Jun 24, 2013
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Pre-Medical
Hi,

I am currently preparing for the January MCAT test date, but I have yet to have improved my BS section score. I took the aamc test #3 today and made a BS 7. :( I was a biology major in college so have an extensive bio background and I also felt comfortable with the mcat bio concepts after my content review.

My strategy for BS is usually: triage and do the bio passages I am most comfortable with first, then I do all the discrete questions, and then I try to finish the orgo passages (which I end up guessing at mostly bc I run out of time).

For bio preparation I read the TPR BIO and also did passages in TPR hyperlearning.
For orgo, I read TPR orgo and did some questions in EK 1001 orgo.

Before now and the end of January I plan to take at least 13 tests total (kaplan and all 8 aamc)

Questions: 1) Why is my score not improving, esp since I feel comfortable with the bio topics?
2) Are there any approaches, test/ study strategies or resources you think may help?
3) after I take each pt, how should I use them as a tool to improve before I take the next pt? (is it true that after you take many tests you will start to see a pattern of what you miss and eventually improve?)
4) are the kaplan tests great at preparing you and predicting your score?

Please, can anyone who has managed to improve in BS give me any tips or advice! I would really appreciate it, thanks so much!!
 
Last edited:

stlrams22

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Hi,

I am currently preparing for the January MCAT test date, but I have yet to have improved my BS section score. I took the aamc test #3 today and made a BS 7. :( I was a biology major in college so have an extensive bio background and I also felt comfortable with the mcat bio concepts after my content review.

My strategy for BS is usually: triage and do the bio passages I am most comfortable with first, then I do all the discrete questions, and then I try to finish the orgo passages (which I end up guessing at mostly bc I run out of time).

For bio preparation I read the TPR BIO and also did passages in TPR hyperlearning.
For orgo, I read TPR orgo and did some questions in EK 1001 orgo.

Before now and the end of January I plan to take at least 13 tests total (kaplan and all 8 aamc)

Questions: 1) Why is my score not improving, esp since I feel comfortable with the bio topics?
2) Are there any approaches, test/ study strategies or resources you think may help?
3) after I take each pt, how should I use them as a tool to improve before I take the next pt? (is it true that after you take many tests you will start to see a pattern of what you miss and eventually improve?)
4) are the kaplan tests great at preparing you and predicting your score?

Please, can anyone who has managed to improve in BS give me any tips or advice! I would really appreciate it, thanks so much!!
On aamc 3 i got a 5

On the real mcat i got a 12.

The only biology classes i have taken were bio 1 & 2.

I had a solid understanding of organic. I almost always got those questions correct. Some of biology is memorizing facts, but it seems like much more is answering the questions based on the information given in the passage ( harder than it seems). Lots of practice tests will help, but you probably need more content review.
 
Last edited:

BerkReviewTeach

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Why triage? Why, why, why? This is something I have never understood the logic behind. You get 70 minutes to complete 7 passages and 52 questions. If you spend 2.5 minutes per passage and 1 minute per question, you will use 69.5 minutes. That leaves 30 seconds leftover. When you triage an exam, you spend about 3 to 5 minutes looking at the passages to decide which will be best to do first, which is not an exact science. That reduces you down to about 2 minutes per passage and 57 seconds per question. Let's say you decide to do biology passages first and it ends up you do a really tricky one or one on of the experimental passages at the end of the exam. You have now wasted time sequencing your passages and invested time poorly in terms of getting the most points possible. If there's a good chance you are going to rush at the end anyway, then you've just magnified that likelihood by wasting time at the beginning. To make matters worse, you've already psyched yourself out that you'll be guessing on the last questions. You've undermined your confidence, possibly misread the difficulty of many passages, and wasted several minutes.

Triaging is one of those techniques that when you are told about it, you think "wow, this person has really thought about this exam. I have to give this a shot." But the hard facts are that it wastes time you can't afford to waste and it puts you in a defeated mindset to start your exam.

As for what you can do to improve your BS score. There are a few absolute musts to be ready for your actual MCAT:

1) Learn how to recognize the simple concept buried in the seemingly most complicated passage. If you get bogged down by convoluted passages, then learn to water them down to the skeleton information you need.

