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How much math do I need to know For MCAT ? (No calculator? No problem! )

A very common question I hear from my MCAT students is that "How much math do I need to know ?" On Test Day,  no calculators allowed.  The following tips will help you all identify what math skills you’ll need.   MCAT Math: The ability to perform arithmetic calculations, including proportion, ratio, percentage, and estimation of square root. An understanding of fundamental topics in the following areas (at the level of second-year high school algebra coursework): exponentials and logarithms (natural and base ten); scientific notation; quadratic and simultaneous equations; graphic representations of data and functions including terminology (abscissa, ordinate), slope or rate of change, reciprocals, and various scales (arithmetic, semi-log, and log-log). The knowledge of the definitions of the basic trigonometric functions (sine, cosine, tangent); sin and cos values of of 0º, 90º, and 180º; the relationships between the lengths... read more

What to Watch out for on Standardized Tests

Hey folks,  I am sure many of you have plans of going to college or finishing up that last hectic year of school.  Well with these endeavors comes not only tests and quizzes created by books and your professors/teachers, but you also have to take nation and statewide test in order to pass and/or qualify for a position in a higher learning institute.  Such tests include the SAT, ACT, MCAT, etc.  What you want to remember about taking these tests is that these tests are testing you ability to locate small mistakes and easy to miss information.  They also want you to understand this material.  You have to be prepared for these easy to miss situations.  For example, I am sure you all have done a math question, felt like you did it perfectly correct only to find out that you actually got it incorrect.  Furthermore, the answer you got appeared as one of the answer choices!  Or you were on the right track to answering correctly, but made... read more

MCAT preparation

A big hurdle in preparing for the MCAT is planning a strategy to deal with the stress of the exam, particularly the Verbal portion. The creators of the MCAT exam do not anticipate that the student will complete all the questions on the Verbal portion, so having a strategy to deal with the time-limited exam is vital. I show students how to plan for this stress and how to be able to overcome it on the day of the exam, and have mastery of the Verbal portion. It is vital to show the admissions committees that you can function well under stress, and a good score on the Verbal portion is a good indicator of that.

Upcoming changes for the MCAT in 2015

To reflect changes in medical education, the MCAT will have a new format.  The current format was introduced in 1991, and starting in 2015 the test will have the following 4 sections:   1) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, 2) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, 3) Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and 4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills   See more at www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/mcat2015/

Changing Oceans

The article below is on changing oceans.   Scientists are struggling to find the trigger for a disease that appears to be ravaging starfish in record numbers, causing the sea creatures to lose their limbs and turn to slime in a matter of days. SAN FRANCISCO - Scientists are struggling to find the trigger for a disease that appears to be ravaging starfish in record numbers along the U.S. West Coast, causing the sea creatures to lose their limbs and turn to slime in a matter of days. Marine biologists and ecologists will launch an extensive survey this week along the coasts of California, Washington state and Oregon to determine the reach and source of the deadly syndrome, known as "star wasting disease." "It's pretty spooky because we don't have any obvious culprit for the root cause even though we know it's likely caused by a pathogen," said Pete Raimondi, chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California... read more

Thinking about clinical relevance as a Pre-Med

"How is this clinically relevant?" is a question that I've heard on a daily basis now that I'm a medical student. People are concerned that what we're taught in lectures have little to NO RELEVANCE to the kinds of situations we will encounter in the clinic. Going into clinics, I've encountered the same attitude, from residents, to senior attending physicians.    Premedical students have the same concerns - What's the point of the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT? I've studied all this science because medicine is all about the numbers right?    I'm going to be extremely presumptive by going against the attitudes of the pre-med, and the guys who already have MDs, so bear with me. I call it Delayed Gratification and my friends call it, being a nerd.   Lets deal with the sciences first because I think we'll have a common starting place for where I'm coming from. When were you most confident going into a test? When... read more

Interesting Facts About The Health Effects of Smoking

Would you believe that lung cancer was a somewhat of a rare occurrence until the early to mid twentieth century? This fact is due to cigarettes gaining popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the UK, among all cancer deaths lung cancer related deaths rose from 1.5% in 1920 to 19.7% in 1947. Cigarettes aren’t the only cause of lung cancer, there are many causes not associated with smoking, but one fact is true: Anything you light on fire and inhale isn’t going to be good for you! Smoking causes the lungs to age at a greater rate than they would in the non-smoker. Among many of the ill effects smoking causes, lung cancer is one of the most well known. Most people don’t think of heart disease when you mention the long-term health effects of cigarettes, even though it is a leading cause of this as well. One of the reasons it results in cancer is due to the long-term inflammation that is caused in the airways, which over time recurrent smoking tends to lead to increased... read more

Physical Exercise and Nutrition DO affect our brain performance and brain health.

