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How to be a better test taker?

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mohad

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Ok, so I have taken a look at a lot of the questions that I seem to get wrong on passages and practice tests. Content issue isn't a problem because I get very few questions from not knowing anything. My main issue is that I am horrible at taking the test itself. I can nail simple information questions, but I always end up getting something wrong because I don't read the question or answer choices closely enough. It's really frustrating cause I know what I'm doing, but I end up glancing over words and not noticing a potential trap that the question has. I miss a key word here, or I end up prematurely ignoring an answer because I find one that I like earlier. I know these are elementary mistakes, but for some reason, I can't get rid of these habits. I don't have this issue at school because I usually have the time to go back through a test multiple times after going through it once to catch mistakes, but I obviously don't have this luxury on any tests. Is this an issue that will just fix itself through practice or is there any way I can make myself more aware and focused on the nitty-gritty details when taking tests?
 

whiteshadodw

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Ok, so I have taken a look at a lot of the questions that I seem to get wrong on passages and practice tests. Content issue isn't a problem because I get very few questions from not knowing anything. My main issue is that I am horrible at taking the test itself. I can nail simple information questions, but I always end up getting something wrong because I don't read the question or answer choices closely enough. It's really frustrating cause I know what I'm doing, but I end up glancing over words and not noticing a potential trap that the question has. I miss a key word here, or I end up prematurely ignoring an answer because I find one that I like earlier. I know these are elementary mistakes, but for some reason, I can't get rid of these habits. I don't have this issue at school because I usually have the time to go back through a test multiple times after going through it once to catch mistakes, but I obviously don't have this luxury on any tests. Is this an issue that will just fix itself through practice or is there any way I can make myself more aware and focused on the nitty-gritty details when taking tests?

that's half the trick in practicing for the MCAT. i find that if i stay calm and relaxed i can own the passages, but once i start flipping out i start making silly errors. best thing to do is just stay calm and relaxed and work things out.
 

MDminded

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Is this an issue that will just fix itself through practice or is there any way I can make myself more aware and focused on the nitty-gritty details when taking tests?

Sounds like you just have to make yourself more aware. Circle words like "NOT" (i.e. not stated in the passage) or anything in the answer choices that would hint for something to be wrong/right (i.e. increase/decrease) until you make fewer mistakes like this. That'll make you call your attention to wording until your brain can automatically process those without highlighting or circling.

Content is only part of the battle. The rest of it is overcoming yourself and increasing your awareness. Practice passages and discretes and you'll be better at conquering this error in no time.

Good luck!
 

stsa84

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Practice always helps, but keep in mind that the MCAT tests aptitude as much as it tests knowledge. The predictive power of the MCAT lies in it's ability to gauge the aptitude of medical school applicants, and how well they are likely to do with medical school courses and the Steps.

You will reach a point where more studying won't help...your own brain limits how high you can go. Every person hits a wall, their average, that cannot be surpassed unless by chance. You can improve vastly by knowing information, which you mentioned you know well, and practicing to learn how the MCAT asks for information. There's a "language" to the test, a style that can be understood, and getting comfortable with this will improve your scores a good bit.

Anyway, don't want to discourage you, I just wanted to make the point that part of what the MCAT is testing is your ability to cut through their crap and figure out what it is exactly that they're asking you for. Once you can do this, many questions are very easy. A person's aptitude for learning goes, presumably, hand-in-hand with how well they are able to take a complex piece of information, extract what is useful and ignore what is not applicable, and then use their pure stores of knowledge to answer the question. A more full extent of this ability can be realized through practice, but we are all also limited in this capacity in our own specific way.

Practice hard, learn the language and tricks of the MCAT (which simply come through practice), and you should improve.
 

whiteshadodw

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Practice always helps, but keep in mind that the MCAT tests aptitude as much as it tests knowledge. The predictive power of the MCAT lies in it's ability to gauge the aptitude of medical school applicants, and how well they are likely to do with medical school courses and the Steps.

You will reach a point where more studying won't help...your own brain limits how high you can go. Every person hits a wall, their average, that cannot be surpassed unless by chance. You can improve vastly by knowing information, which you mentioned you know well, and practicing to learn how the MCAT asks for information. There's a "language" to the test, a style that can be understood, and getting comfortable with this will improve your scores a good bit.

Anyway, don't want to discourage you, I just wanted to make the point that part of what the MCAT is testing is your ability to cut through their crap and figure out what it is exactly that they're asking you for. Once you can do this, many questions are very easy. A person's aptitude for learning goes, presumably, hand-in-hand with how well they are able to take a complex piece of information, extract what is useful and ignore what is not applicable, and then use their pure stores of knowledge to answer the question. A more full extent of this ability can be realized through practice, but we are all also limited in this capacity in our own specific way.

