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Tim's Physics Tips for the MCAT

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by Spang, Feb 16, 2001.

  1. Spang

    Spang SDN Angel
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    Hey Tim, why not post 'em here for all to see. I know that I, for one, would be appreciative. Physical science is consistently my lowest scoring section.

    Thanks.

    Spang
     
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  3. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor
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    Gosh, you guys are making me blush... [​IMG]

    Well, I'll post it here so that everyone's satisfied but with the following disclaimer and a little background.

    Three people have tried this, all three scored a 13 on the Physical Sciences section of the MCAT, and all three are currently attending medical school (two at NYU-Med and one at SUNY Downstate, that one would be me). Our average composite MCAT is 33.33. I have a BA in Mathematics, the other two both have BAs in Chemistry.

    Now the disclaimer: While this should be obvious to those smart enough to make it this far in the game, what I am about to say is not a guaranteed, fool-proof technique in raising your Physical Science score. I take no responsibility for any poor outcomes, but would like to hear about everyone's experiences with trying this ON PRACTICE PASSAGES.

    Take a look at those Physical Science passages. For the most part they're not well-written and more than a few things can be clearer. Often MCAT science passages describe an experiment or a physiologic situation and ask the student, using his knowledge of basic concepts in the particular discipline, to answer questions about these basic concepts. What does this have to do with the passage itself? Very little. The experiments don't offer you anymore in terms of knowledge needed to answer the questions. What I found was that often because the passages are so dense the questions themselves offer you enough clues in homing in on the concept being tested and, eventually, the right answer.

    So what does this all mean?

    DO NOT READ THE PHYSICAL SCIENCE PASSAGES. The most annoying problem I ran into while studying for the MCAT was not having enough time to complete sections. This happened most frequently for Physical Sciences because the passages are so dense and there's just too much information to keep tabs on. One of the techniques championed by a prep course I took was to read the questions first to get an idea of what's important, and then go to the passage and find those points. I started doing that but found that the questions offered enough information to give me a clue as to how I should best answer. I ended up never reading the passages to answer the questions, saving about 15-20 minutes, and reading the passages for entertainment purposes only. [​IMG]

    If you think you'd like to try this, please use it on PRACTICE PASSAGES BEFORE trying it on the REAL THING. You wouldn't buy a car without test-driving it first.

    On my first diagnostic exam and my first Physical Science practice passage, I scored 10s. After I stopped reading the passages my score went up to a 13. I tried reading the passages again on one of the practice MCATs and scored a 9 (lost too much time), stopped reading and the score climbed back up to 13. On the real MCAT I was a little nervous to do it without reading, but I did and was pretty happy about the outcome.


    Tim W. of N.Y.C.
     
  4. Doc Oc

    Doc Oc Senior Member
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    Funny theory. Allow me to be a "testimonial" for not reading the physics passages. Here are my undergrad physics grades:
    Gen Chem (I and II): 3.0
    Physics I: 3.0
    Physics II: 2.5
    I didn't get a 13, but I did get an 11, which is pretty good considering how bad I did in the actual classes. I kept getting confused by the passages when I read them on the practice tests, and found that even when I understood to passage, it didn't positively affect my score. Like I said, an 11 isn't as impressive as a 13, but it is definitely better than I thought I would do. Maybe the extra time I had had something to do with it.
     
  5. cjkalmat

    cjkalmat Member
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    So did you guys try this with BioScience also?
     
  6. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor
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    One of the SDNers who originally asked me the question just wrote back to me saying that NOT reading the passages had worked for him in both the Physical and Biological Sciences sections.

    From what the other two guys and I did way back in 1997, it didn't work for Biological Sciences. The experiments presented there, to us at least, appeared a little more complex than those in the Physical Sciences, and the questions didn't offer enough for us to answer them. We were discouraged when our Bio scores dropped two points -- panic set in and we were reading the passages once again. [​IMG]

    Try it. See if it works and then let me know.


    Tim W. of N.Y.C.
     
  7. I believe that if you have a strong science/math background, this approach is very practical. I knew a guy who did this and he ROCKED the PS section (13+). He was very bright (Phi Beta Kappa) and was nuclear engineer on a navy submarine for 5 years.
     
  8. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor
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    Some believe that that's the case, and it may very well be, but my background is in Mathematics and one of the SDNers who emailed me is, I believe, a Biology major, and it apparently worked for him.

    Point is for those of you interested in trying: If it works, you've just saved yourself a truckload of time.


    W.
     
