How do you guys avoid overthinking or underthinking a question and avoiding dumb errors in general?



I had a question yesterday that said something along the lines of:

A patient has a mutation in an enzyme required for purine synthesis, which of the following pathways will be directly affected?

A) DNA replication
B) RNA transcription
C) Both
D) Neither

This is a simple question, especially for a guy like me with a molecular biology degree. I have all of the necessary knowledge to answer this. In spite of that I got it wrong.

At first I was like, "clearly both processes need purines so it must be C" then I thought about it a bit further and was like "well the question says directly, so I suppose purine synthesis pathways would be directly affected by the lack of the missing enzyme, however these are different cellular processes that use purine nucleotides, so maybe they are in directly affected. Like they could go on fine if they just had purines supplied somehow. The pathways themselves are functional, they just need the necessary material, so they're indirectly affected. Really the only directly affected pathways is the purine synthesis pathway, so the answer must be D"

I picked D and low and behold it was C. I felt stupid.

This is just one of numerous errors I regularly make by either
a) misunderstanding what it being asked in the question
b) over thinking the answers
c) under thinking the answers
d) glossing over key details.

How do I avoid these types of mistakes. I have all I need to answer them correctly, I just don't approach them right


5+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2013
Medical Student
I am a notorious overthinker, have been told by countless professors/teachers over the years. For the MCAT I found the only way I avoided overthinking was exposure. There wasn't any trick to knowing what to not overthink, just overtime after lots of practice questions I had an intuition of how in depth to expect a certain question to go. Pay attention to those kinds of patterns.

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Last edited:


D.O. Class of 2022
2+ Year Member
Oct 17, 2015
Medical Student (Accepted)
The MCAT is rarely trying to straight up trick you on questions.. well except the verbal section.
Jul 23, 2016
Medical Student (Accepted)
Generally, I go with my initial answer. I don't change it unless I realize that I misread the question/options or that my reasoning is clearly flawed. Usually, your gut is right!

Sometimes, it can help to ask yourself what concept the question is testing. This question is basically asking, "Do DNA replication and RNA transcription require purines?"

I also agree with WhittyPsyche that practice problems can help with this.