As you may know, I am a big fan of the well-known author and brain specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen. He mentions in several of his books that Physical Exercise is good for the brain. I have read of research studies that showed a clear correlation between IMPROVEMENT in students' test scores in math and science, and their level of physical activity (for example, when math class followed PE class, the students had significantly higher scores). Maybe we should schedule PE before all math classes in our schools. What do you think about that idea? This morning I read an online article on the myhealthnewsdaily site, entitled "6 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain," and another article about how Physical Exercise helps maintain healthy brain in older adults too. The second article, "For a Healthy Brain, Physical Exercise Trumps Mental Workout" was found under Yahoo News. The remainder of this note is quoted from that article: Regular physical exercise appears... read more

Which Books to Get for AP or SAT or MCAT Practice?

I was asked this question recently by several mothers about which book (singular, not plural) they should get for their sons for their upcoming tests. To both of them I replied: "Get the Princeton Review edition of the book." And while I believe this to be the CORRECT answer, this answer unfortunately is misleading because what I actually want to say is, "Get ALL editions of the book." For example if there is a Barron's version, a Kaplan version, a Princeton Review version, etc. etc. of AP Chemistry, then I would advise the moms to get ALL of these books for their sons (assuming of course that they'll read them). The reason is because one book doesn't have enough practice problems. From experience, after reading the first test preparation book or textbook, the student will have a rather hazy outline of the subject material. Books 2-5 make the outline clearer. Most students don't begin to really understand the subject until around Book 7. And that's... read more

The Teaching Philosophy of Dr. Charles C.

The philosophy of teaching I have embraced in thirty years of teaching medical students and college students is based on the belief that learning is student centered and that students need to be equal partners in the learning process. There must be present, a student mentor relationship of trust. There should, however, always be an authoritative presence in the mentor. This leadership should be omnipresent, whether in the classroom, tutorship, or online. The mentoring teacher’s role involves using his expertise to place necessary resources in the hands of the student and to train him to be not just knowledgeable in his chosen fields of study, but to become an expert at resourcefulness and seek the role of “teacher" himself. It is here where leadership is taught through example. Now that the majority of teaching is performed on an online forum, students now know that the teacher’s role in the online classroom is to be a facilitator, in addition to being a provider... read more

Standardized Exams - Tip 4

This post is for most if not all standardized exams. The number one issue I see with the majority of students who are preparing for these major and critical exams is that they do not spend enough time prepping. For example, obtaining a tutor a week or even three weeks before the test date is probably not going to do much to increase your scores, especially if you are meeting up with a tutor for only an hour or two per session, given your current score (pre-test). Here's my take. If you know that you will take one of these major exams (All High School AP exams included), please start months if not at least three months ahead of time. This is when you should start thinking seriously about what you need to obtain a 5 on most AP exams. What you should do is get a pre-test of how you're doing, thus you would know your strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to the test you plan to take. From here, I would work with the student to create a schedule to fit their time/financial... read more

Standardized Exam - Tip 2

Tip #2 for Standardized Exams Students who plan to sit for any standardized exams should do the following: 1. Take a diagnostic exam. It does not have to be a full-blown exam but a mini-version in order to get a idea as to your strengths and weaknesses. 2. Thoroughly evaluate and understand your diagnostic scores - every breakdown, not just how many wrong or right you got in each section but also understand the type of questions you are getting wrong. Also, if possible record those lucky hunches or guesses. The key is to maximize study time and effort. Why waste precious time reviewing topics in which you are comfortable in as opposed to spending your time on the tougher problems. Take Algebra - manipulation of equations. Yes, you might get the problem(s) correct but for each type of problems, there are different levels of difficulties, thus, check to see if you are truly comfortable with manipulation of equations. Most students get a few correct and think that... read more

Standardized Exam - Tip 1

This tip applies to all standardized exams. First, focus on eliminating careless mistakes. Most students who are taking this exam (SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.) for the first time will realized that majority of their errors (if not more than 50%) are due to careless mistakes. Thus, if they focus on fine-tuning this portion of their skill sets they would see their overall score rise. Given that most students wait till the last week or two to study for an extremely important exam, thus, focusing on the low-hanging fruits as they say in the process improvement arena is step 1. Second, once the low-hanging fruits of careless errors are eliminated or minimized, students should focus on working to learn the concepts that they did have trouble with or simply do not know. For example, at this stage of the studying preparation, students are working to fill in the gaps of their knowledge. This could be anywhere from 10-30% of the errors they are getting. This could be due to multiple... read more

Calling all students

I'm new to this site and can't wait to help you. Got questions? I got answers! Whether you need some simple study skills and techniques or if you have very specific problems in a subject, I can help. Let me show you how all these subjects work together and are not isolated disciplines that you're never going to use. I'll show you the relevance of each subject and how they're all integrated. Learning is so much fun when you understand why you need to know.

