The MCAT Podcast

By Ryan Gray

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.

Category: Medicine

Open in Apple Podcasts

Open RSS feed

Open Website

Rate for this podcast

Subscribers: 127
Reviews: 0


A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Next Step Test Prep, The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles on your journey to becoming a physician. Listening to this podcast will give you the motivation and information that you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.

Episode Date
200: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: CARS Passage 4 – Digital Humanities
This week, we dive into an abstract CARS passage on "close reading" vs "distant reading," the new field of the Digital Humanities, and "yacking" vs "hacking."
Oct 28, 2020
199: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: CARS Passage 3: History Lesson
What is the point of history? History is a story and who decides what is emphasized? Dr. Gray and Phil continue through Blueprint Full Length 1.
Oct 21, 2020
198: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 2 - Cargo Cults
In this episode, Dr. Gray and Phil dissect the second CARS passage about Materialism, Imperialism and Paternalism. We take a look at breaking down this passage.
Oct 14, 2020
197: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 1 - CARS
In this first CARS passage, we take a dive into a passage about the nature of linguistics. Dr. Gray and Phil dive into how to take on a CARS passage.
Oct 07, 2020
196: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Discrete 4 — Chem/Phys IV
The final portion of Chem/Phys, we dive into a discrete passage talking about ramps, friction and how long it would take for force to stop the object.
Sep 30, 2020
195: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 10 - Ramps
In this final passage of the Chem/Phys section, we take a look at lift force, potential weight and the importance of paying attention to units.
Sep 23, 2020
194: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 9 - Reactions
Passage 9 is not for the faint of heart. Follow along and listen (and watch at This passage dives into heat of formation and stabilization energy.
Sep 16, 2020
193: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Discrete 3 — Chem/Phys III
It's time for discrete 3 in Blueprint MCAT full-length 1. We'll be talking about light refraction, orbital hybridization, chemical equilibria, and more!
Jul 22, 2020
192: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 8 — Metabolism
Blueprint MCAT full-length 1, passage 8 poses some tough questions about the metabolism, electrochemistry, enzymes, and free energy. Follow along!
Jul 15, 2020
191: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 7 — Neurotoxins
We're on to passage 7 in Blueprint MCAT full-length 1. Today, we're investigating disulfide bridges, chirality, stoichiometry, confidence intervals, and more!
Jul 08, 2020
190: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 6 — Organic Chemistry
Today we're looking at organic synthesis reactions, derivatives, enzymes, and spectroscopy in passage 6 of the Blueprint MCAT full-length 1. Join us!
Jul 01, 2020
189: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Discrete 2 — Chem/Phys II
We're talking about gravity, diatomic gases, bond angles and circuts in discrete 2 in the Blueprint MCAT full-length 1. Follow along and test your knowledge!
Jun 24, 2020
188: What's Happening to the Khan Academy MCAT Prep?
What's happening to the Khan Academy's MCAT prep materials? What impact will it have on the financial barriers to becoming a physician? Let's discuss!
Jun 17, 2020
187: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 5 — Titration
In Blueprint MCAT full-length 1, passage 5, we look at potentiometric titration—what is it and how should you tackle unfamiliar topics on the MCAT? Join us!
Jun 10, 2020
187: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 5 — Titration
In Blueprint MCAT full-length 1, passage 5, we look at potentiometric titration—what is it and how should you tackle unfamiliar topics on the MCAT? Join us!
Jun 10, 2020
186: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 4 — Physics and Anatomy
Feet and physics are on task for passage 4 in Blueprint MCAT full-length 1. Plus, pseudo-discretes—what are they and how should you approach them? Find out!
Jun 03, 2020
185: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Discrete 1 — Chem & Kinematics
We're on to discrete section 1 in the Blueprint MCAT full-length 1 today. We evaluate formal charges, calculate projectile speed, define chiral centers, and more!
May 27, 2020
184: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 3 — Chanel N°5
In Blueprint MCAT full-length passage 3, we investigate the characteristic fragrance of Chanel N°5 and use our orgo knowledge to tackle some tricky questions.
May 20, 2020
183: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 2 — Nuclear Physics
Phil and I are breaking down passage 2 in Blueprint MCAT full-length one on nuclear physics. Plus, we'll give tips for tackling high-level questions on the MCAT. Links:
May 13, 2020
182: Blueprint MCAT Full-Length 1: Passage 1 — Saltwater Chemistry
In today's episode, Phil and I embark on our journey through Blueprint MCAT full-length one. We're "diving" into passage one and talking saltwater chemistry.
May 06, 2020
181: A Guide to the New MCAT Format for 2020
We're breaking down the most recent AAMC MCAT annoucment. What's changing? What isn't? Who should be taking the MCAT this year, and who should wait? Listen!
Apr 29, 2020
180: Designing A Blueprint for MCAT Prep Success
Big things are happening at Blueprint MCAT, formerly NextStep! Phil gives us an inside look at their groundbreaking new online MCAT prep course! Don't miss it!
Apr 22, 2020
179: Here's How to Build a Study Plan for the MCAT
Building a study plan for the MCAT can be almost as scary as the MCAT itself, but it doesn't have to be! Phil and I give tips, timelines, advice, and more!
Mar 18, 2020
178: AAMC MCAT Outline: Social Inequality
We're wrapping up our MCAT content outline and with social inequality—social and cultural capital, social mobility, health and healthcare disparities, and more!
Mar 11, 2020
177: AAMC MCAT Outline: Demographic Characteristics and Processes
Let's take an aerial look at demographic shifts: Malthusian theory vs demographic transition theory, population growth and decline, gentrification, and more. Strap in!
Feb 05, 2020
176: AAMC MCAT Outline: Social Structures and Human Interactions
Today, we're investigating some of the hot topics in section nine A of the AAMC MCAT Outline: religious organizations, medicalization and culture. Don't miss this one!
Jan 29, 2020
175: AAMC MCAT Outline: Intro to Important Sociology Material
Conflict theory, functionalism, symbolic interactionism and more! many sociological terms are not intuitive, so listen closely for how to tell them apart.
Jan 08, 2020
174: AAMC MCAT Outline: Social Role and Interactions
Straight from the official MCAT outline! We're covering the difference between role conflict, role strain, and attachment styles. Know these COLD.
Jan 01, 2020
173: Operant Conditioning, Reinforcement and Rewards
Get ready for a super high-yield topic! Listen and learn how to sort through all the positive / negative reinforcements through reward and punishment.
Dec 25, 2019
172: AAMC MCAT Outline: Folkways, Mores, and Taboos
In content gategory seven B of the AAMC Outline, we'll be looking at types of societal norms. Can you tease apart the subtle diferences?
Dec 18, 2019
171: AAMC MCAT Outline: All About Personality Disorders
What do you need to know about personality disorders? We're going to talk about disorder clusters and how to tell apart confusing sound-alikes!
Dec 11, 2019
170: AAMC MCAT Outline: Theories of Personality & Behavior
Get ready to familiarize yourself with the most influential theories of self and personality. You'll need to know these cold for the MCAT!
Dec 04, 2019
169: AAMC MCAT Outline: Emotion and Physiological Response
Know your theories of emotion and physiological response for the MCAT! Today we're comparing the James Lange, Cannon Bard, and Schachter Singer models.
Nov 27, 2019
168: Navigating MCAT Psychology and Sociology Vocab
Let's tackle some MCAT definitions: do you know the different heuristics? How about the different types of memory? Join us for some psych/soc.
Nov 06, 2019
167: The Complete AAMC Outline: What's on the MCAT Exam?
The AAMC Outline shows you what you are expected to know for the MCAT. But is that all you need to know? Plus, some psychology/sociology material!
Oct 23, 2019
166: Scheduling the MCAT (Practice Tests and the Real Thing!)
Have you ever wondered how to schedule your MCAT full-length exams and get the most out of practice tests? This episode is for you!
Oct 16, 2019
165: Mastering MCAT Math without a Calculator!
Good news, the MCAT isn't a math test! On test day, it's all about units, simple relationships, and reading the question carefully. Listen for more!
Oct 09, 2019
164: What Classes Should You Take Before the MCAT?
the 2020 MCAT season is coming! We'll talk about classes and courses that prepare you for the MCAT and when (or if) to take them.
Oct 02, 2019
163: Boost Your MCAT Prep Through Increased Self-Awareness
When you review MCAT passages and evaluate your performance, it's important to know not only what you missed, but why you missed it!
Sep 25, 2019
MP 162: MCAT Prep: How to Stay Motivated for the Long Haul
Is the MCAT taking over your life? Are you worried about burnout? Do you remember your ultimate "why"? Let's talk about staying motivated during MCAT prep.
Sep 18, 2019
161: Here's How to Develop Your MCAT CARS Skills
What's the difference between CARS and other MCAT sections? CARS is 100% skill, not prior knowledge! Today we talk note-taking, reading, and analysis for CARS.
Sep 11, 2019
160.5: What Is the LizzyM Score? Is It Accurate?
LizzyM is just an equation. How do you fit your history, experiences, struggles, triumphs, and trends into that equation? Spoiler: You can't. Tune in for more.   Listen to the full episode on the PreMed Years podcast.
Sep 04, 2019
160: Can the MCAT Prepare You for Medical School?
Why is the MCAT so difficult, and why is there so much data analysis involved? Can you gameify the MCAT, or even learn to enjoy it? Phil joins me to discuss.
Aug 28, 2019
159: Avoiding Information Overload During MCAT Prep
The MCAT Podcast welcomes Phil from Next Step Test Prep! He joins me to talk MCAT strategy and how to prepare without getting overwhelmed.
Aug 21, 2019
158: Insight into MCAT Study from a Test Prep Insider
How do you study for the MCAT, and how do you know your prep is working for you? Introducing Next Step's Rachel Grubbs, who is here to tell us more.
Aug 14, 2019
157: Social Inequality and Other High-Yield Sociology
Sociology has many broad, high-yield concepts like inequality, demographics and social stratification. Today, we dig into some sociology discretes.
Aug 07, 2019
156: High-Yield Concepts in Psychology Experiment Design
Experiment design has the potential to appear in three of the four MCAT sections, which makes it super high yield. Follow along with the handout!
Jul 31, 2019
155: Light, Optics, and More High-Yield Physics
Session 155 Today, we tackle a high-yield topic in physics, specifically about light and optics. We’re covering the electromagnetic spectrum, refraction, and understanding wavelength and frequency as it relates to light. We’re joined once again by Clara from Next Step Test Prep. Also, make sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media and get as much resources you need as walk along this premed path. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points. Click Here to Download Handout High-Yield Topic in Physics: Light and Optics [04:45] Question 7 Yellow light has a wavelength of 570 nm. Which of the following has a higher frequency than yellow li ght? (A) Orange light (B) Infrared light (C) X-rays (D) Radio waves Clara’s insights: The whole electromagnetic spectrum comes up on the MCAT all the time. All you really need to know for this is the order. For instance, where is the orange light compared to the infrared or x-rays? You don't need to memorize any concrete numbers around it except for visible light that falls between 400 and 700 nm. And this is literally the only number you need to memorize. Everything else is relative positioning. The correct answer here is C. Note that the MCAT is not trying to trick you. It's just rewarding careful reading. So make sure you read every word and understand it. One trick Clara has found to be fool-proof when it comes to the electromagnetic spectrum is to remember that higher frequency corresponds to higher energy. It's easier to figure out which types of light are higher energy. A lot of times, higher frequency or higher energy light are more damaging. For instance, the very high-frequency end of the electromagnetic spectrum is the gamma radiation, which is super damaging. It can cause all of the problems to the DNA and to human physiology in general. X-rays are relatively up there as well. If not administered carefully, x-rays can be very harmful to the DNA. Ultraviolet rays damage the cells too. These are all on the higher frequency end of the spectrum. [Related episode: Physics Series 3: Light Waves and the MCAT] [11:22] Question 11 Which changes are experienced by visible light as it moves from Medium 1 (n-1.16) to Medium 2 (n=1.68)? (A) Wavelength remains constant while frequency decreases. (B) Wavelength decreases while frequency remains constant. (C) Wavelength decreases while frequency increases. (D) Wavelength increases while frequency decreases. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is B. Frequency remains constant. The identity of a type of radiation is not going to change just because it moves into a different medium. This is just something you have to memorize. One easy way to remember that something has to remain constant is to think about the velocity of a wave = wavelength x frequency.  When you move into a different medium, the velocity of the wave changes. In this case, it moves into a medium with a higher index of refraction so it's going to slow down. And if velocity slows down, something else will have to decrease. But the other thing can't correspondingly increase. Beyond that, just remember that frequency is not going to ever change. [14:50] Question 14 Of the situations below, which is LEAST likely to lead to total internal reflection? (A) Visible light moves from diamond (n=2.4) to air (n=1.0) at an angle of incidence of 81°. (B) Visible light travels from diamond (n=2.4} to air (n=1.0) at an angle of incidence of 46°. (C) Visible light travels from water (n=1.34) to air (n=1.0} at an angle of incidence of 81°. (D) Visible light travels from water (n=1.34) to air (n=1.0} at an angle of incidence of 46°. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. Even though it's easier to picture in our heads, it's tricky to picture out real-life optics. In real life, we actually have light rays coming from all different directions and angles. Hence, we need to know more about total internal reflection to make sure we get this one right.  Total internal reflection is where a light ray goes through a medium, hits an interface between that medium and another medium, and it doesn't leave. So it's stuck in the original medium. This happens when there's a big difference between the index of refraction of the first medium and the second one. The bigger the difference, the more the light is going to bend when it hits that border. And if it bends enough, it can actually bend all the way back to the medium itself. So for A and B, there is a really big difference so that is likely to undergo total internal reflection. So both A and B can be eliminated. In optics, when there is a large angle of incidence, it's almost parallel to the border between the diamond and the air or the water and the air. It only needs to bend a little bit when it hits that surface to actually be pointed back in towards the diamond or towards the water. Whereas the 46° has a smaller angle of incidence so it's coming in about halfway between the normal and the border. So it will essentially have to bend all the way around to bend back into the medium. In short, total internal reflection is much more likely when you have a large angle of incidence. And since we're asked with a LEAST question, we pick the one with the smaller angle. [23:05] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking to prepare for the MCAT, don't forget to check out Next Step Test Prep. Ask premed students anywhere and the majority of them will tell you that Next Step as the second-best MCAT full-length exams (first best is the AAMC material of course!). Get up to 10 full-length exams and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10%. Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code: MCATPOD and save 10%) Meded Media
Jul 24, 2019
154: What Makes Lab Technique Questions High-Yield?
