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reel premeds:  

45

WAYS

TO SUCCEED ON THE

MCAT

®

$´Must Readµ%HIRUHWKH$FWXDO([DP -Vernon W. Jeffrey, MD, JD-


Reel Premeds: 45 Ways to Succeed on the MCAT Copyright  2013 by DRJ Media, LLC All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. MCAT is a registered service mark of the Association of American Medical Colleges which is not affiliated with this book.

Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and the author make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales or promotional materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for every situation.

Copyright  2013 DRJ Media, LLC


To all of you who work ever so diligently in your endeavor to become future physicians

Copyright ďƒ“ 2013 DRJ Media, LLC


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vernon W. Jeffrey, MD, JD has used his knowledge of standardized exams such as the SAT, LSAT, and MCAT to help students on the path of achieving their career goals. Dr. Jeffrey is the creator of the blogsite Reel Premeds (www.reelpremeds.com), a repository of information for premedical students all over the world, and is currently working on a documentary about the journey of pre medical students called Reel Premeds: The Movie.

Copyright ďƒ“ 2013 DRJ Media, LLC


45

WAYS

TO SUCCEED ON THE

MCAT Copyright  2013 DRJ Media, LLC


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction..........1 Part I: General Preparation 1: When do I start studying?.....................4 2: The Test Skills Phase..........................5 3: The importance of a diagnostic exam..........5 4: Effective studying...........6 5: Becoming attached to a test date...........7 6: Don’t “take it just to take it”.....................8 7: Aim high (45)..............8 8: Create a written study schedule..............9 9: Making the MCAT your #1 priority...........10 10: Students who are Parents and/or Full Time Workers............10 11: Test prep v. Self-studying.............11 12: Textbooks v. review books...........12 13: Do you need a study group?.........12 14: You don’t know what will show up on your exam............13 15: Mastering all of the sciences.............14 16: Which science should I study first?...............15 17: The art of using practice questions...............16 18: Difficult questions provide excellent preparation..........16 19: The art of using practice exams...........17 20: Going over your practice exams thoroughly............18

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21: Reusing practice exams..............19 22: How to predict your score on the real exam..............19 23: Don’t avoid voiding................20

Part II: The Sections of the MCAT PHYSICAL AND BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 24: Chemistry and Physics: More than memorizing equations...........23 25: Understanding the physical sciences?.............23 26: Scientific notation; unit conversions; inverse and direct proportional relationships...............24 27: Effective nuclear charge, ionization energy, electron affinity, and other periodic trends............25 28: Biology involves more than just “biology”...............27 29: Back and forth studying...............29 30: Integrating studying into the Preparedness Phase............30 31: Going back over subjects if you are getting questions wrong..............31 32: It takes more than science to answer the passages.................31 33: Reading tables, graphs, and charts effectively.................32 VERBAL REASONING 34: Why is verbal reasoning so difficult for students?............32 35: Why verbal is important?...............33 36: Building your reading comprehension............33 37: Main idea and tone...............34 38: Reading passages indiscriminately...........35 39: Building your reading speed............35 40: Abandoning questions............37

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41: Beware of High practice verbal scores.........38 42: Being consistent and persistent........,...38

Part III: Final Thoughts 43: Don’t let your anxiety get the best of you..........40 44: Self-assessment..........41 45: Retaking the MCAT............41

Appendix A: Top 10 Reasons Why Students Don’t Do Well on the MCAT...........43 Appendix B: Sample Six-Month MCAT Study Schedule.........46 Appendix C: Student Profile: Taking the MCAT after Sophomore Year..........53 Appendix D: Preview of Reel Premeds: The Verbal Handbook............57

