Quantcast

Practice vs content review

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.

MShopes

Full Member
5+ Year Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2011
Messages
906
Reaction score
7

Members don't see this ad.
Hi all I just want to briefly describe my problem. Right now I'm using EK solely for content review and plan on doing every single TBR passage out there especially for biology physics and general chemistry after I finish the content review since I'm doing the EK 30 min examination which has passages as well along with each chapter. I want to use TBR after my content review so that the practice of it can still be fresh in my mind as well as the information I gain from it because definitely the passages are going to tell me about my weak areas that I need to refresh myself on as well as teach me new facts and concepts that might not be covered at all in the prep book.

The thing is my MCAT is in aug 23 (still some time I know) and I have 3 chapters left for bio and physics, and 5 chapter left for general chem. Orgo isn't my biggest concern; I have other great notes for it that prepares me well and it will take me approximately 2 days to finish it. After finishing the TBR passages, I plan on doing all AAMC exams (I'm leaving those to the last 25 days since they are the closest to the real thing).

My concern is some people stress out that practice is definitely way more important than content review and I agree to certain extent because with knowledge alone, you won't get the feel of how MCAT is including the timing conditions, the type of passages...etc. But How can I start taking FLs and a lot of practice passages without mastering the content review? I mean if I quickly go over the content review in order to save more time for practice, and then learn from my mistakes in the practice, then these practice scores would come out bad which would demoralize me instead of encouraging me especially for AAMC. I plan in finishing TBR in 10 days (100 passages for each section, total 300 passages for the 3 sections excluding orgo for now (if i have time for it, I will do it later), so I plan on doing 30 a day which seem completely doable to me) 30 should be done under timed condition for about 100 minutes for each 100 questions total of 4-5 hours a day...not so bad. Should I just skim through the rest of content review or still read it carefully and focus on it?

Many people have said that EK is very condensed and to the point. While I agree with this, I disagree that it is easy to finish it fast. Every sentence in EK is important (yes every sentence) because they don't waste time. And I'm the type of person who get obsessed with details so it still take me time to finish a chapter....what you all think?

P.S I know that wasn't brief but I also know there are many people here who are willing to help...thanks in advance!

P.S Please someone move this thread to the general MCAT discussion as this is not a question in the material itself. Sorry!
 
Last edited:

exquisitemelody

Full Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2010
Messages
247
Reaction score
0
It sounds like you'd feel more comfortable reading through the material and spending time with it, and honestly, then maybe that's what you should do. I do think that this test is hard to take if you don't have the knowledge for it first! As long as you're doing some practice problems after you read the content, then just go ahead and take time to review the information. You still have a while before your test.

However, I think you should take some FLs (at least once a weak). Part of studying for the test is learning how to take the test. You need to take FLs so you know how you are when you have to sit down and go through the whole test. And I know how it feels when you don't get a great score, but it'll help tell you where you are and what you need to work on.

Good luck :)
 

vayntraubinator

Full Member
7+ Year Member
Joined
May 28, 2011
Messages
510
Reaction score
3
Hi all I just want to briefly describe my problem. Right now I'm using EK solely for content review and plan on doing every single TBR passage out there especially for biology physics and general chemistry after I finish the content review since I'm doing the EK 30 min examination which has passages as well along with each chapter. I want to use TBR after my content review so that the practice of it can still be fresh in my mind as well as the information I gain from it because definitely the passages are going to tell me about my weak areas that I need to refresh myself on as well as teach me new facts and concepts that might not be covered at all in the prep book.

The thing is my MCAT is in aug 23 (still some time I know) and I have 3 chapters left for bio and physics, and 5 chapter left for general chem. Orgo isn't my biggest concern; I have other great notes for it that prepares me well and it will take me approximately 2 days to finish it. After finishing the TBR passages, I plan on doing all AAMC exams (I'm leaving those to the last 25 days since they are the closest to the real thing).

My concern is some people stress out that practice is definitely way more important than content review and I agree to certain extent because with knowledge alone, you won't get the feel of how MCAT is including the timing conditions, the type of passages...etc. But How can I start taking FLs and a lot of practice passages without mastering the content review? I mean if I quickly go over the content review in order to save more time for practice, and then learn from my mistakes in the practice, then these practice scores would come out bad which would demoralize me instead of encouraging me especially for AAMC. I plan in finishing TBR in 10 days (100 passages for each section, total 300 passages for the 3 sections excluding orgo for now (if i have time for it, I will do it later), so I plan on doing 30 a day which seem completely doable to me) 30 should be done under timed condition for about 100 minutes for each 100 questions total of 4-5 hours a day...not so bad. Should I just skim through the rest of content review or still read it carefully and focus on it?

