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dudewheresmymd

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Hey guys,
So I found some conflicting threads on this and wanted to ask anyone who's had success by using the kaplan "mapping" verbal strategy, albeit modified. I've been using a shortened version of the mapping strategy below from angldrps.. What i've found is that when I map even with 2-3 words per paragraph it helps me retain the main idea much better. I read some posts though from sn2ed and other illustrious members of the community who have advised against using the kaplan practice materials for verbal and instead stick to the examkrackers (read for the main idea closely and then answer the questions) which is more representative of the real MCAT. Is there any clear cut answer to this? If I use the "shortened version" of the mapping strategy am I setting myself up for failure on the real MCAT test day or if it is working should I just follow the general adage: "do whatever works best." The problem is if I get used to mapping now, it may be hard to abandon it on the AAMCs 2-3 weeks before the real thing. Are the passages really that much longer on the real MCAT (as compared to examkrackers or TPRH Verbal Workbook)? I haven't taken AAMC 3 yet, so I'm not sure what the AAMC lengths are like. Any advice would be appreciated!

I have received several PMs asking me advice on how I used the mapping strategy to raise my verbal score. From my own experience, i understand how difficult it is for a lot of students to raise their score on VB section. So, i thought i would make a thread with my tips in hopes of helping those who may be struggling.

Some Background: I took the mcat twice. On my first take (4/29/2011), i received a 7 on VB and on my retake (1/28/2012) i got an 11. While i was studying for my first attempt, i had read so many negative opinion's about kaplan's mapping strategy that i never even bothered to find out what exactly "mapping" is and how it works. I just stuck with using EK's strategy of reading the passage, looking for the main idea and then diving straight into answering the questions.Using the EK method, I was getting around 8-9 on EK 101 passages, but unfortunately my score on the AAMC VB section stuck around 6-7. For my retake, i knew i had to find another verbal strategy that would work for me. Since i was signed up for kaplan's online course, i thought i would give mapping a try...and boy, am i glad i did!

Below is an overview of how i used the mapping strategy:-

basically you read each paragraph proactively without worrying about minor details. After each paragraph, take few seconds to note down the following on a scratch paper: author's point for adding this specific paragraph to the whole passage which is also the same as the purpose of the paragraph (ex: is the author trying to advocate a certain point of view ,is he just introducing his main topics, is this paragraph just providing supporting evidence for the main point, is this para. talking about views that he doesn't agree, etc) author's opinions (ex: does the author have negative/positive viewpoint of the topic being discussed) , what views does the author not agree with and why, main topic mentioned and how its being supported. <------NOTE: You don't have to follow this list rigidly but it gives you a good guideline about the type of things you should be looking for while reading.

The list above sounds like a lot of writing but when i did it, i only wrote down few words ( never full sentences) and then moved onto the next paragraph and repeated the strategy. An example of how i may have mapped a paragraph would look something like this:

+ view
Constitution
---supported by the nation
doesn't agree with communist view
--no equal rights

I have an entire notebook filled with key words like the ones mentioned above which i used every time i practiced verbal.

Another tip: You don't have to move your eyes completely away from the paragraph when you are noting down keywords while mapping. Instead while you are writing on the scratch paper, keep your eyes on the paragraph so that you are continuously skimming the paragraph. This will benefit in two ways: you will easily figure out what other key words you need to write down, and by reading proactively the first time around and then skimming while mapping, you will greatly improve your comprehension of author's main ideas.

Tip: While you are reading, pay special attention when you come across key words such as however, unless, consequently, therefore, even though, etc.

If you think you might not be able to finish on time using the mapping strategy, then i would recommend practicing mapping untimed on a daily basis. if you utilize the strategy correctly and practice daily, you will eventually be able to increase your speed and start learning how to map quickly. After enough practice, you will realize that you are able to map mentally, which saves even more time. <--- On the real mcat I had to map at a faster rate than during my practices due to longer passages. By the time i got to last 2 passages, i found myself writing less and mapping mentally more to save time.

Another important point:i never had to go back to the map when answering questions because writing main concepts down for each paragraph helped me to remember them much more.This is because when you do mapping for each paragraph, by the time you finish the passage, you have a clear understanding of the author's opinions/ main argument and which specific paragraph in the passage has what supporting detail . Another benefit of mapping is that by noting main concepts down, you take off a mental load.

Another thing i did A LOT was when a question asked about something specific from the passage ( this is different from questions that asked about main idea, author's overall opinions) , then i would quickly glance back to the paragraph in the passage that discuss the specifics being asked by the question and read those few lines quickly and then answer the question. If you didn't use mapping then you would have to waste precious seconds looking for where in the passage the author mentioned specific details. But with mapping, i always found myself to know exactly which paragraph discussed the specifics i would need to answer the question.

Although EK 101 is great and the best book for finding mcat-type questions, i would recommend finding more practice material because in my opinion EK's passages are not dry/boring like those on aamc/real mcat. i personally used both EK and TPR verbal workbook.