  9. David511

    David511 Ponch's Illegitimate Son
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    Kids,

    Myself (Bio/Socio major), who was not the fondest of chem in undergrad, got a 12 on P.S. how? Same as Tim...didn't read the passages!

    As I see it, the MCAT is designed to weed people out, to make the med school applicant pool a little shallower. Hence, especially in the P.S. section, they love to overwhelm you with superfluous info.

    By basically ignoring the passages (except for formulas) I found the time to actually think through the questions. And since ~50% of the answer-choices can be trashed through POE, you end up with a lot more time to contemplate the 2 remaining answer-choices. If you really get stuck (for me, 10% of the time) then you can quickly scan the passage for related info and make your choice.

    Will this work for you? No clue, but I suggest trying it on your next practice exam. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results (I was).

    Good luck to all taking the April test.


    ------------------
    -d
    PCOM Class of 2005
     
  10. mpp

    mpp SDN Moderator
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    Although I won't take the MCAT until April, I have taken more than a dozen practice tests and consistently score above 12 in the Physical Sciences (I've scored 15 twice according to Kaplan). I do a similar thing as the rest here, but I don't skip the passage altogether. Rather, I skim it fairly quickly getting a good idea of the type of information in the passage but not slowing myself down with the details. Then if I get stumped on a question, I know where the stuff is in the passage already and can jump right to it. The tables and graphs tend to be where most of the important information is.

    It is true that many questions do not require the passage to answer but this seems to be more true for the MCAT practice books (I've used Kaplan, Peterson's, Princeton, REA, and ARCO) than for the AAMC MCAT practice tests. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can do as well on the real thing in 59 more days.
     
  11. SicVic

    SicVic Senior Member
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    my first mcat I got a 10 on the PS - I cant remember what my strategy then - but I didnt do alot of practices.
    For my second MCAt, I didnt waste my time with the essay - dove into the questions and if you have done alot of practices, you will start to notice "Standard" questions
    Result in my PS - 13
    Woohooo
    :cool:
     
  12. MacGyver

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    </font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by RAM#48:
    <strong>I believe that if you have a strong science/math background, this approach is very practical. I knew a guy who did this and he ROCKED the PS section (13+). He was very bright (Phi Beta Kappa) and was nuclear engineer on a navy submarine for 5 years.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Well, he must not have been an engineering major when he got Phi Beta Kappa because it explicitly states that you MUST be a liberal arts major to be eligible for nomination to PBK.

    So I take it that he got an undergrad degree in engineering, left school for the navy, and then came back to school (not as an engineering major) and then got Phi Beta Kappa.
     
  13. blotto geltaco

    blotto geltaco Old-timer
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    It has been quite some time since I knew this guy. But I know for a fact that he was PBK in college. Not sure what he majored in. I also know he was on a sub for 5 years. Maybe he received on the job training? Who knows? Who cares? He CRUSHED the MCAT and is now an internist somewhere I hear
     
  14. Street Philosopher

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    hmmm I tried not reading the passages, and it didn't help me too much. There were always a few questions that depended on knowledge of the passage... it was very difficult trying to find them without actually reading the passage. So I think I'll try the skim method for the next time. :confused:
     
  15. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member
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    I think one of the most valuable skills necessary to excel in the physical sciences section is to NOT only know the concepts of G.Chem and Physics ad nauseam but to know when to apply the concepts.

    Case in point

    As many of the lushes on here know, a tall glass of beer has small carbon dioxide bubbles that rises to the top.

    So, using your arsenal of GEN Chem and Physics conceptual knowledge, Why does a bubble grow and move faster as it ascends to the top?

    A) Boyle's Law. Pressure of a gas is inversely proportional
    to volume. Thus, when a bubble gains more CO2 molecules
    it gains in volume, and thus decreases pressure. Pressure
    equilibates to the top since top of the glass has a lower
    pressure than at the bottom of the glass. Therefore,
    sum of the net forces move it up.

    B) Density. density of CO2 gas is lighter than Beer thus it rises
    to the top.

    C) Archimedes Principle. The bubble at the bottom of the glass
    acts as a nucleation site, thus CO2 accumulates. As the bubble
    grows bigger, it displaces more surrounding fluid. Therefore,
    buoyancy increases and this net force moves it up.

    D) Bernoullli's equation. P + 1/2 pv2 + pgy= constant. Since,
    pressure is highest at the bottom of the glass, the velocity
    of the gas molecules must be lower at the bottom of the
    glass, therefore it rises to the top.
     
  16. Pudgyp

    Pudgyp Junior Member
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    D) Pressure is highest at the bottom of the glass you mean? Just so there's no confusion. BTW that was pretty interesting. Peace.
     
