April 2, 2013

MCAT Madness

March Madness has past and dare I say brackets are busted everywhere! As a college basketball fan this is the most exciting time of year for the sport.  With all the fun on TV, remember there is still an MCAT to study for!  The March Madness tournament with all its hoopla and competition really has some key lessons that students can pull away.
  • Preparation is Key – Think about the players taking those free throws. They practice over and over and over for that. A free throw is just that “free”. The MCAT has “free” easy points to take. Know those flash cards. Know those quick sheets. They are there for a reason, make sure you know the easy facts that will get you those easy points.
  • One Shot – The most dramatic appeal of the tournament is the format. 64 teams, winner take all. Treat your MCAT like this. Studying for the MCAT is long and arduous enough. You don’t want to take the exam twice! Study hard and prepare well now.
  • Rhythm – Teams play only every few days, but are they practicing in between? Absolutely! Sport just like the MCAT studying has a rhythm to it. It is better for you to study a little bit every day rather than continuing to work only every few days and not have the stamina to get through it. This leads to burnout and is one of the most common complaints from students leading up to test day.
  • Have a Game Plan – Championship teams have a plan from day one. Be your own coach in MCAT studying and use your instructor and peers to help motivate and guide you in the right direction. Success is when preparation meets opportunity. The MCAT is your opportunity to show medical school admissions you are prepared. Stick to your game plan.
  • Confidence – There is a magical aura around the tournament. People come to play. They put it all on the line. Michael Jordan once said “If you're trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I've had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”  All of the mistakes you have made in practice are good! Don’t forget that. You want to make mistakes now. They will help you remember not to make them on test day! Find that confidence going into test day and realize the ball is in your hands. YOU are going to make the winning shot!
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April 1, 2013

Correcting a Common MCAT Misconception

One of the questions I get asked most frequently as a teacher is, “Exactly what questions will I see on my test?”  If I knew the answer to that question, I would be making tons of money setting everyone up with their personalized MCAT answers. Although I can’t tell anyone exactly which questions they will be answering on Test Day, I do want to help out all of my intrepid MCAT studiers today and correct a common MCAT misconception.

Misconception: When I take my test, all of the material will be 100% familiar

Here’s the deal- yes, you have been studying for hundreds of hours. You have completed dozens of practice tests and successfully conquered countless numbers of MCAT passages. You are extremely well-prepared. However, the AAMC realizes that students prepare for the test and thus include passages with experimental set-ups that you have never seen. There is a critical thinking component to the MCAT, and the AAMC likes to keep test-takers on their toes.

So, if you get to your test and see something totally new, that’s okay! You’re not expected to have previously seen every inch of the test. Your job is to get out the relevant information from the passages and work on correctly answering the questions.

The most important thing you can do when you get to an unfamiliar passage, is to not panic. I repeat, don’t panic! If you think a passage looks difficult or unfamiliar, chances are that everyone else is struggling with the same passage. If you see an extremely complicated experimental set-up, they are really asking about concepts you know. I have seen ridiculous looking MCAT passages that are essentially asking about flow of electrons or F=ma.

When you’re taking your test, expect the unexpected and know that you’re well-prepared. Use that confidence to propel you through even the trickiest-looking MCAT passages.

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