2) Get very good at looking at experiments and seeing what they were hoping to prove, what step in the process is key, what step is strange but necessary, and what worked and didn't work.

3) Get better at O Chem. Don't give up free points on an exam where the material is often rather easy. There may not be as many organic questions as biology questions, but they are often the ones that separate the curve.

4) Do more passages, especially challenging ones with thorough answer explanations and test techniques. That is where the real learning occurs. You actually learn very little when reviewing content and you get a false sense of security that because you know many definitions that you actually know the material. The MCAT is about applying information, which only comes with practice with the right sources. Don't do questions that repeatedly ask about your knowledge; make sure you are doing questions that apply the material.
 
OP
B
Jun 24, 2013
92
8
Status
Pre-Medical
Thanks so much for the advice you guys! Berkreviewteach, you are right, I have noticed that by triaging for bs I rarely get to even try the organic passages, so I have been wasting alot of time. Plus, as you said by not getting to do the Orgo passages that may be why I can't get over the curve. Thus, I will try to do the passages in order and do more application type questions within that time frame.

Also, I do have TBR bio book, how should I prepare in b/t before I take another practice test this weekend. Should I look at just the weak areas that I missed in bio and review those concepts and do the passages in TBR?

Lastly, in Vr do you also recommend just going straight through bc I often only finish 5 out of 7 passages so may just be again wasting time triaging!

Thanks again for your help and I will try your advice and let you know what happens on my next pt.
 

MrMention

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Hi,

I am currently preparing for the January MCAT test date, but I have yet to have improved my BS section score. I took the aamc test #3 today and made a BS 7. :( I was a biology major in college so have an extensive bio background and I also felt comfortable with the mcat bio concepts after my content review.

My strategy for BS is usually: triage and do the bio passages I am most comfortable with first, then I do all the discrete questions, and then I try to finish the orgo passages (which I end up guessing at mostly bc I run out of time).

For bio preparation I read the TPR BIO and also did passages in TPR hyperlearning.
For orgo, I read TPR orgo and did some questions in EK 1001 orgo.

Before now and the end of January I plan to take at least 13 tests total (kaplan and all 8 aamc)

Questions: 1) Why is my score not improving, esp since I feel comfortable with the bio topics?
2) Are there any approaches, test/ study strategies or resources you think may help?
3) after I take each pt, how should I use them as a tool to improve before I take the next pt? (is it true that after you take many tests you will start to see a pattern of what you miss and eventually improve?)
4) are the kaplan tests great at preparing you and predicting your score?

Please, can anyone who has managed to improve in BS give me any tips or advice! I would really appreciate it, thanks so much!!



A few things that you need to understand is that while triaging on the MCAT sounds good in theory it is very detrimental to your overall score. Many times passages that may seems difficult has very (relatively) easy questions. Meanwhile, some that may seem easy, comes with fairly difficult questions. Therefore, it is a huge waste of previous testing time to be triaging. With maybe, the exception of doing the discrete questions first in the BS/PS sections---but that is about it for triaging.

Make sure you are carefully reviewing your practice test and practice questions. If you don't already have the Princeton Review's Science Workbook, try to obtain a copy. Don't just do a ton of practice question, but instead truly review these questions. Learning from these questions in my opinion is far more important than either content review or just doing these questions. You should be spending at least twice as long going over the practice test as you did doing the questions in the beginning.
 
OP
B
Jun 24, 2013
92
8
Status
Pre-Medical
On aamc 3 i got a 5

On the real mcat i got a 12.

The only biology classes i have taken were bio 1 & 2.

I had a solid understanding of organic. I almost always got those questions correct. Some of biology is memorizing facts, but it seems like much more is answering the questions based on the information given in the passage ( harder than it seems). Lots of practice tests will help, but you probably need more content review.
Hi stlrams22,

What was your method in terms of attacking the BS section? (How were you able to improve so much?) Did you triage or go straight through? How many minutes did you spend per passage? What resources did you use for your content review and practice for bio and oro? I was going to look at Chad's videos to review orgo and TPR bio for bio and do TPR hyperlearning and lots of kaplan and aamc practice tests to practice. Lastly, did you do any Kaplan test as well as all the aamc? If so, was the Kaplan or aamc tests closest to you real MCAT score?