Practice hard, learn the language and tricks of the MCAT (which simply come through practice), and you should improve.

seriously? i think most people here will tell you the EXACT opposite. pure hard work could probably get you anywhere from a 30 or above. from there it becomes how smart you're studying, how hard you're working and to some extent how smart you are. i guess above 40 it becomes how smart you are, but you don't need a 40 to get in anyhwere.
 

stsa84

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Hard work and smart studying will only get you so far. You get to the point where the only questions you're missing are ones requiring obscure pieces of knowledge that there's almost no way you could know, ones you make dumb mistakes on, and ones in which you're not quite able to comprehend what the question is looking for.

Everybody has their own wall they hit, above which improvement isn't really possible, be that a 25 or a 42. Hard work and smart studying can take you up to your own limit, but your limit is set by your aptitude.

I'm not saying everyone needs to hit a 40...a 30 is perfectly acceptable for the majority of schools. I am simply noting that for every person, there comes a point where an additional year or ten years of studying won't significantly improve their scores. They are limited in no way by their knowledge or understanding, but rather only in their aptitude. I cannot get above a 40 on practice tests, but I am consistently between 35-39. I feel that there is no subject matter that I don't know, or even that I need to work on more. The handful of questions I always miss on practice tests are not missed because I should have studied more, but rather because I simply could not get to the answer. I do not have the aptitude to score higher.

That being said, the upper limit of aptitude is usually a good bit higher than the scores a person is getting after only mild studying. It takes a ton of studying to get to that point, and I'd think for almost everyone that point would lie somewhere in the 30's. Up until that point, it is hard work, smart studying, and smart test taking that can continue to improve their scores.
 
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Flamen04

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I think you just invented this "wall" crap to make yourself feel better about not being able to break a 40. Not scoring high has nothing to do with "not having enough aptitude." It has to do with your nerves, knowledge content, and reading comp. That's it.
 

stsa84

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Haha, yeah, you're wrong.

So what, everybody is equally capable of doing anything? With enough hard work and perseverance, anybody could be a nuclear chemist or a particle physicist? That's just naive. Take the SAT...it is called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, because the makers of the test recognize that not every person has the same aptitude for learning, and decided to make a test to quantitatively determine where a person falls within the spectrum.

Also, one of the three secrets ingredients to unlimited success you mentioned involves an aspect of not just hard work, but aptitude. Nerves can be controlled (hard work), facts can be memorized (hard work), and reading comprehension can be improved (with hard work), but reading comprehension is largely a measure of aptitude.
 

mohad

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Ok, I'll admit that my content knowledge, isn't complete, but I've been lucky when it comes to practice tests cause I can make educated guesses about what I don't know and they're usually right just because I remember vague bits and pieces. I am just getting so frustrated because my reading ability is complete crap. And it doesn't help that I am on a time limit. I've started to take things in much more slowly to get good reading habits, but I'm starting to make errors in other places when i fix one area up.

And what exactly do you guys mean by smart studying? I know my studying habits can improve, but so far, my idea of studying is reading content material, going over some practice questions, figuring out what I did wrong and making sure to remember the concepts behind the question, and glancing over what I did right. Is there anything else I could do?
 

stsa84

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Improving content knowledge will improve your score, both because you'll know more actual answers, and because quickly answering some questions will give you more time to spend on others. On many types of questions, especially in the verbal section, narrowing the answer choices down to 2 and making an educated guess, especially when you're feeling the clock breathing down your neck, is the best you can do, and like you mentioned, the pieces you do remember and your intuition can serve you well here.
 

DallasCowboys22

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I think you just invented this "wall" crap to make yourself feel better about not being able to break a 40. Not scoring high has nothing to do with "not having enough aptitude." It has to do with your nerves, knowledge content, and reading comp. That's it.

I think reading comprehension would fall under the aptitude category. Think of the dumbest person you know. Do you think with tons and tons of hard work they could score a 37? I'd be willing to bet my life that the dumbest person I kno could never get a 37 even if he studied 5 years and therefore his "wall" is much lower than a 37.
 

dancerdoc89

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Content is only part of the battle. The rest of it is overcoming yourself and increasing your awareness.

I agree with this entirely. In terms of maintaining awareness on test day, be mindful of the small things that make you comfortable and more aware of your exam and not the stuff going on around you...i.e. wear headphones if they're provided...

...during my exam, I could hear the proctors through the wall in the next room laughing and having a good time....plus having to listen to other testers type away was a major distraction...yep, threw those headphones on

good luck :)
 
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