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Banjo64dd

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For some reason I find it very difficult to finish the PS section on time. I always end up having to guess on one passage (and some more questions here or there). I don't seem to have this problem with the Bio section. I seem to consistently get 9's on the PS, but I know I am capable of more. Is there a particular strategy that works for some people who had trouble finishing? Right now, I read the entire passage before aswering questions. Is that the problem?
 

wutwinb

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you definitely want to read the entire passage, but don't focus on the details, just try and get the overall content of what's going on. a good portion of the questions in PS can be answered without referring back to the passage, so spending a lot of time worry about details is a waste. that worked for me anyway.
also, i was running out of time on PS just because it has a lot more calculations (in general) than BS. if you can find a way to work those problems faster, that might help too.
 

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I finished BS a few minutes early by not reading the whole passage. I found that a lot of the questions could be answered without reading the passages, so I would scan the passage and note all the numbers then answer as many questions as I could. Then I would read the remaining questions and scan the passage again for any keywords. If I didn't see anything, I would make a reasonable guess. I think the strategy worked because I ended up doing pretty well in PS.
 
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def jeff

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I finished BS a few minutes early by not reading the whole passage. I found that a lot of the questions could be answered without reading the passages, so I would scan the passage and note all the numbers then answer as many questions as I could. Then I would read the remaining questions and scan the passage again for any keywords. If I didn't see anything, I would make a reasonable guess. I think the strategy worked because I ended up doing pretty well in PS.

I agree.

My story:
I took the August 2006 MCAT and I employed a similar strategy. I think my first practice test I scored like a 7 on PS. (Sounds worse than it was, but I'll explain). I think I took around 8 or 9 practice tests total (5 princeton, 3 or 4 on my own) and changed my strategy somewhere in between. I was reading the entire passage but skimming through them nonetheless. My scores were consistently around 8's or 9's. I read somewhere, probably here, to avoid reading the passages at all and answer the questions free standing. I thought that it was ridiculous but I tried it on my next Princeton practice test and I got an 11. Then a 12, then a ... you get the point.

The trick: kThere are a great deal of PS questionst hat you can answer 100% without the passage. These are the free standing questions. I would be willing to estimate more than half are like this. By answering these first (and sometimes you can knock out 6 out of 7 in a passage) you have saved loads of valuable time. Once you are done answering questions like "What is the lowest energy orbital? A. s B. p" then you can look to the passages for the other questions.

The main reason that this saves you time: You can routinely knock out two or three passages on the test without reading at all. Sure you might only answer 22 out of 24 questions for those three, but those two you save for later are not important in the big scheme of things, especially with the large curve for PS.

There are many questions in PS which require the passage to answer. However, the reason why this method works is that IMO unlike the other sections, the Physical Sciences passages will never contradict anything you already know. They might add to it, but they will never contradict. Gravity is gravity, light is light. The laws of physical science do not change, and there is not going to be any passage which reveals that the lowest energy orbital is in fact p. Thus you can answer these questions efficiently and effectively while saving time for the other questions which require referencing from the passage.

Disclaimer: I know this is not new information. Actually its probably been around as long as the MCAT has. But I didn't understand why it worked before and now I do.

P.S. I scored higher than a 12 and lower than a 14 on the August MCAT PS.;)
 

HristosKaran

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"The laws of physical science do not change, and there is not going to be any passage which reveals that the lowest energy orbital is in fact p"


~ I thought the lowest energy orbital is sigma?? Just trying to clarify for myself lol
 

Schaden Freud

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Repeat after me: DISCRETES FIRST.

By discretes I mean all the problems that aren't based on a descriptive passage. Don't even look at a passage until those are all answered.

For some reason I find it very difficult to finish the PS section on time. I always end up having to guess on one passage (and some more questions here or there). I don't seem to have this problem with the Bio section. I seem to consistently get 9's on the PS, but I know I am capable of more. Is there a particular strategy that works for some people who had trouble finishing? Right now, I read the entire passage before aswering questions. Is that the problem?
 

kstreet

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I agree.

