After taking the MCAT (practice or real), do you feel the MCAT psych section to be well targeted?

  • Yes

    Votes: 10 22.7%
  • No

    Votes: 34 77.3%

  • Total voters
    44

tluedeke

2+ Year Member
Sep 3, 2014
84
43
Status
Pre-Medical
After taking some practice MCAT psychology/sociology, I have to admit to being about 9/10ths furious about the section. About 80-90% of the questions have the word "theory" in it, and amount to nothing more than a bunch of memorization of theory names/originators (e.g. give a situation, then ask which of four theories describe it). The other 10% seems quite useful (statistical approaches on study, assessing data, etc).

I understand and actually agree with a lot of what the MCAT committee was trying to accomplish with the inclusion of this section in the exam, but I think they have completely missed the boat on the implementation. If they think they will get more empathetic, caring doctors because of this section, they need to be laughed out of the room.

This section amounts to a mountain of memorization and negligible understanding. I've got probably 250 Anki cards that do nothing except test my memorization of theory names and the person whom came up with it, and a sentence or two on the key idea behind it. From my practice tests, I need to approximately quintuple that, spend incredible amounts of time memorizing them, and add nothing more of any real importance.

This is unfortunate, because there could be a lot of useful information from those disciplines that would add perspective to future physicians. However, I can only conclude that I hope they learn in the future about how better to implement this section. If they just wanted to test individual's ability to memorize (an incredibly important skill for medicine), at least be honest and simply state that is the goal of the section.

What a dreadful waste of time, unlike the new biochemistry material.....
 
Jun 6, 2015
753
442
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I don't think it's a waste of time. Requiring behavioral sciences for pre-meds is a great move because it gives us a more diverse education, and the behavioral sciences on the MCAT forces you to understand how to interpret information about humans in the context of various psychological and sociological theories. I find it an interesting section to study for.
 

GrapesofRath

2+ Year Member
May 5, 2015
5,320
3,803
Status
Non-Student
Keep in mind many people will tell you they found the real MCAT psych/soc far harder than the practice stuff. Which makes sense; you need to make a test where only a certain amount of people can get a 128+ type of score.

As for the actual test itself there are many who will tell you they had a fair amount of research and data interpretation. It really varies by test. Yes there is memorization. But many will tell you the psych/soc reads a good bit like the CARS section.
 
  • Like
Reactions: p0gono

Cotterpin

Gluconeogenesis Evangelion
2+ Year Member
Jun 18, 2015
6,919
6,002
Status
Medical Student
I didn't actually think it was too much like CARS. But it was mostly research and data interpretation. I was worried about it because people kept saying psych/soc was really hard and that none of the test prep companies could prepare you for it... but then it was my best section on the real thing. :shrug:
 
  • Like
Reactions: ready2go2

ready2go2

5+ Year Member
Mar 29, 2013
364
550
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
A lot of it to me is common sense. A lot of the terms one needs to know are self explanatory in the name. As for the others, oh well that's life, suck it up and memorize. I have a psychology background so that may make me biased. In the AAMC full length I came across a few terms I didn't know, but used common sense and got them correct (got a 90% btw) I think of all the sections this one is the most straightforward.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bearintraining
OP
T

tluedeke

2+ Year Member
Sep 3, 2014
84
43
Status
Pre-Medical
As always, the replies tended to make me think that people didn't read my post (which bodes ill for their CARS sections). I said, I thought the idea behind having psychology and sociology on the exam was a good one, but not the implementation, nor that it was hard to get a good score, nor whether the section was hard.

My quarrel is the angle on memorizing theory names without requiring any understanding, especially when it comes to long-discredited (and absurd) ideas like Freud's psychosocial development. Why not pose questions about patients coming from unusual backgrounds requiring careful attention to their social background? Why not pose questions related to access to medicine by underrepresented minorities with strong cultural cohesion, and the challenge it poses to physicians? What about the aspect of mental illness as it pertains to patient care? Or of childhood development? What about examining a study on mental illness, and being able to determine whether the statistics and study parameters are BS? In general, I'm impressed with the clever adjustments to the exam with respect to targeted physics, chemistry, and other general sciences. But the psychology/sociology section is completely different, in my opinion...

