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isopropylygotobed

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Hello there,

There is obviously no one good way to make a high MCAT score, and I understand that there are basic principles you need to follow: do your practice exams, study consistently, etc...

But I am looking for any specifics that may have helped you understand the "language" that the MCAT exam speaks. For example, trends in the type of logic that they ask you, or trends in certain types of trick questions. From what I understand, the MCAT mostly a matter of logic and critical thinking, and being able to take a timed test efficiently over a matter of 7.5 hours.

What sort of unique strategies did you use in your studying and in your practice test taking that helped you become an MCAT guru?

Thanks!
 

begoood95

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I might write more later, but often overlooked is the fact that you need fuel (FOOD) to think straight for that long. Here's what I had on my break: caffeinated (100mg) dark chocolate, an assortment of nuts, water, a protein bar, and a banana. Caffeine for obvious reasons, nuts for fast acting carbs, fats, and etc., protein bar to fill me up, and a banana 'cause I like bananas.

You will get tired. Set short goals, and think of the sections as individual tests in and of themselves; in other words, when you start the first section, don't agonize over the last psychology/sociology portion. Treat each problem set the same way: when you're testing physics/chemistry, don't think about its length—think about each passage individually.

I don't think the MCAT is mostly a matter of logic and critical thinking (there is a section dedicated to that), in that you will not get away with not knowing the material and making guesses the whole way through. However, there are indeed strategies that may facilitate your test-taking, like the aforementioned. The food part is important; your brain will simply give out without the requisite fuel. Otherwise, stick to the basic principles and you will do great.

As far as language goes, read as many scientific articles as you can (ones that manipulate variables and track various changes). Get used to "alphabet soup." Here's what I did for CARS: ProTips: here's what helped me score a 132 on CARS

Have fun, and good luck!
 
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The Knife & Gun Club

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My main tip is after doing questions, look back to the answer to see what the question was really asking. Often times you’ll get this huge convoluted question where you’ve gotta interpret the passage and then answer a question that seems unknowable without memorizing some minute detail. Often times what they’re really asking is very simple, the writers have just phrased it in a confusing way.

For example, This sample question where they talked for paragraphs about a mouse knockout gene study. They discussed the protein products emission spectrum, mouse survival, infection, the blood viscosity, and all sorts of other weird crap. Then the question asked:

The most widely-used differential stain for bacteria is:
A the capsule stain
B the Gram stain
C the endospore stain
D the flagella stain

So for this example at first you’d think you need to memorize what the most common stain is, but you don’t. Think logically:

A - capsule stain...wtf is that? Fair guess is it’ll pick up things with capsules, but nothing else

C - endospore stain...never heard of it, but I’m guessing it only stains endospores. Not very useful if you’re looking at literally anything that’s not an endospore.

D - flagella stain...I’m sure this is a thing but can’t remember learning it. I bet It will stain anything with a flagella. But how many bugs have a flagella? Not THAT many.

B - Gram stain...what is that? It’s a stain that turns some bacteria purple and other bacteria red. So that means it stains virtually ALL bacteria (well except the atypical bacteria, but you’ll learn about those in med school). Makes sense this would be the most widely used then...and that would be correct

[Side note, in an ideal world you’d know that it stains peptidoglycans in the cell wall. Bacteria that have peptidoglycans turn purple, those that lack peptidoglycans turn red. At the end of the day it stains anything with a cell wall, which is the vast majority of bacteria. But that isn’t really necessary for this question]

So all you really needed to know was what a gram stain is. Don’t let them fool you. The MCAT is a relatively small knowledge base with a lot of extrapolation.
 
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workaholic181

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Well you’re on the right track OP just in the fact you’re looking at the way things are presented on the mcat as it’s ultimately a critical reading test.

What helped me most way doing the AAMC FLs, printing them out (yes it took huge amounts of paper) and just going over the sections and questions I got wrong over and over. In time you’ll pick up the cues that something is important, or superfluous.
 
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isopropylygotobed

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I might write more later, but often overlooked is the fact that you need fuel (FOOD) to think straight for that long. Here's what I had on my break: caffeinated (100mg) dark chocolate, an assortment of nuts, water, a protein bar, and a banana. Caffeine for obvious reasons, nuts for fast acting carbs, fats, and etc., protein bar to fill me up, and a banana 'cause I like bananas.

You will get tired. Set short goals, and think of the sections as individual tests in and of themselves; in other words, when you start the first section, don't agonize over the last psychology/sociology portion. Treat each problem set the same way: when you're testing physics/chemistry, don't think about its length—think about each passage individually.

I don't think the MCAT is mostly a matter of logic and critical thinking (there is a section dedicated to that), in that you will not get away with not knowing the material and making guesses the whole way through. However, there are indeed strategies that may facilitate your test-taking, like the aforementioned. The food part is important; your brain will simply give out without the requisite fuel. Otherwise, stick to the basic principles and you will do great.

As far as language goes, read as many scientific articles as you can (ones that manipulate variables and track various changes). Get used to "alphabet soup." Here's what I did for CARS: ProTips: here's what helped me score a 132 on CARS

Have fun, and good luck!




This is great, thank you!
 

isopropylygotobed

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My main tip is after doing questions, look back to the answer to see what the question was really asking. Often times you’ll get this huge convoluted question where you’ve gotta interpret the passage and then answer a question that seems unknowable without memorizing some minute detail. Often times what they’re really asking is very simple, the writers have just phrased it in a confusing way.