Lab technique is an MCAT topic that requires both organic chemistry and biochemistry knowledge to answer. We'll tackle some high-yield questions on this topic.
Jul 17, 2019
153: General Chemistry and Electrochemistry High-Yield
Follow along with today's episode as we continue with high yield concepts. We'll cover reduction potentials and compare electrolytic and galvanic cells.
Jul 10, 2019
152: High-Yield Molecular Genetics Discretes
Session 152 Today, we highlight some of the key concepts for Molecular Genetics. We’re joined once again by Clara from Next Step Test Prep. if you need more one-on-one help with a tutor, give Next Step Test Prep a call, They offer free 15-minute consultation. Call 888-530-6398. High Yield Topic in Biology: Molecular Genetics [01:40] What is Molecular Genetics The first step is to just know what the topic is all about. Molecular genetics is a huge topic that covers things like DNA, RNA, protein structure, etc. The "molecular" is used to distinguish it from classical genetics. Classical genetics is something MCAT students study a lot since they're used to it back in college. But molecular genetics tends to come up even more often. So expect to see more of DNA mutations. [02:38] Question 20 A missense mutation replaces alanine residue located in the interior of a soluble plasma protein with a valine residue. Due to this change, the protein will most likely: (A) suffer a complete loss of function. (B) be largely unaffected. (C) display disrupted folding due to the mistaken inclusion of a polar amino acid. (D) display disrupted folding due to the mistaken inclusion of an unusually bulky amino acid. Clara’s insights: The first step here is to figure out what is a missense mutation. And you should know that it's a type of mutation where one amino acid in a protein is replaced by another amino acid. There are other types of mutations including nonsense mutation where amino acids are replaced by a stop codon.  The question says they replaced an alanine residue with a valine residue. Note that even if this is a genetics question, it also touches on amino acids. Basically, figure out the difference between alanine and valine. They're actually the exact same kind of amino acids, which are both nonpolar. This makes it a conservative missense mutation, where one amino acid is replaced by a really similar amino acid. When this happens, it largely unaffects the function of the protein. Hence, the correct answer here is B.  To know which amino acids are similar, you have to know the characteristic of their side chains. Side chains can be nonpolar, acidic, or basic, etc. Here, alanine and valine are both nonpolar. And if they're the same type of side chain then you can assume that one is going to replace the other, it's not going to make much of a difference. [06:40] Question 35 A drug that disrupts hydrogen bonding would mostly directly affect what level of protein structure? (A) Primary (B) Secondary (C) Tertiary (D) Quaternary Clara’s insights: Hydrogen bonding is fundamental. It holds a lot of the structures together, which we see everyday in biochemistry. But the most fundamental type of bonding which holds together the individual subunits of a protein is covalent bonding, specifically peptide bonds. So A here is out. Tertiary and quaternary structures are really higher level forms of structure. They are impacted by hydrogen bonds. But they're also held together by other forces.  Tertiary structures are held together in part by disulfide bonds. On the other hand, quaternary structures are similar to tertiary structures except for their interactions between different subunits instead of within the same subunit. Think of tertiary and quaternary structures as being held together by all these different factors. While the only thing that holds secondary structure together is hydrogen bonding between the actual backbones of the amino acids.  Back to the question, a drug that disrupts hydrogen bonding will totally ruin secondary structure. So B is perfect here.  [09:43] Question 44 A student stains a cell and views it under a light microscope. He correctly identifies the nucleus and notices dark and light regions within its structure. He then tells his lab partner that the dark areas represent euchromatin and are associated with decreased levels of transcription. What is incorrect about this student’s assessment? (A) Euchromatin, which he has identified, is actually associated with increased transcriptional activity. (B) He has actually identified heterochromatin, which is associated with increased levels of transcription. (C) He has actually identified heterochromatin, but it is otherwise correct. (D) Nothing; the student is absolutely right. Clara’s insights: Euchromatin is actually the really loose version of chromatin. It looks really light under a microscope. This must then be heterochromatin which looks really dense and dark under a microscope.  The correct answer here is C. Since heterochromatin is a really dense version, it means that it's hard for enzymes to get into the little grooves of the structure.  For instance, RNA polymerase which transcribes our DNA has a lot of trouble getting into heterochromatin. Heterochromatin is absolutely associated with decreased levels of transcription. The student is actually right except that he messed up euchromatin versus heterochromatin. [13:42] Final Thoughts You might see multiple chapters in your biology book that all relate to molecular genetics. These are all important.  Finally, if you need more one-on-one help with a tutor, give Next Step Test Prep a call, They offer free 15-minute consultation. Call 888-530-6398. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jul 03, 2019
151: Amino Acid Discussion and High-Yield Discretes
Session 151 Today, we highlight some of the key concepts for Amino Acids. We’re joined once again by Clara from Next Step Test Prep Check out the review I made on the to find out more about their course and what students say about them. High-Yield Topic in Biochemistry: Amino Acids [01:50] Why Amino Acids Are So Important Amino acids are huge on the MCAT. Interestingly, they weren't tested at all prior to 2015. Amino acids are relevant to diseases and their fundamental role in proteins. They're relevant to biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, etc. [click_to_tweet tweet="'You can almost ask about everything on the MCAT in relation to amino acids.'" quote="'You can almost ask about everything on the MCAT in relation to amino acids.'"] [03:55] Question 1 An unknown amino acid is titrated with 1 M NaOH according to the following titration curve. (The titration curve has three points labeled 2.18, 8.95, and 10.53. It's a totally standard titration curve but we need to figure out what this means.) Based on the given curve, the unknown amino acid is most likely: Ser. Asp. Lys. Ala. Clara’s insights: There are so many steps to amino acid questions. The first step is knowing what the abbreviations mean. Ser. is Serine. Asp. is Aspartic acid or Aspartate. (Aspargine has an abbreviation of Asn.) Lys. is Lysine and Ala. is Alanine.chfhn If you can't get past this step, you're in big trouble. But even once you get past this step, you still have a lot more to do. The next step is to look at the titration curve. There are three numbers listed on it. Even if you don't remember much about titrations, you should know that there are three equivalence points. This means our amino acid has three acidic or basic groups. Amino acids are either two or three. Serine or Alanine only have two because their side chains are not acidic or basic. They have two groups that can be protonated or deprotonated but they only have two. They don't have a third one. So these two are out. We're now down between Asp. and Lys. Aspartic acid is acidic so its side chain does have a half-equivalence point. Lysine is basic so its side chain has one as well.  Now, you have to look at the numbers themselves to tell which is the right answer. The first point (2.18) is the standard pKA for a carboxylic acid. Every single amino acid you see on the MCAT is going to have around 2.0 and one of these pKAs. The second one (8.95) is a standard PKA for an amino group, which every amino acid also has. This doesn't help us.  But the third one here at 10.53 is a really high pKa. When you see high pKa's with amino acids, think basic just like you would think high pH is basic. And we're looking for a basic amino acid here so the answer is Lysine. [08:55] A Basic Rundown of Amino Acids The most important thing to know about every amino acid is the abbreviation. There's the one-letter abbreviation and the three-letter abbreviation. The former tends to be harder and they're used more frequently so you should focus on that. The next thing you need to know is the status of each side chain. Amino acids all have the same background structure. Their side chains are what is different. Whether an amino acid is acidic or nonpolar or uncharged, this would be all in relation to the side chain.  All that being said, you need to know every one of the 20 amino acids and what word essentially describes its side chain. Is it polar, nonpolar, etc? Then understand how those side chains interact with acid-base chemistry. In this case, three pKa's would mean it's either basic or acidic amino acid. This is the next conceptual level that you should go up. A lot of biochemistry classes will tell people to memorize the exact structures of all the amino acids. You don't need to do this for the MCAT. If you want to draw them, that's fine. But you won't be asked to draw them. You just need to know the abbreviation and whether they're acidic or basic. What does it mean for general chemistry? [11:35] Question 4 The alpha helix is a common form of secondary structure in proteins. It is a compact, right-handed helical structure that is stabilized by tight packing, as well as hydrogen bonding between backbone C=O and amino groups. Based on this information, the incorporation of which amino acid would most disrupt the alpha helix? (A) Alanine (B) Aspartic acid (C) Cysteine (D) Proline Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is Proline.  A handful of amino acids have weird characteristics. And this is a fact you should memorize. Proline has a really interesting structure. Its amino group is actually attached to its side chain.  Because of this, it's bent in a way that a regular amino acid isn't. It introduces kinks in alpha helices. So proline is just the amino acid that disrupts alpha helices and this is something you should know about.  As mentioned, Proline disrupts alpha helices. Methionine and Cysteine have sulfur in them. There are always these simple facts that you should know about. [16:00] Question 6 Which of these statements describe(s) the amino acid W at physiological pH? It has no net electrical charge. It is not a zwitterion. III. It is neither acidic nor basic. (A) II only (B) III only (C) I and III only (D) I, II, and III Clara’s insights: W is Tryptophan. In fact, it's the one with the weirdest abbreviation. But there's actually a trick for this. Look at its structure and it will really stand out as having these two rings that are next to each other. And W is like two V's next to each other, so Tryptophan has these two rings right next to each other. As long as you know what Tryptophan's side chain is like then you'd be in pretty good shape. It has a side chain that cannot become charged. So it's neither basic nor acidic. It doesn't become protonated or deprotonated.  Based on this, you can pick the right answer. As soon as you know that a side chain doesn't become protonated or deprotonated, we know that III is right. (This makes us get rid of answer choice A).  Know that for all of those amino acids, they're all zwitterions at physiological pH. They're basically a species of molecule that has equal numbers of positive and negative charges. So even if they're charged, they still come out as neutral. And Tryptophan is one of those at physiological pH. II is out then since it's a zwitterion. I (no electrical charge) is characteristic of a zwitterion and this holds true to all zwitterions. They always have no net charge. Hence, I is correct. Therefore, the correct answer here is C. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jul 03, 2019
150: What Makes a Topic High-Yield on the MCAT?
The MCAT covers many concepts and study time is limited. Today we discuss high-yield materials. Are they the key to getting the biggest return on your MCAT prep?
Jun 26, 2019
149: AAMC MCAT Resouces: Pros, Cons, and Recent Updates
Today we discuss the AAMC's MCAT prep resources, updates to the interface and functionality, and how to get the most out of your practice material.
