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We cover what best approaches will make you ace the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT. We’re joined by Nicole from Blueprint MCAT. 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.
[02:55] How to Think Like a Psych/Soc Pro
Psych/Soc is a little bit different than some of our other science sections. Of course, CARS is its own beast. Some people find Psych/Soc to be a little bit more approachable than for example, physics. They have this kind of idea that Psych/Soc is an easy section.
Compared to some other MCAT sciences sections, you are going to get more out of memorization in Psych/Soc than you can for some other sections. You don’t need strategy and we’re not going to read critically, think critically, or apply the things we know. However, there are a lot of things that you need to memorize for Psych/Social, there’s a lot of different terms and different theories that you are just going to need to be able to rattle off.'Being able to rattle off some of those Psych/Soc facts… is going to snag you on a number of points on the section so that's why Psych/Soc has this reputation for being easier for some students, not for all students.'Click To Tweet
The Power of Flashcards
Flashcards are a crucial tool for those looking to memorize Psych/Soc terms. In fact, Nicole recommends using flashcards for all of the science sections of the MCAT. But not just any flashcards will do. Spaced repetition software, such as Anki, or the Blueprint flashcard system with built-in spaced repetition, is particularly effective.
Mastery of this content is absolutely essential for success in the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT. There are countless concepts and ideas that must be committed to memory in order to achieve a high score. So, if you are serious about performing well in this section, don’t underestimate the power of flashcards.
Using a Checklist
Preparing for the MCAT can feel overwhelming with the multitude of resources available. Textbooks, like the iconic 100 or 300-page docs in the pre-med world, are popular options. Beyond those, there is a vast number of materials available to choose from.
The key is to figure out what works best for you. When going through any resource, whether it’s a textbook or a module from Blueprint, it’s essential to have a clear purpose in mind. Are you trying to gain foundational knowledge or review specific sections? Knowing your objectives can help you allocate your time and resources effectively.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to mix and match resources to find what suits your learning style. With a plethora of options available, it’s crucial to choose the materials that resonate with you the most. Remember, preparation is the foundation of success, so take the time to assess your needs and choose the resources that will help you thrive on test day.'Whatever resource you are using, you have to use it the right way.'Click To Tweet
[06:54] Passive vs. Active Learning
When it comes to preparing for the MCAT, there are two main approaches to learning: passive and active.
Passive learning involves simply reading or watching material, whereas active learning involves engaging with the material in a way that’s going to be the most effective for actual memory retention.
For example, if you’re studying Psych/Soc concepts, creating flashcards based on the material and then reviewing them with a spaced repetition system like Anki is a highly effective active learning technique.
Another beneficial strategy is making abbreviated study sheets that emphasize big-picture connections between topics. While mastering the content is essential, conceptual understanding is equally critical. Without it, you’ll be at a disadvantage come test day.
Remember that while you’ll need to commit things to memory, you won’t be able to succeed on the MCAT with rote memorization alone. Focus on active learning techniques and developing a thorough conceptual understanding to achieve the best results.
[08:47] Bringing In Outside Knowledge
Integrating Sociology into Your Approach
To excel in the MCAT sciences, simply memorizing content is not enough. It’s important to distinguish between bringing in outside knowledge and bringing in one’s own opinions or preconceptions. This is particularly essential in fields like psychology and sociology. It’s crucial to be mindful of any personal biases that might influence how you perceive and analyze information.
Understanding how to tie knowledge to sociological constructs is key to formulating a comprehensive approach to reasoning through passages. While memorizing flashcard terms and building conceptual understanding is essential, it’s equally important to develop the ability to reason through and analyze passages.
So, don’t overlook the significance of integrating sociology and other social sciences into your study approach. It can make all the difference in your performance on the MCAT.
Integrating Reasoning Skills into Your Approach
Though the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT may seem different from the other science sections, it follows a similar format. To score well in this section, it’s essential to bring in the same reasoning skills and highlighting techniques used in other sections.
Becoming a Psych/Soc pro requires an ironclad understanding of the terms and concepts that must be memorized. However, success in this section also involves applying the skills developed in other sections to correctly answer questions.
In essence, it’s not just about memorization but rather the ability to effectively reason through passages and apply knowledge in a practical way. So, while this section may seem daunting, don’t let that dissuade you from conquering it. With preparation and dedication, you can excel in the Psych/Soc section and every other part of the MCAT.
[11:33] The Importance of PAssage Comprehension
The Psych/Soc section of the MCAT is not solely reliant on memorizing terms. Like every other section, information is presented through passages, graphs, figures, and tables. While there are some pseudo-discrete questions attached to the passage, the passage’s information is not always essential for answering certain questions.
However, many questions still require a thorough understanding of the passage. This is not to suggest that flashcard memorization is unnecessary, but rather that passage comprehension is also crucial for achieving a top score. So, while memorization is a crucial aspect of success, being able to interpret and glean valuable information from passages is equally as important.
[13:00] Other Important Topics on Psych/Soc
The Psych/Soc section of the MCAT includes questions related to experimental design. It’s essential to understand terms like observational study, case-control study, cohort, double-blinded, precision, and accuracy. And that’s because research and experiment structure are fundamental elements of Psych/Soc.
There might not be direct questions about these terms. But having a grasp of study design and experiment structure is crucial to comprehend the information presented in passages.
Understanding why researchers choose specific experiments enables test-takers to answer questions more effectively, elevating their performance in the process. In essence, if a test-taker can think like the researchers, they can outperform the exam. Therefore, grasping experimental design concepts and applying them to a passage’s context is crucial to mastering the Psych/Soc section.'Experimental design is a huge, big picture piece that requires some of that memorization, but it's the understanding behind it that's really going to propel you forwards.'Click To Tweet
[16:07] The MCAT is All Trends
Uncovering the Power of Recognizing Trends and Patterns on the MCAT
An interesting experiment was conducted by one of our Blueprint MCAT instructors with some students. The instructor tried a set of CARS passages with the students but skipped reading the passage entirely and only looked at the questions and answer choices. The result was surprising, with the instructor getting around 75% of the questions right without reading the passage. This may seem unbelievable, but it highlights an essential aspect of the MCAT – trends. The exam often tests trends and patterns rather than focusing on specific details.
Therefore, it’s crucial to identify these trends by understanding the structure of the questions, recognizing common patterns, and using informed assumptions to come up with logical answers. While reading the passage in detail is very important, it’s crucial to understand the question structure and the reasoning behind the answer choices to tackle the MCAT effectively.
Understanding the Mindset of Test-Makers to Outsmart the MCAT
What’s fascinating about standardized tests, like the MCAT, is that there are only so many ways the AAMC can ask questions. They must stay within specific confines, which means that the test is predictable in structure, format, and types of questions. This predictability offers test-takers a unique advantage that they should take advantage of.
By learning how to recognize common traps and bad answer choices, test-takers will be able to overcome the challenges of the exam. The key is to understand the mindset of those who create the test and identify their thought processes. If you can do that, you can develop the ability to answer MCAT questions like a pro.
While this approach takes time and patience to master, it can save you time on test day and vastly improve your chances of achieving an excellent score. Ultimately, the power lies in the ability to anticipate and outsmart the test, and it’s a skill you can develop with focused practice and dedication.'It's all about getting in the minds of the people who are making the test.'Click To Tweet