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AAMC MCAT Outline

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NYCmedHopeful

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Hi all,

So the way I've been studying is by first going through any Foundational Concepts and subtopics which I have never learned before in my classes (ex: any sociology, biochem, or physics (fluids, optics) topics). However, the one thing I've been concerned about is how strictly does the MCAT follow these foundational concepts. I'm kinda worrying that if I only cover the foundational concepts of classes I've never taken before, I'll be screwed on the MCAT if they ask about some other chapter from biochem or sociology that I've never even heard of before, whether it be through discrete questions or passage-based questions. I tried looking through previous threads to see if this was discussed but it doesn't seem like it. Any insight on this would be really helpful. Thanks! :)
 

Ad2b

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The best way to study is to make sure you can cross of every topic on the official MCAT guide from AAMC. You can do this through books from any test company, Khan (free), etc.

THEN - this is the key part - the best after that is practice tests. Many of them. I have about 9 scheduled between now and when I take the exam. They are comprised of Kaplan, EK, TPR and AAMC.

For topics not covered in your foundation courses, you'll get them if you follow the books and/or Khan. And... because it's always asked, no I don't believe on test prep is greater than another; I use TPR, EK, paid for the Kaplan course(s) - don't ask, and watch Khan if I have to. I also went back to my text books, and even dug out my molecule set (I'm nerdy, I bought the whole bazillion piece thing when in orgo)
 

BerkReviewTeach

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The best way to study is to make sure you can cross of every topic on the official MCAT guide from AAMC. You can do this through books from any test company, Khan (free), etc.

THEN - this is the key part - the best after that is practice tests. Many of them. I have about 9 scheduled between now and when I take the exam. They are comprised of Kaplan, EK, TPR and AAMC.

For topics not covered in your foundation courses, you'll get them if you follow the books and/or Khan. And... because it's always asked, no I don't believe on test prep is greater than another; I use TPR, EK, paid for the Kaplan course(s) - don't ask, and watch Khan if I have to. I also went back to my text books, and even dug out my molecule set (I'm nerdy, I bought the whole bazillion piece thing when in orgo)

Crossing off topics from the AAMC list sounds like a great way to make sure you are exposed to the material tested on the MCAT. It is a perfect place to start. But I believe (and have seen over many years of watching students prepare) that you have omitted what is by far the most important part of anyone's preparation. Jumping from content review into practice exams misses the critical skill development phase of preparation.

After content review, you have to do thousands of practice questions. Personally (and obviously given my job), I thoroughly believe in the three phases of homework and practice that BR employs. Phase I focuses on recall and information, Phase II focuses on timing, and Phase III focuses integrating information and understanding experiments. All three of these phases develop essential skills needed to do well on the MCAT. Going over the answer explanations builds and reaffirms information as well as honing test taking skills. When doing these phases in order, you gain a better understanding of the concepts and master the skills necessary to field many different types of questions. Only after doing this should one start with FLs.

As for materials, I believe that some are in fact better than others. Depending on a person's learning style, one approach will fit better. But more important than matching style is whether the materials teach someone to think and apply information to questions. They need to teach shortcuts on questions that normally slow students down. They need to connect information from different areas so that students recognize when they are double learning (electric fields in physics and electrophoresis in biochemistry for instance).

For anyone getting 518 or higher on the MCAT, it doesn't matter what they used or what they did; they were going to do great. For people aiming for the 508-517 range though, it is essential that they learn to take the exam and master the art of POE under timed conditions before they delve into FLs. Once they are ready, FLs become a great tool for working on stamina and focus. If people start testing before they are ready, then you get a string of scattered, random numbers like 498, 503, 501, 510, 499, 505, etc... because they don't improve from taking the FL.
 

NYCmedHopeful

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The best way to study is to make sure you can cross of every topic on the official MCAT guide from AAMC. You can do this through books from any test company, Khan (free), etc.

THEN - this is the key part - the best after that is practice tests. Many of them. I have about 9 scheduled between now and when I take the exam. They are comprised of Kaplan, EK, TPR and AAMC.

For topics not covered in your foundation courses, you'll get them if you follow the books and/or Khan. And... because it's always asked, no I don't believe on test prep is greater than another; I use TPR, EK, paid for the Kaplan course(s) - don't ask, and watch Khan if I have to. I also went back to my text books, and even dug out my molecule set (I'm nerdy, I bought the whole bazillion piece thing when in orgo)

Yup completely understood! Once I go through content review twice, I am going to start looking at the style and timing of questions and then take the FL practice tests. But I guess should've clarified that my question was specifically geared towards the actual MCAT guide from the AAMC (which btw I am assuming is this pdf document https://aamc-orange.global.ssl.fast...a-4c00-83dd-c17cee034c47/mcat2015-content.pdf ) My question was, for those who have taken the actual MCAT and the AAMC tests they offer on their website, whether they encountered anything that was not mentioned in that guideline of topics that will be covered. I'm taking the MCAT in January so I'm currently doing an extensive content review on the topics that I have not previously learned and so, I just wanted to know if AAMC has surprised people with topics that were explicitly not stated on the guidelines (like for example, phylogeny, lipid biosynthesis, etc etc).
 

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AAMC does NOT test on things not covered in that guide. Period.

