October 14, 2013

Finding Your Perfect Spot for Studying

Hello my diligent medical school hopefuls! Today I would like to talk about something that can make or break your studying success: how to find your perfect MCAT study spot. A couple of things to consider: 1. Do you study better around people or by yourself? 2. Do you like noise or quiet while you study? 3. How will your study spot contribute to your success on MCAT Test Day? I'll start with #3 first as it's the most important. Research has shown that your environment can actually have a large impact on your ability to remember information. Basically this works through a process called encoding. You use clues in the environment such as sounds, smells, lighting and mood to help you remember information. This can be beneficial if you're studying in the location where you're testing, but can be problematic if you're studying somewhere else. Essentially, if you're testing in a quiet location, you should study in a quiet location. If you're testing in a room full of people, you should study in a room full of people. The best place to study is actually the room in which you will be testing. If you're taking the MCAT, you won't be able to study in your testing room, but a quiet library will work just as well to mimic testing conditions. Now, I can hear the objections already. But Emily, you say, I can't possibly study without my iPod pumping Bruno Mars and Kesha into eardrums. In response, I say, if you're not going to get to listen to music during your exam, don't listen to music while you study. Unfortunately, you'll associate the information with the songs, instead of truly knowing it. You can see pretty quickly that #1 and #2 are lower priority when actually picking your study spot. It's also important to note that mixing up your study spot is essential to studying success! That way you know the information regardless of the room in which you're sitting and be assured that you'll be able to access that information during your test. So, feel free to spice it up and try a new study location. What's your favorite study spot? How does it help you on your test? I'd love to hear! Check out our article on Efficient MCAT Studying, which has sample study schedules for the "early riser," "not-a-morning-person," and "the weekender." Happy studying! [cf]skyword_tracking_tag[/cf] ...read more
July 10, 2013

Treat the MCAT like you would treat a patient!

Hello, my enterprising future doctors/current MCAT studiers. Today I want to recommend a course of action for MCAT studying that you will repeat thousands of times as a physician when you are in the clinic or the hospital. Bonus! You don't even need to attend medical school to perform these actions- diagnose, treat, and reassess. 1. Diagnose- One of the main duties you will have as a physician will be to listen, evaluate your patients' symptoms and develop a diagnosis. When studying for the MCAT you can use quizzes, tests and flashcards to help diagnose your weak and strong areas of study. Don't make the major mistake that most students fall prey to! Don't assume that you know the material just because you stared at the page in the book for twenty minutes. Use quizzing yourself as a way to diagnose your strengths and weaknesses
However, diagnosing is not simply for determining which content you need to work on. It's also important to diagnose why you are incorrectly answering questions. Are you misreading the question? Did you have a calculation error? Did you run out of time? Did you get distracted by a tempting wrong answer choice? Figuring out where you are going wrong is the key to the next important step. . .
2. Treat- Once you know your weak areas, you need to develop a treatment plan that addresses your personal testing issues. Much like in medicine, you want to come up with a prescription or treatment plan that is specialized to meet your MCAT needs. Some potential treatment plans- If you're misreading the question, practice reading questions more carefully and re-phrasing them to ensure clarity. If you have a calculation error, make sure to do questions that are calculation heavy or refresh your math skills with some math drills. If you're running out of time, work on timed drills for passages and questions. If you are distracted by tempting wrong answer choices, practice answering the questions without using the available answer choices to ensure a strong prediction.
Be creative and think outside the box with your treatment options. The more fun and challenging the treatment, the more successfully you will address your MCAT weak spots! One of the best resources you have available is right here! Use fun events like Kaplan's The Pulse where we talk to Med School and MCAT experts to help guide you through the test-taking and admissions process. As well, seek extra videos and articles to reinforce your content and strategy knowledge. Also, don't be afraid to drop questions in the comments if you're struggling. I would love to help you treat your MCAT ailments!
Once you have diagnosed and treated your patterns for picking wrong answer choices, you get to the most rewarding step. Reassess- Physicians love to schedule follow-up appointments to check on their patients' recoveries. As an MCAT student, you will need to check up on your wrong answer patterns to make sure that you're not falling into the same traps on future passages and questions. Take the time to re-quiz yourself to make sure that your treatment was effective. It's super exciting to see the progress you can make after targeted treatment drills! After reassessing, you can decide whether to re-treat or move on to a working on a different issue.
So, there you have it! You can emulate the daily life of practicing physician long before you have your M.D. while gaining valuable MCAT practice and boosting your score for Test Day!
Happy studying! ...read more
Tests & Scores
September 1, 2010

Study Hard. Study Smart.

As a pre-med student, you know that a top MCAT score will increase your chances of med school admission. There is no question that in order to achieve a top MCAT score, you’ll need to study. Pre-meds are notorious for studying hard – spending countless hours the library and pulling all-nighters as they cram for organic chemistry exams. But simply putting in hours upon hours of studying isn’t enough to ensure the MCAT score you want. You need to study hard, but more importantly, you need to study smart. Start by making a study schedule. Aim to spend between 300-350 hours studying for your MCAT. Your Kaplan class will take care of over 50 hours right off the bat. Now you need to fill another 250-300 hours of study time, spread out over the weeks or months until Test Day. Your study schedule should not just say “3 hours MCAT study.” Instead, you should pre-plan what exactly you’re going to do in those three hours. This way, you are utilizing every minute wisely and your effort will pay off. Next, you need to ensure you have variety in your study plan. Don’t just work on physics for a few weeks in a row while you neglect biology. Rotate through the subject areas you’ll see on your MCAT: Physics, General Chemistry, Verbal Reasoning, Organic Chemistry, and Biology. Even if you feel extremely strong in one area, you should continue to work on it. A strength can quickly turn into a weakness if you don’t keep practicing. Work on at least two subject areas a week, returning to your weak areas more frequently, but continuously touching on everything. Remember to regularly address the Verbal section. With the 15 Verbal Reasoning Section Tests you can find on your Kaplan Online Syllabus, as well as the numerous Verbal practice passages and questions you have access to through Kaplan’s Qbank, you have plenty of resources available to you. Once you’ve learned the Kaplan Method for Verbal, you should do one Verbal Section Test a week until Test Day, ensuring that you are solidifying your verbal skills for a strong score on this section of your exam. As you increase your verbal skills, you are likely to see that your science sections also improve. This is because you are honing your critical reasoning skills, the most important skill set for success on the MCAT. Don’t overdo it on practice tests. You definitely should take multiple practice tests. You have 19 at your fingertips through your Kaplan Online Syllabus. However, you should only take one full-length exam a week in order to avoid burn-out. Review the entire exam using Kaplan SmartReports to determine what you are doing well and what areas are opportunities for you to improve. Use your findings to make smart choices about what to study so that your hard work continues to pay off through Test Day. By making a study plan and sticking to it, you are on your way to a higher MCAT score. Remember to study all of the subject areas, a focus on verbal to improve your critical thinking skills. Integrate tests strategically to check your progress. You’ll find that taking a smart approach will make your hard work pay off even more. ...read more

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