Sanatore

5+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2013
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DO/PhD Student
In preparing for the MCAT, I've come across some words that are seemingly straightforward, but after going through the answer explanations, turn out to be critical to choosing or ignoring an answer choice.

Just for clarity, please do not post here with any Verbal (VS) words which identify writer intent. This post is specifically about vocabulary used in biological experiments or in the explanation of physiology which may be unfamiliar to some of us.

EXAMPLES:
Turbidity - This means cloudiness, but it specifically relates to bacterial culture growth in a medium. Turbidity can be used as a quantitative indicator of bacterial reproduction in a culture.
(we all know that bacterial growth clouds the surface of the agar, but not knowing what turbidity meant, I missed this question)

Attenuate - This means that the degree to which something occurs is lessened. For example, an increase in some trend can be atteunuated. The example the test used was effects as a result of higher dosage. As dose kept increasing, there were diminishing returns, or attenuated gains. Again, simple, but not knowing this word turned out to be critical.

Distensible - To become distended is to become enlarged or stretched. This word was used in a comparison between all of the blood vessels in the body. This word feels so at home with the concept of elasticity its easy to get the two confused. While something elastic will stretch, it quickly regains its original conformation, and because it is elastic, it will stretch less, as in the case of the systemic arteries. On the other hand, something distensible becomes stretched or enlarged and remains so until the stress causing the distension is alleviated. Ergo, veins are more distensible than arteries. When I approached this question, I was fresh out of reading about the elastic mechanism by which arteries maintain blood pressure between Systole and Diastole, and I decided that systemic arteries were distensible. Not so much. Wrong Answer.



In addition to the few I've discovered already, I will update as I encounter more, and I encourage you all to do the same.
 

Forkit

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Nov 18, 2007
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The practice tests you do, the more you will encounter these vocabulary, and those words will become second nature as far as understanding (not memorizing) their meaning. You could set up a list of vocabulary to study for the MCAT, but in my humble opinion that method is a waste of time and ineffective because you're supposed to understand concepts, link relationships between concepts, and know the big picture as opposed to minute detail.
 
Jul 22, 2012
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Great thread! I agree, the MCAT is straight-forward in the concepts, but is all about semantics and presenting information and questions in a not very straight forward manner. I wonder how a lawyer would do on this test...well, probably bad, because they would over-read everything, haha. It's a lame test imo, doesn't predict if you're up to the task of medical school or squat really. Anyway thanks! I have been on an MCAT hiatus and haven't done questions in a while but this was a good find :)
 
OP
Sanatore

Sanatore

5+ Year Member
Jan 24, 2013
10
6
OK
Status
DO/PhD Student
The practice tests you do, the more you will encounter these vocabulary, and those words will become second nature as far as understanding (not memorizing) their meaning. You could set up a list of vocabulary to study for the MCAT, but in my humble opinion that method is a waste of time and ineffective because you're supposed to understand concepts, link relationships between concepts, and know the big picture as opposed to minute detail.
I definitely agree that rote memorization won't serve one well on this test. My thinking is more that since, as you both echoed, semantics are a big part of this test, most people won't spend a lot of time hunting down words that might trip one up, as it would be to the expense of time spent gaining conceptual understanding. Conversely, given that there is an optimal time frame for beginning study before a test, this inevitably places a restriction on how much practice content can be done before the test. Ergo, the number of words like this which one stumbles across during their course of study is both dependent on the amount of practice content they have time to digest and the quality of that content in addressing such possible testing hazards.

In any case, I think that collective input here from multiple members could provide an additional, purely test-taking edge that might produce diminishing returns with any individual trying to round up a list of semantic traps, and wouldn't take much time to review. Thanks for your replies!