How can you overcome the MCAT’s experimental passages without them tripping you up?
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:57] Navigating Through Experimental Passages
George emphasizes the importance of being prepared for unfamiliar and potentially challenging scenarios. He draws a parallel to the field of medicine, where healthcare professionals encounter cases that don’t align with textbook knowledge.
Complex cases often involve multiple comorbidities layered on each other, requiring a systematic approach to identify what’s truly happening. Whether it’s an intentional or experimental passage on the MCAT, George advises looking for familiar elements and employing a consistent approach.
Have a step-by-step algorithm to help maintain composure and you will succeed in both low-stress and high-stress situations. Reflect on past experiences and understand why certain passages may have caused difficulties. This way, you can refine your test-taking skills and overcome challenges with confidence.“Having an approach every time, no matter if it's an easy passage, a difficult passage, or an experimental passage, is what's going to get you through on test day.”Click To Tweet
Moreover, you won’t actually know which are the experimental passages on the MCAT. Some may be easier, the others are easier. So you never really know which is which. Therefore, don’t try to assume or figure out which are the experimental passages.
[05:37] Key Strategies for Success in Challenging Passages
Approaching Each Passage with Consistency and Confidence
George emphasizes the importance of adopting a consistent approach to tackle every passage on the MCAT, regardless of its perceived difficulty.
Instead of getting caught up in categorizing passages as easy or hard, experimental or not, he advises focusing on key takeaways, keywords, and structural elements.
By following a predetermined pattern – background, intro, methods, hypothesis, results – test-takers can enhance their comprehension and make informed decisions when answering questions.'The MCAT is designed to stress you out a little bit and it ultimately tests your thinking ability, not just your science and content knowledge.'Click To Tweet
Overcoming Stress and Making Sound Decisions Under Pressure
The MCAT is designed to induce a certain level of stress, challenging test-takers thinking abilities and decision-making skills.
George highlights the significance of staying composed and avoiding unnecessary self-inflicted pressure. He cautions against skipping passages based on assumptions about their experimental nature, as even seemingly difficult passages may still contribute to test scores. Maintain a calm and mindful mindset throughout the exam so you can showcase your thinking skills and achieve success.
[07:04] Thriving Under Pressure: Essential Skills for Success on the MCAT and Beyond
Staying Calm and Collected in Stressful Situations
George highlights the invaluable skill of maintaining composure under pressure, emphasizing its significance not only in medicine but also in life.
Recognizing that the MCAT goes beyond content retention. George reassures test-takers that they will encounter unfamiliar concepts and topics on exam day. While it may be impossible to memorize every detail, George advises approaching these new elements with a similar thought process as familiar questions.“The MCAT really isn't about just content retention in the sense that, even for exams that are scored, you will see things on test day that you have not seen before.”Click To Tweet
Understand relationships, identify activations or inhibitions, and recognize functional classifications to help you navigate through the unknowns effectively.
Embracing the Art of Decision-Making and Triage
The MCAT often presents questions where the answer may not be immediately clear. In such instances, George suggests employing a strategic approach of triaging. Instead of dwelling on challenging items, valuable time can be saved by making a conscious decision to move on and focus on easier questions that offer more certain points.
This decision-making skill parallels the real-world scenarios in medicine where tough choices must be made to prioritize patient care. By mastering the art of triage, test-takers can maximize their score potential and demonstrate their ability to make sound judgments.
[10:19] Navigating Uncertainty: Effective Strategies for Test-Taking Dilemmas
Trusting Your Intuition and Making Quick Decisions
George shares a personal anecdote from his undergraduate biochemistry exam, highlighting the importance of trusting one’s instincts when faced with a challenging question.
He recalls an instance where he encountered a calculation that yielded an unexpected negative value. He made a swift decision to skip the question and proceed with the rest of the exam. This experience taught him the significance of listening to his gut and recognizing when to prioritize other questions.
Sometimes, it is necessary to temporarily set aside difficult problems and revisit them later, ensuring valuable time is not wasted on a single question.
Embracing the Unpredictability and Maintaining Flexibility
George acknowledges the frustration that arises when encountering unexpected difficulties during exams. Whether it’s a flawed question or a passage that seems insurmountable, he advises test-takers to approach each section with an open mind and equal determination.'The sad reality is: It is what it is. It's what kind of decision do you make from it?'Click To Tweet
Relying on past experiences, George reminds students that the perceived difficulty of passages may vary, urging them not to blindly skip the first passage assuming it is the most challenging.
Instead, he encourages a consistent mindset of doing one’s best on every question. Strategically flag items that require extra attention, and balancing time allocation to maximize overall score potential.
[12:18] Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, for these experimental passages, the core message is they exist. And you don’t know which ones they are. So don’t try to gamify your test day. Don’t try to figure out which one is experimental and which one isn’t – or which ones are not going to be scored as part of your exam – because you’re never going to know.
Experimental passages are there, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So just treat it like any regular passage because you don’t have any other choice really.