What The MCAT Is REALLY Testing You On!

June 25, 2024

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Pop Quiz! What does the MCAT test you on?

You might be quick to answer something like 'biology', 'chemistry', 'critical thinking skills'...

But what if we said that isn't the right answer?

It took some time for your MCAT Mastery mentor, Sydney, a 518 scorer and current medical school student, to realize what the MCAT is really testing you on...

And how knowing this can make the difference between you becoming a top scorer and not reaching your goal score.

That's why we're excited to share this Sydney's video here! We'll pass it on to her from here!

Today I want to talk to you about why the MCAT is more than just a test of knowledge.

I want to start with some advice I've learned over my past two years of medical school. Being a doctor requires a lot, much more than just memorizing information for a test.

For example, you must have confidence in your decision-making skills and gain confidence in your medical judgment. And ultimately, it takes an incredible amount of critical thinking and critical reasoning skills.

This is what the MCAT is ultimately testing!

You can memorize every physics equation there is, and you can know the structure of every single amino acid forwards and backward. But, if you can't take the knowledge you have and apply it to new unfamiliar situations, then the MCAT becomes really difficult.

It's the same thing in medical school. You're going to learn a lot of information. You're going to learn many things that you must simply memorize. But the real skill in medicine is your capacity to apply the knowledge in novel contexts rather than just recall it.

The MCAT is Trying To Trick you!

One of the big realizations I had when studying for the MCAT was that the MCAT writers are trying to trick you.

They write questions with distracting answer choices or very long complicated graphs or charts. These elements to a question can be overwhelming as you assume you must fully understand and digest every part of what you’re reading.

When in reality, that's not a sustainable test-taking strategy! 

You're going to run out of time, and you're probably going to get stressed out trying to understand each of these complicated elements, spending all of your time and energy on something that you may not even need to answer the question.

So let me give you a tangible example of how I took this knowledge and applied it to my MCAT test taking strategy.

So, a personal struggle of mine when studying for the MCAT was the Chem/Phys section. I struggled a lot through chemistry and physics in college, the information did not come naturally to me. I felt like I struggled to really grasp the concepts and was really worried about how that would translate on the MCAT.

But time and time again, I applied these strategies that I'm going to talk about and saw my score increase over time. I was able to tackle that section with confidence and ultimately see great results.

How My Weakest Section Became One Of My Highest Scores

I ended up scoring my second highest overall passage score on the Chem/Phys section. So one of the big strategies that I learned for this Chem/Phys section was related to the graphs and the charts. 

Don't always sit and read and interpret every single piece of information that the passage throws at you.

Now, that seems scary to say, right? Because if they're taking the time to add this graph, add all this information, you want to interpret it and understand best you can.

However, as I was going through and reviewing Chem/Phys questions that I had missed, I realized that half of the time I wasn't really using that information from a graph or a chart that I spent way too long analyzing to answer those passage questions.

Now, disclaimer here, I don't recommend skipping or ignoring graphs and charts on the MCAT.

I think there's just a strategic way that you can approach these graphs and charts so that you still get enough information to know if you need it without spending excess time trying to decipher information that's not even going to help you answer your question.

So what did I do with these graphs and charts and the excess information in them?

So whenever I approached a graph or a chart in a question, I would always read the title, read the X axis, the Y axis, any caption that's included to just get a baseline idea of what is this graph talking about and what exactly are they trying to convey with this information.

What I didn't do was sit there and try to interpret relationships, correlations, or anything like that because I was spending way too much time doing that before.

So when I would get into my questions and read the question stems, oftentimes the questions that require the information that's included in those figures, it'll point you back to in figure two or in table one for instance. And in that case, I knew I needed to go back and spend a little extra time fully interpreting what they had to say in that figure. 

Let The Questions Guide You

So, this leads me to point number two, and that is, let the question guide you to the answer in the passage. That may look like for some people reading the questions first before diving into the passage, or reading the passage first pass and then highlighting things in your question stems that may point you back to places that you highlighted in your passage.

Now, this is a technique that will come with time and practice. The more practice questions you do, the more confident you'll feel in knowing which words are pointing you to which place in the passage, and it will become second nature and a lot more of a natural way for you to approach a question.

One caveat I do want to include is that this doesn't work for those shorter questions that don't include the whole passage. And those are really a test of knowledge. So, use those short questions to say, here you go, MCAT writers. I have the knowledge, I know what I'm doing, and I have that equation memorized. And in the passage questions, that is your chance to shine and show your critical thinking skills and your ability to get rid of the distracting information and use everything you have within your own knowledge bank to answer that question to the best of your ability.

Show Those MCAT Writers How Smart You Are

So if you're watching this video right now, I have confidence in you that you are taking all of the right steps to work towards increasing your MCAT score and better understanding the strategies needed to achieve a competitive score on the MCAT.

If you're a little bit lost on where to begin with that strategy, I would encourage you to maybe look into using MCAT Mastery. There is a free MCAT strategy course, which you can sign up for here.

You know the information you've put in the work, and now you know you're supposed to be looking out for the tricks the MCAT writers have hidden all throughout the test. So it's your turn to uncover those tricks, beat the writers at their own game, and show the MCAT writers just how smart you truly are.

The Fastest Way To Improving Your Score

We know the MCAT is a confusing and frustrating test...

There'll be a lot of ups and downs during the process - we've been through it - but one thing for sure is that when you have the right approach and outlook going into prep...

Reaching your goal score becomes miles easier.

This is our main focus when tutoring students one-on-one every day. It's the fastest way to get scores improving. It's why we have all the awesome success stories and reviews 😉

No one approach to the MCAT is perfect, so keep trying, and we know you'll make it to the finish line soon enough.

You got this!

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

Your MCAT Success Mentors

About the Author

We're a team of future doctors passionate about giving back and mentoring other future doctors! All mentors on the team are top MCAT scorers and we all are committed to seeing you succeed in achieving your physician dreams ???? To help you achieve your goal MCAT score, we take turns hosting these Live MCAT Courses and are also available for 1:1 private tutoring!

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