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INTRODUCTION

The MCAT: It is the first rite of passage for those students devoted to the path of becoming a physician. Every year, tens of thousands of students study, cram, and sweat out every detail that is needed to overcome one of the main hurdles to medical school. Some students will exceed their own expectations, but several others will not. Unfortunately, there are too many students who take the MCAT without being prepared. Contrary to what you may think, preparing for the test involves more than merely being confident and motivated, or studying ten hours a day. There is a strategy and a science to the exam which too few students know about. It is this lack of knowledge that often results in poor performances by thousands of students. Students who successfully prepare for the MCAT tend to have the following attributes: 1. Thoughtful planning: The student will form a strategy for preparing for the exam that is suitable for her, rather than just based on the recommendations of peers. 2. Flexibility: The student will have an “open mind” when it comes to preparing for the exam. Rather than using techniques that did not produce favorable results in the past, the student will be willing to consider new ideas, try new ways, and reconsider old problems. For instance, if the student avoided doing practice problems for past exams, she would be willing to consider doing this if it translates into success on the MCAT. 3. Persistence: Persistence is key to success. The MCAT is an extremely difficult exam and many students are not willing to engage in the preparation for studying and are defeated at the start. Other students don’t understand the rigors of learning the sciences and often give up at the first sign of difficulty. Being able to “weather the storm” of your preparation is a marker of how well you will perform on the exam. 4. Willingness to Self-Correct: Good students try to learn the reason for the errors instead of becoming defensive whenever they make a mistake. If you are scared to criticize yourself, and your ways, then you won’t be very successful on the MCAT. 5. Self-Motivation: Studying for the MCAT can be a lonely endeavor and most of the time you will have to push yourself. If you constantly need others to do this for you, then your journey will be difficult.

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This is why I wrote this book. It is meant to help you to accumulate, or reinforce, those traits which will help you for the exam. Without the mental preparation, you are bound to fail or underperform. This simple book is composed of 45 tips (45 representing the highest score on the MCAT) that will provide guidance you before you even begin to study for the exam The first part of this book is devoted to the general process of preparing for the MCAT. Strategies for general preparation for the exam will be dealt with as well as going over various methods to get you into the right mindset for the exam. The second part of the book will cover strategies for handling the individual sections of the MCAT: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences. Since the essay portion of the MCAT will no longer be part of the exam starting 2013, it will not be dealt with. The third part of the book will provide final thoughts to help you with your exam. This book was written for anyone who wants to go to medical school. Your success on the MCAT is important so go through the book as often as you like. You will most likely find tips that speak directly to your situation and remember that The MCAT is not an exam that should be taken lightly.

Vernon W. Jeffrey, MD, JD

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PART I: GENERAL PREPARATION

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1. When do I start studying? Whenever pre meds ask when they should begin studying for the MCAT, I always respond, “you already have”, to a slew of puzzled expressions. In order to be successful on the MCAT, it is important to understand that there are two phases of studying for the exam: the preparedness phase and the test skills phase. The preparedness phase (see Tip #30) occurred the minute that you became a premedical student – whether that occurred on your first day of college or whether you decided that you wanted to leave your career and go to medical school. The MCAT tests your understanding of biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, and verbal reasoning.

The science

component of the MCAT comes from all of your medical school prerequisites; upper level science courses can help you to prepare more for specific topics, but they are not required. As you are preparing to get A’s in your biology, english, chemistry classes, etc. you should understand that all of the knowledge that you are obtaining from those classes will help you on the exam. In effect, if you are paying close attention to your topics and looking to retain the information beyond your final exams, you will end up keeping your knowledge longer than a student who merely crammed for an “A”.

By default, taking your pre med

requirements with the intention of learning them, despite whether or not you like the course, is in effect studying for the MCAT. Thus, you are preparing for the second phase of your studying. The test skills phase occurs when you have completed your pre requisites and you are ready to study for the MCAT. Ideally, you should have a solid grasp of your concepts and be ready to learn the “in’s and out’s” of the MCAT by doing content review and practicing MCAT style questions. Since most students realistically begin studying during the test skills phase. Most of the book will be devoted to that. A thorough discussion of how to combine the test skills phase with the preparedness phase is provided in Appendix C using a profile of a student who successfully used this approach when preparing for the exam. If you are ready to push your talents beyond their own limits, keep on reading.

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2. The Test Skills Phase If you are like most students, then you probably crammed for most of your exams in college. Cramming for a week, or a couple of days, before an exam was the way to survival as you were taking a heavy course load and/or balancing classes with other responsibilities (ex. work, family). Most students who cram don’t perform remarkably well in college. Others get away with it and obtain extremely competitive GPA’s. Obtaining a good GPA through cramming can lead to a false sense of security that the same thing will work for the MCAT. As some of you may have found out already, this is not the case. As you can see, the exam covers a cumulative of four years of the core sciences plus reading comprehension and critical thinking. Therefore, you will need ample time to prepare for the exam during the test skills phase. This seems obvious, but yet every year there are thousands of students who spend too little time studying for the exam and damage their scores and thus their application profiles. How much time you devote to studying will depend on your situation. Some students will need three months while others will need at least half a year for the test skills phase. Regardless, it is important that you understand that it is to your detriment to cram for this exam which will lead to ineffective studying.

