MCAT Critical Thinking > Mistakes to Avoid
Mistakes to Avoid
There are many tried and true wrong answers that are on the MCAT designed simply to fool you. These answers can be blatant or deceiving, the latter being far more dangerous to your score.
You must take care to avoid any answer that involves absolutes, such as...
- No Matter What
- Every Time
The type of questions that have these words in them are most likely wrong. Things in science are hardly ever spoken in absolutes so care must be taken not to pick these kinds of questions. However use good judgement and discretion as there are exceptions to every rule.
Close, But Not Enough
These styles of questions are designed simply to fool the test taker. Remember, always reference the passage before answering these questions. Trying to rely on memory alone will fail you as it is impossible to retain all of the information from the passage in 1 or 2 reads. The test writers are assuming you will get these types of questions wrong because you have faulty confidence in the close answer, and answer it hastily in order to save time.
This is a common trick question that the MCAT uses to fool test takers. It involves asking what the author does not mean in the passage. If you are reading too quickly these questions will often cause you to miss the indicator word and answer the question normally. Be careful as this is an easy way to get a question wrong.
Faulty Styles of Thinking
There are also many faulty styles of thinking that will lead you astray on the MCAT. These involve mainly over thinking and questioning your answers. Over thinking causes you to analyze a question beyond its actual meaning. This will cause you to pick a wrong answer.
Another common problem is second guessing already good answers. Go with your gut on most problems and you are better off spending your extremely limited time on questions you do not know. There is not enough time on each section to go back through twice or three times, so make sure you give it your best shot the first time.
Make sure to read the questions more than you do the passages. It is far easier to miss important information on the questions and get them wrong than it is to miss the information in the passage. Often the question may redirect you back to the passage anyways so you just need a general understanding of the theme and purpose in the first place anyways.
Just pick the right answer and move on. You will never be really sure of your answers and since the MCAT is such a high stakes test it is too easy to worry and over think things. Trust your gut, pick the right answer and move on. Do not second guess yourself as this will take away valuable time for answering harder to get questions.
In conclusion, always pick an answer that seems relevant to the content within the passage. Do not blindly guess, try and make an educated guess based on the information of the passage. By guessing with reason based on content you have a better likelihood of getting the question right.
Sometimes you are just over thinking the question in the first place, and making a random attempt will increase your chances to get it wrong. Playing the probability is very important on the MCAT as you have limited time to answer the questions. Time is the most valuable commodity on the MCAT besides content and question structure mastery.
Instead, try to do the following things
1) Take a Five Second Break
Before each passage, take a five second break. Forget the last passage and all other thought. Sit up straight, concentrate, and focus.
2) Read Every Word
Don’t skim. Don’t write in the margins as this tests your ability to detect and understand ambiguities, not details.
3) Concentrate on the Main Idea
Don’t read the question first. Don’t circle or underline or get excited about the topic and don’t try to speed read. Spend 20 seconds figuring out the main idea before beginning the questions before you go any further.
4) Look at the Questions
Some questions you can answer without even reading the passage or answer choices. This will help simplify the question and answer choices.
5) Look at the Answers
Understand there is a formula to the way the MCAT was created. Three of the options are distracters and these fall into five categories:
- Round-About - moves around the question
- Beyond - validity relies upon information not in the passage
- Contrary - contrary to the main idea
- Simpleton - too simple or easy to verify
- Unintelligible - don’t understand or vague
And finally there is the correct answer that tends to have softeners (most likely, had a tendency to, seemed, etc.)
6) Going Back
Only go back when you finish an exam on time and only when you know what you’re looking for. Try to go back only when you know where you can find the answer and that it is the right one. Chances are you should trust your gut instinct.
Overall through careful thinking and answering you will be able to get a perfect score in the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT and help boost your score!