TheNotQuiteDoctor’s MCAT Advice
I often get asked for help/direction on MCAT studying. This obviously will not be anywhere near a comprehensive study approach, but it is a few pointers into what I encountered when studying for the MCAT and subsequently taking it. If you have more tips or resources, please comment and expand this document.
TheNotQuiteDoctor’s MCAT advice:
Approach each problem like it is a trap. Most likely it is. They phrase and place questions in specific ways in order to trick you. The stand alone questions are the easiest. I would go all the way through the section and answer those first. It helps to get a rhythm and build confidence, but it also allows you to focus needed time on passage based questions. On your passages, spend more time on tables and graphs. Make notes about trends (i.e. variable X changes as temperature changes). When you study these trends you will often notice an outlier that does not seem to fit the pattern. If you ever have to guess at a question always pick the outlier, or one that is most different. Also, make sure what passage questions ask about the passage versus being stand-alone. I missed a lot of questions on practice tests because they were stand-alone questions but I answered them based on inferences from a graph.
Learn to be comfortable with guessing!!!! Pick a letter of the day and if you have to guess then use your letter, mark the question and move on. Otherwise you sacrifice time on easier questions you would be able to get. Remember that there are experimental questions that will get thrown out. Don’t spend time on extremely hard questions that may or may not even count. Do not spend time memorizing the passages, especially on the science portions. Highlight numbers and equations so they are easy to find.
Subject Specific Advice
Organic – Don’t waste time with this. If anything, just review what is on Khan Academy. It is too much material to try and master for only one passage.
Biology – Spend a lot of time understanding genetics and biochemistry. I feel like this is where most med schools are pushing their curriculum, and subsequently has been heavier on the MCAT.
Physics – Understand units!!! Almost 90% of all equations you will use come from units. Also, intuitively understand equations. Example: relationships between things like pressure and volume, or flow rate and pipe diameter.
General Chemistry – Kinetics, periodic trends, acid/base; know all of that.
Writing – I would practice writing, but it should be the least of your worries. Here is a list of prompts: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/85192/preparing_writingsampleitems.html
I would listen to some history podcasts or watch a couple documentaries to give you things to write about.
Verbal – I am going to summarize the EK verbal approach. It sounds silly, but I got a 12 on verbal using it, so it does work. When you read the passage pretend like it is a story someone is telling you. As you read try to imagine who this person is. Are they old or young? Educated? Liberal or Conservative? This helps you paint a picture and allows you to decipher the passage based on your own bias about the author. Surprisingly, this really works. When you answer the questions pretend you are asking those questions to the author. What would they say? In this way you rely on your perception of the author and his or her tone rather than pure memory recall.
As far as materials, I think the Princeton Review books seemed the best for me. I had the Exam Krackers, Kaplan and Princeton Review books. For the sciences, I truly believe the Princeton Review books are the best of those three. For verbal reasoning the Exam Krackers books will be best. I feel like the content in the Exam Krackers science books is not as complete and it relies more on teaching tricks than accurate material.
Free Online MCAT Course – I only looked at a couple videos but they seem pretty good. The guy claims he taught MCAT courses for several years and compiled all of his stuff here.
Study Schedule/Advice – Here is the SDN study schedule. It is pretty intense and would obviously need modified to fit your time frame, but it does give some good advice on materials to buy.
Khan Academy – Some of the best and most intuitive instructional videos over physics, orgo, and gen chem. I will swear by these videos.
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