Jun 12, 2019
148: The Importance of Reviewing Your MCAT Full-Length Test
Students often think the most important part is taking as many full-lengths as possible, but according to MCAT experts, that is a mistake you don't want to make!
Jun 05, 2019
147: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Discretes 4
Session 147 Today, the Next Step Test Prep's full-length 10 is coming to a close (NOT this podcast!) Hopefully, you've gone all over all the passages we've covered to help you understand what it's like to take an MCAT exam. So we're finishing up with four sets of discrete questions for Psych/Soc. Meanwhile, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we'd like to be with you on your journey towards becoming a physician. [02:40] Question 57 In a survey of HIV status, a female clinic patient was asked, “How much control do you feel you have over whether you contract HIV?” She responded, “I have no control over whether I am infected by HIV. If I become infected, it will be due to a higher power having a plan for me.” Which of the following best describes this participant’s belief? Self-fulfilling prophecy Self-efficacy Internal locus of control External locus of control Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. While A was a super tempting choice. Self-fulfilling prophecy would have been a case where a person's own beliefs can cause this prophecy to come true. For one, we have no idea this patient will become infected by HIV. External locus of control is where she believes that she really doesn't have any control and it's just all this external force that has to do with it. [04:53] Question 58 Parents who do not support gender nonconformity are more likely to have children who: Maintain a fluid gender identity subject to self-negotiation. Are less subject to parental coding of toys as masculine or feminine. Have stricter views on gender identity and roles. Are more likely to craft identities that maintain their self-esteem. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. Three of them are similar and one of them stands out as being different. C is the answer here since gender nonconformity refers to the acceptance of someone not conforming to masculine and feminine gender roles. If parents don't support this, children at least tend to follow in their parents' footsteps. So they'll also have stricter views on gender identity. [07:17] Question 59 An individual with Broca’s aphasia would most likely have difficulty with: Producing language. Comprehending language. Fine motor skills. Breathing. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is A. This is opposite to Wernicke's aphasia which is equal to trouble comprehending language. So as your mnemonic, you can probably think of the word Wernicke as a longer word and hard to understand. Whereas Broca's aplasia is the other one since there are only two things to remember here. Just remember both Wernicke and Broca and you're good to go! [09:38] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep that offers full-length exams. The AAMC has three gold standard full-length exams but Next Step has 10 of them. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10%. Links: Next Step Test Prep's full-length 10 (promo code MCATPOD to save 10%) Meded Media
May 29, 2019
146: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 10
In our last passage of the Psych/Soc section, we look into the impact socioeconomic status has on college attendance. Follow along in the blog post!
May 22, 2019
145: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 9
Session 145 This week, we continue our breakdown of Next Step Test Prep's full-length 10 with Passage #9 from Psych/Soc.  We're joined once again by Clara from Next Step Test Prep. Please visit Meded Media for many other podcasts for premeds and medical students. [02:05] Passage 9 Becoming a skilled musician requires considerable practice and this kind of learning relies on multiple faculties (e.g. perception, memory, and motor abilities). According to previous fMRI studies, the functional changes associated with musical training take the form of stronger activation in the temporal cortex (particularly the middle temporal gyrus) and somatosensory areas. A study was performed to explore the impact of musical expertise on both functional and structural modifications of the brain. For this purpose, researchers selected 20 young musicians who had been playing music without interruption until the time of the study (number of years of practice: 15.3 +/- 3.67) and 20 young non-musicians. Participants were scanned using fMRI during a musical semantic memory task in which they had to rate the familiarity of 60 melodies (purely instrumental tonal excerpts) on a 4-point scale (from “non-familiar” = 1 to “extremely familiar” = 4). Significant differences (p<0.001) were found in the number of melodies reported as unfamiliar between non-musicians and musicians. As expected, non-musicians judged more melodies to be totally unfamiliar and musicians judged more excerpts to be extremely familiar. In both musicians and non-musicians, familiarity increased activity in an extended network including left motor areas, the right cerebellum, and the left inferior parietal gyrus. Musicians showed greater activity in the bilateral anterior portion of the hippocampus and the bilateral superior temporal areas. Further analyses confirmed that the hippocampus is more strongly involved in musical familiarity judgment tasks in musicians than it is in non-musicians, regardless of gray matter density differences between the two groups. Following the scanning session, a debriefing session was proposed to determine whether the melodies had evoked personal memories or mental imagery. This debriefing revealed that the musical excerpts evoked personal memories in 85% of musicians but in only 30% of non-musicians. [04:42] Question 48 Personal memories evoked by musical excerpts would fall under which of the following categories? Episodic memory Semantic memory Short-term memory Long-term memory I and III only I and IV only II and III only II and IV only Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is B. Memory is highly tested on the MCAT so it's important to know these terms. In particular, episodic memory is the memory of events that happen to you during your life. Semantic memory would relate to facts like if the sky is blue or that 2x9=18. [07:34] Question 49 Which of the following additional findings would NOT be supported by the data presented in the passage? Musicians store music-related memories in long-term memory to a greater extent than non-musicians. So-called “muscle memory” plays a role in potentiating memories of melodies. Brain areas involved in regulating voluntary motion are involved in memories of melodies in musicians but not in non-musicians. Episodic memories may be linked to procedural memories. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. You might get tripped up with answer choice A thinking musicians and non-musicians are both going to store music-related memories in their long-term memory. But the key is paragraph 3. It specifically says, "Musicians showed greater activity in the bilateral anterior portion of the hippocampus and the bilateral superior temporal areas." Then it further says, "that the hippocampus is more strongly involved in musical familiarity judgment tasks in musicians than it is in non-musicians." The hippocampus is the site associated with long-term memory. These answer choices are totally independent of each other. So you have to evaluate each of them separately. This is a great place to prove which answer choices are wrong. For instance, C is not supported because it draws this distinction that it doesn't exist. And looking at answer choice D, procedural memories are memories of how to do different things like playing the piano. And this could be linked to episodic memories. [14:07] Question 50 If a musician experienced a lesion in the cerebellum, which of the following functions would be most affected? Ability to distinguish tones Immediate emotional reactions to melodies Recognition of familiar memories Ability to play music on the instrument of their choice Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. If you know what the different areas of the brain do then answering this would be super easy. Cerebellum = movement. Know the different areas of the brain and what they do. [15:30] Question 52 The fMRI activation patterns obtained from the non-musicians functioned as: A control variable only. A dependent variable only. An independent variable only. More than one of the above. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. B and C are opposite of each other so if it's not one thing, then it has to be the other. But the reason D is the answer is because the patterns are both a control variable and a dependent variable. We're measuring the fMRI patterns and the dependent variable is what we're essentially measuring. We're measuring the changes in response to changes in an independent variable. [19:22] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep and look at their different packages of full-length exams. Buy 4, 6 or 10 of them and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD) Meded Media
May 15, 2019
144: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Discretes 3
Today we tackle our next set of discrete questions! We cover norms, bias, groupthink, and population statistics! Challenge your knowledge and see how you do!
May 08, 2019
143: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 8
Session 143 This week, we're back for some more Psych/Soc section as we're wrapping up full length 10. Once again, we're joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep. [03:00] Passage 8 Acute stress is associated with altered cognitive functioning, in particular with respect to decision making, Under stress, individuals exhibit less flexible cognitive processing together with altered risk and feedback processing. Collectively, these effects suggest that stress taxes executive functions, and thus they point to the potential impact of stress on the regulation and monitoring of the decision process. Indeed, the decision is not only about selecting the right option; it is also about assessing its appropriateness relative to the circumstances, that is, whether one can be confident or not about one’s action. Researchers conducted a study on the impact of stress on the sensitivity of confidence judgments, also termed metacognitive accuracy. The stress response consists in a cascade of mechanisms governed by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, leading notably to the release of cortisol and catecholamines. Within the brain, these hormones are known to target specifically the prefrontal cortex (PFC), thereby altering higher cognitive functions. Of considerable interest regarding metacognition, it has been proposed that one of the early effects of acute stress is to dampen activity in regions subserving endogenous attention in favor of orienting resources to vigilance and action, that is, to exogenous attention. In the experiment, high, medium, and low responders to stress were first identified according to the concentration of the cortisol in saliva at the peak of hormonal response to interpersonal stress. Twelve months later, participants performed a perceptual decision task with confidence judgments. Researchers operationalized metacognitive sensitivity as the extent to which confidence judgments discriminated correct and incorrect responses. They predicted that high responders should have lower scores on this measure. However, mean confidence did not differ across stress groups (p>.91), meaning first that participants were well calibrated in view of their average performance of 83%, and second that stress reactivity did not translate into underconfidence or overconfidence. [05:45] Some Tips The terms above can seem so confusing. When you're listing out those groups, even the terms can be opposite, just highlight those. They're great examples to tell us about experimental groups in the study. Additionally, if they talk about correlation or causation, especially in Bio passages, these are the only times she recommends taking notes. This is especially helpful if you easily get confused and overwhelmed by such language. [07:25] Question 40 Cortisol inhibits the release of hormones that act earlier in the HPA axis. This type of regulation is known as: (A) positive feedback (B) negative feedback (C) allosteric regulation (D) paracrine regulation Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is B. The vast majority of feedback processes you're going to see on the MCAT are negative feedback. The passage is a classic example here where cortisol is the product of this pathway. Whenever a product is relatively downstream in a pathway, it feeds back on earlier in compounds that acted in this pathway. It acts to decrease its own production. This is what keeps cortisol from completely going out of control because it inhibits its own release. Don't get caught up in words that aren't familiar. It's very common for the MCAT to use some classic examples. These are usually something that you should already know about. They're just throwing in a couple of words that are relevant to the passage. [10:40] Question 41 When exposing subjects to a stressful stimulus, researchers observed that they recorded a physiological response in the subjects before the subjects reacted in any other way. This is consistent with which theory or theories of emotion?  James-Lange  Cannon-Bard III. Schachter-Singer (A) I only (B) II only (C) I and II only (D) I and III only Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. Just knowing a little more about them will get you far. The key with theories of emotion is that the James-Lange theory and the Schachter-Singer are really similar. In James-Lange theory, what happens first is a physiological response. Say, you see a bear in the woods, your heart rate will increase and then you'll receive some emotional response like fear. And it's the same with the Schachter-Singer theory. The only difference is that it accounts for the possibility that you can consciously interpret what you're seeing. So if someone surprises you for your birthday, you might not interpret it the same way as you saw a bear. The key takeaway here is that I and III go together. [13:55] Question 42 After going through boot camp in the military, Alice reported to her family members that the boot camp was stressful but was a valuable experience because it taught her that she was capable of accomplishing more than she had thought. What concept best describes this type of stress? (A) Adaptive stress (B) Cognitive stress (C) Distress (D) Eustress Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. Distress is what we commonly think of as bad stress or it's damaging all the time. Eustress, on the other hand, is very MCAT-relevant which refers to productive stress. It's usually chronic and resolves more quickly. It's sort of a learning experience. Adaptive stress is not a thing. There's an adaptive coping mechanism but for the purpose of the MCAT, there's only distress and eustress. Cognitive stress is also just made up. They're confusing similar areas but it's not a type of stress either. [16:20] Question 43 A subsequent study replicated the methodology of the researcher described in the passage, with the following exceptions. They increased the sample size by a factor of four, performed both parts of the experiment on the same day, and used a different perceptual decision-making task. They found small but significant differences (p<.05) in metacognitive accuracy depending on stress response. Which of the following is NOT a reasonable explanation of the discrepancy between these two studies? (A) The sample size of the first study was too small to detect a small but significant difference in performance. (B) Hormonal response profiles to stress are short-lived and changeable, meaning that by waiting for 12 months to perform the second half of the study, the groups of high-, medium-, and low-responders in the first study were no longer valid. (C) The sample size of the first study was too small to eliminate the effect of chance. (D) The perceptual decision-making task was more stress-inducing in the second study than in the first study. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. The key here is the word "eliminate." The idea of chance is something random. We can never eliminate the effect of chance but we can just minimize it. So C is a false statement. The second study couldn't eliminate the effect of chance either since it's just not something you can do. "Eliminate" is also an extreme word, making sense that it's the only one that's not reasonable. Answer choice A talks about the sample size and we all usually have a good idea that a bigger sample size is better. But B is an answer that trips a lot of people up. It's just a long answer choice so they could think there's something in it that could make it wrong. But it's totally true. [23:10] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking at full-length exams for the MCAT, check out Next Step Test Prep. They have 10 full-length exams that will help you get the score you need to get into medical school. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off. Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off)
May 01, 2019
142: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 7
In Passage 7 we analyze a study about behavior and how context impacts behavior. Follow along to see the results of Good Samaritan versus Occupation!