For example, This sample question where they talked for paragraphs about a mouse knockout gene study. They discussed the protein products emission spectrum, mouse survival, infection, the blood viscosity, and all sorts of other weird crap. Then the question asked:

The most widely-used differential stain for bacteria is:
A the capsule stain
B the Gram stain
C the endospore stain
D the flagella stain

So for this example at first you’d think you need to memorize what the most common stain is, but you don’t. Think logically:

A - capsule stain...wtf is that? Fair guess is it’ll pick up things with capsules, but nothing else

C - endospore stain...never heard of it, but I’m guessing it only stains endospores. Not very useful if you’re looking at literally anything that’s not an endospore.

D - flagella stain...I’m sure this is a thing but can’t remember learning it. I bet It will stain anything with a flagella. But how many bugs have a flagella? Not THAT many.

B - Gram stain...what is that? It’s a stain that turns some bacteria purple and other bacteria red. So that means it stains virtually ALL bacteria (well except the atypical bacteria, but you’ll learn about those in med school). Makes sense this would be the most widely used then...and that would be correct

[Side note, in an ideal world you’d know that it stains peptidoglycans in the cell wall. Bacteria that have peptidoglycans turn purple, those that lack peptidoglycans turn red. At the end of the day it stains anything with a cell wall, which is the vast majority of bacteria. But that isn’t really necessary for this question]

So all you really needed to know was what a gram stain is. Don’t let them fool you. The MCAT is a relatively small knowledge base with a lot of extrapolation.



This is a fantastic example. Thank you for your insight!
 
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pewpew95

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Empty your bowels before the exam so you don't have to run out in the middle of a section to go poo poo
 
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DBC03

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One thing that helped me is pattern recognition. It’s something I’m fairly good at naturally, but doing puzzles - both jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles - is good practice for getting faster at finding patterns. It can help when looking for information in the passage. Strange advice, I know...


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Gilakend

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One thing that helped me is pattern recognition. It’s something I’m fairly good at naturally, but doing puzzles - both jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles - is good practice for getting faster at finding patterns. It can help when looking for information in the passage. Strange advice, I know...


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1000000% agree. After going through the practice tests and SB you start to notice key words and patterns in the passages.
 
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mellie0

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PRACTICE. I cannot emphasize this enough. There’s no amount of content review that will prep you for the test like actually seeing the questions over and over again. One thing that definitely helped was trying to think like the test maker — what are they alluding at? what’s in their mind?

I also focused way too much on 100% knowing the answer to everything which is not the point of the MCAT. You simply won’t know everything. It’s about learning how to guess from the limited knowledge you have and the passage they give you. Instead of scolding yourself for not knowing something, scold yourself for not having been able to figure it out (assuming proper content review has already been done).
 
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boogiecousins94

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Also be aware of how short the breaks are in terms of how much time it takes to enter and exit the room with all the TSA level security. I ended up staying in the room for all of them except the 30 min one. I think if you can figure out a way to like "decompress" between sections without having to get up it would be useful. The first and last breaks are 15 min but with the way it's set up sometimes it takes 5 min to get out and 5 min to get in
 

Matthew9Thirtyfive

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Also be aware of how short the breaks are in terms of how much time it takes to enter and exit the room with all the TSA level security. I ended up staying in the room for all of them except the 30 min one. I think if you can figure out a way to like "decompress" between sections without having to get up it would be useful. The first and last breaks are 15 min but with the way it's set up sometimes it takes 5 min to get out and 5 min to get in

I thought the first and last were 10. They’re 15?

Edited for spelling.
 
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DBC03

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QUOTE="boogiecousins94, post: 19666190, member: 851044"]Maybe they are 10 I don't remember exactly all I know is they're very short and hard to actually leave with enough time to "take a break"[/QUOTE]

I think they are “officially” 10, but they used to give extra time for checking in/out, but they reduced the buffer time to 1.5 minutes (bummer). Agreed with what you said about it taking a while to check in/out!


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bioboy23

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Maybe they are 10 I don't remember exactly all I know is they're very short and hard to actually leave with enough time to "take a break"
Sorry about ur Achilles man :/ get well soon boogie
 
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Danny L

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Everyone says practice but having the low yield information memorized is pretty underrated just about everywhere (here, reddit, etc). I kind of crammed for the MCAT (lol) but there were a number of questions about information I both remembered reading about and knew how to get to the answer but didn't have the information memorized well enough to get the actual answer (example: there was a question about kidney anatomy where we essentially had to know in which tubule water was primarily excreted from because they listed every ****ing portion of the loop of henle)

Kaplan gets a lot of flack for having too much information, but their set is really good for low yield information (there are a few books I would substitute though). If you're aiming for like a 520+ on the MCAT the difference could be just a few questions

Also, don't cram for the MCAT.

Another thing, if you're the type of college student that likes to go to bed at like 5 in the morning or something I'd recommend fixing that months before the MCAT rather than a couple of weeks before. Biological clocks are a bitch to fix
 
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begoood95

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Everyone says practice but having the low yield information memorized is pretty underrated just about everywhere (here, reddit, etc). I kind of crammed for the MCAT (lol) but there were a number of questions about information I both remembered reading about and knew how to get to the answer but didn't have the information memorized well enough to get the actual answer (example: there was a question about kidney anatomy where we essentially had to know in which tubule water was primarily excreted from because they listed every ****ing portion of the loop of henle)

Kaplan gets a lot of flack for having too much information, but their set is really good for low yield information (there are a few books I would substitute though). If you're aiming for like a 520+ on the MCAT the difference could be just a few questions

Also, don't cram for the MCAT.

Another thing, if you're the type of college student that likes to go to bed at like 5 in the morning or something I'd recommend fixing that months before the MCAT rather than a couple of weeks before. Biological clocks are a bitch to fix
The...Ascending loop? Lololol I haven't studied physiology in a 1.5 years:laugh:

Also, isn't the Berkeley Review given flack for that problem? That's what I used, and I'm with you—I was happy to study/memorize the "minutia." I was of the opinion that I'd rather overstudy than understudy.
 
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