Why Focusing On the Big Picture Can Help You Crush the MCAT

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MP 232: MP 232: Why Focusing On the Big Picture Can Help You Crush the Mcat

Session 232

This week, we’re joined by Dorothy from Blueprint MCAT and she’s going to be with us for the next several weeks. Dorothy shares the most common mistakes students make when it comes to the MCAT. Learn some tips and strategies to get the score that you want and discover what the perfect full-length review looks like.

If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to sign up for a FREE account over at Blueprint MCAT. Get access to the half-length diagnostic, full-length 1, their study planner tool, and so much more! 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.

[01:31] The Biggest Mistake Students Make with the MCAT

Dorothy explains there’s a lot more that goes into the MCAT than just learning all the content. There has to be a lot of strategy as well as critical thinking. And you can do really well even if  there’s a few loose ends here and there with content. And knowing this helps lower the stress levels a little bit.

Dorothy also recommends looking at the patterns and strategy that you can spot within the MCAT to see how far you can get even with broad concepts.

The Big Picture

She adds that you need to think about the bigger picture. For example, the MCAT requires us to know all of our amino acids, all the side chains, and their properties as well. The reason that we care about that is because we’re wanting to learn about protein function and behavior. We need to understand why proteins act the way they do and why side chains will interact with each other in certain ways. And in order to understand that overall picture of protein function and behavior, we have to understand side chains.

Looking for Strategy and Patterns

All that being said, the biggest struggle for students is knowing when they have enough content. And it all comes down to practicing problems and doing full-length exams to understand how MCAT will take those concepts and transplant them into a test-life format.

This goes back to strategy, looking for patterns and wrong answers in the MCAT, and being familiar with the way the MCAT is formatted. Figure out what kinds of things they like to test you on, the ways they ask questions, and the top answer types that they set out for you as well.

[05:49] Making Use of Content Review Materials

Just to clarify, the way the textbooks are set up just like Blueprint MCAT textbooks for the MCAT is that they go directly to the source.

AAMC publishes a document that states all of the information you’re going to need to know for the MCAT. And then Blueprint creates a textbook based on this outline that the AAMC has laid out. And so theoretically, there shouldn’t be any questions outside of what’s in the textbooks.

One of the benefits of the Blueprint’s live online course is learning how to translate content – whether in your courses or in the individual MCAT prep books – to the MCAT. They’re going to teach you how to use that content knowledge to answer questions correctly. It’s very practice-oriented.

“The most important aspect of being able to increase your score is understanding how that content can actually be tested in a format that you might see on test day.”Click To Tweet

[07:46] Learning From Dorothy’s Success

When Dorothy was doing her MCAT prep, she was testing in a six-week time period. She did a lot of self study because she hadn’t taken psych/soc at all. But beyond that, it was mostly just practice every single day. And through that, she learned a lot of her content as well. 

She did an accelerated version of the course, modules and books. She was reading through topics she knew she wasn’t as comfortable with, and then directly went into practice. It then made her realize where her weaknesses were based on her scores then she needed more time on those.

Another mistake among students is doing the practice and then immediately jumping to another practice test. They think that if they’re able to get through 10 practice tests in a week, then they’re ready to take the MCAT.

“It's the review of the test and reviewing the content you struggled with where the biggest gains are made.”Click To Tweet

[09:36] What the Perfect Full-Length Review Looks Like

Dorothy recommends taking two days after your full-length to go and review. Split up Chem, Phys, and CARS on the first day. Get on CARS on the first day after your full-length while it’s still very fresh. It doesn’t require any content knowledge outside of the passages that you’re reading. And so, it’s important to be able to remember your thought process while you are taking the exam.

Understand why you got the right answers right, not only those that you got wrong. What was your reasoning that you got it right? Could you have looked at other wrong answer patterns and recognized those as well?

“Go through every question, regardless of whether you got them right or wrong... analyze the critical thinking there, as well as the little content details that you might have missed.”Click To Tweet

[12:41] The Benefits of Reviewing Your Right Answers

Dorothy explains sometimes you have lucky guesses. Sometimes you will choose an answer not really knowing if it’s the correct answer. And if you don’t look at that, if you don’t review that afterwards, you won’t understand if that was the correct reasoning. Maybe you’ll have a similar question in the future, and maybe you’re not going to be so lucky.

Therefore, examine if you reasoned through it correctly. If not, what could you have done or thought differently in order to get to that right answer. Hence, it’s equally as valuable as looking at a question you got wrong.

[13:11] 5 Common Types of Wrong Answers

Now, don’t just analyze why you got the right answer, but also, look at all the wrong answer choices. Figure out why they were the wrong ones. Once you figure out the strategy the test makers used in using the wrong answer choices, you can then implement this to future questions.

According to Dorothy, the 5 most common types of wrong answers are: too broad, too extreme, too narrow, incorrect small detail, and irrelevant.

And being able to spot them even for questions you got right, can make it easier when you have similar questions down the road and you’re not quite as confident.

[14:34] How to Prepare for the MCAT

Studying the MCAT is a grind. It takes effort. It’s mentally exhausting and draining. And while you should be cognizant that you should be prepared to put in some work, also take time to not let yourself get burnt out because it is a marathon.

It is a long term commitment to studying for something and practicing for something and so on. It’s not just an easy walk in the woods, but it’s something that is long term so you might as well take care of yourself.

'Be aware of your mental health. Be aware of the things that you need to do for yourself in order to not burn out.'Click To Tweet

[17:04] Specific CARS Tips

CARS is probably the scariest subsection for most students. And so, Dorothy recommends doing efficient highlighting because it goes a long way.

It’s really easy to get lost in the density of these CARS passages. But try to take questions and ask yourself questions as you’re reading. Figure out the author’s main idea and the author’s overall vibe and their opinion on the topic being discussed.

This task-oriented way of reading helps you stay engaged in the sense that you have a task to do. You are going to look for the key takeaways in each paragraph.

“Every paragraph in CARS does bring in an important new element so be able to extract that out and look for author opinions and ideas.”Click To Tweet


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