For those who have just started to practice with mapping, i would say to them to use any practice material you can get your hands on. This is because even if the questions of the practice material you may be using are not a good representative of mcat-style verbal questions, you will still benefit from being able to practice mapping using the passages. For this reason, i even practiced with passages from kaplan's verbal section tests and TBR verbal book early on in my preparation, and i believe this practice was a crucial step in me being able to map quickly.

I did 2-3 practice passages everyday for about 2 months and for the 3rd month, I practiced using the VB section in each FL test.

Hope this helps.
 
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I personally dislike passage mapping. I feel as though it is a left over strategy from when the tests were paper and pencil based and you could write notes more easily. Besides being a waste of valuable time, there is one major issue with passage mapping: it forces you to put each paragraph's idea into your own words. The problem with this is that the AAMC doesn't give a @&!* what you think the idea of the passage is, but instead what the author actually conveyed in his writing. Depending on what you have mapped in each paragraph, your shorthand notation of what the paragraph said and what the paragraph actually said may be different enough for you to miss a question or two. That is bad. IMHO just sit down, read the passage, answer the questions, move on. That's my 2 cents, but do whatever you feel comfortable with. Good luck!

Also, check out Spinach Dip's thread, he's got some great verbal pointers in there, that's how I raised myself from 6-7 to 10-11 on verbal consistently.
 
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I also have to attest to the above posted. I originally started scoring 6s and then moved up between 8 to 10 in Verbal. Putting the ideas into your own words is extremely dangerous. It can slightly alter what the author is trying to say. My advice is:

1. Read carefully. Do not re-read if you don't understand something. The trick is not to understand every sentence but to capture a general sense of what's going on. You can do it by disregarding complex sentences and keep reading on. You're smart. You can get a gist of the main idea.
2. Highlight names, phrases, main idea-esque within the overall passage.
3. Capture if the author: agrees, disagrees.
4. Capture if the mentioned names: supports author's argument, disagrees with author.
5. Answer questions without referring to the passage unless the question asks you about something specifically written. If you start looking back a lot you will:
a) Lose time.
b) Overanalyze --> second-guess --> fall for delicious, tempting traps.

It's ok if some choices are ambiguous. This is not physics. The best you can do is narrow your choices down by crossing out the OBVIOUS wrong answers that seem too extreme such as the following example:

If the author talks about politics and economic strategies and you get a question like:

1. The Author believes that:
a) Democrats are horrible politicians.
b) Democrats may lack proper economic strategies
c) Bill Clinton was a democrat with questionable economic strategies.
d) Democrats are the best types of politicians.

Automatically, you will cross out A because it's too outrageous. If the author wasn't outrageous in the passage, then your answer is not going to be outrageous. 99.9% of passages, no author is ever that extreme.

Cross out C because even if the author may have mentioned Bill Clinton, the passage was probably not about him unless he was mentioned constantly and constantly. The right answer usually revolves around the OVERALL theme and not nitpicky facts. EVEN if the author BEGAN the passage mentioning Bill Clinton, it is a writing method that writers uset to develop the main idea which becomes obvious as you keep reading. Keep note of that.

Cross out D because its an obvious contradictory statement to the theme. If the author liked Democrats, it would've been obvious.

B sounds more like a general statement that could be applied to the OVERALL theme to the passage and probably the answer you are looking for.
 
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dudewheresmymd

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Thanks OncoMD. So what I've found is that very minimalistic mapping (2-3 words per paragraph) is working quite too well on kaplan materials (most likely b/c kaplan is not really like the real MCAT and tests details rather than main idea) and does work sometimes on EK/TPRH verbal workbook especially on the dense humanities passages. I'm just going to see what works best on AAMC 3/4 when I take them in a couple of weeks in the meantime I will use mapping as I see necessary. If worst comes to worst, I believe I can always ditch the mapping going into the practice AAMCs. Also, 2-3 word maps I think don't allow you to mix up the main idea of the author as much as half sentence-one sentence maps /paragraph would. Do you agree?
 
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I didn't read anything other than your title, but yes, do what works.


Not too long ago I saw a guy on here asking for help with PS. He got a freakin' 12 on PS and decided to "change his strategy" for the next test which I think netted him a 9 or something. I about pulled my hair out.

It it isn't broke don't fix it. I think the mapping strategy sucks, but I'm sure someone, somewhere has destroyed a verbal section using it.


Also, pay little attention to verbal sources outside of SDN. They're good verbal practice, but nothing more. I had a LOL moment last week during an EK passage. It was a long passage with 6 questions. The first question was straight up "What was the central theme of the article?". The next 5 questions all required that you understand the main idea of the passage to answer correctly.

I missed the first question and apparently didn't understand the main idea, yet answered the next 5 questions correctly based on my "incorrect" interpretation of the main idea. What a crock.
 

NickNaylor

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How to win at verbal:

Step 1: read the passages
Step 2: answer the questions

Anything that goes in between those steps is, in my opinion, nonsense meant to give you confidence by thinking you will do better using some random ridiculous "method" when, in reality, that method is likely neutral at best and harmful at worst.
 
