Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section: Overview

The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section of the MCAT exam will be similar to many of the verbal reasoning tests you have taken in your academic career. It includes passages and questions that test your ability to comprehend what you read. You may find this section to be unique in several ways, though, because it has been developed specifically to measure the analysis and reasoning skills you will need to be successful in medical school. The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section achieves this goal by asking you to read and think about passages from a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, followed by a series of questions that lead you through the process of comprehending, analyzing, and reasoning about the material you have read.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills passages are relatively short, typically between 500 and 600 words, but they are complex, often thought-provoking pieces of writing with sophisticated vocabulary and, at times, intricate writing styles. Everything you need to know to answer test questions is in the passages and the questions themselves. No additional coursework or specific knowledge is required to do well on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section, but you, as the test taker, may find yourself needing to read the passages and questions in ways that are different from the reading required in the textbooks you used in most pre-health courses or on tests like the SAT Critical Reading exam. Passages for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section—even those written in a conversational or opinionated style—are often multifaceted and focus on the relationships between ideas or theories. The questions associated with the passages will require you to assess the content, but you will also need to consider the authors’ intentions and tones and the words they used to express their points of view.

To recap from Part 1, this section is designed to
  • test your comprehension, analysis, and reasoning skills by asking you to critically analyze information provided in passages;
  • include content from ethics, philosophy, studies of diverse cultures, population health, and a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines; and
  • provide all the information you need to answer questions in the passages and questions themselves.
This section will include 53 exam questions.

This Section will draw from:
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skill:
  • Foundations of Comprehension, 30%
  • Reasoning Within the Text, 30%
  • Reasoning Beyond the Text, 40%
Passage Content:
  • Humanities, 50%
  • Social Sciences, 50%
*These percentages have been approximated to the nearest 5% and will vary by test from one test to another for a variety of reasons. These reasons include, but are not limited to, controlling for question difficulty, using groups of questions that depend on a single passage, and using unscored field-test questions on each test form.


Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section - Skill 1: Foundations of Comprehension

The topics of some passages in the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section will be familiar; some will not. Explanations, illustrative examples, and definitions of significant specialized...

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section - Skill 2: Reasoning Within the Text

Questions that test Reasoning Within the Text differ from those assessing Foundations of Comprehension in that they ask you to integrate separate passage components into a more generalized and...

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section - Skill 3: Reasoning Beyond the Text Passage Types

The final category, Reasoning Beyond the Text, requires you to use one of two analysis or reasoning skills, which in a way can be thought of as two sides of a single coin. Questions assessing the...