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How do you approach complicated passages?

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by Daiichi, Aug 3, 2015.

  1. Daiichi

    2+ Year Member

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    I'm constantly reading that the MCAT is largely based off of reasoning skills and content knowledge is tested to a much smaller extent. The area I always seem to struggle in, though, is trying to uncover the meaning of complicated passages. Right now I'm doing EK's 30 min tests following the chapters and I get so confused reading about all of the molecules in a test, what they're doing with them, etc. Then I look at the questions and they require you to understand what the passage was talking about, but I'm often confused at this point. Is there a logical way to break these down without overwhelming yourself?
     
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  3. basophilic

    2+ Year Member

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    The EK30 min exams while drilling those experimental passages I don't think simulate the AAMC FL very much and I've found them definitely harder.
    As far as reading difficult passages goes, you have to practice but not just passively but actively honing a strategy that you are comfortable with. This means do some of those and KA passages untimed; when you review your answers, look at what type of details you missed out on and make note to your self that you'll highlight or look out for that. From my experience, I started off with a really detailed method of visualizing every detail in the background paragraphs by making mini-concept diagrams while highlighting any key terms I remember from AAMC outline; then for the experiment, I would remind myself of the basic steps of scientific method (experiment purpose, question, hypothesis, variables, measurement, analysis) and fill the passage info into these categories; the results I'd observe by looking at the axes/columns of graphs/figures/tables and make sure my independent/dependent variables (that I assigned before) are on there and then make general interpretation of the figure (noting any asterisks, error bars, etc.); finally I'd confirm whether hypothesis was correct. I condensed the strategy over time to what I found efficient.
    Next, read up on the different aspects of research (testable hypothesis, correlation vs. causation, reliability, validity, biases, confounders etc.); specifically, most of the articles on this site: https://explorable.com/experimental-research?gid=1580. Using these question as many aspects of research journal articles as possible (is the sample homogenous/generalizable? possibility of self-report, self-selection, social desirability, sampling, etc. biases? what aspects of the experiment increase internal/external validity? and so on).
    Also, look up stuff about how experiments can go wrong. I won't say I'm an expert at these types of passages (I definitely wish I'd done a bit better on the AAMC FL), but this has at least helped me improve a bit since I was also struggling with it a lot early on.

    Also, on a sidenote, a lot of questions I've done ask something about causality. I've realized 2 things about these: 1) think of an answer choice (especially in social science section) containing "caused/causes/cause" as what we see as "extremes" in CARS sections - think 100 times before choosing it! 2) for natural sciences, say a question asks about PROVING a causal relation; simplify it so: If X, then Y. All you have to do from now is prove this: If not X, then not Y. One answer choice will literally jump out at you if you look for that; though to be complete, you also need to show temporality (X precedes Y in time) and lack of ANY confounders. (And I've definitely found at least 3 questions relevant to this in AAMC FL bio section to which this trick can be easily applied). I've also found a lot of questions ask about what creates doubt about inferring causality from this/that experiment; the most frequent answer tends to be relevant to potential confounding variables. These are not 100% reliable heuristics but definitely something to keep in mind.
     
    LakridsA likes this.

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