MCAT Critical Thinking > Keywords and Phrases

Keywords & Phrases

Learning to pick out keywords and phrases is perhaps another one of the universal skills of the MCAT. Being able to understand keywords and phrases is crucial in being able to determine the purpose of the passage. Also, being able to to pick out the keywords will allow you to apply the subject matter content in the biological and physical sciences. It will also help you understand the myriad of topics that are presented in the verbal reasoning sections.

Keywords and phrases are important to tell you the authors point and what the passage will be about. By understanding keywords and phrases you will be able to pick up evidence for points and the arguments themselves. This is important in also picking out conclusions.

Attention Indicator Keywords


Attention indicator keywords call attention to the content being discussed. When you see these keywords, make special note as they are usually referring to a strong conclusion or key piece of evidence. For example a few of these keywords are...

Compare and Contrast Indicators

Compare and contrasting indicator keywords are used to express comparison and analogies. When the author is comparing two subjects, they are trying to show how the subjects are similar. When the author is contrasting two subjects, they are trying to show how different the two subjects are. Sometimes a sentence can both compare and contrast subjects, MCAT questions are not always as straightforward as one might think.

These keywords include...

Comparison Indicator Keywords

Contrast Indicator Keywords

Premise and Conclusion Indicators

Premise Indicator Keywords

A premise indicator keyword is a word or phrase that provides a lead in to an argument. They let the reader know that something important (ie: conclusion) is coming after the statement.

Conclusion Indicator Keywords

It is important to recognize both the premise and conclusion indicators. Being able to understand the structure of the argument is extremely important. This will let you glean as much information as possible from the passage and let you score highest on the MCAT.

Conclusions often refer to the outcome of the statement or the point the author is trying to make. It could also be involved in providing evidence in support of the argument.

Once you understand how to pick out keywords, you will be much better equipped to handle the MCAT verbal reasoning questions along with all of the passage based questions in both the biological and physical sciences also. Understanding keywords allows you to pick out the key information inside the passage and they help you see the authors point or theme. Keywords and phrases tell you what the important content of the information is and help you save time by allowing you to focus more on the questions themselves.

Just like reading comprehension, understanding and picking out keywords and phrases is a skill that is difficult to master and comes through focused, concentrated reading and doing practice problems. However once you have these skills they will prove invaluable for the rest of of the MCAT exam.

Click here to learn the structure of the MCAT verbal reasoning questions.

MCAT Critical Thinking

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