3. The importance of a diagnostic exam Since the MCAT is different from anything that you have seen before, it will be to your best interest to take a sample exam. I advise all of my students to take the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Practice Exam #3 before they touch any review books. Sometimes, they don’t understand the value of this and feel that they already know what the exam is like. As you can imagine, after one round with an exam, anxiety begins to set in. This is helpful for several reasons: It will familiarize you with the exam You will have a sense of how your score will be if you take the exam without studying well You will begin to see how the exam applies critical thinking to content You will have a sense of urgency when you begin studying during the test skills phase. Copyright  2013 DRJ Media, LLC


As an example, I think that taking a diagnostic is a good way to assess your verbal skills since, unlike the natural sciences, there is no course to do it for you.

Also, without

practicing a verbal section, you will have no idea of your baseline reading comprehension skills. Thus, it is important to begin assessing your plan of attack for that particular section. I think that it is best to take a diagnostic exam when you are finished with the science requirements for the exam, and right before you start studying. This way, the score that you obtain will be your baseline from which you will gauge your improvement as you take practice exams later on during your studying. Whether you score very low or decently on your diagnostic, just remember that it is only one practice exam, and that it is no indicator of how you will perform on the actual exam, granted that you study appropriately and thoroughly. There is no need to give up so early. Remember that you took the diagnostic without any preparation. Now, imagine what you can do on the actual exam with more adequate preparation. Make sure that you take the exam as if it is the real thing – timed and in a quiet place. Also, it is important to use that score as your baseline and convince yourself to never go below that score again. Don’t forget to thoroughly go over every question on your practice exam after you have taken it. Even if you don’t have a grasp of all of the content for the MCAT by that time, you will begin to see how more than mere knowledge of the sciences is needed to do well on the exam.

4. Effective studying What is meant by effective studying for the MCAT? Studying for this type of exam will be different from anything else that you have encountered. You will be required to retain massive amounts of information which you will need to recall and use to solve problems using a variety of critical thinking skills. More is required than just reading a text book or even a review book. You have to balance your reading with the use of science problems, sample verbal passages, and sample full length exams. Then, you have to critically assess your performance as you proceed. There isn’t one way to proceed with this. Copyright  2013 DRJ Media, LLC


Another aspect of effective studying is the effective use of your time. If you are telling yourself that you studied for three months, but in reality used only half that time, then you are not being effective. If you claim that you are studying eight hours a day, but are only using half of that time for yourself and the other half to chat with friends about how difficult it is studying for the MCAT, then you are not being effective. You will learn more about the process of effective studying as you proceed through the book, but I wanted to highlight the concept early since several premeds don’t understand it.

5. Becoming attached to a test date I am sure that you know it is important to apply to medical school as early as possible. Even though this is a good strategy, it can interfere with your preparation for the MCAT. How does this happen? Well, if you are steadfast in being one of the first students to apply during an application cycle (which begins in early June of each calendar year), then you are most likely fixated on taking your exam before that date (January – May). There is nothing wrong with that, but if your studies haven’t prepared you to perform well on the MCAT by the time April or May arrives, then you should not sit for the exam just because you want to apply early. Doing so will most likely result in the acquisition of a poor score that means you will either study for the exam again over the summer, or wait until the following year for a retake. Regardless, your decision to apply early may cause you to inadequately prepare for the exam. Most likely, you will rush through your content review, barely do any practice questions, barely touch any practice exams, and barely look at verbal reasoning. What is the lesson here? By rushing to take the exam because you want to apply as early as possible, you may end up producing the same fate that you tried to avoid – or worse, you can prevent yourself from ever going to medical school because of bad test taking decisions. Learn to be flexible with your dates. It is better to take the time to score a “30” or higher in the summer than to try to rush your preparation and obtain a noncompetitive score.

Copyright  2013 DRJ Media, LLC

Reel Premeds: 45 Ways to Succeed on the MCAT  

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