Undergrad: Applying What You’ve Learned

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MP 331: Undergrad: Applying What You've Learned

Session 331

Today, let’s explore the importance of utilizing skills and knowledge gained during undergraduate studies for MCAT preparation. Well, it’s an often overlooked fact that undergraduate classes serve as valuable MCAT preparation.

We’re joined by George 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.

The Value of Building Strong Foundations

The Importance of Undergraduate Classes for MCAT Prep

As a mentor and former premed student, George noticed that the topics covered in undergraduate classes often align with those tested in the MCAT. These foundational sciences serve as building blocks for understanding more advanced medical concepts. It is crucial for early preppers to prioritize these classes and establish a strong academic foundation.

The transition from high school to university can be challenging, but it’s vital to adapt and excel in these classes. It helps to discover your preferred learning methods, such as using flashcards or writing things out, as this significantly impacts your understanding of the material. Putting in the effort during your undergraduate years will pay off when you encounter the same concepts during MCAT preparation.

“You would need the basic sciences to understand some more advanced medical concepts and build from there.”

The Long-Term Benefits of a Solid Foundation

Even if you haven’t reviewed certain material for a year or two, a strong foundation can help retain important information. Concepts that were deeply ingrained during your undergraduate studies may resurface during MCAT prep, providing a valuable advantage.

By prioritizing your academic journey and establishing a robust knowledge base, you set yourself up for success in both your medical education and future career.

Remember, investing time and effort in your undergraduate classes is an investment in your future as a medical professional. Embrace the opportunity to lay a solid groundwork, and you’ll reap the rewards during your MCAT preparation and beyond.

Mastering Test-Taking Skills: Insights from George

Test-taking is not only about knowledge but also about the ability to navigate complex questions and make strategic decisions. Developing these skills early on is crucial for success in both undergraduate exams and future tests like the MCAT.

The Value of Delegation and Critical Thinking

One essential test-taking skill is knowing when to delegate and move on to the next question. George recalls a situation during his biochemistry final where he encountered a multi-part question.

Realizing that his answer from Part A didn’t align conceptually with subsequent parts, he made the decision to skip it and focus on other questions. This demonstrated his ability to critically assess the situation and allocate time wisely.

Experiences like George’s biochemistry final remind us of the importance of adaptability. By learning from past situations, we develop the ability to recognize patterns and make better decisions in future exams. These skills not only help us navigate complex questions. But they also enable us to adjust our strategies based on unexpected circumstances, such as professors changing the value or relevance of certain questions.

Applying Test-Taking Skills to the MCAT

The test-taking skills honed during undergraduate exams are highly applicable to the MCAT. From multiple-choice strategies to delegation and critical thinking, the ability to make efficient and effective decisions becomes even more vital.

By developing these thinking skills early on, students gain an advantage that will benefit them throughout their academic journey and beyond.

“Having that ability to develop these thinking skills early on and even test-taking skills are definitely useful even later when you apply it to the MCAT.”

Maximizing Overlap: Integrating Classroom Learning with MCAT Preparation

In the pursuit of academic success, it is crucial to prioritize excelling in undergraduate classes. A strong GPA holds significant weight when it comes to pre-interview scores and ranking, often rivaling or even surpassing the importance of the MCAT itself. Therefore, dedicating effort to perform well in these classes is paramount.

For students contemplating taking the MCAT during their second or third year of undergraduate studies, exploring potential overlaps between class material and MCAT content can prove highly beneficial. By recognizing areas of similarity, students can leverage their coursework as an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of MCAT-related concepts. 

Supplement traditional learning with additional practice questions and MCAT-style problems to help sharpen the logical thinking required for the exam.

Contextualizing Learning for the MCAT

The usefulness of integrating additional MCAT-focused practice questions into coursework varies depending on individual circumstances. Those undecided about pursuing medical school may debate whether investing time in supplementary MCAT materials aligns with their current goals. However, establishing a solid foundation and familiarity with key concepts from the beginning proves advantageous. 

Recognize recurring themes such as functional groups, key steps, and main principles to develop a valuable framework that aligns with both classroom teachings and MCAT expectations.

Leveraging Forward-Thinking Skills

For students with the luxury of time and flexibility, doubling down on MCAT-relevant concepts while studying for class can be a forward-thinking approach. Engaging in targeted test-like practice and envisioning potential MCAT scenarios can enhance preparedness.

However, it is important not to overwhelm oneself or sacrifice focus on immediate coursework demands. You have to balance your priorities to ensure a well-rounded education without compromising performance.

Building a Solid Foundation for Efficient Learning

Regardless of one’s situation, building a strong foundation during initial learning stages has long-term benefits. A comprehensive understanding of core principles enables faster recognition and connection of key concepts during MCAT preparation. 

“If you don’t have the time flexibility, don’t try to overwhelm yourself by thinking too far ahead.”

Becoming adept at identifying essential information and focusing on start-to-finish processes rather than complex mechanisms ensures a streamlined approach tailored to the MCAT, which emphasizes critical thinking through multiple-choice questions.

