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The Berkeley Review - Approach

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by izchief360, May 14, 2014.

  1. izchief360

    izchief360 2+ Year Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    For many including myself, the end of the spring semester marks the beginning of summer and the start of MCAT prep. My TBR books are en route (all 9), and I plan on using them for review+practice, culminating my prep with AAMC Fls.

    At this point, I'm looking to the community for suggestions on how to approach these books and manage my time. I've taken a look at SN2ed's schedule and it seems very promising, but I was wondering if I could get some information specific to the TBR books.

    For instance, how should I pace myself when completing the passages and questions at the end of each section (same scale as the real test)? Should I complete all the questions at once, or revisit sections after I have completed all my review? And so on.

    I'd like to hear mainly from people who have relied largely on the TBR books for their prep, but all suggestions are welcome. Thanks.
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  3. BerkReviewTeach

    BerkReviewTeach Company Rep & Bad Singer Exhibitor 10+ Year Member

    May 25, 2007
    SDN Exhibitor
    Getting the most out of the books starts with an honest self-evaluation. When the books arrive, go chapter by chapter (38 total between the four sciences) and rate how well you know each topic.

    For anything you know really well, lightly skim the chapter and do any MC questions contained within. For anything you know fairly well, skim with a little more focus and pay close attention to any diagrams and tables. Do all of the MC questions and if you run into trouble, then read that subsection. For material you feel average or less on, read the chapter and take notes using a notebook. This notebook will be your reference manual down the road, so think of it as something you'd love to bring into your MCAT for reference (if you could).

    After reading, there are three homework phases awaiting you. I'd recommend following the book's recommendation as to what makes up each phase (rather than using random assignment). For the first phase, go as slow as necessary when doing each passage, thoroughly grade every question, and then review the answer explanations. There are many shortcuts to be found in the explanations. Do as many Phase I passages as you need to feel okay on the material.

    Phase II involves worrying more about test timing. Force yourself to go fast enough to finish within the allotted time. When you grade the questions, don't read the answer explanations at first. Instead, try each question you missed a second time and take notes in your error journal. What is really important is that you get a feel for which questions you missed because of (a) not feeling comfortable with the concepts, (b) not understanding the question but knowing the material, (c) error where you knew the answer but brain farted, and (d) error made because of carelessness and excess speed. Knowing the types of errors you make will help you improve.

    Phase III should be done at least two weeks after you finish Phase II, giving you some time to let material drift from the forefront of your memory. This is critical, because that will be your perspective during the MCAT for most passages. You will amaze yourself how much you actually recall. You should try to do a couple different Phase IIIs (from different books) in the same day so that you get exposed to material from different sections. Grading Phase III is critical. You should redo any questions you miss using blue ink (before you read the answer explanations). Then grade them a second time and if there is anything you got wrong again, read the explanation and then write using red ink what went wrong.

    When it comes time for last minute review, you know that whatever your wrote in red ink on Phase III needs to be reviewed. Whatever you wrote in blue, you know, but for some reason didn't get right. Figuring out how much is due to focus issues and how much is understanding the question will help you hone your test approach during your last few weeks.

    Know that it will be very time consuming the first few weeks, but it gets better. There are details in some biology sections that may seem excessive, but that's designed for the students who want every fact they can get. If that's not your style, then try not to get overwhelmed. It's okay to skim the text. Passages are not always based ion the text in the biology section. In organic chemistry, the details are included to match the difficulty level of MCATs with heavy amounts of organic chemistry. If you read feedback at SDN, you'll see comments ranging from how little O chem there was and how over-prepared BR books made them. You will also read comments about how difficult MCAT O Chem was and that they were grateful to have seen a particular reaction in the BR books. How much time you put into O chem is up to you, because it's the biggest unknown on your actual exam. You need to be prepared for a lot of organic but aware it might not be there.

    I hope this helps a little in your planning. Best of luck on your path this summer.
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  4. izchief360

    izchief360 2+ Year Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    Wow, you hit the nail on the head with your response. It's great to know how the phases are characterized and how to utilize all those questions to my advantage. I was definitely planning on taking notes while reviewing, but keeping an error journal is an idea new to me. If I'm understanding this correctly, the phases essentially boil down to 1. content knowledge --> 2. ability to recall information quickly/gauge testing skills --> 3. reinforcement
  5. Alex Schmidt

    Alex Schmidt

    May 8, 2014
    I used the Berkeley Review for General Chemistry and Physics (4 books). As far as pacing goes, I decided to break down the books, well, as the books do, which is by chapter. I started with gen chem, and got a feel for how much time I needed to complete chapter 1, including it's practice passages. I found it took me about 8 hours total, so I then set a realistic goal pace of two sections every three days and stuck to it. If I slacked one day, I'd make up for it the next.

    On the end-of-chapter passages, I reccomend following their guidelines for sequence and timing. However, as far as the "estimated scaled scores", I modified the BR's system. After comparing their raw-to-scaled scoring system with some of the more difficult AAMC fl's, I decided to take whatever scaled score BR estimated and subtract two points, then record that. Thus, I could never score higher than a 13, which I felt was accurate for the MCAT. This was my personal modification, so take it for what it's worth.

    Overall, I felt these four books were fantastic confidence boosters. Good luck!
  6. izchief360

    izchief360 2+ Year Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    I received my books today and had the opportunity to skim over them. I'm not sure how to determine which questions and passages are Phase I, II, or III, and none of the sections lists a time limit. Also, I was looking at the 12-week TBR schedule posted by BerkReveiwTeach and it tends to jump between phases and skip phases altogether. Why is that?
    Last edited: May 18, 2014
    xxabi likes this.
  7. xxabi

    xxabi 2+ Year Member

    Mar 21, 2013
    Did you ever figure this out? Just got the BR MCAT Set but having trouble figuring out which ones are Phase I, II, and III
  8. izchief360

    izchief360 2+ Year Member

    Apr 28, 2014

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