My story:
I took the August 2006 MCAT and I employed a similar strategy. I think my first practice test I scored like a 7 on PS. (Sounds worse than it was, but I'll explain). I think I took around 8 or 9 practice tests total (5 princeton, 3 or 4 on my own) and changed my strategy somewhere in between. I was reading the entire passage but skimming through them nonetheless. My scores were consistently around 8's or 9's. I read somewhere, probably here, to avoid reading the passages at all and answer the questions free standing. I thought that it was ridiculous but I tried it on my next Princeton practice test and I got an 11. Then a 12, then a ... you get the point.

The trick: kThere are a great deal of PS questionst hat you can answer 100% without the passage. These are the free standing questions. I would be willing to estimate more than half are like this. By answering these first (and sometimes you can knock out 6 out of 7 in a passage) you have saved loads of valuable time. Once you are done answering questions like "What is the lowest energy orbital? A. s B. p" then you can look to the passages for the other questions.

The main reason that this saves you time: You can routinely knock out two or three passages on the test without reading at all. Sure you might only answer 22 out of 24 questions for those three, but those two you save for later are not important in the big scheme of things, especially with the large curve for PS.

There are many questions in PS which require the passage to answer. However, the reason why this method works is that IMO unlike the other sections, the Physical Sciences passages will never contradict anything you already know. They might add to it, but they will never contradict. Gravity is gravity, light is light. The laws of physical science do not change, and there is not going to be any passage which reveals that the lowest energy orbital is in fact p. Thus you can answer these questions efficiently and effectively while saving time for the other questions which require referencing from the passage.

Disclaimer: I know this is not new information. Actually its probably been around as long as the MCAT has. But I didn't understand why it worked before and now I do.

P.S. I scored higher than a 12 and lower than a 14 on the August MCAT PS.;)

Just wanted to bump this. Awesome advice right here.
 
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"The laws of physical science do not change, and there is not going to be any passage which reveals that the lowest energy orbital is in fact p"


~ I thought the lowest energy orbital is sigma?? Just trying to clarify for myself lol

sigma is the lowest level. What the poster was stating is that the laws in the physical science sections are not going to change no matter what info is contained in the passage. Therefore, if you know your stuff, then you can answer many of the passage-based questions simply by reading them as discretes without reading the passage first. The time you save can be added to answering the questions that require the passage.
 

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I finished BS a few minutes early by not reading the whole passage. I found that a lot of the questions could be answered without reading the passages, so I would scan the passage and note all the numbers then answer as many questions as I could. Then I would read the remaining questions and scan the passage again for any keywords. If I didn't see anything, I would make a reasonable guess. I think the strategy worked because I ended up doing pretty well in PS.



I would not follow this advice since alot of the questions refer to the passage, and if there is any strategy in which you have to make a reasonable guess then it won't get you your highest score.

The truth is, time management is the key. Read the passage, not for detail but quickly and know to not spend too much time on any one question. Time management.
 

Banjo64dd

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Well my test is in april 16, so I will try both methods to see which works. I guess it makes sense to do the discrete questions first then move on to the passages. I will give it a shot and let you know.
 

Banjo64dd

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Well I tried your method of not reading the PS passages and although I was able to finish the test without guessing, my score went down from a 10 to a 8. I guess this method doesn't work for me. Any suggestions anyone?
 

AnEyeLikeMars

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Well I tried your method of not reading the PS passages and although I was able to finish the test without guessing, my score went down from a 10 to a 8. I guess this method doesn't work for me. Any suggestions anyone?

I definitely think you should look at the passage. Sometimes it gives good info (figures, equations, etc.). But don't read necessarily for a great amount of detail and don't worry about remembering all of the info. I would definitely read it though to get a good feel for what's going on. It also helps to prime your mind and get you thinking about a particular topic. And while some questions stand alone, some questions refer to special cases referred to in the passage. Also, I don't know what practice tests your taking, but I had to do very few calculations when I took the MCAT (literally one or two). This is as opposed to Kaplan, which was very calculation intensive.
Also, if you're not finishing, you're not budgeting your time right. You need to learn when to give up and move on. When I took the MCAT, I didn't the discretes first and I felt like they kicked my @ss. I started to freak out but then I just moved on (and ended up getting a 14). You just need to remember that PS is hard so the curve is generally more generous. Instead of dwelling on a particular question or evaluating your performance mid-test, you gotta keep going. Good luck.
 
