other members of your medical team. For more information on this section of the test, and on each of the question types, be sure to see the other videos in this section, which I hope will help you, too.