Why Vocab Matters

Can you understand this sentence?

The pervasive ambivalence in society’s norms is anathema to the principles of egalitarianism.

Overall the vocab in the above sentence isn’t overly complex, however it can be easy to skew the meaning of the sentence without knowing the definition of anathema or ambivalence.

While the MCAT isn’t a test of vocabulary building up vocab skills is worth investing a little bit of time as it makes overall comprehension easier. Plus some questions will hinge on understanding the specific definition of an unfamiliar word.

That being said crushing through a bunch of random Anki vocab cards or reading lists of obscure words is almost certainly a giant waste of time, especially if you did just fine interpreting texts in your college level humanities course. Why? Because the MCAT gives you context to help figure out unfamiliar or obscure words in many cases.

This means we need a different approach than just cramming a bunch of weird words into our heads, an approach that matches what the MCAT really expects of us. Such as building contextual vocabulary skills, expanding our vocabulary as we practice other CARS skills, and learning synonyms and antonyms.

Contextual vocabulary skills help with questions that ask for the meaning of an obscure word based on the sentences that surround that word and how it is talked about in the passage.

Improving our vocabulary bit by bit in the context of practice materials means that improving our vocabulary doesn’t come at the cost of working on other skills or take a bunch of time.

Lastly, synonym and antonym knowledge helps you spot correct answers or relevant parts of the passage as the AAMC frequently swaps out words in the passage for their synonyms in the questions and answers.

With this in mind let’s dive deeper into how we can use context to figure out the meaning of unknown words.