Instead, they are endlessly asking you things like what is Piaget's Third Stage of Cognitive Development, or which psychologist complained about the sexism of Kohlberg's moral development theory.

I understand and appreciate the incredible importance of assimilating diverse and massive amounts of information through memorization, being able to apply it. However, if that is the goal of MCAT psych/socio section, they should be more honest about what they are trying to accomplish with the section, or adjust the way they've implemented it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TheAnonymous

Cotterpin

Gluconeogenesis Evangelion
2+ Year Member
Jun 18, 2015
6,919
6,002
Status
Medical Student
@tluedeke Have you actually taken the real test yet? Because the real test doesn't have as much memorization of theory names as you are thinking it will. The test is much more geared towards reading psych/soc studies and answer questions about research methodology. Of course, it's good to know facts and names and stuff (just like how straight memorization is important for the phys/chem and bio sections), but that's not the focus.

Also, you should be aware that often on forums, people aren't always responding directly to your OP. Unless somebody quotes or tags you, there's always a chance that they could be talking to someone else. Maybe try not to get mad at people or insult them when they don't respond exactly the way you wanted them to.
 

tenblackalps

2+ Year Member
Dec 24, 2014
286
339
Status
Medical Student
@tluedeke Have you actually taken the real test yet? Because the real test doesn't have as much memorization of theory names as you are thinking it will. The test is much more geared towards reading psych/soc studies and answer questions about research methodology. Of course, it's good to know facts and names and stuff (just like how straight memorization is important for the phys/chem and bio sections), but that's not the focus.
+1, I think when you take the actual test OP you will revise your opinion. As an aside, for the reasons Cotterpin states, I would suggest using the Khan passages to study psych/soc. The actual section is more about understanding experimental design.
 
Jun 6, 2015
753
442
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
@OP

I understand that you may have been frustrated by my post because you felt that I didn't read what you were saying. While I admit that my post could have been constructed better, you still shouldn't get angry and insult people when they fail to illicit the response that you want. I know that you and I agree that the inclusion of a behavioral sciences section in the MCAT as well as a shift towards requiring pre-meds to take psychology and sociology is a great idea. However, even if we both assume what you said about the MCAT is true (that most of the questions ask about theories and other memorized details) it still would not be a waste of time. Needless to say, I assume you haven't taken the actual MCAT yet, so it may be premature to assume that the practice tests you have taken are at all representative of the real thing.

Addressing your statement about "absurd theories" such as that of Freud, I can understand your frustration. When I first took psychology as an undergrad (I took a lot of these classes because it was my minor), I wondered why we even had to learn about Freud. After all, most of his ideas have been discredited, and they sound completely absurd to us today. However, it is important to remember that Freud was instrumental in the idea that mental illness can be treated. In fact, the psychoanalytic perspective is still relevant to this day, and proponents of this school of thought still stand by it or at least combine it with other perspectives (e.g., biological or humanistic) in order to treat people. Also keep in mind that Freud was very much a product of his times; his ideas were taken seriously during the Victorian era. For example, there was a widespread belief within the medical establishment that women could suffer from a condition called "female hysteria," which was believed to be treated by sexual stimulation through massages. Freud believed in this idea, and it was no wonder that he did because it was such a widespread belief. Nowadays, we can see that this condition does not exist, and the belief in this condition was based (at least in part) on sexist beliefs that were widespread at that time.

Phrenology is another pseudoscientific idea, yet aspects of it (that certain areas of the brain are responsible for certain things) were important in the development of neuroscience. Thus, it is worth learning about phrenology in order to understand the evolution of how people studied the brain.
 

Cotterpin

Gluconeogenesis Evangelion
2+ Year Member
Jun 18, 2015
6,919
6,002
Status
Medical Student
These old, discredited theories are still taught in school in other fields as well. Nobody believes in Thomson's plum pudding model of the atom anymore, but it's still worthwhile to know the trajectory science has taken to get to our current theories. It teaches you about the thought process behind scientific progress.
 