Apr 24, 2019
141: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 6
Session 141 This week, we’re continuing the breakdown of Psych/Soc, specifically focused on the topic of medicalization. You will probably find a surprising number of questions on the MCAT regarding sociological relationships to health and disease. As always, we’re joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep. [02:04] Passage 6 There is increased concern about the medicalization of health and treatment of illness. In particular, there is concern that conditions are being pathologized and over-treated with medication. Characterizing medical conditions as diseases and unnecessarily treating them with medicine can have negative consequences on people’s health and on health care budgets, among other consequences. One reason for the medicalization of health is that treating a condition with medicine is relatively easier than fostering lifestyle or behavioral changes. Another reason is that health consumers are becoming increasingly aware of diseases because of access to information, such as through the internet, leading them to perceive concern with their health and to desire treatment, at times when not appropriate. A final reason is that the pharmaceutical industry has a financial incentive to encourage the diagnosis of disease and prescription of medicine, leading to pressure on medical professionals and the public to respond accordingly. This pressure often comes in many forms, such as through advertising medicine. Researchers sought to investigate the influence that the terminology used to describe a disease had on individuals. Participants were parents who brought their infants to a medical provider for gastrointestinal issues the infants were having. Half of the parents were told the issue was a “condition” (Condition Group) and the other half were told that the infants were experiencing “GERD,” standing for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD Group). In addition, half of the participants in the Control Group and GERD Group were told that medicine for this medicine was ineffective (Told Ineffective), while the other half were not given information about the medicine (No Information). The number of parents who desired the medication is presented in the following figures by groups. [04:20] Question 31 What does the passage suggest would be the most effective way to decrease the medicalization of health? (A) Give patients extensive information about disorders (B) Encourage preventive measures (C) Use the scientific names of diseases (D) Increase the cost of medicine Clara’s insights: The more you think about questions like this, the more you’ll get confused. Just pick the one that’s most logically appealing to you in the beginning and then move on. The correct answer here is B. Paragraph 2 talks about the reasons for the medicalization of health. One of the reasons they cited is that health consumers are becoming increasingly aware of diseases because of access to information. So A is out. C is just really implied with the third paragraph when GERD was mentioned. They used this really fancy sounding medical term so it might make people think they need medication. The increase in cost of medicine was mentioned in the passage when they said that the pharmaceutical industry was having a financial incentive. Not only is the increased cost of medicine a bad thing because it costs more for people. Now, the pharmaceutical industry can stand to make even more money off a given medicine if they decide to sell it. Hence, the correct answer here is B. [07:52] Question 32 Participants who report that the GERD diagnosis reminded them of other serious disease upon which they base their desire for medication are using what heuristic? (A) Familiarity heuristic (B) Availability heuristic (C) Representative heuristic (D) Anchoring heuristic Clara’s insights: These are all four heuristics that we need to know for the MCAT. So it’s less helpful to try to use their names. But the correct answer here is B. Heuristics are flawed cognitive processes. Familiarity heuristic is the tendency people have to prefer familiar things. So this choice is not relevant here. Availability heuristic is the ability to look for information to support a decision and we tend to use the information that is just immediately available to us. Representativeness heuristic is the tendency that if you see something new, you tend to judge it based on the prototype of that object. Anchoring heuristic is the tendency wherein as we make decisions, we tend to use anchor points like an initial piece of information. [13:19] Question 33 In what reason for the medicalization of health is the patient not fulfilling their sick role? (A) In being exposed to pharmaceutical advertising (B) In seeking out information about their condition (C) In not behaving in healthier ways (D) In seeking medicine from their doctor even when it is not seen as effective Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. There are two parts to the question. First is the reason for the medicalization of health. The second part is the patient not fulfilling their sick role. The sick role is a term that you should know which makes the question a lot harder if you don’t know it. The question doesn’t say, which of these is not a reason for the medicalization of health. But what it’s really asking is the reason for the medicalization of health but goes against the sociological concept of the sick role. The sick role is the concept of what a sick person should do in our society. This refers to people with chronic conditions so people who are sick for a longer period of time. Additionally, a person in the sick role may not be expected to do as much. They may not be expected to go to work. But they are expected to act in ways that are more likely to keep them healthy. So they’re expected to listen to their doctor or take their medication. C is perfect because it’s a reason for medicalization. And the person is not fulfilling their sick role because as an “ideal” sick person, they should try to be healthier. But they aren’t. [19:41] Question 35 If the study were modified to include a measure of the number of questions asked of the doctor by parents, how would this change the design of the study? (A) The levels of the dependent variable would be increased (B) The levels of the independent variable would be increased (C) A new dependent variable would be added (D) A new independent variable would be added Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. The four groups we saw here in the passage were the previous independent variables. By independent, it means that the variable has been manipulated by the experimenter. And by dependent, it involves measuring. So now, we’re choosing between C and D. The parents are manipulating here but they’re measuring it so it’s dependent. [25:32] Next Step Test Prep If you need some help with your MCAT, check out Next Step Test Prep. Get $150 off tutoring from Next Step Test Prep. Just use the promo code MCATPOD. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD)
Apr 17, 2019
140: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Discretes 2
Session 140 Once again, we're joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep as we dive into the last section of Psych/Soc, specifically looking into a set of discrete questions. [02:31] Question 27 What personality trait is most closely associated with an increased negative response to stressful situations? (A) High conscientiousness (B) High extraversion (C) Low perfectionism (D) High neuroticism Clara’s insights: Choices B and C are obviously off. So now, it's between A and D. And the correct answer here is actually D. You just really need to know the definitions of all these terms with regard to personality. Conscientiousness and neuroticism are two of the big five personality traits. So you have to know all five of these. Neuroticism is the tendency to be prone to stress or anxiety. Someone with this personality trait might encounter a minor stressful situation and would just completely panic about it. High neuroticism is exactly what the question is talking about. Conscientiousness looks tempting too. But conscientious people tend to be reliable, organized, dependable, detail-oriented, and with a high sense of duty. So high conscientiousness is the opposite of the correct answer. [05:33] Question 28 Which of the following emotions is considered a universal emotion? Disgust Contempt III. Love (A) I only (B) II only (C) I and II only (D) I, II, and III Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. In fact, contempt is listed as the seventh in Ekman's 7 universal emotions. Every society has been observed to display some similarities in how they display contempt. Love is universal but it's not an emotion. It's more complex than that since there are a lot of different processes and responses that go into love. An emotion is a natural, temporary, instinctive state of mind which comes from the circumstances that somebody might be in. For the MCAT, you need to know the 7 universal emotions – contempt, surprise, anger, sadness, happiness, fear, and disgust. [09:27] Question 29 Researchers used a symptom list similar to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in order to diagnose psychiatric disorders and screen incompatible subjects from a study. When comparing data from previous studies, it was discovered that the symptoms on the most recent DSM differ from the symptoms on the previous list. Which of the following social theories best explains this discrepancy? Social functionalism Social interactionism Social antipositivism Social constructionism Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. Antipositivism is a random answer here where it's a real term, but it's not a term you need to know for the MCAT. It's related to the methods used in sociological research. Social constructionism is a theoretical approach to sociology where the reality as we experience it, is composed of social constructs. For instance, gender is a constantly evolving social construct. Social constructs are almost always subjects of huge debate because society has just constructed them. So they're not total absolutes and they can just change over time. In this question, the definition of psychiatric disorders changed over time because of its different social constructs. Social functionalism is a bit tempting to answer here since it's a sociological approach. But functionalism relates to the fact that society is composed of a lot of parts that work together and they have different functions. An example of this is a business where a lot of people with different jobs work together to get the business to function. Another example is a school or education system. It's not really relevant to this question. Social interactionism is another theoretical approach which is also tempting. But it's very specific to the individual social behaviors and the way individuals interact within society. So it's not large-scale to relate to the definition of psychiatric disorders. [14:38] Question 30 To foster the use of problem-oriented strategies with a minimum number of patient-doctor sessions, a clinician would most likely use what modality of therapy? (A) Psychodynamic therapy (B) Systems therapy (C) Cognitive-behavioral therapy (D) Humanistic/existential therapy Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. With these therapies, you only need to know a little bit about each of them to get the question right. Cognitive-behavior therapy is a style of therapy that is very focused on overcoming real-life problems like fears or compulsions. Psychodynamic therapy is very Freudian and dates back to the individual's past. But it's not going to be problem-oriented. It isn't going to minimize the number of patient-doctor sessions. Systems therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on teaching the individual about the systems available to them like support systems in their life. But it's not relevant to the question here. Finally, humanistic/existential is focused on how the person can achieve self-actualization or their full potential. This is not relevant to the question here either. [17:20] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking for more full-length exams, go to Next Step Test Prep full-length 10 and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off. Also, check out their QBank, which simulates the real testing environment. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off)
Apr 10, 2019
139: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 5
Passage 5 is all about administrative groupthink and the impact it has on employee stress and turnover. Follow along to improve your psych/soc skills!
