I am going to estimate how long a student might take to study for the MCAT test using the books I recommend for my students under the premise that someone is studying full time. This is an estimate, but I think it paints a decent picturse of what a fulltime MCAT student can expect. For part time students, they would spread this over a longer period of time (I hope).Read More
Last month I wrote a post on how I initially teach my students to look at multiple choice problems. If you have not read it, I would recommend doing that first before reading on.
As I wrote, I initially give my students two dimensions on which to assess an answer choice: truth and relevance. I start with these two for a few reasons. Firstly, whether or not a student can tell me if an answer choice is true generally correlates with their level of knowledge and to some extent the quality of their knowledge or content studying. Additionally, I ask students to assess the relevance of the answer choice to ensure that the students are always going back to the question with each answer choice. This prevents a common misstep: choosing an answer choice that is factually correct, but does not answer the question. These dimensions are helpful but do not encompass all of the dimensions in which answer choices may differ. However, there are myriad ways in which answer choices might differ, and as such it stops being efficient to memorize dimensions and assess them one at a time. This is what I call a direct approach, and while useful, there is a better way.Read More
Before I went to college, I was professional ballet dancer and I loved to practice pirouettes—turning around on the tiptoes of one foot. One of the first things I learned about pirouettes is that if I tried something completely different in my technique every time I practiced, I wouldn’t improve. Occasionally I would get lucky and do a few more pirouettes, but it never stuck, and I always regressed back to where I had been. I thought I was just bad at pirouettes in some intrinsic way, the way many of my students claim they are “bad test-takers.”
There are many different ways to learn information, but among my colleagues in medical school, flashcards are one of the most common ways to study. While making flashcards may seem simple straight forward, I have learned over time that the exact opposite is the case.Read More
What is Total Justification?
Most students pick the correct answer on a multiple choice practice problem, and think they have gotten the most they can out of the problem; they are wrong. Answering a question on the MCAT is essentially the task of appraising answer choices to see if they fit certain criteria, such as being factually correct or logical in the context of the passage. Appraising answer choices in the context of certain criteria is the meat of the MCAT, and practicing it just once per question is a massive waste. For this reason, I recommend that students explicitly justify why every correct answer is correct, but also, why every incorrect answer is incorrect: Total Justification.Read More
Many problems on the MCAT seem quite complex upon first inspection but can actually be reframed to be more simple. This allows a test-taker to serve time as well as avoid the errors that come with repeated detailed analysis. To demonstrate this tactic, see the example below.Read More
While many students blame incorrect answers on a lack of knowledge or careless mistakes, these explanations don’t account for the many ways an MCAT test writer can mess with a poor unsuspecting test-takers brain. If the MCAT were a simple matter of knowledge and diligence, the studying process would be far easier. Knowledge is easily acquired (though less easily remembered, for more details see this post on memory) and diligence is easily drilled (see this post here on diligence). If you want to see a higher MCAT score, you need to acknowledge it’s a little more complicated than it looks.Read More
Reflection is not what spectators see during a basketball game; spending hours watching game tapes and discussing strategic nuances with a coach does not make the high light reel on Sports Center, but it is essential to continued improvement and success. After every game, athletes and coaches discuss what happened: what went well, what went badly, what could have gone better but didn’t, and generate actionable feedback that the athlete can use to improve their performance.Read More