The Best Standardized Test Tip? Comparitive Process of Elimination

Posted by Henry on 7/26/17 5:30 PM

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.

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Tags: MCAT

How to Take a Systematic Approach to Problems on the MCAT 

Posted by Henry on 5/24/17 6:33 PM

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.”

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Tags: MCAT

Equations Guide for the MCAT: Your Key to Success

Posted by Farees on 4/10/17 9:00 AM

Equations are a MCAT test taker’s best friend, yet many students are afraid of them. They are powerful tools because they encapsulate a huge amount of information in a tiny package that you can easily memorize. They’re not everything—you still need to learn loads of conceptual information and facts to do well, but understanding how to use them is the most direct way to improving your score on the science section if you’re encountering general problems.

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Tags: MCAT

The #1 Question Strategy for the MCAT: Total Justification

Posted by Henry on 1/4/17 5:40 PM

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.  

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Tags: MCAT, study skills

Biology on the MCAT: How to Simplify Complex Problems

Posted by Henry on 11/21/16 5:59 PM

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.

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Tags: MCAT, MD/PhD admissions

The Four Most Essential MCAT Resources, Ranked by an Expert

Posted by Weike Wang on 9/12/16 7:00 PM

Are you ready for the four most essential MCAT resources, ranked by our expert MCAT tutor Weike?  Read on to get the essential list!

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Tags: MCAT

13 Reasons you Pick the Wrong Answer on the MCAT

Posted by Henry on 8/8/16 6:30 PM

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. 

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Tags: MCAT

Two Study Habits That Will Boost Your MCAT Score

Posted by Henry on 6/6/16 9:30 AM

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.

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Tags: study skills, MCAT

How to Select Your MCAT Test Prep Resources

Posted by Nikita on 5/25/16 9:00 AM

Image sourced from the New York Times

Picking MCAT test prep resources can feel a little bit like trying to pick one ice cream flavor at Coldstone (although perhaps significantly less fun…) – there are so many options, all of them seem to work, and you don’t want to miss out by picking the wrong ones.  Unfortunately, MCAT students too often try to use too many resources and end up not being able to fully commit to any of them. This post can’t do justice to all of the well-developed test prep material out there (though some of our tutors can!), but hopefully it can point you in the right direction as you begin (or continue) your MCAT test prep journey. Here are a few things to consider as you decide how to study for the MCAT:

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Tags: medical school admissions, MD/PhD admissions, MCAT

Planning Your MCAT Study Schedule

Posted by Nikita on 4/20/16 11:21 AM



One of the most daunting things about the MCAT is the sheer amount of material that is on the exam. At minimum, it covers the first year of intro classes for all of the sciences (Physics, Biology, Chemistry), some advanced level coursework (Organic Chemistry - and many students now say they would like to take Biochemistry and Genetics as well), and then additional courses like Psychology. There is no way of getting around the fact that it is a LOT of material.

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Tags: MCAT