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Post Your Writing Sample Advice Here!

Discussion in 'MCAT: Medical College Admissions Test' started by AlphaMagnum, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. AlphaMagnum

    2+ Year Member

    Jul 14, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Hello everyone! I'm slated to take the MCAT on August 6, 2011, but this thread could potentially serve anyone who takes it in the future, so please contribute as much as you're willing.

    To be brief: Share your tips for the Writing Sample!

    Any of the following would be tremendously useful to myself and hopefully anyone seeking help on the subject:

    Sample Essays
    Good Multipurpose Examples
    Good Resources to Enhance Background Knowledge of Potential Examples
    Common Themes and Ways to Address Them
    Essay Structure Suggestions
    Time Management Tips

    Naturally, the above list isn't exhaustive, so anything else you find useful may be just as helpful to someone else who finds this thread.

    The following blog post is one which I found somewhat interesting, though it didn't contain any specific examples. What it did provide is general advice useful for any newcomers to the MCAT scene, such as myself.

    Kaplan offers a 7-step writing strategy in their 2010-2011 Premier Program book, which I'm unsure if I can reproduce here. If someone gives me the okay then I can post it as an edit to the OP as further information.

    Finally, on behalf of myself and anyone else who may benefit from advice posted here, thanks in advance to any and all contributors.

    Have at it, folks!
  2. JohnWetzel

    JohnWetzel WikiPremed
    Verified Account 7+ Year Member

    Dec 29, 2008
    Likes Received:
    The MCAT writing assignment asks you to use three to five paragraphs to investigate a statement critically, something like 'In a free society, people should be allowed to do what they want'. The word 'critically' means something particular here in reference to the specific three part nature of the assignment, which conforms to the dialectical three part figure of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Dialectic is critical writing or thinking itself, the movement or rhetorical impetus of discussion aiming for enlightenment, or so Socrates argued. In more modern philosophies, the dialectical figure stands in for consciousness and self-consciousness, or even the genesis of history or Weltanshaung in the German philosophies of Kant, Fichte and Hegel. This is what the MCAT writing assignment is. They give you a statement. Ask you to investigate it In Itself, and then For Some Other, then reach a Synthesis. It is not a five paragraph theme where you say what you are going to say, say it more, and then say what you have said. Understanding how dialectic can work as a rhetorical figure in a larger composition, or within the MCAT writing assignment, to make a single unified short essay, is a really valuable skill for writing critically, so it's good to take the assignment seriously whether or not Admissions Committees do.

    How do you make a unified dialectical essay? Imagining a debate for the first five minutes can be really helpful. Imagine your town had a practice like Benjamin Franklin and his friends did in colonial Philadelphia. He and his friends would meet once a month, when he was a young printer, and they kept it up for many years. He and his group of friends called themselves the 'Junta'. They would meet, devoting themselves to philosophical and political debate as a kind of convivial evening's entertainment. It was the Enlightenment so folks could do that kind of thing, the men anyway. So imagine the statement at the town meeting were up for a debating contest. What would they say? Imagine this and make notes for the first five minutes from what the two primary debators might say. Then think about it. What's the most interesting order for the two to go in? Then what's the real truth?

    Now that you have thought about it, what have you learned? Anything greater than just these arguing points of view? Imagine as a finale a chorus coming on the stage, like in Greek tragedy. If you are stuck, let them explain the meaning of everything you just saw. Make some notes from what they might say. Try to enlighten yourself so that you can enlighten the reader. You will also need to compel the reader with good writing. I think it helps to give an essay impetus where the chorus might have liked one side a little bit better, and to think about what that means to your tone. You might go so far later, when you are composing the essay itself, as to write 'Many experts believe, perhaps unjustifiably, that . . .', or you might go so far as to write, 'It is often argued that . . .', or one might go so far as to write something like 'One might go so far as to argue . . . '

    So at five minutes you have notes for the first, second and the third part of the writing sample. Think of a debate and then imagine a chorus coming in and giving some new point of view that is a wise person's reflections of having seen it. This is synthesis, the culmination of the experience of thinking critically about a topic.

    This imaginative schemata is better than imagining a sperm and an egg fusing to form a zygote, or imagining a positron and electron annihilating each other producing gamma ray photons. I suspect it is better than corn flakes or what the Washington Post Test Prep Company probably wouldn't let you post here without their kind permission. If we were to write an MCAT writing sample evaluating the statement that 'The very best device is to imagine a town meeting debate for MCAT writing ' the thesis portion of the essay might be about dialectic and critical thinking, the second portion may point out that if everyone became better at writing critically, writing critically might become so effective as to become less effective over time. The third part may investigate the nature of 'the good' in the statement itself to conclude that excellent critical writing and thinking among doctors are social positives.

    This kind of thing, imagining a town-hall debate for making MCAT writing sample notes, is a thing English majors like me call a 'generative device'. Here's another generative device for practice. Below is the link to an article with a really great and entertaining thread I stumbled across today at Jalopnik. The commenting folks there are really trying to have a good discussion about concealed carry firearm laws. They have different points of view, believe it or not. It's like the Junta! Read this thread and try to assign three commenters as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Those are your notes. Past them together with cohesive transitions that make a unified essay which works as a dialectic, meaning, angling towards enlightenment. Knowing how to do this you will give you the ability to write critically for the rest of your life. You can do it!

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    #2 JohnWetzel, Jul 22, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2011

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