Many people have said that EK is very condensed and to the point. While I agree with this, I disagree that it is easy to finish it fast. Every sentence in EK is important (yes every sentence) because they don't waste time. And I'm the type of person who get obsessed with details so it still take me time to finish a chapter....what you all think?

P.S I know that wasn't brief but I also know there are many people here who are willing to help...thanks in advance!

P.S Please someone move this thread to the general MCAT discussion as this is not a question in the material itself. Sorry!

What's up MShopes! I'm in the same boat as you.

I've read thru all of EK and done inclass lectures. Now, my plan is to do TBR QUICK content review.

This means I look through the content and see what is unfamiliar, more elaborated on, and some problem approaches. For the most part, content review is piece of cake through TBR since I already understand the concepts from my EK review.

Following the content skim in TBR I do phase 1 and plan to do this in 5 days for all the books. Then I will complete phase 2 for the next 5 days and take 1 day following to do all the EK end of lecture 30 min exams.

Then, I will start the FL AAMC 3. Do it under timed conditions.

Dont check answers that day. Next 2 days check answers while doing phase 3 when I have time.

So essentially, I'm done with EK content, review TBR content lightly and do phase 1 and phase 2.

Then, do EK 30 minute exams.

Then, do full lengths with phase 3 passages up to my exam (August 12th for me).

Hope that helps you figure how you'll approach this, although I think the understanding overall is there and all it takes is more practice passage to feel comfortable with it.

This test is all about integration and critical thinking, so going over the details in content review can help, but is not a necessity to know ALL those italic words (leydig cells, megakaryocytes, etc) when it will be described in a passage and you already have a basic conceptual understanding. Practice>>>content review aka Application>>>Staring at
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Integrated MCAT Course

WikiPremed
Vendor
10+ Year Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
310
Reaction score
38
Much of the MCAT is a practice of applying a knowledge base to interpret phenomena that may be unfamiliar. Practice MCATs teach you to understand this: Because the phenomena may be unfamiliar in specifics within a passage, applying the fundamental principles of science you can interpret the meaning and anticipate the questions. It may be a cyclotron or mass spec invention in the passage you've never seen before, but the questions will be about how a moving charged particle interacts with a magnetic field. Many students who neglect practice tests never break through to the understanding how the MCAT works. If you don't take enough practice tests you are likely to confuse the content of passages with holes in their prior knowledge and wind up missing simple questions. The harder the passage, generally, the easier the questions is a good thing to learn.

There's also a sense of enforcement of recurring themes like the difference between work and energy versus momentum and impulse or solutions solutions solutions, so practice tests highlight key ideas. Missing questions creates an expectation of knowing that has to be fixed, so practice tests have a positive benefit on content review.

For content review, my own feeling is that even the highest scoring premeds don't really know all that much. Having worked so long in the sausage factory I know what actually is in the meat. My advice is to use MCAT review to get ready for medical school and build a habit of not compromising or faking understanding. Having covered everything in undergraduate coursework finally, now you see general science as a whole. Content review is the essence of MCAT review, an opportunity not to be missed. When you have mastery you don't give a crap about the test. Decide not to fake mastery of general science and really learn it. Then the MCAT will be easy. Vary your content review practices between those which are tunneling through the mountain and those which are walking around the mountain. It sounds like you have too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Be sure to get through EK soon enough that you feel comfortable skimming the books from cover to cover.
 

Integrated MCAT Course

WikiPremed
Vendor
10+ Year Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
310
Reaction score
38
Nice post, JohnWetzel. What do you think about the idea of doing 45-50 FLs, with one FL every 1-2 days (2-3 months of practice FLs)?

I never had a live course student go so crazy. I honestly can't think of one whom I'd recommend it to but I like for students to concentrate really intensely on a curriculum that is a really grueling main content review combined with epicylic overviews and interdisciplinary kinds of discussion, which is actually kind of ridiculous given the normative expectation for MCAT review to take three months. It takes going there to explain why someone would choose to do this. That's why I give it away! Most of my live teaching experience was in the mid nineties when there were only three, then four, actual paper exams from AAMC, and any returning student would already have seen them. My own development work has always been about content review trying to make a review curriculum, and because the shape of the work came out of those times, I may be like the computer programer for whom the cellular automata view of phenomenology seems most comfortable, so I can't help but believe in a thorough interesting content review as essential.

