Will memorizing the 300-paged document that floats around in MCAT forums get you a perfect score? Paul from Blueprint MCAT shares his thoughts about it and strategies to score well. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to premed.tv.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:40] General Tips for Tackling the Psych/Soc Section
Paul’s general advice when dealing with this section of the MCAT is to tie them into your real life. The MCAT isn’t just going to ask you for a straight up definition. A lot of times, it’s going to be tied into similar situations in your life. so personalize it and make it yours.'Try to personalize all these different theories or ideas.'Click To Tweet
[03:26] Passage 3 (Questions 10 – 13)
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic progressive disorder that affects the central nervous system by damaging the flow of information throughout the brain and the rest of the body. Some scientists believe the damage is caused by a faulty autoimmune response, in which a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy nervous system tissue and produces inflammation. This could be due to a genetic predisposition that is triggered by environmental factors and psychosocial dynamics. Regardless of the specific cause, damage to the nervous system produces debilitating symptoms that can affect nearly every function of the body. Symptom severity can stabilize or worsen over time, creating unpredictability that could result in difficulty coping, decreased self-efficacy, changes in health locus of control (LOC), and decreased quality of life.
First off, we’re talking about multiple sclerosis. Also note chronic progressive disorder. And so, it’s going to stick around for a long time and it will be getting worse. The broad picture here is that of the central nervous system. And it may involve that immune system, which is the autoimmune response.
At the end, we’re given a lot of symptoms. You don’t have to highlight each one of them. But you can just highlight the word symptoms, so that when you need to come back to those, you know where to find them.
[05:24] Paragraph 2
One study followed a group of 200 patients with relapsing-remitting MS for two years to examine the progression of symptoms and psychosocial outcomes over time. Baseline measurements indicated that patients experienced a wide range of problems, which are outlined in Table 1.
Table 1 Percentage of patients with symptom endorsement at baseline
We’re talking about relapsing-remitting MS and probably highlight “over time.” It looks like we’re going to be following these people over time. Then table one is the percentage of patients with symptom endorsement at baseline. And then we have a huge list of symptoms. Don’t spend too much time on this. It just looks like a list and a bunch of percentages.
[07:03] Paragraph 3
Every six months, patients answered questions about current symptoms, self-efficacy, external LOC, depression, general stress, psychological distress, social support, and coping strategies. Results indicated that there was a shift in self-efficacy, locus of control, and negative affect as the disorder progressed over time. At the end of the study, 85.6% of patients exhibited an external locus of control and reported significant increases in anxiety, stress, and depression, as well as decreases in self-efficacy and consistently high symptom-severity ratings. Those who maintained an internal locus of control experienced lower levels of symptom severity, depression, anxiety, and stress, and reported higher levels of perceived social support, positive coping, self-care, and general knowledge about MS.
Take notice of some of these broad relationships, specifically that it looks like 85% of patients are now having this external locus of control, and then these increases in anxiety, stress and depression. Additionally, we have decreases in self-efficacy and consistently high symptom-severity ratings. We’re highlighting some things as well in the last sentence above which could be useful.
[10:23] Question 10
Which of the following statistics would give us information about new cases of multiple sclerosis in a community over the past year?
- Risk ratio
Incidence tells you what is going on that’s new and prevalence is about what’s out there. WHile risk ratio and mortality both just don’t make sense.
Correct Answer: A
[11:23] Question 11
Which of the following characteristics of multiple sclerosis could contribute to the development of an external locus of control?
- The etiology of multiple sclerosis is unclear, and there is no way to prevent the disease’s development.
- Patients with multiple sclerosis often feel victimized by the disease as it is an extremely disruptive force in their lives.
III. The progression of multiple sclerosis is incredibly variable and unpredictable.
- I and II only
- II and III only
- I, II, and III
All of those would be true for MS based. External locus of control means you don’t have control over your life or what’s going on. There’s some external power force. It’s unclear why it happens. There’s no way to prevent it. We have some good medications now, but it’s still a progressive disease. Patients do feel victimized because it’s a disruptive force in your life. When you’re going through MS flares, it’s incredibly disruptive. And then the progression of MS is variable and unpredictable.
Personally, I almost thought I had MS at some point and Paul’s grandmother had primary progressive MS. He also worked very closely with someone who received a diagnosis of MS when he was working at a gym.
As what Paul has mentioned. You can use your personal experience to get your way through anything relevant but definitely don’t bring it into CARS.
Correct Answer: D
[13:56] Question 12
What type of study is described in the passage?
- Longitudinal cohort design
- Randomized controlled trial
- Cross-sectional design
- Case control design
The right answer right off the bat is longitudinal because you’re going over two years looking at those outcomes over time.
C – Cross-sectional is when you’re like cutting the cake in half and looking right in the middle of it. And so that’s going to be one point in time where you take a glance at what’s going on. The key for the MCAT is looking if there’s only one point in time where they’re just looking at a bunch of stuff.
D – Case control design is when you’re looking people or individuals with the disease and then comparing them to other individuals that don’t have the disease. In this scenario, we were only looking at people that had that diagnosis of MS, specifically, one type, which is relapsing-remitting MS.. We weren’t looking at any individuals that didn’t have a diagnosis of MS in the study.
Correct Answer: A
[15:55] Question 13
Which of the following statements is supported by the results of the study?
- There could be a negative correlation between symptom severity and negative affect.
- There could be a positive correlation between depression and external locus of control.
- There could be a positive correlation between internal locus of control and stress.
- There could be a negative correlation between perceived social support and knowledge about MS.
We know that external locus of control is when you don’t have control. Therefore, you’re more stressed, more depressed, and more anxious. Your symptoms are worse in terms of your ratings.
There’s a positive correlation between depression and external locus of control because depression is worse. Stress is reduced when you have an internal locus of control. Positive correlation is when one variable increases the other one.
Positive correlation is when one variable increases, the other one also tends to increase. It may not be causation so you don’t want to get into that causation trap.'Don't put value judgments where positive is good and negative is bad. There's a bunch of positives and negatives that you see across psych/soc.'Click To Tweet
It’s very tempting to think of positive as good, negative as bad. But they can have answer choices that hinge on you thinking that way that could tempt you into that but it’ll be incorrect.
Correct Answer: B