We continue the discussion as we dive into Passage 3 of the Psych/Soc section of Blueprint MCAT’s half-length diagnostic.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:40] Ali’s MCAT Test Taking Tips in Between Passages
Ali recommends taking a short break between passages or every couple of passages to recenter, refocus, and forget the sections you have done. Remember that you have the foundations of a good score.“Take a short break between passages or every couple of passages to recenter, refocus, and forget the sections you have done.”Click To Tweet
Slow yourself down. And sometimes, that’s the key to even finishing on time. You don’t want to move too fast and have to do things more than once. Follow the process, trust the process, and keep working the same way on every question.
The passage today is an experimental or research style passage. And so, the focus here has shifted from trying to attack it in a way where you look at the content into analyzing the experiment.
Try to look at the background information, the purpose of the experiment or the hypothesis being tested, the method used (independent vs. dependent variable), and the results. Is the hypothesis they started with correct or incorrect? And then we go into the questions. And so, there is some work that we need to do while reading the passage. But the good thing is we have a script and we know what we’re looking for.
[04:09] Passage 3 (Questions 14 – 18)
Stroke survivors often suffer through a period of altered mental status lasting weeks after the event. These changes can manifest as emotional difficulties, personality changes or mental acuity impairments. Frontal lobe strokes can cause poor short term memory, reduced attention span and depression. Strokes in the occipital lobe may result in Bálint’s syndrome: inability to perceive the whole visual field, difficulty in fixating the eyes, and inability to move the hand to a specific target by using vision. Deficits often improve within a few weeks but memory loss can be permanent. Memories closer to the event are the least likely to return.
We can look at this as a list of symptoms or issues that can come up for stroke survivors. Ali suggests not to put too much emphasis on any of these symptoms, because each one of them could be tested. But there’s a chance the majority of them will not be tested.
[06:09] Paragraph 2
A neuroscientist hypothesizes that magnetic stimulation of the frontal lobe may reduce memory loss. The study recruited four stroke survivors and tested their ability to recall life events that occurred years prior and new memories formed after the incident. Subjects 1 and 2 had damage primarily in the frontal lobe while subjects 3 and 4 had occipital-frontal lobe damage. A partial summary of the results are shown in Figure 1.
The first sentence is the hypothesis and the part you want to pay attention to. The next step is to look for the method. Look at the sample they got, how many, and which are the independent and the dependent variables. Here, they have are measuring two dependent variables: life events in the past and new memories.
Based on the hypothesis, we can infer what our independent variable will be, which is magnetic stimulation.
Dependent variable, being what are we measuring, and independent variable, being what are we adjusting or changing or the intervention. They gave them magnetic stimulation (independent), and they measure the same dependent variable before and after this magnetic stimulation.
[08:49] Figure 1
Figure 1 Subject post-stroke event recall test scores before and after treatment
Ali’s philosophy is he will try to weave it into a story in 30 seconds. If he can do this in 30 seconds, great. Then he’s ready to answer the questions. If not, he will move on because there’s a chance he is not going to get any questions about the figure. 30 seconds is Ali’s sweet spot because he’s investing some time but not too much time.
Looking at the figure, read the caption first. Figure 1 is “Subject post-stroke event recall test scores before and after treatment.” Then try to connect the figure into the texts. We know there are two dependent variables they were interested in – old memories and new memories. But this one is only about new memories.
Then look at the x-axis, which says Pre-Stimulation vs. Post-Stimulation. And the colors and the shapes tell us the independent variables. The x-axis also shows the patients (1, 2, 3, 4). On the other hand, the y-axis is the memory score.
Looking at the figure, three patients did better and one patient did worse. Now, if you got this in 30 seconds, awesome. If not, stop and move on.
[11:31] Paragraph 3
All subjects were given 30 minutes of stimulation, three times per day for two weeks. Tests of memory were performed before and after stimulation treatment. No change in recall of early life events or in skills learned early in life was observed.
Now, we’re getting the details of how they did the stimulation. Then looking at the last sentence, it says, no change in recall of early life events or in skills learned early in life was observed. And that’s our second dependent variable. That’s what they wanted to measure. They didn’t give us a graph for it. And this is one of the tricky things specifically in the Psych/Soc section. A lot of times, they give you the results in the form of text, not in the form of a figure.“This is one of the tricky things specifically in the Psych/Soc section, a lot of times, they give you the results in the form of text, not in the form of a figure.”Click To Tweet
We have two pieces of results, one in text and one in figures. The two of them got better on the new memories. None of them got better on old memories.
[12:42] Question 14
Which conclusion is supported by the results of the study?
A.All subjects showed a post-stimulation improvement in at least one memory type.
B.Subject 2 showed a post-stimulation improvement in both memory types.
C.No subject showed a post-stimulation improvement in both memory types.
D.Subject 4 showed a post-stimulation improvement in at least one memory type.
A – This is not true because nobody improved in the early life events, and then for new memories, one person did not improve.
B – This is out too because we know because nobody improved in one of the memory types.
C – This is correct since none of the subjects showed improvement in both types. It only showed in one type.
D – We know that Subject 4 did not improve in the old memory test and the new memory test as well. So this is out the window.
Correct Answer: C
[14:42] Question 15
According to the results, subject 2 showed the largest improvement in which memory type?
We know that Subject 2 improved their new memories, and we don’t see things in old memories. In relation to the stroke, new memories mean post-stroke and old memories are pre-stroke.
B and D are memory types and we can eliminate them since we’re not looking for memory types. Procedural memory will be a type of implicit memory. It’s not explicit. It’s not something you know, but it’s implicit. Working memory is another example of implicit memory.
And son, we’re looking at the memories or memories in relation to an event and how it relates to an event, and our only options are A and C. A is retrograde and retro means past. Hence, C is the correct answer.
Correct Answer: C
[17:40] Question 16
Subject 2 complained of difficulty “getting [his] sentences out.” The brain area likely to cause these symptoms is the:
B.primary motor cortex.
We know that Broca’s is involved in speech. And we don’t have to worry about it since Wernicke is not among the answer choices. But Broca’s area is making speech whereas Wernicke is understanding speech.
Correct Answer: C
[19:09] Question 17
Which of the following symptoms is expected in a patient with Bálint’s syndrome?
A.Lack of sympathetic response
B.Lack of parasympathetic response
C.Difficulty perceiving color
D.Difficulty using a fork
Going back to Passage 1, they listed the symptoms of Bálint’s syndrome: inability to perceive the whole visual field, difficulty in fixating the eyes, and inability to move the hand to a specific target by using vision.
C – we can eliminate this since the passage says it only affects the whole visual field and there’s mention of that
Looking at the symptoms, we can then see that D is the correct answer here as it relates to the third symptom mentioned.
Correct Answer: D
[21:32] Question 18
Traumatic brain injuries can leave patients with reduced ability to care for themselves, reducing their self-efficacy. This can subsequently lead to feelings of worthlessness if they come to perceive themselves as a burden, especially for those patients that had taken pride in their ability to provide for others. These changes represent a decrease in:
Self-esteem is your sense of self worth. And so, self-esteem is the most direct answer to this question. They have reduced self worth, and therefore, reduced self esteem.
The tricky part is that C and D are both partially true because self-esteem is part of like the way we view ourselves. Our self-esteem is part of our self-identity. But self-identity and self-concept are the same thing. And so, we eliminate C and D.
Correct Answer: A