OP
T

tluedeke

2+ Year Member
Sep 3, 2014
84
43
Status
Pre-Medical
@tluedeke Have you actually taken the real test yet? Because the real test doesn't have as much memorization of theory names as you are thinking it will. The test is much more geared towards reading psych/soc studies and answer questions about research methodology. Of course, it's good to know facts and names and stuff (just like how straight memorization is important for the phys/chem and bio sections), but that's not the focus.

Also, you should be aware that often on forums, people aren't always responding directly to your OP. Unless somebody quotes or tags you, there's always a chance that they could be talking to someone else. Maybe try not to get mad at people or insult them when they don't respond exactly the way you wanted them to.

Yes, I did. And I felt that the real MCAT was at least as bad as my post suggested (which I put up around two weeks before the MCAT, after I'd taken practice exams). The "research methodology" content was negligible in the extreme, with only a couple of questions regarding the names of types of studies. It was 99.8% memorizing names of psychologists and their theories, and a lot of it historical.

A profoundly disappointing experience....
 
Jun 24, 2015
84
25
I don't think it's a waste of time. Requiring behavioral sciences for pre-meds is a great move because it gives us a more diverse education, and the behavioral sciences on the MCAT forces you to understand how to interpret information about humans in the context of various psychological and sociological theories. I find it an interesting section to study for.
The purpose of the MCAT is not to give you an education, its to test you on your ability to critically reason. You aren't taking the test to become more rounded, you are taking the test to prove that you can critically read, analyze and interpret data better than your peers. I would argue that volunteering altruistically will make you a million times more well rounded than taking a psychology course, but they have no way to test that. Nonetheless, do not be fooled into thinking that this is what the MCAT is testing. They want you more well rounded as an INDIVIDUAL. Learning about Freud will not accomplish that.
 
Jun 24, 2015
84
25
These old, discredited theories are still taught in school in other fields as well. Nobody believes in Thomson's plum pudding model of the atom anymore, but it's still worthwhile to know the trajectory science has taken to get to our current theories. It teaches you about the thought process behind scientific progress.
So what are Freud's cocaine fueled, sexist coke rants going to teach you? The point is, they test it because its taught at intro level psych, not because it will benefit you as a doctor to learn the teachings of these amazing biblical psychologists. The only way to stack you against your peers is to test how well you have learned information taught in a standard way, aka topics discussed in every intro psych class. Then they test your ability to reason with the same amount of information as everyone else; these are standardized exams. Do not be fooled into thinking that you need it for medical school anymore than you need to know quantum mechanics.
 

Cotterpin

Gluconeogenesis Evangelion
2+ Year Member
Jun 18, 2015
6,919
6,002
Status
Medical Student
Why am I getting notifications for a thread that I haven't posted in since August?
 
Aug 1, 2014
630
234
Status
Pre-Medical
So what are Freud's cocaine fueled, sexist coke rants going to teach you? The point is, they test it because its taught at intro level psych, not because it will benefit you as a doctor to learn the teachings of these amazing biblical psychologists. The only way to stack you against your peers is to test how well you have learned information taught in a standard way, aka topics discussed in every intro psych class. Then they test your ability to reason with the same amount of information as everyone else; these are standardized exams. Do not be fooled into thinking that you need it for medical school anymore than you need to know quantum mechanics.
Because Freud set up the foundation for other psychoanalytic psychologists that focused on the unconscious. Then, new theorists made changes and built upon them.
 
Jun 24, 2015
84
25
Because Freud set up the foundation for other psychoanalytic psychologists that focused on the unconscious. Then, new theorists made changes and built upon them.
That is not why unconsciousness is tested on the MCAT. The MCAT is NOT a history test, otherwise you would be going through the even longer history of the other sciences. If they are including something, its not only because its a pre-requisite to the test, but rather because there is also a good way to ask questions about it. This is why relativity in physics was always left out. If psychology departments across the country decided amongst each other to drop Freud from the curriculum, his psychodynamic theories would disappear from the MCAT as well.
 

ZakEm

2+ Year Member
Dec 7, 2016
17
9
Status
Pre-Medical
I got a 131 on psych and a 125 on bio....I was a psych major;) honestly I found my behavioral research experience to be the best prep for that section...I cannot say I drew much from the classes I took outside of gen psych, abnormal psych (obviously), and research methodology