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How to win at verbal:

Step 1: read the passages
Step 2: answer the questions

Anything that goes in between those steps is, in my opinion, nonsense meant to give you confidence by thinking you will do better using some random ridiculous "method" when, in reality, that method is likely neutral at best and harmful at worst.

totally agree. VR just needs to be understood. Anyone who is able to improve their VR score by using a "technique" is only improving because they would be improving anyway due to the extra practice, OR because the "technique" is forcing them to actually pay attention while reading. You should be learning to pay attention on your own without having to write down little notes on your scratch paper or highlight portions of the passage. This paragraph does not apply to anyone who has a reading disability. I have no clue what I am talking about for those people.

I believe that the only reason that the prep companies even advance a strategy other than using the POE for questions, is to sell books and classes. Test prep is an industry, VR cuts across many different tests, and the test prepers need a product to sell.

Side note: the WORST "technique" I have ever read is to read the questions first. I would like to slap anyone who teaches that.
 
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Mehd School

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How to win at verbal:

Step 1: read the passages
Step 2: answer the questions

Anything that goes in between those steps is, in my opinion, nonsense meant to give you confidence by thinking you will do better using some random ridiculous "method" when, in reality, that method is likely neutral at best and harmful at worst.

What do you know, didn't you score like a 15 on the VR section?
 
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I also have to attest to the above posted. I originally started scoring 6s and then moved up between 8 to 10 in Verbal. Putting the ideas into your own words is extremely dangerous. It can slightly alter what the author is trying to say. My advice is:

1. Read carefully. Do not re-read if you don't understand something. The trick is not to understand every sentence but to capture a general sense of what's going on. You can do it by disregarding complex sentences and keep reading on. You're smart. You can get a gist of the main idea.
2. Highlight names, phrases, main idea-esque within the overall passage.
3. Capture if the author: agrees, disagrees.
4. Capture if the mentioned names: supports author's argument, disagrees with author.
5. Answer questions without referring to the passage unless the question asks you about something specifically written. If you start looking back a lot you will:
a) Lose time.
b) Overanalyze --> second-guess --> fall for delicious, tempting traps.

It's ok if some choices are ambiguous. This is not physics. The best you can do is narrow your choices down by crossing out the OBVIOUS wrong answers that seem too extreme such as the following example:

If the author talks about politics and economic strategies and you get a question like:

1. The Author believes that:
a) Democrats are horrible politicians.
b) Democrats may lack proper economic strategies
c) Bill Clinton was a democrat with questionable economic strategies.
d) Democrats are the best types of politicians.

Automatically, you will cross out A because it's too outrageous. If the author wasn't outrageous in the passage, then your answer is not going to be outrageous. 99.9% of passages, no author is ever that extreme.

Cross out C because even if the author may have mentioned Bill Clinton, the passage was probably not about him unless he was mentioned constantly and constantly. The right answer usually revolves around the OVERALL theme and not nitpicky facts. EVEN if the author BEGAN the passage mentioning Bill Clinton, it is a writing method that writers uset to develop the main idea which becomes obvious as you keep reading. Keep note of that.

Cross out D because its an obvious contradictory statement to the theme. If the author liked Democrats, it would've been obvious.

B sounds more like a general statement that could be applied to the OVERALL theme to the passage and probably the answer you are looking for.

Thanks for this reasoning example OncoMD. this was very helpful
 
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How to win at verbal:

Step 1: read the passages
Step 2: answer the questions

Anything that goes in between those steps is, in my opinion, nonsense meant to give you confidence by thinking you will do better using some random ridiculous "method" when, in reality, that method is likely neutral at best and harmful at worst.


This. It's not rocket science, it's reading comprehension.
 

Gauss44

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What if one gets a science passage dealing with the physics of launching rockets? :laugh:

If it were rocket science, some of us would probably do BETTER.

I asked my tutor about passage mapping. He said it's okay as long as it doesn't disrupt your train of thought by chopping up the passage, and only if it doesn't take too long.
 

NickNaylor

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What do you know, didn't you score like a 15 on the VR section?

;)

If it were rocket science, some of us would probably do BETTER.

I asked my tutor about passage mapping. He said it's okay as long as it doesn't disrupt your train of thought by chopping up the passage, and only if it doesn't take too long.

That I think is really the point. I do actually think there are some "strategies" that can be helpful. However, as soon as you become more focused on a "method" than you are on reading passages and answering questions, you might be headed down the wrong path.
 

dudewheresmymd

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;)



That I think is really the point. I do actually think there are some "strategies" that can be helpful. However, as soon as you become more focused on a "method" than you are on reading passages and answering questions, you might be headed down the wrong path.

Agreed. Passing mapping DEFINITELY works for me on the kaplan passage as I get 80-90% of their questions right when using it...but not as well for EK passages/TPRH (netural)...same amount right as wrong as without using it. I will post my experimental results when I get to the AAMCs.
 
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