If one of my students were hell bent on such a grueling practice test regimen, I would only say that because Chuck Norris would approve who am I to argue? As you take off on your own on what I would have to think of as an uncharted route, I'd ask you to make sure you can write out the outlines of physics, chemistry, organic, and biology before beginning, and every now and then before a practice test. Not only 'Mechanics, Waves, Thermodynamics, Electricity & Magnetism, and Light & Optics' but the next level like Heat & Temperature, Ideal Gas & Kinetic Theory, 1st Law, Heat Engines and the 2nd Law. The AAMC syllabus or whatever outline is best for you, such as the table of contents of EK. If you can make taking so many practice tests a formal practice of association with the topic level of a well structured knowledge base then you should be in balance with content review.
 
Last edited:

MShopes

Full Member
5+ Year Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2011
Messages
906
Reaction score
7
What's up MShopes! I'm in the same boat as you.

I've read thru all of EK and done inclass lectures. Now, my plan is to do TBR QUICK content review.

This means I look through the content and see what is unfamiliar, more elaborated on, and some problem approaches. For the most part, content review is piece of cake through TBR since I already understand the concepts from my EK review.

Following the content skim in TBR I do phase 1 and plan to do this in 5 days for all the books. Then I will complete phase 2 for the next 5 days and take 1 day following to do all the EK end of lecture 30 min exams.

Then, I will start the FL AAMC 3. Do it under timed conditions.

Dont check answers that day. Next 2 days check answers while doing phase 3 when I have time.

So essentially, I'm done with EK content, review TBR content lightly and do phase 1 and phase 2.

Then, do EK 30 minute exams.

Then, do full lengths with phase 3 passages up to my exam (August 12th for me).

Hope that helps you figure how you'll approach this, although I think the understanding overall is there and all it takes is more practice passage to feel comfortable with it.

This test is all about integration and critical thinking, so going over the details in content review can help, but is not a necessity to know ALL those italic words (leydig cells, megakaryocytes, etc) when it will be described in a passage and you already have a basic conceptual understanding. Practice>>>content review aka Application>>>Staring at

Hey vayntraubinator!, pardon my stupidity but what you meant by phase 1 and 2 and 3? What are you going to do on those phases?
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

MShopes

Full Member
5+ Year Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2011
Messages
906
Reaction score
7
Much of the MCAT is a practice of applying a knowledge base to interpret phenomena that may be unfamiliar. Practice MCATs teach you to understand this: Because the phenomena may be unfamiliar in specifics within a passage, applying the fundamental principles of science you can interpret the meaning and anticipate the questions. It may be a cyclotron or mass spec invention in the passage you've never seen before, but the questions will be about how a moving charged particle interacts with a magnetic field. Many students who neglect practice tests never break through to the understanding how the MCAT works. If you don't take enough practice tests you are likely to confuse the content of passages with holes in their prior knowledge and wind up missing simple questions. The harder the passage, generally, the easier the questions is a good thing to learn.

There's also a sense of enforcement of recurring themes like the difference between work and energy versus momentum and impulse or solutions solutions solutions, so practice tests highlight key ideas. Missing questions creates an expectation of knowing that has to be fixed, so practice tests have a positive benefit on content review.

For content review, my own feeling is that even the highest scoring premeds don't really know all that much. Having worked so long in the sausage factory I know what actually is in the meat. My advice is to use MCAT review to get ready for medical school and build a habit of not compromising or faking understanding. Having covered everything in undergraduate coursework finally, now you see general science as a whole. Content review is the essence of MCAT review, an opportunity not to be missed. When you have mastery you don't give a crap about the test. Decide not to fake mastery of general science and really learn it. Then the MCAT will be easy. Vary your content review practices between those which are tunneling through the mountain and those which are walking around the mountain. It sounds like you have too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Be sure to get through EK soon enough that you feel comfortable skimming the books from cover to cover.

You are right but then I feel that I don't just study for the MCAT but to have some base knowledge for medical school as well as for myself as an undergraduate who is going to medical school. I agree that practice is the key but hopefully I don't get demoralized in the beginning. I'm the type of person who likes to always do good from the beginning (well everybody likes to do good of course but some people have no problem starting to slowly develop, unlike me) which is an issue that I will have to fix. Great post by the way~!~
 

MShopes

Full Member
5+ Year Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2011
Messages
906
Reaction score
7
It sounds like you'd feel more comfortable reading through the material and spending time with it, and honestly, then maybe that's what you should do. I do think that this test is hard to take if you don't have the knowledge for it first! As long as you're doing some practice problems after you read the content, then just go ahead and take time to review the information. You still have a while before your test.

