Studying for the MCAT Psychology/Sociology section can feel daunting at first – there are so many terms to memorize, and often test-takers have never taken a formal psychology class. Though it may seem impossible to learn this on your own, there are several techniques that can make preparing for this section manageable (and even fun!).
1. Anki all the way
Many students have success using Anki, a flashcard software that uses spaced repetition to increase long-term retention. Anki doesn’t have the most user-friendly interface, so expect to spend some time figuring out how to make cards that work for you. Still, it is a great way to drill terms. Additionally, it may be a tool you want to use in medical school, so you’ll continue to reap the rewards of investing in Anki.
One of the best ways to study for this section is to purchase a review book and work your way through the chapters. Make Anki cards for facts and terms as you go through the book, and keep up with drilling your old cards. Use the book’s glossary to quiz yourself on terminology, or as a way to review vocabulary from many different subjects quickly.
2. Use context clues to define terms you don’t know
Students often are frustrated because the MCAT can be a little unclear about what terms actually could be tested. You may think you’re ready because you know the Princeton Review glossary by heart, then become frustrated when you see completely new terms pop up on your next practice test. A huge hurdle to get over is accepting that it is impossible to know exactly what will be covered, so learning how to use context clues and process of elimination to deal with unfamiliar terms is a critical skill to develop on practice tests.
3. Diversify your study materials
Exposure to multiple sources of study material will pay off because each resource will emphasize different terms. I have found Khan Academy MCAT psychology and sociology videos are the most comprehensive of all resources. Use a review book such as the Princeton Review or ExamKrackers for the majority of your studying, but mix in some Khan Academy videos on less familiar topics. As an unconventional tip, some students listen to the Khan Academy audio while commuting or doing chores – just be sure to pick a video where visuals aren’t important.
Though you may feel like this section is simply rote memorization, remember that the terms you’re memorizing are foundational to your future work as a doctor. Handling terms and concepts in context will help you apply them to the test, and to your future career. The MCAT is a large and important step on your path to medicine – we’re rooting for you!
The road to medical school is long, and the MCAT is one of its most formidable challenges. You will be relieved to know that what you learned in your premedical courses is actually on the test. But studying for the MCAT is more about taking that knowledge stored way back there in the nooks and crannies of your mind, bringing it to the fore, and then learning to twist and stretch it in the ways the MCAT tests. In reality, studying for the MCAT is no more (or less) difficult than spending late hours on a physics problem set or an entire weekend on an organic chemistry lab report. Just like these other tasks, the MCAT requires endurance and follow-through, but it becomes significantly more manageable when you work with a Cambridge Coaching MCAT tutor, like Rae, to apply a structured, systematic, and strategic approach to your studying.
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