OH NO, I am not allowed a calculator on the MCAT

OH NO, I am not allowed a calculator on the MCAT!!! If you reading this you have probably completed all the general requirements to take the MCAT. Thinking back over your semesters of chemistry you would of used your calculator a lot to complete the math problems ranging from the basics of stoichiometry to the complex problems of solving the pH of a weak acid. You may be wondering how on Earth are you expected to solve logs and square roots without a calculator. Bear in mind its a multiple choice exam so the math is actually done for you, so all you have to do is approximate and pick the best answer. As a chemistry tutor I would like to offer some of my tips for getting through the mathematical problems of the exam. If you have not studied general chemistry for several years I suggest you get really familiar with the different types of calculation problems. The easiest way of doing this is to pick up a text book and work through the different types of problems. Initially... read more

using dimensional analysis to make an educated guess in a physics question

Dimensional analysis describes the process of using standard international (SI) units to deduce an answer or equation. All units that describe a physical quantity can be derived from SI units Example: 1. A 100 kg football player (player A) is running at ~5 m/s up a field when a 200 kg center (player B) steps in front of him. The football player in motion is abruptly stopped. What is the impulse imparted on player B by player A? (a) 25 kg*m/s2 (b) 500 kg*m/s (c) 2500 kg*m2/s2 (d) 10,000 Joules answer Suppose you’re having trouble remembering how to calculate impulse on test day. You recall that it has something to do with momentum and force, but do not remember the exact equation. Using dimensional analysis you can make an educated guess. Step 1: gather your information: What information are we given in the problem? velocity of A = 5 m/s velocity of B = 0 m/s mass of A = 100 kg mass of B = 200 kg impulse = ? Step 2: use dimensional... read more

Studying for a Standardized Test for a Profession

Test anxiety for MCAT, NCLEX, etc. seems to relate to two main things: 1) simple anxiety about the student's own knowledge base in the subjects that will be tested on the exam; and 2) a more complex anxiety that is the result of "information overwhelm." Whether the student uses web resources, review books, or live lectures, he or she always ends up with more study materials than the fastest speed-reader could possibly master in the time available before the test. Those students for whom English is not the first language have a "double-whammy" in this regard- overwhelming amounts of material for potential study and mastery, an overwhelming number of practice tests available, AND the anxiety/fear of mis-reading, misunderstanding, or misjudging all of the mass of study material because of an imperfect command of American English. What's needed is to STOP THE MADNESS! ;-) In my experience with test-taking, and with helping others, the most... read more

Why is organic chemistry so hard?

Students often ask why is Organic Chemistry so hard? Often they have friends who, although are usually all round A students, have failed organic chemistry. This is a subject like no other, it is not a subject that a student can simply learn the facts and quote them back in an exam. Students often think if they memorize all the facts they can not go wrong. I also get asked why is there so much to remember? The reality is different, if you want to do well in Organic Chemistry, you will have to learn to become a problem solver. Yes, there are rules to learn to solve the problems but simply learning the rules will not guarantee success. Organic Chemistry is a difficult subject that needs to be practised. To make topics even more challenging you very often have to think backwards to solve problems. For example, you may be given a final product and asked for reagents and reactions to get to that product. Other times, you may be given analysis and asked how to interpret... read more

Gaining Acceptance to Medical School

Many students enter college with the intention of gaining acceptance to medical school. Many, however, lack adequate knowledge of the admissions process, which hampers their odds of success. In the 2007-2008 application season, for example, 42,231 individuals applied to one or more of 126 allopathic programs. Ultimately, only 18,036 of these applicants had matriculated into a medical school. That is a success rate of only 42.7%! Given the competitive nature of the application process, you'll need every advantage possible in order to maximize your own odds of acceptance. I've been through this difficult process myself, and having gained admission to UF College of Medicine, I'd like to offer my advice to future applicants. In this series of blog posts, I will explain the basics of the process and point out where individuals are most likely to fail. The medical school application process is very competitive compared to what it once was and has changed from even a decade... read more

Training your intuition

For most people, solving a problem or a question is not difficult if they have a model to follow and the correct data to plug into the model. Take one of the most basic functions, paying for something at a cash register. If the cashier tells you the Happy Meal costs (with tax) $4.23, and you hand the cashier a $10.00 bill, I suspect that most cashiers will give and most people will expect their $5.77 in change. Oh, you can confuse people and make the problem more difficult (7 dimes, a nickel and two pennies, rather than 3 quarters and two pennies), but these are just "tricks." This works, because for the vast majority of people, this is an "ordinary" occurrence something we've either done or witnessed hundreds of times, and we can intuitively extend our addition and subtraction rules to a new problem. Unfortunately, most classroom topics are taught like the math example above using clear, intuitive, and easily understood examples, but tested using... read more

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