However, I think you should take some FLs (at least once a weak). Part of studying for the test is learning how to take the test. You need to take FLs so you know how you are when you have to sit down and go through the whole test. And I know how it feels when you don't get a great score, but it'll help tell you where you are and what you need to work on.

Good luck :)

You are right! I will skim through the remaining content review and start the TBR as well as Fls! Because any ways, I won't remember 100 % of my content review so the only way to work up on my weak areas (which I won't realize until I actually do practice) is to actually do practice tests. I believe they are my best option to see where I stand. Another thing beside just knowledge and concepts that I need to work on is timing. Obviously I won't just learn and stimulate myself for the timed conditions until I really do practice passages and Fls. So practice does integrate all at once. I will start it by maximum 2 weeks for a whole month until my exam. Thank you!
 

Integrated MCAT Course

WikiPremed
Vendor
10+ Year Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
310
Reaction score
38
What about trying to do one FL every 1-2 days for 2-3 months, while using each 10 minute break before starting a FL section for creating outlines similar to the ones you have suggested? (Continuing content review would presumably occur during FL review.)

If the typical 3-month schedule is not really sufficient in your view, then how many months do you think a typical student ought to spend preparing for the MCAT in order to get a great score?

My feeling is that students should take the time until they have a fundamental integration of their physical and biological sciences. The undergraduate coursework is treated in a modular way instead of physics, chemistry, then biology, so a many of the referents can't help but be empty signifiers. Witness the struggles so many biology-centric students have with concepts like 'high energy bond' because there isn't integration of physics and thermochemistry with the undergraduate understanding of questions such as 'why do triglycerides have more calories per gram than sugars'. The students who are best prepared for medical school and do the best on the MCAT have a knowledge base which presupposes that everything you are learning happens in the same universe. However, undergraduate coursework at the typical college - Cal Tech and Stanford are exceptions - is presented in a way that is not reflective of the biochemistry and molecular biology revolutions.

Some students are naturally intelligent and curious in a certain way, or lucky in their teachers and inspirations, so a comprehensive content review may not be really necessary to get your sciences integrated. My own feeling is that a strong conceptually integrated knowledge base is the best predictor of success on the MCAT.

Many intelligent students have diligence as so great an attribute that there has only been focus on test-of-the-week and grades throughout premedical education. Because their professors never told them that physics can help them understand chemistry or that mitochondria are made of atoms there can be a painful process of actually taking responsibility for knowing something as a way of looking at things instead of marking tests correctly.
 

Integrated MCAT Course

WikiPremed
Vendor
10+ Year Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
310
Reaction score
38
Would you recommend studying the content material introduced in FL science passages (during FL review) as a way to develop a better fundamental integration of physical and biological topics?

I usually try to spend as little time reading the science passages as possible, both during my practice FL and during my FL review, but perhaps I need to modify the way I approach the passages during FL review.

A couple of things you've brought up that I've given some thought to, so I'll share my perspectives. I don't want to convey an unrealistic attitude with zen talk about the knowledge in itself. A lot rides on this MCAT question, even if your disposition is pure love of knowledge and medicine, you still need a 32 to be feeling good in continuing to pursue the dream. There is no conflict with the MCAT. The AAMC did a great job with this test. It will do you good and be great fun even if you can make a sport of it even. You may have a learning style that needs the competitive field of practicing as if for a sport.

Let me point out a few problems I see with centering or ordering content review through FL practice because there aren't enough passage instances to map onto the comprehensive outline of learning goals you need to master. I made my own outlines of the sciences down to the topic and subtopic level to organize weblinks and got to about 1200 subtopics. By my own reckoning it gets to three or four hundred explicit learning goals for MCAT review, nine or ten within Fluid Mechanics, for example, a half dozen in Gravitation, fifteen or so in Solutions, etc. An entire full length exam can't but represent fifteen or sixteen MCAT passages, though the situations and questions often will involve the intersection of fundamental concepts from different areas, such as a particle moving in a uniform electric field testing both E-Mag concepts and the kinematics of constant acceleration, work & energy etc from basic mechanics.

