At first, studying for the physical sciences section of the MCAT seems impossible. As a student, how could I possibly review years of material in the couple of months before I take the MCAT?
As an MCAT tutor, it’s become clear that you really don’t have to. Instead, absolutely understanding a few example situations (preferably from everyday life), and then being comfortable enough with the concepts to branch out from there will serve much better.
Scientists use well-studied model situations all the time, so as an MCAT student, you should be comfortable with the same processes.
For questions about phase changes and colligative properties, simply think about a glass of ice water with salt in it. When thinking about how intermolecular forces affect boiling points take some water and some alcohol (or ether-if you’re lucky enough to work in a lab) and spill it. Watch which one evaporates faster and then think about the forces and energy involved. The disappearing slick of alcohol will work itself into your memory much better than any theoretical explanation. Furthermore, these physical examples will serve as a check: if you can prevent yourself from choosing an answer that contradicts what you know to be true (because you watched it with your own eyes), that’s one more question right on the MCAT.
Here are some of my favorite examples:
1. Ice on the Roads- Colligative properties
Water freezing gives off heat. Farmers will often protect their crops from a cold snap by flooding their field- as the water freezes, it warms the surrounding air and protects plants from freezing.
2. Evaporation of water v. Evaporation of ether
One other thing I’ve found tremendously useful in tutoring the MCAT is a pKa table.
Set up a list of a few acids and bases (HCl, Acetic Acid, Water, Ammonia, Alkanes) and memorize their placement on the chart and why they are placed there. You’ll never miss a pKA/pH questions again, and you’ll make significant progress towards understanding what factors stabilize electrons- which is a key element in all of organic chemistry.