  17. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member
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  18. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member
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    okay, so we know
     
  19. Pudgyp

    Pudgyp Junior Member
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    D) Pressure is highest at the bottom of the glass you mean? Just so there's no confusion. BTW that was pretty interesting. Peace.
     
  20. Pudgyp

    Pudgyp Junior Member
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    i think i'll go for A.....but i'm not positive....
     
  21. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member
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    One Clue...

    On the MCAT it specifies the BEST answer
     
  22. Mr. Z

    Mr. Z Senior Member
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    Elementary beerology

    C is the answer:idea:
     
  23. freakazoid

    freakazoid Guy Friend Extraordinaire
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    Down with the C. I was gonna explain A) and B), but I suppose I shouldn't give it all away (assuming I'm right). Let me try D):

    D) I don't really know how to refute this one, except that it would be more applicable to a problem where you punched a hole at the bottom of the beer and wanted to know the initial velocity of the beer spouting out . . .

    BTW, nice problem.
     
  24. surge

    surge Medicinski Znanstvenik
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    Definitely C
     
  25. qweewq11

    qweewq11 Smiley orgy organizer
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    Answer is C

    [​IMG]
     
  26. Mudd

    Mudd Charlatan & Trouble Maker
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    Choice A: This choice can be tossed out, because the author has changed laws midway through the explanation. The phrase "gains more CO2 molecules" refers to Avogadro's law, and not Boyle's law, so using MCAT logic, this answer should be tossed out because it is factually incorrect. Answers that make logical sense but have mis-information can be incredibly tempting. This is an excellent wrong answer choice.

    Choice B: This choice can also be tossed out because of the wording. Density refers to mass per volume, while "lighter" refers to weight, which depends on mass and acceleration due to gravity. Assuming the change in gravity from bottom to top of the beer glass is trivial (as would be the case in a normal glass), then lighter directly refers to mass. The mass of CO2 does not change as it rises, only it's volume changes. So this choice is eliminated because of non-correlating terminology.

    Choice C: Choice C is a very true statement, and it explains the gradual growth of the bubble at the base of the glass. This same principle can be seen when boiling water. Water vapor forms aggregates on the base of the pan until the buoyant force on the bubble exceeds its weight and it breaks free. However, that very true statement does not explain the phenomenon in the question. The question centers on why it increaes its speed as it rises. This is another excellent case of a true, but irrelevant answer.

    Choice D: Choice D is also tempting in that it alludes to a true concept, but it is also not applicable to this situation. Bernoullli's equation could be used to explain why the beer would flow out of a small hole in the base of the bottle at a gradually decreasing rate, but it neither explains nor refutes the rising of a bubble in and of itself.

    Hence, I have no idea what to pick. If the question is why the bubble grows, choice C is a must. It doesn't explain why it accelerates up, but it's the best answer.

    This is a great question, because the best reasoning is a little piece of a couple of the answers. The bubble grows at the base of the bottle until it reaches a point where the buoyant force overcomes the weight and any applicable resistive forces (such as beerostatic force from the column of beer). Once the bubble breaks free of the base it may rise. As the bubble rises, Boyle's law comes into play. The bubble itself may or may not pick up other CO2 molecules upon ascent (random chance says a few will collide and dissolve into it during its ascent). As the beerostatic pressure decreases (caused by the decrease in the weight of beer above the bubble as it rises), the external pressure decreases, resulting in an expanding bubble. This can be seen with any type of bubble released from some depth below the surface of a liquid. Fish tanks and scuba diving offer great examples of cases where bubbles grow as they ascend. As the bubble expands, it's buoyant force increases but its weight does not change, so it feels a greater net force upward. However, as is the case of anything moving through a medium, drag force also increases with increasing velocity. Because the cross-sectional area of the bubble increases, the drag is further increased. As such, the bubble is being accelerated upward, but how the acceleration increases upon ascent is open to debate without knowing the exact viscosity of the fluid, compliance of the bubble, and ideality of CO2 at the given temperature.

    So, basically, the only conslusion to be reached is that you should drink it before all of the CO2 bubbles escape and it doesn't taste as good.
     
  27. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member
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    Mudd, you are pretty funny...I'd recommend Guiness or Bass...

    If you are frugal, Tequiza or Sam Adams hits the spot...

    Whatever you do, stay away from the BEAST, or you will have a "bitter beer face".
     
  28. Mudd

    Mudd Charlatan & Trouble Maker
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    Frugal? I don't even get those when I'm feeling rich. On a big-spender day, you can put me down for a MGD. Otherwise, it's a six-pack of plainwrap.
     