Apr 03, 2019
138: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 4
Session 138 Joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep, we’re moving on to Passage 4 which covers a study that tested whether patient compliance can be prompted by social characteristics. If you need more help on your MCAT prep, check out Next Step Test Prep's full-length exams, the next best exam second to the AAMC. It simulates a real testing environment and can somewhat predict your score on the MCAT. Get 10% off and use the promo code MCATPOD. [02:39] Passage 4 Patient engagement is a good thing for a physician to track, as engaged patients have better health outcomes and better health care experiences. Engagement is affected by both medical and social factors, including race. A recent AMA study showed that relative to Asian physicians, Hispanic physicians experience a lower rate of patient engagement, particularly with medication compliance. This may be because people assume that Hispanics are less qualified to be physicians. Patient survey results showed that Hispanic physical cues decreased engagement, while Asian physical cues raised engagement. This influence grew stronger with stronger physical race cues. In a study performed by a healthcare research group, three subscales from the Model of Hispanic Identity were used to create racial identity clusters. Table 1 outlines the correlation analytics from a sample of 208 Hispanic female caregivers. Racial centrality examined the extent to which being Hispanic was an important part of the person’s overall self-concept. Private regard assessed the positive evaluation of one’s racial group. Public regard examined the extent to which the individual believed that others help positive evaluations of the Hispanic racial group. Seeking to support the theory that patient compliance can be prompted by social, rather than physical, characteristics, healthcare researchers designed an experiment to study social cues and their impact on patient engagement. Participants were shown random photos of Hispanic and Asian individuals in traditional medical professional attire (white lab coat and scrubs). They were asked to state if they believed the person in the photo to be a physician, nurse, or dietician. Next, each participant was asked to rank how likely they would be to follow the medical advice offered by the individual in the photo. Rankings were taken on a 7-point scale, with 7 indicating a high level of compliance. [05:03] Question 19 Which of the following is most likely to be a statement listed in the questionnaire section on racial centrality? (A) “In general, other groups view Hispanics in a positive manner.” (B) “Being Hispanic is an important reflection of who I am.” (C) “I feel good about Hispanic people.” (D) Hispanics have to work twice as hard as whites to get ahead.” Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is B. Whenever it seems too straightforward, this can be a clue that it's correct. People can get tripped up more often assuming that the question should be harder than they are on the MCAT. Some students still miss this question though as they may read the passage too quickly and not notice that racial centrality is in it. They would then assume it's a term you're supposed to know. [06:53] Question 20 The AMA study discussed in the passage suggests that the racial perception seen in the patient-physician interactions primarily relies on: (A) cultural behaviors. (B) economic signals. (C) physical traits. (D) social cues. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. The passage referenced the AMA study, which talks about Hispanic physical cues and Asian physical cues. But they didn't really tell us about what those cues are. But the focus here would be the physical traits, which is how we're supposed to get to this answer. Personally, I would disagree with the question writer on this because physical traits and physical cues are different things. Physical cues would have been the correct answer here; whereas they never used the concept of social cues in verbatim when it was referenced in the AMA study. [10:05] Question 21 A patient’s refusal to follow the advice of a Hispanic physician is an illustration of which psychological concept? (A) Cognitive dissonance (B) Racial stereotyping (C) Racial bias (D) Racial discrimination Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. You really need to know the definitions because they are so close. Distinguishing each of them is something students have trouble with on the MCAT. There is certainly some sort of stereotype here, but it's leading to an actual, specific action. The patient is actually behaving differently because their physician is Hispanic. And refusing to follow the physician's advice is a type of behavior, which is a type of discrimination. If they hadn't acted upon it, then that would be more closely tied into racial stereotyping. Racial bias is a general term, which is a thought process that tends towards treating one thing differently from another. However, this term is extremely broad. But the behavior described in this question basically denotes discrimination. Cognitive dissonance is a little bit separate. It's an MCAT-relevant term that refers to the state of mind where a person's behavior and their beliefs are at odds with one another. For instance, you believe smoking is wrong but you still smoke every once in a while. You're going to experience cognitive dissonance where over time, you would feel uncomfortable and you're likely to either change your belief or you'll change your action and stop doing that behavior. Obviously, cognitive resonance is not relevant to the question. [13:35] Know Your Definitions The big takeaway here is to know the definitions. In the same way, you need to know all of the amino acids, how to draw them, and the three-letter abbreviations. Again, if you're looking for some full-length exams, check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10%. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD)
Mar 27, 2019
137: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 3
Session 137 Last week we took a quick break from passages with discrete questions. This week we look at Passage 3 that covers the pathway in which we hear with the ear. For more resources, be sure to check out all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network. [01:42] Passage 3 Deflection of the tympanic membrane transfers vibrations to the ossicles, whose function is to amplify the vibration pressure delivered to the oval window, a small hole in the cochlea. Without this amplification, it is estimated that all but 0.1% of the incoming sound energy would be reflected upon contact with the cochlear fluid. Inner hair cells are the mechanotransduction cells responsible for converting the basilar membrane movement into auditory information. Figure 2 shows their signal transmission pathway, The hair cells depend on stereocilia, microtubule-based projections. The tips of neighboring stereocilia are connected via actin-based linkages, and basilar membrane movement can either strain or relax the tensions of these linkages. When strained, the linkages activate non-specific cation channels, which causes an influx of ions that depolarize the hair cell. As a result of the depolarization, voltage-gated calcium channels are opened, which subsequently causes the package and release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft. The synapse connects the inner hair cell to spiral ganglion cells, which in turn connect to the auditory nerve that relays the information to our brain for further processing. [04:23] Question 14 In order to amplify the pressure exerted on the cochlear fluid at the oval window, the oval window must be: (A) larger than the tympanic membrane. (B) smaller than the tympanic membrane. (C) more rigid than the tympanic membrane. (D) less rigid than the tympanic membrane. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is B. There are a couple of ways you can solve this. This involves a little bit of understanding of physics. It's this idea that if you're going to exert the same force or pressure, where the pressure is equal to force over area, the way to amplify that pressure is to exert over a really small area. Another way to distinguish this is that the passage defines the oval window as the small hole in the cochlea. [07:16] Question 15 Which of the following bones has a footplate that acts as a piston, making contact with the cochlear fluid at the oval window? Scaphoid Malleus Capitate Stapes Clara’s insights: The correct answer is D. The A and C are bones in the wrist. If you see a word and not familiar with it, it's probably not something you should pick. The Stapes is the last bone of the three and it directly makes contact with the cochlear fluid. [08:50] Question 17 The stereocilia of inner ear cells project into the endolymph fluid, where there is a high K+ and Cl- content but a low Na+ content. Based on this information and the information in the passage, which of the following ions would contribute most to the depolarization of the cell if the tip links between stereocilia were strained? K+ Na+ CL- (A) I only (B) II only (C) I and II only (D) I and III only Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is A. Cl and Na are coming in because where all the stuff is potentially but they're anions. [12:10] Question 18 Which of the following is most likely the excitatory neurotransmitter released into the synaptic cleft between the inner ear hair cells and the spiral ganglion? (A) GABA (B) Acetylcholine (C) Serotonin (D) Glutamate Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D since they say excitatory neurotransmitter. And GABA is the classic inhibitory neurotransmitter and glutamate is the excitatory one. Serotonin is brain-focused and only comes up on the MCAT in terms of reward pathway and depression. Acetylcholine is the classically involved with muscle contraction. [15:10] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep's full-length exams. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep's full-length exams (promo code MCATPOD) MedEd Media Network
Mar 20, 2019
136: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Discretes 1
Session 136 In our first set of discrete questions from Next Step Test Prep, we answer questions about bias, stress hormones, organizational effects, and groupthink! [01:50] MCAT Strategies Clara from Next Step says that virtually nobody runs out of time on Psych/Soc. But the big benefit doing discrete questions first is that when you do the first 15, and then you just take whatever time you have left and divide it into time per passage. But if you're not going to run out of time anyway, you might as well go through it in order and save yourself the effort of clicking around and trying to find what the discrete questions are first. [03:09] Question 10 Survey responses can be prone to subjective bias due to varying interpretation of questions. Blood levels of which of the following would best operationalize feelings of stress? (A) Cytokines (B) Epinephrine (C) Cortisol (D) Free radicals Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. They might throw you off with the first sentence in that survey responses as well as the term "operationalize" – but what operationalize means that some subjects of a study might not that be easy to quantify and measure. So feelings of stress, how do you measure it? So we're trying to figure out a way we can really have something quantifiable, measurable, related to stress. And C cortisol is a stress hormone. [04:44] Question 11 Groupthink tends to exacerbate the tendency of individuals to favor the reasoning and decisions of associates in the group. Another way of saying this is that people experiencing groupthink have a(an): (A) confirmation bias. (B) in-group bias. (C) self-serving bias. (D) attribution bias. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is B. It's so counter-intuitive but you never want to eliminate an answer choice just because it looks too easy. And sometimes you get rid of the answer choices that seems super obvious but in fact, it's really the obvious one. In-group refers to members of the same group that shares some demographic characteristics. So you tend to be biased to favor their opinions and decisions as opposed to the members of an outgroup, which is a group not part of your close circle. [07:11] Question 12 The strong negative effect that losing a long-term employee can have on a hospital is most likely due to the effect on the: (A) cultural capital of the organization. (B) group polarization of the organization. (C) institutional memory of the organization. (D) social facilitation of the organization. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. Cultural capital is almost the one that most students pick if they don't pick C. It's, in fact, a weird concept that a lot of people don't have the right definition in their head. But it's not referring to financial capital or wealth. Nor is it a social capital which refers to the connections you form or people you know in your network. Cultural capital is like everything else like the way you talk, how well-read and articulate you are and things that contribute to your social standing but aren't the other two. Institutional memory is relevant in corporate life, where it refers to the collective, written or unwritten memory of policies and procedures of the organization itself. So when you lose someone who's worked for a long time, it's almost impossible that every single thing they know will be documented. So you're going to lose some of the institutional memory. And the new people that would come in would have to learn how to do it again for themselves. Group polarization ends up being irrelevant to this context but super relevant to MCAT psych section. It refers to this idea that if you get people in a group and they share an opinion and you get them talking about that opinion, they will tend to leave the conversation more extreme. Social facilitation is a phenomenon where if you're performing something in front of a group, your performance will be much better than it would be if you were performing alone. But if you're not very confident or practiced in that activity, your performance can suffer because you're nervous. [10:33] Question 13 One of Janis’ eight characteristics of groupthink is self-censorship, the withholding of opposing information by group members. It is brought on by another one of Janis’ characteristics, the pressure of conformity, which encourages uniformity of opinion and characterizes deviation from the group’s ideas as loyal. This self-censorship in the face of pressure and perceived “loyalty” is most similar to: (A) deindividuation. (B) cognitive dissonance. (C) repression. (D) sublimation. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is A. The individuation is closely related to groupthink which is this tendency where when you're in a large group, we tend to lose our sense of individuality and we get very aligned with the group itself. Answer choice C can be a trap answer. Repression is when somebody who is maybe experiencing something traumatic and just doesn't think about it. They repress the thought. But we don't know that these people are repressing anything. They could be thinking about how it may not be great to go along with the group. They could be thinking those thoughts but they're just acting to just be along with the group anyway. Sublimation is one of Freud's ego defense mechanisms. It's where if you have thoughts or urges that are not socially acceptable. It's like taking unacceptable impulses and transcend them into something better or something more acceptable. Cognitive dissonance is where your behaviors don't align with your thoughts or beliefs. [15:05] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking for beginning MCAT material, check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT, which I co-wrote with Next Step Test Prep. We'll help you understand everything you need to know about the MCAT as well as some tips and strategies. Also check out all my other books, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Personal Statement and the The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. Links: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Personal Statement The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview
Mar 13, 2019
135: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 2
Session 135 We tackle Passage 2 that is all about external locus of control with migrants! Follow along with the handout on our blog post to hone your psych/soc skills! We’re joined once again by Clara from Next Step Test Prep who is here week by week as we try to dive into and dig the passages piece by piece so you can come in the exam room ready to crush your MCAT! Be sure to check out all of the other podcasts we do on MedEd Media Network to help you along this medical school application journey. [02:26] Passage 2 Born in a mid-sized city in Senegal, Moussa’s family emigrated to the U.S. when he was less than a year old. Moussa’s father was an engineer and his mother, a math teacher, Moussa and his parents were the first members of his extended family to leave for the West. Emmanuel was born in a rural village in Nigeria and emigrated to the U.S. when he was five. His parents were laborers and Emmanuel arrived in a neighborhood where many members of his extended family had settled for years. Both students showed very high promise early in school but both ran afoul of authorities early in their teenage years due to the activity with local youth gangs and low-level crime activity. Faced with a majority culture that forbids the harsh child-rearing techniques they would have used at home, Moussa’s and Emmanuel’s parents despaired about the effect Western permissive culture was having on their boys. In response, Moussa’s parents sent him back to Senegal to finish his high school years in an elite, but strict private school Emmanuel’s parents could not afford such an option. To study the effect of sending adolescent male children back to Africa during that tempestuous time in life, researchers interviewed both Moussa and Emmanuel as adults. They then asked them for referrals to other members of their communities who had gone through a similar experience, or would know someone who did. In this manner, they were able to find hundreds of subjects to interview regarding their experience as black immigrant children in the U.S. Researchers hypothesized that children who had been sent back to Africa during adolescence would more likely exhibit an external locus of control compared to children who stayed in the U.S. throughout childhood. The findings, surprisingly, exhibit the opposite: those adults who returned to the home country for some or all of adolescence were more likely to exhibit internal locus of control, whereas those who stayed in the U.S. were more likely to exhibit a larger disparity between front-stage and back-stage behaviors. [04:53] Question 5 Which sociological concept is LEAST applicable to either or both of Moussa’s and Emmanuel’s experiences? (A) Majority culture vs. minority culture (B) Peer pressure (C) Affirmative action (D) Social reproduction Clara’s insights: C is the correct answer here. A fair proportion of students miss this one mainly because they don't know what affirmative action is, which refers to institutionalized behaviors intended to help underprivileged minority groups. With college applications, for example, if there's a minority group that has a pretty low proportion in that college. Then they might introduce policies to favor that group because that group may be suffering through conditions preventing them from succeeding. [06:44] Question 6 The main purpose for including subjects like Emmanuel in the study is to: (A) add the variable of parental socioeconomic status to the study. (B) increase the overall sample size to add statistical power to the findings. (C) act as a control group of immigrant youths who had not been sent back to Africa. (D) operationalize the definition of the behavior of sending adolescents back to Africa. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is C. The tempting one here is A. Just because he has a different socioeconomic status doesn't mean that's the purpose of why he was included. But he was included as a control group. The main focus was to study children being sent to Africa. MCAT passages are usually based off of scientific journal articles or at least modeled after that. And that's the perfect example of the purpose of the study. So you can highlight the whole thing or at least a small phrase in there to remind you that that's the purpose. [09:48] Question 7 Based on the discussion at the end of the passage, which of the following statements would most likely be made by someone like Moussa? (A) “I succeed in school primarily because I come from very educated parents.” (B) “My admission to an elite university in England was based primarily on luck.” (C) “I am extremely concerned with how I am perceived by my peers in school.” (D) “When I succeed on a test, it is because I am a good student who studies hard.” Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is D. People can do well in Psych/Soc even without understanding the meaning of every term. And there's this funny curve that as you learn more and more about the details of the meaning of each term, you tend to psych yourself out. [12:14] Question 8 If researchers only compared Moussa and Emmanuel and found that Moussa had a strong internal locus of control, but Emmanuel had an external locus of control, could they conclude that being sent back to Africa caused the observed difference? (A) No, because Moussa already had an internal locus of control as such a personality trait is determined wholly genetically. (B) No, because a comparison of only two subjects could involve any number of compounding factors. (C) Yes, because with a thorough interview and personality inventory, the researchers could account for any other differences. (D) The question does not provide enough information to determine. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is B. You need to understand research and statistics here and data more than anything else. They throw C here but only two people are not just enough. [14:32] Question 9 After moving to the U.S., Moussa's father's socioeconomic status would primarily be determined by which of the following? (A) His occupation as an engineer (B) His gender (C) His status as an immigrant (D) His IQ Clara's insights: The correct answer here is A assuming he was able to work as an engineer here. We have to assume in this case. [16:05] Next Step Test Prep Please check out MCAT Course Review. In that review, I break down Next Step Test Prep's MCAT course. The company was initially known for their tutoring and a couple of years ago, they introduced their first version of the MCAT course. Soon, they're coming out with a brand new and updated course for you as well. Sign up and use the promo code MCATPOD to save $50. Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD) MedEd Media Network MCAT Course Review