HOWEVER... that does not mean that every single item on that guide WILL be tested and, frankly, they're not. Many things are not tested, many things are blended into a topic that makes you think, eh what? In the CP section, you might see biochem as it relates back to entropy or something.

And another thing:

Yes, passages will have research type passages that the questions are drawn from and yes, those passages might and will have acronyms and equations and data tables with models that you are not required to know. It is intentional. Because the questions are NOT expecting you to know that PCC344 is a tertiary oncogene that bypasses the duodenum and gets hydrolyzed in the Loop of Henle where it goes back into the ducts to get pushed through the nephrons back into the blood stream (I made that up intentionally to show that stuff WILL NOT MAKE SENSE TO US)... after reading all that crap, you might get a question like this:

If Na+ is filtered by the kidneys and reabsorbed into the filtrate, which of the following WILL MOST likely increase it's absorption rate?

1. Increased ADH which will lower the BP and increase the water retention
2. Increased Aldosterone which will increase the BP and lower the water retention
3. some derivative of the above
4. some stupid answer that makes no sense like: Increase population of rats in NYC will increase the amount of pretzels eaten by it's citizens

Doubling on content review is not, imo, really that important. MCAT is not a content test. It is a critical thinking test.

Practice tests, question packs (done multiple times if wanted), old tests, etc ARE critical. Reading research articles available as open access are important NOT for content but for the ability to get habituated to that kind of reading (see what I did there???).

I've been told by someone I trust more than anyone, it's a reading test with science thrown in.
 
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wizzed101

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Spreading the misconception that the AAMC will not have discrete questions on content not covered in the outline is damaging if the OP aims for the highest score possible. And it is even more damaging for someone who plans a retake thinking it would be always possible to answer every question in the section he did best.

That is on top of insinuating that he can skim the content and still do well. It is possible but is akin to rolling the dice.

I would love to give you an example of a real question I had on the test that I dare you to find a reference on the content outline AND any prep books under the sun AND khan academy. But sadly, that would be very painful.
 

NYCmedHopeful

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@wizzed101 Would you mind telling me what the question was about so I can somewhat know what I am to deal with on exam day? I am actually aiming for the highest score possible just so I can get the score I actually need haha so that's why I wanted to know if I was screwed from the moment I started relying on the outline.

@Ad2b Thanks for the advice about the test! I really haven't looked at any questions tbh. I've honeslty just been trying to learn anything that I've never encountered before but I'll definitely keep that in mind.
 

wizzed101

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I can't. I would be very painful... for me!

You are not screwed. What I mean was no matter how hard you study, how thoroughly you cover the outline, how in-depth was your knowledge in each topic, you can never be sure that you can score 132/132 in any of the science sections. There is always a degree of luck involved. But if you are really thorough, you can expect reliably score >=130 in each section, because the AAMC will never throw in enough random discretes to bring your score down to 129.

About high-yield topics: all I want to say is that they are high-yield until you don't see them on the actual test. Would you dare skipping all Newtonian mechanics, vectors and energy conservation,if I told you that my test did not have any of them? If you can, cover everything.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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Spreading the misconception that the AAMC will not have discrete questions on content not covered in the outline is damaging if the OP aims for the highest score possible. And it is even more damaging for someone who plans a retake thinking it would be always possible to answer every question in the section he did best.

That is on top of insinuating that he can skim the content and still do well. It is possible but is akin to rolling the dice.

I would love to give you an example of a real question I had on the test that I dare you to find a reference on the content outline AND any prep books under the sun AND khan academy. But sadly, that would be very painful.

Thank you for posting this. For what it's worth, saying "you are wrong." didn't seem to have any tone. I'm sorry to see you get attacked.

I second what you say about the content of that list not being exhaustive and that questions can appear on the MCAT that cannot be referenced anywhere on that list. In addition to you saying it, there have been posts in other threads by people who have taken a given MCAT complaining about things not on the list appearing on their MCAT.

But the reality is that you can't really do anything about that, so you might as well focus on the list and hope your test follows the guideline.
 
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NYCmedHopeful

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I can't. I would be very painful... for me!

You are not screwed. What I mean was no matter how hard you study, how thoroughly you cover the outline, how in-depth was your knowledge in each topic, you can never be sure that you can score 132/132 in any of the science sections. There is always a degree of luck involved. But if you are really thorough, you can expect reliably score >=130 in each section, because the AAMC will never throw in enough random discretes to bring your score down to 129.

About high-yield topics: all I want to say is that they are high-yield until you don't see them on the actual test. Would you dare skipping all Newtonian mechanics, vectors and energy conservation,if I told you that my test did not have any of them? If you can, cover everything.

Ahh got it, you can't share contents of the test. Completely forgot about that haha. Was it only one question you encountered that you've never seen before, or where there multiple across multiple sections?
 

wizzed101

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There are contents that I have never seen before, and there are contents I have been exposed to but I can bet anything that those were not included in the outline. If it were the former, I would be SOL; if it were the latter, I would score very high 131-132. C/P, B/B, P/S all have their fair shares.

Example of "easy" question:

The heme group within hemoglobin is stabilized most directly by:

A. His
B. Arg
C. Phe
D. Trp
 
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