  29. Pinki

    Pinki Sassy Member
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    Freaking out here, because I tried the "don't read the passage" suggestion by Tim from NY on AAMC V PS and ....

    I GOT A >12!!! according to the score scale in the back.

    Just finished and I had to log on and let you know it worked. Caveat: I have done AAMC V before, but it was more 6 months ago and I didn't remember any of the passages.

    History: Last time I got an anemic 8 on this section. I also got an 8 when I took the real deal in April. I've spent all summer studying PS, too, since I'm not a physical science kind of gal (i.e. I prefer my newtons with figs!) Last diag through PR, I also got an 8. Can you sense I've been feeling mighty plataeu-ed out until now?

    Anyway, I'm taking a new, never before seen test tomorrow morning. I'll report back if the technique showed similar, (i.e. above 8!) results.
     
  30. Mr. Z

    Mr. Z Senior Member
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    Pinki,

    I wouldn't get too excited here. The fact that you've seen the exam before, regardless of how long ago, negates the results of your experiment. Even if you don't remember a single question, you will be familiar with what topics are on that particular exam, and this can influence your confidence, which as everybody knows has a huge impact. The only way to determine whether that technique actually helped you, would be to try it out on an aamc exam you have never seen before, make sure to do it under strict time limits.

    I don't mean to be a downer. But, you need to be very careful using that technique. The exam is less than a week away, it could be dangerous to experiment with unfamiliar techniques at this point in the game.

    Anyway, i hope that score is what you end up with on the exam, good luck!
     
  31. Mudd

    Mudd Charlatan & Trouble Maker
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    I'd modify that approach to more of a read what you need technique. If the passage has many tables and/or graphs, you are better offer looking at the data and seeing any trends that pop out. If you can deduce the relationship between variables from the table, you don't need to read.

    If it's a topic you know very well, reading is time inefficient.

    However, if it is an information-based passage, a theory I versus theory II type, or an experiment, I'm not sure how you could get around reading.

    I agree with Mr. Z that until you apply the technique to an unfamiliar exam, there is no way to tell. I also agree that it seems sort of crazy to try an entirely different approach so close to the exam.

    Maybe read some and don't read others and see how you do on each. Or, try the read what you need approach. Either way, I wish you the best of luck.
     
  32. CoffeeCat

    CoffeeCat SDN Angel
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    Can't wait to hear the results! Keep us posted :)
     
  33. burlypie

    burlypie Senior Member
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    I just too AAMC V today and found that I had to do very little reading on the passages, simply because most of there were just experiental procedure and figures.

    I would never say outright don't read the passages, but take a look at least. If they're giving you, or worse, explaining formulas and relationships in prose READ IT. But if it's just "student added 25 mg Mg blah blah, I find that's better just to go and look up the numbers if necessary.

    ...and I did pretty well on it too! Is there still hope? :)
     
  34. limit

    limit Molesting my inner-child
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    Oh brother. PS passages take 30-60 seconds to read, which adds up to 5-7 minutes of reading time out of 100 minutes, these aren't thick verbal passages here, its just a presentation of formulas. In essence, you are spending 93-95% of your time answering the questions.

    If you aren't finishing on time, you have to solve the questions faster because therein lies the problem, not the 5% of the test during which you are reading a passage. I refuse to believe that anyone here can score a 12+ on a physical sciences section if I were to administer it to you with the passages entirely removed. They are there for a purpose, and whether you choose to look at them before, during, or after you are solving the questions, you WILL read them, and you WILL look at the formulas presented. Do I hear a "yes sir" ?
     
  35. lady bug

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    Why is this technique not recommened for Biological sciences?
     
  36. Castro Viejo

    Castro Viejo Papa Clot Buster
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    It's really interesting to see how threads which were started a year and a half ago are still making their rounds on this board. I was in the middle of my second-year then! Now I'm in the early part of my fourth-year. How time flies.

    Anyway a more recent generation of premed students recently took the MCAT without the "benefit" of reading the physics passages and all are attending med school this Fall. Obviously there's a little more to gettng into med school than not reading the physics passages, but I'm still a proponent of that being the most efficient way to spend your time on the Physics MCAT.

    Any questions about the MCAT or applying? PM me or I'll answer them here.
     
  37. Another Bump!
     
  38. Bostonienses

    Bostonienses Tripping on lactic acid
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    Bump yet again! Sorry, someone asked a similar question...
     
  39. pathdr2b

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    Great thread!:clap:
     
  40. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11??
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    Wow, is this real still? The thread is so old, but I thought that I would resurrect it. I too am having a lot of trouble with timing on the PS section.