Mar 06, 2019
134: Next Step Full Length 10, Psych/Soc Passage 1
Today we begin the psych/soc section from the Next Step full-length 10. Passage 1 covers double bind communication and the link between communication and schizophrenia. #MCAT #premed
Feb 27, 2019
133: How to Prep for the Psych & Sociology Section of the MCAT
  Session 133 Psychology and Sociology is the newest section of the MCAT. We talk about how to tackle this section and talk about how it may be different from other sections. Once again, we’re joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep as we discuss how to best prepare for the this particular section on the MCAT. [02:44] How to Approach Studying for Psych/Soc No matter what resources you use to prep, you're always going to feel there's this chance to see these random terms in questions you've never seen before when you were studying. And a lot of times, this freaks students out. What Clara recommends is to keep a log of actual terms and concepts you see in questions. Midway through your studying, you may do practice questions. You may see wrong answer choices that you had not seen before. Just keep running the log. Write down the term and the concept as well as anything you learned from it. Then leave a bit of space underneath. Over time, you can add that blank space in your log and then understand these patterns as to when weird terms really come up in questions. [04:53] Using Visuals Flashcards are great. You may also create an Excel sheet or Word document. So you want to make them easily searchable. But at the same time and you're looking at a flash card and the correct terms is already goo, then it's a nice review of the terms you already have written down. So that's a plus on that side. [05:29] What's Hard About Psych/Soc The biggest issue that a lot of many students have is that there a lot of terms that sound the same or really similar to each other. And there are also other terms that sound like the perfect description of what the question is talking about but they're really not the actual Psych/Soc term. So go over them carefully when you're studying. Maybe you can make a flash card on each one so when you're studying and come across them, the terms would be easier for you to distinguish. [07:20] Should You Walk Into the Exam Already Knowing the Terms? This is the kind of section where having knowledge about it coming into the exam would be really beneficial. The one thing that complicates it a bit, which some people either love or not, is that this section has a lot of questions about research design. Those are the ones that end up being more passage-based. Clara points out that just knowing the definitions of these terms isn't quite enough. You have to be able to apply it to a real-life experiment setting. [08:47] The Biggest Mistakes Students Make One common mistake students make while preparing is they just overlook it. They'd often leave Psych/Soc until later. Or for those students who work full-time or are really busy and have to prioritize which subjects they need to focus on. Very often, they'll end up focusing on Biochem, Gen Chem, Physics. And they leave Psych/Soc because they can just memorize it and cram it in later. But this doesn't work. [10:25] It's Always the Last Section Keep in mind that the last section of the exam is a really big one. Oftentimes, when students study this section, they're doing it when they're fresh. But on the real exam, you're going to see psych/soc when you're exhausted. And there's this weird psychological phenomenon that occurs on Psych/Soc section. Because almost everyone finishes with plenty of time left, a lot of times, students will just end their exam when they're done. But use that time as much as you can. Review one or two passages. In other words, don't succumb to that urge to end it. Moreover, Clara recommends studying Psych/Soc at the end of the day before you go to bed. Though you can carry over the other sections if you really want to get intense with your practice. This way, you're already used to it. [13:40] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking at full-length exams and if you need more prep, check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off)
Feb 20, 2019
132: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Discretes 4
Session 132 We’re on the last part of bio/biochem and we’re finishing up with a set of discrete questions. Once again, we’re joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep as we dive in right into these questions and walk you through getting the correct answer. So you can get the MCAT score that you want! Meanwhile, be sure to check out all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network and listen to more resources to help you along your journey towards becoming a physician! Click Here to Download Handout [02:52] Question 57 patients with Ehler's Danlos syndrome commonly suffer from hypermobile, unstable joints and fragile, easily bruised skin. Which of these loss-of-function mutations is most likely to cause Ehler's Danlos syndrome" (A) A mutation in actin (B) A mutation in keratin (C) A mutation in elastin (D) A mutation in collagen Clara's insights: The correct answer here is D. While C, however, is the most picked wrong answer. But what can save you from picking C is looking at that line in the passage saying "loss-of-function mutations." If that's the case in elastin that means elastin is no longer working and your joints wouldn't be hypermobile, but not mobile at all. And you'd be stiff essentially. Actin is one of those proteins in the muscle, keratin is in the skin, and so these two don't make sense too. [04:54] Question 58 In skeletal myocytes, calcium is normally released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum after: (A) the muscle begins to relax. (B) myosin releases actin. (C) the membrane depolarizes. (D) physical damage to the muscle occurs. Clara's insights: Calcium gets troponin and tropomyosin and they're blocking the binding site that myosin would typically use to attach to actin. Then when calcium comes out, it causes a shift that will expose that binding site and that's what allows myosin to bind to actin. ATP is what triggers the release. ATP binds to the myosin head and calcium binds to get troponin and tropomyosin out of the way. C is the right answer here since the membrane depolarizes and that's the signal to start the muscle contraction which causes the calcium to flow out of the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Extra tip: When you review your test, review not only what you got wrong, but also, what you got right. Sometimes, you'd get the right answer out of just guessing or for the wrong reason. And even sometimes, you might get the right answer for the right reason, but maybe the explanation will have an alternate way to do it or there may be content facts you weren't thinking about. So review everything! [10:15] Question 59 In aerobic organisms, glycolysis: (A) is upregulated when blood glucose levels fall. (B) directly supplies the citric acid cycle with acetyl-CoA. (C) requires oxygen as the final electron acceptor. (D) is inhibited by a high rate of intracellular ATP:AMP. Clara's insights: B can be tempting as it's talking about the citric acid cycle and that's what we typically think of as coming next after glycolysis. But it's wrong because it says, "directly supplies the citric acid cycle with acetyl-COA" and glycolysis doesn't produce acetyl-CoA directly. Instead, it produces pyruvate, which is decarboxylated into acetyl-CoA in a later stage in pyruvate decarboxylation. C is wrong too because glycolysis isn't what has the final electron acceptor, but the electron transport chain. So glycolysis doesn't involve oxygen at all. Then A is another wrong answer because if blood glucose levels are falling then you don't want to be using up the glucose you have in glycolysis. The right answer is D. Basically, ATP and AMP are activators of a lot of these metabolic processes because they are signals of how much energy the cell has. So if we have a high ratio of ATP:AMP, that means we have a lot of ATP and so we have a lot of energy already. There's no need to run these processes just to make more energy if we already have plenty. High ATP concentrations typically inhibit metabolic processes and high AMP is a sign that we don't have a lot of ATP so high AMP stimulates these processes. [14:30] Next Step Test Prep If you're in the market for full-length exams, check out Next Step Test Prep, which has ten scored exams. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off of their full-length packages today! Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media Network
Feb 13, 2019
131: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 10
Session 131 Passage 10 of Bio/Biochem is about a research study looking at the activity of membrane proteins in three different cell types. Once again, we’re joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep as we dig into the last batch of the Bio/Biochem passages. [03:30] Passage 10 A research team conducted a number of lab experiments to investigate activity in membrane proteins in three different cell types. Experiment 1: Voltage clamp electrodes were used to measure the transmembrane potential difference of a squid axon and to track it as a function of time. Application of L-glutamate to the cell dendrites resulted in the depolarization of the membrane and the repolarization the opposite direction, as shown in the accompanying chart. (Table 1 says transmembrane potential difference of squid axon over time). [03:30] Passage 10 A research team conducted a number of lab experiments to investigate activity in membrane proteins in three different cell types. Experiment 1: Voltage clamp electrodes were used to measure the transmembrane potential difference of a squid axon and to track it as a function of time. Application of L-glutamate to the cell dendrites resulted in the depolarization of the membrane and the repolarization the opposite direction, as shown in the accompanying chart. (Table 1 shows a transmembrane potential difference of squid axon over time). Experiment 2: Mutated red blood cells were reproduced in a number of cell cultures which were separated into different repositories. Repository A was placed in a 310 milliosmole per kilogram sodium solution. Repository B was placed in distilled water and repository C was placed in a mixture which contained fluorescent transferring complexes, fluorescent concanavalin A complexes, iron 3+ ion, and a dilute concentration of vinblastine. Each repository was microscopically observed one hour later and 12 hours later. It was later determined that the mutation in the cell cultures affected active transport ion channels. Then the results of the environmental surrounding's tests are given and we see that culture A after one hour had no effect, culture B had partial lysis, and culture C had slight fluorescence of cell cytoplasms and then they also tell us that after 12 hours, culture A had partial shrinkage of the cell size. Culture B now had complete lysis. And culture C had increased fluorescence of cell cytoplasms. Finally, experiment 3, an extraction from a localized site of a biological specimen which as experiencing an infection due to a prokaryotic pathogen was cryofixated and imaged with electron microscopy. (The resulting image depicts cells and actually, this passage did not give an image so it must be inferred results.) Depict cells identified by the researchers as neutrophil granulocytes. Several of these cells appeared to abend in various stages of engulfing pathogen cells. The image additionally depicts cells identified as macrophages which appear to abend in various stages of engulfing neutrophil granulocytes. [06:42] Question 53: Which transmembrane protein is most likely to have been involved with the repolarization of the transmembrane potential difference in Experiment 1. (A) Sodium potassium passive transport channel (B) Sodium potassium active transport channel (C) Sodium potassium ligand gated channel (D) None of the above Clara's insights: The correct answer here is B. Experiment 2 did mention that this mutation affected active transport ion channels but the real reason the answer is active transport is that the question talks about repolarization, which reestablishes the resting membrane potential. That is always the sodium-potassium pump, which is an active transport channel. And that is what establishes a resting membrane potential back at negative 70 value. [09:33] Question 54 In Experiment 2, what best explains the consequences of the 310 milliosmoles per kg sodium NA+ solution on the cells in repository A. (A) Partial functioning of the active transport ion channels (B) Bi-concave nature of red blood cell membrane decreasing the cell structure or rigidity (C) Passive flow of ions through transmembrane proteins (D) Outflow of water molecules through aquaporins Clara's insights: 310 milliosmoles sound high so that must be hypertonic. And the cells in a hypertonic solution is water wanting to rebalance so it will move from an area where there is low solute in the cell to an area of high solute. And that is exactly why our water molecules will flow out through aquaporins which is answer choice D. So you can actually get this without using the passage. Although you can also use the passage to help you answer this. If you didn't know that 310 milliosmoles per kg is hypertonic, you could go back to Table 2 and that where it says that after 12 hours Culture A showed partial shrinkage of cell size. So water must be falling out of the cell that totally fits in with answer choice D. [13:50] Question 55 Why did the lysis in Experiment 2 occur? Lack of ability of transmembrane channels to relieve osmotic pressure. Hydrophilic nature of cell membrane working in combination with the surrounding water III. Flow of distilled water into the cells (A) I and II (B) I and III (C) II and III (D) I, II, and III Clara's insights: Experiment 2 had three different cell cultures. Culture A is the one we talked about in the previous question and that's the one where water flowed out of the cell. But there were two other cultures. If you go back to Experiment 2, you can see that complete lysis happens with culture B. So it's actually asking about a totally different cell culture than the question before. Lysis means that the cell essentially explodes and that can totally happen when distilled water floats into the cell. The answer here is B. The outside of the cell membrane is hydrophilic, the inner part with the phospholipid tail is hydrophobic. So the hydrophilic part isn't wrong that it touches the outside water. But it just has nothing to do with this because the cell membrane is always hydrophilic on the outside. And cells aren't always lysing. [17:30] Question 56 One effect that Vinblastine has been shown to have is to induce endocytotic activity in red blood cells. With this in mind, what would be the likely effect if Vinblastine levels were increased in Experiment 2 were to be re-run with a higher Vinblastine concentration in the mixture of surrounding cell culture C. (A) Fluorescence of the cell cytoplasms would occur more rapidly due to increased uptake of fluorescent bonded molecule complexes (B) Fluorescence of the cell cytoplasms would not occur due to increased endocytosis causing more rapid evacuation of fluoresced material (C) No effect as the endocytotic activity is not specific to transfer and/or Concanavalin A but rather has equal effects on various types of surrounding molecules (D) No effect as the increased fluorescence is being caused by the defect in active transport membrane proteins, which prevents them from evacuating fluoresced materials Clara's insights: The correct answer here is A. Endocytotic activity is induced here and endocytosis means bringing cargo ring material into the cell. The passage says that cell culture C was placed in a mixture containing all of these basically fluorescent complexes. So with endocytosis, the cell is floating around with all these fluorescent complexes outside of it. Now, it's endocytosing them and bringing more fluorescence into the cell. [22:22] The Triaging Strategy Doesn't Work! This was used by some of the other test prep companies for the old MCAT. This means that when you get to a new section, the first thing you should do is click through really quickly and try to see which passages kook hard and which look easy. Then do the easy ones first and then maybe there are some hard ones. And if you don't have time, you don't get to those. This was a horrible failure of a method because people may think a question looks hard but turns out the question is really easy. Then they would miss out. So this doesn't work anymore because the MCAT now shows one question at a time so it just takes forever to click through. So don't assume a question is too hard. Secondly, even if you just focus on getting a mental summary of the three experiments. it can make you feel like this is more manageable because you realize it's really just about three different experiments. You don't get distracted by all the dense, Concanavaline, random words. Lastly, you can just flag an answer or mark it and then move on. So if you have time in the end, you can go back to it. But if not, then you weren't supposed to spend your time on it anyway. [24:10] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep's course that comes with over 100 hours of videos, access to all of their materials and the AAMC materials, as well as live office hours 5 days a week, two hours at a time. So you can get the one-on-one help that you need for your MCAT prep even through an online course. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save $50 off their course. If you qualify for FAP, email them and let them know because they have a very generous deal for you! Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save $50 off their course.)