The Power of Reading: Insights from George

As a child, reading was a beloved pastime for George. The ability to immerse himself in books and lose track of time was like watching a movie unfold in his mind. However, when it came to certain sections, such as the CARS section or science passages, there was an inherent struggle. Overcoming this hurdle required challenging self-limiting beliefs and rediscovering the joy of reading.

Often, we underestimate our own reading abilities when faced with challenging material. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that difficult passages are insurmountable or that we lack the necessary skills. However, it’s important to remember that we have been reading all our lives.

From elementary school to high school and beyond, we have accumulated a wealth of reading experience. Recognizing this fact can help dispel self-doubt and build confidence.

Harnessing the Benefits of Reading for Fun

In George’s own MCAT preparation, he found that reading for enjoyment played a crucial role in improving his reading comprehension. When faced with passages that were difficult to focus on, he started reading random books and articles purely for pleasure. This simple act helped him realize that his brain could process information much faster than he had previously believed. It shattered the self-fulfilling prophecy of poor reading skills and opened up new possibilities.

“One of the biggest skills you can build…  to improve your reading comprehension is just to read and once you find the enjoyment in that, you’ll transition a lot easier to the CARS section and pulling out information from the sciences as well.”

Cultivating Critical Thinking Through Reading

Regardless of whether you are concerned about specific MCAT content or the nitty-gritty details of exam preparation, George emphasizes the importance of reading for fun.

Building the skill of critical thinking and improving reading comprehension go hand in hand. By finding enjoyment in reading, transitioning to the challenging sections of the MCAT, such as the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section, becomes much easier. The ability to extract relevant information from scientific passages also becomes more natural.

Embracing Alternative Reading Methods

Many individuals have their preferred ways of consuming books, whether through audiobooks or podcasts. The experience of reading a physical book, however, can sometimes be challenging. For one person, this struggle led them to explore alternative methods of reading and discover a Chrome extension called SwiftRead.

SwiftRead, initially mentioned in a conversation, piqued their interest due to its compatibility with Kindle books. Using the Kindle Cloud Reader, they could access their books through a website. By activating the Swift Read extension, they unlocked a unique reading experience.

The extension displayed one word at a time, visually stimulating their reading process. Furthermore, it offered voice activation, enabling a computer text-to-speech conversion that catered to their preferred auditory learning style.

This combination of visual and oral processing proved to be a perfect fit for their reading needs. Unlike sitting with a physical book and struggling to scan lines quickly, they found that SwiftRead allowed them to consume the text at a faster pace—around four to five hundred words per minute.

The method allowed for greater focus and comprehension, preventing the frustration of scanning without truly absorbing the information. It was an ideal solution that merged their preferred learning style with the visual stimulation necessary for effective reading.

For those who struggle with traditional reading methods, alternative approaches like audio-visual aids or text-to-speech technologies can open up new possibilities. The key is to find a method that aligns with individual learning preferences and enhances the reading experience. Whether it’s through the use of extensions, audiobooks, or other innovative tools, exploring different avenues can help overcome barriers and rediscover the joy of reading.

Balancing Efficiency and Mindful Reading: Insights from George

George is a person who values efficiency in his learning process. He watches videos at double speed and utilizes Chrome extensions to navigate through materials swiftly. This approach proves highly effective for absorbing new information and optimizing productivity. However, when it comes to the MCAT, he recognizes the need for a balanced perspective.

The Challenge of Dry Passages

The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT often presents George with dry, uninteresting passages. With hundreds of words describing mundane topics, it can feel like watching paint dry on a wall. In these moments, George understands the importance of reestablishing a baseline focus. While efficient movement through material is crucial, there is also value in cultivating the ability to stay engaged even during monotonous content.

Reestablishing Baseline Focus

In a world saturated with social media and rapid consumption, George emphasizes the significance of devoting dedicated time to developing focus skills. Taking just 10 to 20 minutes, even if it means reading something unexciting, can help reestablish the ability to concentrate for extended periods. It’s not solely about processing the material but rather resetting the brain’s threshold for boredom.

“To reestablish that baseline is also something that takes time, but it will be really helpful.”

Being Okay with Boredom

Anxiety and boredom are common challenges faced by students during the MCAT’s CARS section. Yet, George suggests that part of overcoming these struggles lies in learning to be comfortable with being bored. In an era of constant stimulation, where attention spans are continuously tested, reclaiming the ability to embrace stillness and simplicity becomes paramount.

By dedicating short bursts of time to reading plain text and exercising this skill, individuals can lower their boredom threshold and find renewed engagement.

Striking a Balance

While efficiency is vital in navigating the vast amount of MCAT material, George emphasizes the significance of finding a balance. There is a time for swift processing and a time for deliberate reset. Both approaches hold value in the learning journey. By recognizing the need to reestablish baseline focus and learning to tolerate boredom, individuals can enhance their reading comprehension and alleviate anxiety during challenging sections.

In an age of constant distractions and overstimulation, the ability to navigate between efficiency and mindful reading is a valuable skill. Embracing both aspects allows for a more holistic approach to MCAT preparation and fosters the development of focus and engagement.


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Blueprint MCAT