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Biological/Physical Science Reading Strategy

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by AlexB, 05.30.10.

  1. AlexB

    AlexB

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    There's obviously a ton of content review out there for these subjects. Nonetheless, I find that a lot of books advocate different reading strategies for these sections. Some say to read the passage and then do the questions one by one, all in a row. Other texts say to initially skip the passage, skim over the questions, and then read.

    What has worked for you all?

    Personally, I've found that I've undervalued the value of the passage paragraphs in the past. Even if I get a passage whose content I know particularly well, the passage might sneak in one or two critical words that you NEED to answer the questions. So, this has me thinking that the best strategy is to speed-read the passage thoroughly, and then answer the questions based on difficulty (easiest ones first, hardest last).

    PS: let's keep this to the science sections, since there are already 10+ guides to verbal.
  2. Silverfalcon

    Silverfalcon Do It

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    Just so you know, you will likely get various responses.

    To start from what I've read, there are people who have done well without reading passages at all for Physical Sciences. I think that most people for Biological Sciences recommend reading the passages as outside information does not always help for questions (e.g. there are some you can answer straight from the passages).

    Strategies are really tough to assess the value. Think of them this way... Cell Molecular Biology major who has spent her three years of undergrad reading research-related articles in Molecular Biology from Nature and Science may find simply reading the passages and then approaching questions to be good enough. On the other hand, Economics major who rarely read outside the textbook for his introductory and one or two upper level biology courses will find research-related/experimental passages on Biological Sciences overwhelming and need to do many different things to understand the passage.

    Bottom line? I think that there is really no good strategy to apply for sciences section. Everyone has weaknesses and strengths for sciences section that what works for others will not work for others. Generally, I think that reading passages helps... The degree as to how much and how long one should read the passages is unclear and debatable.
  3. AlexB

    AlexB

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    I completely agree, no one is the same. There are people out there with different backgrounds.

    However, whether you think about it or not, you follow some strategy when you do a passage. Do you look at the problems first, or read? There will definitely be a plethora of methods that people use, and I'm curious what has worked for you individually (IE not what's the best for everyone, but what you do when you see a new passage).
  4. Silverfalcon

    Silverfalcon Do It

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    Absolutely, that is a great point.

    Personally, I always read passages first and then questions. My thing is that if I read questions first, then I'll naturally focus on those in the readings. While they may point more to questions, I am likely 1) not remember all the questions, and 2) become distracted from understanding the main gist of the passages.

    Note that I said "main gist" as opposed to "main idea," as one does in Verbal. I think for most science passages, having general idea on what the passage is about - instead of knowing exact details about it - is sufficient.

    As for other people's strategies that I read, the benefit of going straight to questions is that 1) you do not have to waste time reading unnecessary details and 2) you have a lot more time with math equations. Obviously, this is more for Physical Sciences. I think that some people recognize that some questions in passages for Physical Sciences are almost like discrete questions that do not require using passages.

    Regarding other people's methods for BS, I think that majority of people read passages and then go to the questions. The major difference I can think of is the amount of time. But, I don't honestly know the answer on as to how long one should spend on time reading the passages. The idea is "enough to get the idea of the passage," but as in everything, some people may pick up something quick while others will not.

    Organic Chem may be in middle between PS and Biology of BS.

    Hope that helps!
  5. AlexB

    AlexB

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    very nice. I was talking with someone today when this came up, and it was along the lines of this idea: you can group test preparation into two general categories: content review, and test taking capacity. Most people know how to improve their content review, but improving test taking capacity vertically and not laterally is quite difficult.....but not impossible.

    The MCAT is a very unique test, with each section having idiosyncratic parts. Once you take enough full lengths, you'll definitely know what I mean. I think in order to improve your test taking capacity, its critical to work on whatever strategy works best for you (some people are faster readers than others, some people might have spent a good portion of time in bio electives).

    I guess that's why I asked the question in the first place, just so people can get a sense for what other people do, try that out for a bit, and if it works, than keep it. If not, try something else until you do.
  6. fullset

    fullset

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    For PS, I think I'll go straight to questions. For BS, I don't think I can afford to do it.

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