Thanks so much!
 

Next Step Tutor

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Why triage? Why, why, why? This is something I have never understood the logic behind.
This is an excellent example of good idea explained poorly, so everyone thinks it's terrible.

The problem here is that the prep company that teaches its teachers to triage doesn't actually train them the right way (and hires inexperienced people), so the teachers end up explaining things the wrong way and suddenly a fundamentally good idea looks completely idiotic.

Think of what triaging actually means. Someone comes into the emergency room and you make an IMMEDIATE decision whether to treat the patient, or have him sit down and wait.

What triaging in the ER does NOT mean is that you review every patient, put them in order and then treat them in that order.

The problem is that so many inexperienced teachers and MCAT students think that "triage" means that latter thing, rather than the first thing.

In fact, it sound like that's what OP described - he spent 5 minutes at the beginning of the section reviewing every passage.

You absolutely, positively, should NOT do that.

Instead, here's what triaging means when done correctly:

At the start of each passage, you should spend no more than 10 seconds skimming over the diagrams and such just to get a sense of what sort of passage it is. "Okay I see a graph of enzyme function and then a chart of different unknown substances that inhibit, so I'm dealing with an experiment-based passage on enzymes".

You should do this just as a way to get yourself oriented and decide how you're going to proceed.

The decision you're making is whether to do one of the following (or something different):

1. Read the passage slowly and carefully
2. Skim through the passage and analyze the graphs
3. Skip right to the questions
4. Skip it entirely

Here's the thing: on any set of 7 passages, there's going to be one (or at most two) that are outlandishly difficult compared to the others. They'll be on topics you don't like, or they'll be multi-stepped experiments, or something. What "triaging" really means is skipping one passage (or at most two) in the course of otherwise doing the section in order.

So as the passages "come into the ER" you make an immediate decision about what to do with them. It's no more of a time investment than just normal passage analysis.
 

stlrams22

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Hi stlrams22,

What was your method in terms of attacking the BS section? (How were you able to improve so much?) Did you triage or go straight through? How many minutes did you spend per passage? What resources did you use for your content review and practice for bio and oro? I was going to look at Chad's videos to review orgo and TPR bio for bio and do TPR hyperlearning and lots of kaplan and aamc practice tests to practice. Lastly, did you do any Kaplan test as well as all the aamc? If so, was the Kaplan or aamc tests closest to you real MCAT score?

Thanks so much!
First of all, with this triaging BS, don't do it. Start with problem the first problem and go. If you don't know how to do it now, you won't know at the end of the test either. I went straight through the physical and biological sciences sections. There just isn't enough time to waste any precious seconds analyzing whether you should do a passage or question. Start with the first one, do it the best you can. If you know you can't figure it out, then guess, mark it, and move on. I never timed myself, my goal was to be half way through with 35 minutes left. That's it, do several practice tests and you'll get the timing down. You should not have to worry about timing on test day because there should be a clock in your mind telling you when to move on. Generally speaking, if a question takes more than 1.5 minutes, guess, mark it, and move on. It is not worth investing more time on. All questions can be answered in under a minute and you don't want to waste time on hard questions and then not get to the easy ones. Remind yourself frequently that the goal is to get as many correct as possible, it doesn't matter if they are hard or easy questions, they count for the same. On test day, maintain composure, expect there will be questions you have no clue how to complete, that is ok, accept it, and don't let those questions mess with other questions you know how to do.

I used EK BIO and it was worthless. It is only useful if you already understand most stuff and just need a quick refresher (way too concise). I used TPR for all sections. I used the TPR practice tests, they are harder than the aamc tests and will keep you motivated to improve, but depressed at the same time. I did 3 TPR tests and all the AAMC tests. If time is an issue and when you get closer to test date, only use the AAMC because they are closest to the real test.
 

Uafl112

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Ever try just running through it normally without changing the order they give it to you?