I'm afraid that a person following such practice test centric review program has the danger of being randomly teleported to different areas of a cave system within a mountain and never walking around it so always being kind of lost. The repetition of core ideas can lead to epiphanies about both science concepts and the MCAT as a practice, like learning any game or sport can be a wonderful vehicle. When you have a good structured knowledge base, reading MCAT passages and answering questions has a kind of pleasure of seeing something dense and specialized crystalize into coherent understanding by existing in a solid framework of scientific understanding. Try to find that pleasure, where you can see through to the concrete scientific fundamental basis within a topic area and it allows you to have a sense of comprehension of some kind of phenomena or another, so intensive practice MCATs can be incredibly valuable. It's a good test that will convey a lot of scientific understanding and teacherly intention as well if you read it right. But I think there should be an equally intense content review where you look at your knowledge base like an architect of a city from the tallest building and build out the articulation both at the street level and the overall aspect of urban design. When you have a good structure to your knowledge base the questions you don't understand won't seem like they are out of left field. You'll be able to identify the weaknesses within an overall shape your mind can get around.

Here's a unified course sequence for main content review that covers the MCAT topics but in a sequence that naturally builds on itself. E-mag and modern physics are at the end, so I suggest you preview these topics throughout the sequence. Also frequently refer to the outlines of physics, chemistry, organic, and biology in themselves. Practice always framing what comes later in terms of what came before and any comprehensive MCAT book, TBR materials, or Kaplan materials can become an interdisciplinary, spiraling kind of thing.

MECHANICS
Kinematics
Newton's Laws
Work, Energy, and Power
Momentum and Impulse
Rotation
Harmonic Motion
Elastic Properties of Solids
Fluid Mechanics
Waves

FUNDAMENTAL FORCES
Gravitation
Electricity

THE STRUCTURE OF MATTER
Atomic Theory
Periodic Properties
The Chemical Bond
Intermolecular Forces
Functional Groups in Organic Chemistry
Stereochemistry


THERMODYNAMICS AND KINETICS
Temperature and Heat Flow
The Ideal Gas and Kinetic Theory
The First Law of Thermodynamics
Stoichiometry
Thermochemistry
The Second Law of Thermodynamics and Heat Engines
Chemical Thermodynamics and the Equilibrium State
The States of Matter
The Physical Properties of Organic Compounds
Chemical Kinetics

SOLUTIONS AND AQUEOUS SYSTEMS
Water
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Organic Acids and Bases

ORGANIC REACTION CHEMISTRY
Nucleophiles and Electrophiles
Intramolecular Cationic Rearrangements
Reactions with Radical Intermediates
Conjugated π Systems and Aromaticity
Reactions of Alkanes
Reactions of Alkenes
Reactions of Alkynes
Reactions of Alkyl Halides
Reactions of Allylic and Benzylic Conjugation
Reactions of Aromatic Compounds
Reactions of Alcohols and Ethers
Reactions of Aldehydes and Ketones
Reactions of Carboxylic Acids and Derivatives
Reactions of Amines
Reactions of Organic Phosphorus Compounds
Reactions of Organic Sulfur Compounds

BIOMOLECULES
Proteins
Carbohydrates
Nucleic Acids
Lipids

THE CELL
Biological Membranes
The Prokaryotic Cell
The Eukaryotic Cell

BIOENERGETICS AND BIOSYNTHESIS
Coordination Chemistry
Oxidation/Reduction
Oxidation/Reduction in Organic Chemistry
Electrochemistry
Bioenergetics and Cellular Respiration
Photosynthesis optional for MCAT
Integration of Metabolism

GENETICS & REPRODUCTION
Gene Expression
Cellular Reproduction
Mendelian Genetics
Recombination and Mutation
The Molecular Biology Laboratory
Human Genetics

DIVERSITY OF LIFE
Viruses
Monera
Protista taxonomy optional for MCAT
Fungi
Plants optional for MCAT
Animals taxonomy optional for MCAT
Animal Development and Embryology
Mammalian Tissues and Histology

HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY
The Nervous System
Sensory Systems
The Endocrine System
The Musculoskeletal System
The Cardiovascular System
Blood
The Respiratory System
The Lymphatic System and Immunity
The Urinary System
The Digestive System and Nutrition
The Reproductive System

POPULATION BIOLOGY
Evolution
Ecology

ELECTROMAGNETISM, LIGHT, AND MODERN PHYSICS
Electricity
DC Current
Magnetism
Electomagnetic Induction
AC Current
The Properties of Light
Geometric Optics
Wave Optics
Modern Physics relativity optional for MCAT
Molecular Spectroscopy
Nuclear Physics
 
Top