Feb 06, 2019
130: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 9
Session 130 We’re rounding out bio/biochem for Next Step Test Prep full-length 10 and we’re in for a great passage to help us with our skills. [01:54] Passage 9 Ketone bodies are molecules that are produced by the liver during times of low glucose levels. [Figure 1 is talking about the structures of the three naturally occurring ketone bodies in humans - acetone, acetoacetic acid, and beta-hydroxybutyric acid] These ketone bodies are synthesized from acetyl-CoA. Normally in the liver, acetyl-CoA enters the Krebs cycle. However, if there is a lack of oxaloacetate or an overabundance of acetyl-CoA released from beta-oxidation of fatty acids, then the acetyl-CoA will be built in the ketone bodies via ketogenesis. If acetoacetate is not used within about five hours of its creation, it would be decarboxylated into a metabolically inert ketone. Acetyl acetate and beta-hydroxy butyryl dehydrogenase are picked up from the liver and transported to other parts of the body where they can be converted back into acetyl-CoA and enter the Krebs cycle. The brain and heart are the biggest consumers of ketone bodies as the source of energy. The state of higher than normal ketone body levels is known as ketosis. Significantly high levels of ketone bodies will lower a blood pH, a condition known as ketoacidosis. [03:35] Question 48 Which of the following best explains why high blood levels of ketone bodies lower blood pH? (A) Because acetoacetic acid and beta-hydroxybutyric acid have PKA values above physiological pH. (B) Because production of ketone bodies produce CO2 which reacts with water to form carbonic acid. (C) Because production of ketone bodies releases Coenzyme A which is highly acidic. (D) Because acetoacetic acid and beta-hydroxybutyric acid have PKA values below physiological pH. Clara's insights: Lower PKA corresponds to something more acidic just like a lower pH is more acidic. Answer choice A would have been backward as PKA above would be less acidic. Then B and C may look tempting as they involved acid in some way but we don't need to know that kind of detail about ketone body production. So the answer here is D. [07:52] Question 49 Would a person with diabetes be at a greater risk of developing ketoacidosis? (A) Yes, because lack of insulin means a lack of glucose in liver cells halting the Krebs cycle and causing an overabundance of acetyl-CoA resulting in ketogenesis and ketoacidosis. (B) No, because lack of insulin means an abundance of glucose in blood, meaning there's plenty of glucose available and at the end of the Krebs cycle is pyruvate. (C) No. Lack of insulin means lack of glucose in liver cells. However, the Krebs cycle will not be interrupted even without pyruvate. (D) Yes, because lack of insulin means an abundance of glucose in blood resulting in higher acetyl-CoA levels which then undergo ketogenesis resulting in ketoacidosis. Clara's insights: You may not know what abundance of glucose in the blood would do but you can kind of guess what it will do in cells. Glucose in the blood doesn't really do anything. And we picture all these processes just happening but they actually have to happen in cells. So the abundance of glucose in the blood is in no way will directly result in higher acetyl-CoA levels because glucose would need to be in the cells for it to go through glycolysis and make pyruvate to progress into the Krebs cycle. So A is the correct answer. [12:52] Question 50 Based on the passage, what is the most likely path for removal of acetone produced in Figure 1. Excretion in the urine Conversion back to acetyl acetate III. Involved in anabolism of amino acids (A) I only. (B) I and II only. (C) II and III only. (D) I, II, and III Clara's insights: When you say III, it means it's used as a building block for amino acids so that's not right. Then the conversion back to acetyl acetate, it doesn't necessarily say that acetone comes from acetyl acetate. So the correct answer here is I only. The passage doesn't directly don't talk about acetone but it alludes to it in a way we can figure out what it's talking about. So if you actually look back at paragraph 3, it says "If acetoacetate is not used within about five hours of its creation, it would be decarboxylated into a metabolically inert ketone." Acetone is a ketone. Acetoacetate is a pretty small molecule where essentially the only ketone you get from it is acetone. So when they say metabolically inert ketone, the obvious identity for that is acetone. And if it's metabolically inert, it doesn't really do anything in metabolism and we just excrete it out. And amino acids are small, like individual monomeric building blocks. We wouldn't imagine like a ketone body would be used to build those tiny little amino acids anyway. [10:00] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep for their one-on-one tutoring and online course, their full-length exams, and all other resources they have to offer. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jan 30, 2019
129: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Discretes 3
Session 129 We’re onto our last set of discrete questions for the bio/biochem section of Next Step Test Prep full-length 10. [01:23] Question 44 A medical student stubbed her toe and observed that there was a momentary gap between when she realized she had stubbed her toe. And when she felt the onset of pain, she wondered if this might relate to a structural difference in the neurons involved in the baroception versus those involved in nociception. Which of the following is the best hypothesis for explaining this observation? (A) The neurons in the nociception pathway are not myelinated whereas those involved in the baroception pathway are myelinated. (B) The neurons in the nociception pathway have more dendrites than those in the baroception pathway. (C) The neurons in the baroception pathway are not myelinated whereas those involved in the nociception pathway are myelinated. (D) The neurons in the baroception pathway have more dendrites than those in the nociception pathway. Clara’s insights: The correct answer here is A. [04:26] Question 45 GTP is best classified as a member of which class of biological molecules. (A) Amino acids (B) Peptides (C) Nucleotides (D) Nucleic acids Clara’s insights: The correct answer is C. Those are typical examples of DNA and RNA. Nucleic acids are polymers of nucleotides. GTP is just one molecule, which is just one molecular unit. It’s not a long string of monomers along a string of nucleotides, like a nucleic acid is. And so GTP is a nucleotide. Where most people mess this up is we typically think of nucleotides as like the regular A, C, T, G, and those in DNA will only have one phosphate group. But GTP which is not a part of a DNA directly, it has three phosphate groups. To be a nucleotide, a molecule just needs to have at least one phosphate group, 5-carbon sugar, and a nitrogenous base. So a nucleotide is the individual subunit while nucleic acids are long-chain polymers of nucleotides. So if you’re talking about a long strand of DNA then that would be a nucleic acid but that individual unit like the base or the phosphate, or the sugar, then that would be a nucleotide. And it’s just like the amino acids and peptides where the amino acids are the individual subunits of the peptides. Just remember that all those we see all the time – GTP, ATP, etc – are technically nucleotides. [08:00] Question 46 DCCD is a chemical that blocks the proton core of ATP synthase. If treated with DCCD, which of the following is most likely to decrease in the actively respiring mitochondria of an adult rat cardiac cell? (A) Hydrogen concentration within the intermembrane space. (B) ADP concentration within the matrix. (C) Oxygen consumption (D) Chemiosmotic gradient across the inner membrane Clara's insights: This is easy to mess things up because they're asking about what's likely to decrease. So start from the very beginning and sum it up. The first sentence means protons during ATP generation. Basically, we have the electron transport chain and the oxidative phosphorylation that generates ATP. A major step in the phosphorylation is protons moving through protein synthase. As that happens, they make ATP. So this chemical is blocked. As a result, we're not going to be able to make as much ATP. Eventually, when you stop ATP synthase from functioning, eventually the whole thing will shut down so the electron transport chain will slow and actually stop. So that's what's happening. Now, you just have to make sure you get the right answer and don't get it backward. In A, the intermembrane space is where we've been pumping protons into that space to build up this major proton gradient. We've blocked protons from coming back into the matrix. So what's happening is that protein concentration in the membrane space is going to get bigger. And so it can't travel back inside so A is out because it won't decrease. For B, it says ADP concentration and then right away, that looks like something is going to increase because ADP is the inverse of ATP. Oxygen consumption looks tempting because eventually, we're just not going to be able to run this process at all. And so we're not going to be using oxygen as our final electron receptor of the ETC. For choice D, it just refers to the actual proton gradient. It's a fancy word for saying a gradient of chemicals and those chemicals are protons. So C is the correct answer. [13:00] Question 47 A couple trying to conceive without using IVF methods would most likely have their highest chance of pregnancy: (A) Early in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle (B) After the onset of mensies (C) During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (D) Midway through the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle Clara's insights: The phases of the menstrual cycle would be two: the follicular phase, the first half where the follicle is just essentially growing and getting nutrients. Then at the end of the follicular phase is the LH surge, which is the ovulation. After the ovulation is the luteal phase. Until ovulation happens, the follicle is actually still not released from the ovary. So we don't have the egg freely available to be fertilized until after ovulation, which is the luteal phase. So the best answer here is C. [16:00] Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep is known for their one-on-one tutoring as well as an amazing course that I've actually reviewed at Whatever that you need in your MCAT test prep, the Next Step Test Prep team is there to help you all along the way. Go to Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jan 23, 2019
128: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 8
Session 128 Passage 8 is all about genetics, inheritance patterns, chromosomes, and much more. Follow along with the blog post for this episode. Joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep, we 're continuing our fun deep dive into their full-length 10 bio/biochem. Meanwhile, also take a listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [01:30] Passage 8 Cells of Drosophila melanogaster individuals with Fragile X syndrome were microscopically absorbed in Petri dishes. Petri dish A was stained by the lab researchers prior to microscopic observation. Cells in the interphase were shown to have heavy staining around the periphery of their nuclei. Additionally, cells in prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase, were shown to have chromosomes which were heavily stained on the end of each chromosome. The arms of each chromosome were more likely stained. Petri dish B was combed to remove all cells except the ones in the mitotic G1 phase. The dish was then seeded with fluorescent oligonucleotide probes, which are specific to the lack the laci gene. In situ hybridization occurred of this gene and the oligonucleotide. After DNA supercooling occurred, fluorescence was observed on not one, but two arms of an intracellular linked chromosome pair. Petri dish C contained a cell cultured grown Drosophila cells which were genetically engineered to be incapable of producing histones or nucleosomes. It was observed that the nuclei of these cells never developed visible chromosomes, despite the fact that in theory, there should have been no impact on the structural integrity of the nuclear DNA. [03:28] Question 40 What role do histones and nucleosomes possess relating to nuclear DNA and mitosis? (A) They allow visible chromosomes to form prior to mitosis by linking pairs of sister chromatids. (B) They cause the genetic variability that chromosomes require for mitotic splitting. (C) They allow small coils of euchromatin to supercoil into large coils of heterochromatin. (D) They facilitate mitosis by helping to supercoil nuclear DNA into chromosomes. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is D. Histones and nucleosomes help to pack DNA individually tight chromatin structures. There are some here that stand out as pretty wrong like B since there is variability in the DNA, not in the histones. Then for C, that's not how it works. Since euchromatin and heterochromatin are two different structures. Euchromatin is more loosely packed chromatin and heterochromatin is more dense. Choice A talks about linking a pair of sister chromatids. It's actually confusing that with the centromere which does that, but the histones don't. For you to remember this, if you can come up that works for you, then great. If not, then it could just be something that you need to remember. If you can somehow associate "Eu" with loose or like, and "hetero" as H and heavy like dense. Heterochromatin is dense and darker colored under a microscope so you can picture that. [07:30] Question 41 Why was staining in Petri dish A only visible during mitotic stages other than interphase? Chromatin's association with genetic material means that the DNA double helix must coalesce with sufficiently high density before chromatin can be microscopically visible. Interphase is a stage in which the proteins around which DNA is wrapped are two loosely packed to be seen with optical microscopes. III. Chemical reactions that occur during interphase cause translucency of the chromatin structure. I only I and II only II and III only I, II, and III Clara's insights: The correct answer here is B. And I is one of the correct answers. Sometimes, students can be tempted to try to do everything at once. But there are negative statements so it can really get confusing. But what you can do towards the end is to ask yourself if it's true. III looks good as if it addresses the question but translucency of the chromatin structure is not something that happens.  