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Banjo64dd

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Here is the thing though. Now that I look back at my test (the one I did not reading the passages) I realize I made very stupid mistakes, but I only realize this after reading the passage one through. However at the same time, I realize that these questions could have been answered w/o looking at the passages? What is going on here?:confused:
 

HippocratesX

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Here is the thing though. Now that I look back at my test (the one I did not reading the passages) I realize I made very stupid mistakes, but I only realize this after reading the passage one through. However at the same time, I realize that these questions could have been answered w/o looking at the passages? What is going on here?:confused:

just like any other thing, using a specific method, takes practice. as you said...those silly mistake questions u missed could have been answered w/o looking at the passage. try doing a few more PS sections by only looking at the graphs, tables, equations and then doing the questions. you will be paying attention to those stupid mistakes that u made last time and not repeat them. also...for things that are right there in the passage...go and find them. its not the same as reading the passage, especially if its just a number or some data point ur collecting from the passage.
 

Banjo64dd

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That's what I was thinking. In retrospect, the mistakes look stupid, but during the test they are anything but. The thing I realize about the PS section is that the MCAT asks you a simple question, but in an ambiguous way. You have to be able to simplify the question to its core. So I don't think it is a porblem with hitting the books harder, but being able to understand what they want.
 

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I agree.

The trick: kThere are a great deal of PS questionst hat you can answer 100% without the passage. These are the free standing questions. I would be willing to estimate more than half are like this. By answering these first (and sometimes you can knock out 6 out of 7 in a passage) you have saved loads of valuable time. Once you are done answering questions like "What is the lowest energy orbital? A. s B. p" then you can look to the passages for the other questions.

The main reason that this saves you time: You can routinely knock out two or three passages on the test without reading at all. Sure you might only answer 22 out of 24 questions for those three, but those two you save for later are not important in the big scheme of things, especially with the large curve for PS.

There are many questions in PS which require the passage to answer. However, the reason why this method works is that IMO unlike the other sections, the Physical Sciences passages will never contradict anything you already know. They might add to it, but they will never contradict. Gravity is gravity, light is light. The laws of physical science do not change, and there is not going to be any passage which reveals that the lowest energy orbital is in fact p. Thus you can answer these questions efficiently and effectively while saving time for the other questions which require referencing from the passage.

Disclaimer: I know this is not new information. Actually its probably been around as long as the MCAT has. But I didn't understand why it worked before and now I do.

P.S. I scored higher than a 12 and lower than a 14 on the August MCAT PS.;)

I was having trouble finishing the PS and came to the boards looking for this exact thread. I was scoring a 10 every time on both AAMC and Kaplan PS, usually guessing on several because I ran out of time. I tried def jeff's advice, skimming to figure out the topic, then just jumped into the questions. I honestly finished with 15 minutes to go and was able to double check and correct a few careless mistakes...bumped my score up to a 13. Granted, I've only tried this strategy once, but so far i'm in total support. You kick ass def jeff.........this totally sounds like a paid endorsement. I assure you I am in no way affiliated with def jeff, nor do i recieve any sexual favors.
 

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i have the same psroblem w/ PS, i guess i will try the questions first method and see if it works for me, i finish early on bio but would this method work on bio too? does any one know...how about any good strategies for Verbal timing i am taking 2 minutes extra per passage :(
 

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I can't say I have had success from NOT reading the passage, but I totally agree with what they are saying.

Physics is physics, the passage isn't gonna change the laws of nature. HOWEVER, I have had passages before that "go back in time" to previous scientists theories and stuff. I think AAMC 8 or one of those AAMC tests had a PS section about Galileo and his view of the laws of kinematics. This is a good example of when skipping the passage wouldn't help. All the questions revolved around: "How would Galileo have accounted for X?" and stuff like that...
 

