Regardless of your decision to highlight we should always map out the passage when practicing. Our goal is to create a guide that helps us remember where to find important information in each paragraph of a passage. Rather than a summary of the paragraph’s ideas, it is a short phrase or keyword that jogs our memory and guides us towards important passage information.

Mapping In Action

The best way to get a sense of this strategy is to see it in action. We will look at passage 2 in the BB AAMC Section Bank. Go ahead and open up that resource and read through the passage on your own so you have a sense of the passage.

Okay now let’s look at a map for this passage.

P1: Overview
P3: GPCR43 + methods
Fig 1: Weight
P4: Insulin + methods
Fig 2: Glucose uptake

As you can see nothing in the map explains the meaning of a particular paragraph or figure and it isn’t intended too. Instead, this allows you to quickly jump to the most relevant portion of the passage when looking for question information. For instance, if a question asks about bodyweight I would immediately know to reference the graph.

Going Beyond Maps

Maps can be time consuming to create since they require us to write out a passage skeleton then fill it in and on the MCAT time is in short supply. Instead, our end goal is to build our ability to hold the general location of information in our heads.

We accomplish this first by mapping while going through practice problems. As we become more skilled at creating maps we will continue to write out our paragraph skeleton, but only map every other paragraph as shown below.

P1: Overview
P3: GPCR43 + methods
Fig 1:
P4: Insulin + methods
Fig 2:

Then once we have finished reading the passage we will pause and fill out the blanks from memory. As this becomes easier and easier we move onto filling in the whole skeleton from memory. Then to recalling the general locations of important information without the skeleton present.

If you ever feel lost you can go back a step and bring the skeleton back or fill in our phrases and keywords as we go. The idea isn’t to achieve perfect recall of the entire passage but to start building a mental map of the passage so we can more efficiently find passage information. For that reason I advocate that you always map in practice to build the skill and skip mapping when taking timed practice exams so you don’t run into major timing issues.

Practice Opportunity