I recently listened to an MCAT podcast that spoke about a big worry among MCAT test takers. The worry was that they kept running out of time on CARS passages and passages from other sections. In the podcast, they mentioned a statistic that I confirmed with a quick Google search; the average college student reads approximately 450 words-per-minute. Knowing this information, and also knowing that the consensus seems to be that MCAT passages are somewhere between 600-650 words long, you can actually test yourself and see if you read at the average pace of a college student and if you’ll have enough time to finish nine CARS passages.

The podcast recommended apps such as Flash Reader which tests your reading speed. On the app, you can upload or copy and paste an article; set some parameters such as how many words you want to show up on the screen; and how many words per minute you’d like to read.

Once you’re done seeing if you were able to keep up with your desired pace, it’s time for some self-evaluation. Thumbs up to you if you were able to ready every single word that shows up on the screen, but was that enough to help you internalize the information? In other words, can you summarize what you read or remember some details without having to go back and check? I recommend trying to answer some of these main idea, summary, or detail recall questions and then going back and reading the passage at a slower pace to see if you were correct. Perhaps you’ll discover that you’re able to read quickly but not remember much information, which isn’t very helpful for the MCAT.

As with all things, I suspect that if you keep practicing the 450 words-per-minute pace followed by an evaluation of what you read, you’ll get much better at reading this quickly and internalizing information.

This is a good assessment tool that I would recommend to any MCAT test taker.