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My two cents,

I would not recommend ever skipping the passages before answering questions, no matter how pseudo-discrete they are. Nor would I suggest attacking discretes first, as I think it is an absolute waste of time to try and flip through and find them. The passages are a great resource, often reinforcing/reminding you of formulas, and more importantly, general relationships between things you are about to be tested on in the questions immediately preceding. It is much better to take the three minutes to read the passage, and be reminded, than possibly get something wrong because you didn't remember/understand the context of the question fully.

PS passages are so short you should forget writing any map. In fact, as I'm improving on verbal I find that the kaplan mapping strategy is a waste of time if you actually write it out. Do this mentally! Highlight key points and relations in the passage. This serves two purposes: 1) it reinforces the idea you are highlighting in your mind, and 2) it provides an extremely convenient way to break the passage down so you can find other information quickly. You simply have to keep track of how the information is presented (how the ideas flow logically from one to the other), and you can locate anything within an instant without a written map. This in a sense is a better map imo.

Reading the passage should really take about 1min tops, it is so short and usually you can skip over many details (like the exact value of some constant) until you need it for a question. Next, hit the questions IN ORDER. Don't try and pick out the discretes. There will be questions which require absolutely no computation, and only a basic understanding of the passage to answer. These are gold, and would be missed if you looked for the discretes. Discretes imo take the longest to solve on the PS, because they are most computationally heavy.

This is how attacking the questions should go:

1) read the question, and preform a method of attack. Do you know how to solve this, what relations are needed, how does this fit in with the passage?

2)Scan the answer choices, looking more for trends than the actual numbers. What are the units, what are the ratios, what is different about the answer choices. This will help you do all the things I pointed out in 1. If after having done so, you cannot answer most of the questions in 1. mark the question, randomly guess, and move on to the next question and repeat. Otherwise, move on to 3.

3) Attack the question. If it has something to do with the passage, quickly relocate and reread the relevant sentence or two, even if you remember the answer explicitly. It never hurts to double check, and the better you remember it the less time it takes to locate and verify. If there is computation involved, WRITE OUT THE FORMULA. It helps to visualize what is going on. Also, round off all the numbers and ballpark it. No need to carry any decimals, just note in what direction your answer is going to be off. Even if you need to write out the calculation (often times it will be so simple you will not need to), rounding will speed it up 100% if not more.

Go through the entire section like this. You should not need to spend more than 30-45 seconds on any one question. You will get to the end with more than enough time to spare. I usually finish with ~30-35 minutes left. At this point, relax a bit. You have finished the section and put an answer on every question, take 5 seconds to breathe and focus. At this point, if you were to submit the test, you should be at the 7 range at least. If not (or you have significantly less time left than 25 minutes), you seriously need to go back and consider why you needed so much time, or in what areas you simply had no idea how to go about solving the problem. This isn't a pacing issue, you just don't know the material.

Now that you have at least put an answer for everything (either you marked and guessed, or solved the problem), it is time to go back and start earning the real points. Go through each marked question. When you get there, you need to ask yourself honestly : Do I have at least some clue as to what I would need to know, or do, to solve the problem, and can I find that information out from the passage or from logically reasoning through what I know? This is critical, if you have zero clue how to solve it, or how it relates to the passage if it isn't discrete, don't waste time, move on. As soon as you come to a question you think you might have a chance of figuring out, attack it. Give yourself 3-5 minutes (5 mins will seem like an eternity) and use every tool at your disposal. Eliminate every answer choice you can, guess if you need to, and move on to the next. It is this part that separates the men from the boys IMO, and is the real heart of the MCAT. Succeeding here is more about your ability to reason, and answer things you don't know for sure based upon the things you are comfortable with than memorizing every detail. This is what will bring your score up to 12 and above.


This is how I attack every section. I've finished every practice full length PS and BS section in this manner, with plenty of time to spare even after doing the above. I usually even have enough time to go back and review every question (after doing the above) twice over. You will guaranteed finish each section doing it this way. Keep in mind though, there is no substitute for knowing what is required on PS and BS sections. Your score using this method will adequately reflect your knowledge, and show you what you need to reinforce before test day.

Like anything else, take it with a grain of salt. I have an incredibly strong PS background and hence it comes faster to me than most.
 
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