    Does anyone do this or has anyone tried it recently? Does it really help?

    Should I try it?
     
  41. DAPI

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    This thread is 9 to 11 years old. With the way the current MCAT is set up, I highly doubt it would help your score. You may see an increase in like AAMC 3-6, but not on the higher numbered ones and especially not on the real deal
     
  42. 09ine

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    1. This is old
    2. Alot of the times the passage will have information that you NEED to solve, or else you'll plug in the wrong variable and be off by some factor.
     
  43. Melomare17

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    yup this thread is still valid today. i've done this, and highly recommend NOT reading the passage--there's no reason to. just look at the question, usually it points you to the paragraph/experiment number in the passage anyway so just focus on that one part of the passage. for the most part you don't really need to read the whole thing to answer the questions and do well in it (look at bolded part)
     
  44. fas376

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    I think everyone is different, so you should find a strategy that works for you.

    I averaged a 12 on the PS for the practice AAMCs, but I ended up running out of time on the real thing and had to guess on 4/5 questions on one of the passages. For the test I took, I definitely regret reading the passages.
     
  45. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11??
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    I keep hearing that people run out of time on the real thing. I run out of time on every practice test (usually guess randomely on the last passage of PS and end up with an 8).

    Studying did not help. It is not that I don't know the material; I know almost all of it. The problem is the timing. Math is not my strongest subject so when I go to do the problems, I move relatively slowly. The limiting factor is the speed at which I do math! How am I supposed to improve that?! Besides, I feel like that is not the point of this test.

    I am going to try to go through an entire PS section without reading the passages and see if my score increases. I think that with the extra time to do the math, I can actually attempt every question and hopefully improve my score. Obviously, I will use the passages for relavant information like formulas and variables and I will probably scan for direct answers. We will see how it goes.

    I will let you all know. Doing this tomorrow morning.

    Best,
    C
     
  46. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11??
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    I am reporting my experience as I just spent 3 hours reviewing the answers and analyzing results.

    I attempted to take Kaplan's PS Section Test #1 this morning WITHOUT READING PASSAGES BEFOREHAND. I got a 55.77% The problem now is that I cant tell if this is an improvement because I dont know what I would have gotten if I had read the passages and the score is not scaled. The section tests seem much more difficult than the Full Lengths or the AAMC exams.

    Interestingly: I am notmally guessing on 1 full passage because I run out of time. This time, I had about 2:30 left at the end of finishing all questions. I finally got to give all the questions a fair shot and didnt feel incredibly rushed the entire time. Also, I just reviewed the answers and it doesnt appear that I missed many questions due to not having read the passage (maybe 1 or 2 of them). Most of them were just due to not knowing the answer... the passages were tough.

    Can anyone out there in the ether give me some meaning to my score? 55.77%? What is your Full length PS section average scaled score and what did you get when you took PS Section Test #1? Any meaning would be good. My friend who I study with and who usually gets around the same or even a little better than me on the PS section took the test as well and for a 35% or something... but I am not sure if that is just a fluke. What do you guys think?

    Anyways, since this test FELT significantly better than ever before, I think that I will try to take a full length without reading the PS passages beforehand.

    Overall, I think that there may be some validity to this method if you are struggling with time int he PS section. I was able to answer all of the questions just as well by simply skimming through the passage for the information requested by the question stem.

    Comments? Does anyone even care? lol

    Best,
    C
     
  47. Mash43

    5+ Year Member

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    i am gonna have to give this a shot. i always have trouble finishing and end up guessing on the last passages.
     
  48. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11??
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    Please please please let me know how it goes. I am curious to see if this works and I dont have enough data points.
     
  49. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11??
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    Just took Kaplan FL#4 PS without reading the passage and got a 10 ... 2 points higher than my average. Seems like NOT READING THE PASSAGES INCREASES MY SCORE SIGNIFICANTLY.

    Also just took Kaplan section test 2 and got a 59.62% -- I dont know what this corresponds to as a scaled score, but the timing was not too bad.

    Any ideas? Any updates from anyone else?

    Best,
    C
     
  50. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11??
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    I think that the only reason this works for me is that I am pretty good on content. I know all the formulas and how to apply them and such.

    It would not work to not read the passages if you are getting all of your information from them. Since I am pretty good on content, this strategy works really well for freeing up time to to calculations.
     
  51. ridethecliche

    ridethecliche Meep Meep Meep
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    FYI.

    This doesn't really work anymore since the PS section is more 'verbal esque' now.

    Doing so in practice means that you're not going to learn how to properly manage your time for the real deal.
     

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