So III is out. And there is no II only. So it has to be I and II. II is just like the definition of interphase and it's totally true. Interphase is a stage where DNAs wrap around proteins too loosely to be seen with microscopes and that explains why the staining was not visible during interphase. I just a long fancy way of saying what interphase is and what chromatin is in terms of having to be dense before it's visible. But we already know it has to be in there. [12:52] Question 42 What component can best be expected to experience the same type of heavy staining as occurs in Petri dish A to the nuclei peripheries and chromosome ends? (A) The center of each chromosome pair, since most histones are located there (B) The arms of each chromosome pair since most histones are located there (C) The center of each chromosome pair since chromosomal centromeres are made of heterochromatin (D) The center of its chromosome pair since chromosomal centromeres are made of euchromatin Clara's insights: The correct answer here is C. They're asking about staining and denser components of the chromosome are going to take up the stain and so they seem darker. The arms allude to the fact that the arms weren't very dense already in the passage so there's no reason for us to think they are. So ACD talk about the center. What's key here is in the passage, they talked about the ends of a chromosome being stained, that is sort of an indirect, not explicit reference to telomeres. And telomeres are found at the ends of the chromosomes and they're made of heterochromatin. And the other thing that's made of heterochromatin is centromeres. So C matches that perfectly and that explains why there's that staining in the middle. [17:00] Question 43 Suppose the cells are either the A culture or the B culture were taken from the Drosophila individual who possessed a gene associated with hemophilia, a sex link recessive blood disorder on one and only one X chromosome. If this individual were to reproduce, what patterns of hemophilia inheritance would be manifested in offspring produced with a non-hemophiliac mate? (A) If the individual were female, male offspring would have a 50% chance of manifesting hemophilia and female offspring would never manifest hemophilia (B) If the individual were female, male offspring would never manifest hemophilia and female offspring would have a 50% chance in manifesting hemophilia (C) If the individual were male, the sex-linked nature of the gene would cause every male offspring to manifest hemophilia (D) If the individual were male, the sex-linked nature of the gene would cause no male offspring to manifest hemophilia Clara's insights: This is a really dense question so you may as well skip it and move on. But digesting this question, what you can do here is start at the bottom with D since male individuals are just a lot easier to deal with. But this answer is too extreme. Male offsprings always inherit X from their mothers and since the mother could be a carrier, D is wrong. And C is wrong for the same reason. A good trick with X-linked conditions is that male individuals have an X and Y. That means they must have gotten Y from their father since only other males have a Y. So any male offspring you ever see in an MCAT question must have inherited their X from their mother. So you need a lot of practice with this since it can get really confusing. So D and C are out since there's one male with hemophiliac X but we're talking about male offspring and they inherit it from the mother and the mother had at least one good X. The fact that they're non-hemophiliac mate could be a carrier is definitely a twist in this question. No, we have A and B left. Looking at B, we could get rid of this one right away because male offspring will ever inherit X-linked conditions from their mothers. And this individual who's female, we already know this individual has hemophilia on one X chromosome so those male offspring could totally inherit that X chromosome from their mother. And finally, A is right. But it's so easy to mess it up. If the individual were female, we have a female individual with a hemophiliac chromosome and one X chromosome, so we have a carrier. As male offspring will have 50% chance of manifesting it, you knew that was true. The hard part is the second part and female offspring would never manifest hemophilia. We are so used to think that this non-hemophiliac mate could be a carrier because it could just have two good X chromosomes or they could be a carrier. But the non-hemphiliac mate in the case of A is a male. So it has to have only one good X chromosome. So those female offspring are always going to have at least one good X-chromosome and never going to have hemophilia manifested. [30:50] Next Step Test Prep If you need help with your MCAT prep, let Next Step Test Prep help you figure out what exactly you need to make you a successful MCAT student. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media Network
Jan 16, 2019
127: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 7
Session 127 We are joined by Clara of Next Step Test Prep as we break down some more of Next Step Test Prep's full length then exams. This week, we're in the Bio/Biochem section, Passage 7, which is all about white blood cells, viruses, and bacteria and how they respond in the body of mice. Just to give you an idea, every science section has ten passages as well as four sets of discrete questions. [02:25] Passage 7 TLR is our receptors on leukocytes that recognize viral and bacterial components causing signaling to generate, among other things, proinflammatory cytokines. TLR4 is a TLR that recognizes lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a glycolipid present on gram-negative bacterial membranes. Signaling through TLR4 occurs when a ligand brings two TLR4 molecules together in a process called ligand-induced dimerization. A researcher who's investigating use of synthetic TLR4 ligand as an adjuvant to enhance the immune response against a vaccine by stimulating cells release cytokines that enhance antibody responses by B cells. The researcher obtains purified TLR4, immobilize it to a surface and incubates the receptor with the synthetic TLR4 ligands, compounds A through D to measure affinity. The following results are obtained: Table 1 shows Dissociation Constants of Compounds A through D and Binding TLR4. Clara says: The table also gives a Kd for each. And if the question asks about the Kd, your dissociation constants will come back as stable. If not, we don't have to worry about it. Experiment 1: The researcher then compares immune response against a synthetic agonist compared with an equal mass of live bacteria and purified lipopolysaccharide. By measuring mouse survival after a five-day inoculation. The live bacteria include pathogenic strains of E. coli and S. enterica both gram-negative and S. aureus, gram-positive. Experiment 2: The researcher now wishes to explore the efficacy of a vaccine formulation with either a purified antigen present both on S. enterica and S. aureus were purified antigen plus TLR4 based adjuvant which is either compound B, C, or D. The purified antigen is normally a membrane-bound receptor on the bacteria. He vaccinates the mice. Two weeks post vaccination, he inoculates the mice separately with either S. enterica or S. aureus and measures survival after five days. The same amount of bacteria as in Experiment 1 is used. [05:10] Clara Recommends Clara recommends it's a good idea not to reread the passage. And it's a good thing that you won't have time because, for passages like this, you don't have to understand every word you read. A lot of smart students can get stuck here, worried they haven't had studied enough. But just stop right here and look for the keywords and phrases out of this such as immune system and adjuvant. We know there are these specific types of bacteria mentioned throughout the package. You can also highlight the key terms and memorable phrases from each paragraph then just move on. Just go back to the passage when you need to. [05:55] Question 35 What is not a possible explanation of the survival for mice challenged with S. aureus in Experiment 2? (A) S. aureus is a gram-positive bacteria. (B) The antigen is only expressed on S. enterica. (C) S. aureus subverts an immune response against it. (D) TLR4 signaling has minimal effect. Clara's insights: The answer here is B. It's important to recognize that this is a "not" question so three of these must be possible explanations for whatever the question is asking. We're not given much information about what extent the survival occurs. Some mice may have survived and some may have died in the experiment. A was mentioned in the passage and whether that's a possible explanation for survival, maybe. B says "only" and so it's an extreme statement. So if you can prove that false, that gives you some information. Look back at the passage on Experiment 2, it talked about both S. enterica and S. aureus. So B is not true. When answering questions of this nature, first of all, the answer choice has to be accurate. Secondly, the answer choice has to do whatever the question is asking with regard to the explanation. And B, just straight up, is not accurate, so it's definitely not a possible explanation. This does happen on the MCAT where you get an answer choice that contradicts information you know or in the passage. So you have to consider the passage to be our resource here. [11:22] Question 36 What is the purpose of an adjuvant? (A) It acts as a transcription factor. (B) It binds antibodies. (C) It increases protection granted by vaccine of a host against pathogens. (D) It causes dimerization of receptors. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is C. There are different ways you can go about this one. If you don't have any knowledge of vaccines and what an adjuvant does, you can always go back to where they first mentioned it in the passage, where they directly tell us that an adjuvant enhances an immune response against a vaccine. It's nice if you can get to this answer choice right away. But if you read the passage, you could get confused with the term dimerization. But that's not the purpose of an adjuvant in general. Hence, C is correct. [13:24] Question 38 The researcher isolates antibodies against S. enterica from the vaccinated mice who survived at the end of Experiment 2. Binding in an isolated antibody is mediated largely by a sequence in the CDR3 (complementary determining region) of the antibody. He sequences the protein and determines that binding is mediated by the sequence lysine-lysine-arginine-glycine-aspartate-glycine-lysine-serin-lycine. What region of TLR4 is this antibody most likely to bind? (A) Cytoplasmic domain (B) Transmembrane domain (C) Ligand binding site of TLR4 (D) Extracellular domain Clara's insights: This has nothing to do with TLR 4 and everything to do with the sequence of amino acids they gave us. If you look at the actual sequence, these are very polar amino acids for the most part. Lysine and arginine are charged and super polar. So as soon as you see these polar amino acids, you can think that polar is going to bind other polar things. So this antibody is most likely to bind to a region that is rich in polar residues. (A) Cytoplasmic domain is pretty polar but it's also in the inside of the cell so that's not where the antibody is going to bind. So A is out. Transmembrane domain is nonpolar because it's buried inside the lipid bilayer. Answer choice C is kind of weird as there's no reason we can say it's not C in this question. But it's probably a nonpolar region. And then as you go to (D), and always in any protein in the body, the extracellular domain will be relatively rich in polar residues. Hence, D is the correct answer here. [18:07] Question 39 Signaling through TLR4 occurs when a ligand brings two TLR4 molecules together in a process called ligand-induced dimerization. TLR4 as a homodimer then recruits proximal adaptor molecules leading to a phosphorylation cascade that ultimately results in NFKB import into the nucleus. NFKB ultimately results in the change of cellular proteins leading to a proinflammatory phenotype. What type of molecule is NFKB most likely to be? (A) Translation factor (B) Transcription factor (C) Protease (D) Kinase Clara's insights: The correct answer here is B. Protease and Kinase are both enzymes where protease will break down a protein while a kinase will phosphorylate a protein. But neither of the two would be expected to happen in the nucleus and you wouldn't say it results in the change of cellular protein on a large scale. So now we're left with A and B. Transcription happens in the nucleus whereas translation happens in the cytosol, on ribosomes, or ribosomes bound to the ER. And since the question says NFKB is imported into the nucleus, so it has to be (B) Transcription factor. Transcription is an earlier stage in the process. Basically, we're trying to take our DNA which is storage material permanently located in the nucleus. And we're trying to get protein out of it. Whatever proteins we make from that, DNA will impact the phenotype of the cell. This happens in two stages. First is transcription where DNA is transcribed into RNA and then RNA is processed and shifts out of the nucleus where it would degrade. But before it degrades, it's picked up by the ribosome and turn that RNA into protein. In this question, we're affecting transcription on the transcription level so the transcription would be that where we're reading DNA, making this RNA from that template. [23:15] Next Step Test Prep If you are looking for MCAT courses, look no further than Next Step Test Prep's MCAT course. Check out the review I did on about their course. It includes a coupon there as well or use the promo code MCATPOD to save $50 off the course. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jan 09, 2019
126: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 6
Session 126 Passage 6 is filled with lipoproteins, and maybe a little Hepatitis C. Follow along with the handout on our blog post for this MCAT bio/biochem passage. We're joined as always by Clara of Next Step Test Prep. If you're interested in practice full-length exams, check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10%. [02:08] Passage 6 Lipoproteins are composed of a neutral lipid core of cholesterol esters and triglycerol surrounded spherically by amphipathic phospholipids, non-esterified cholesterol, and apolipoproteins. The contents of the neutral lipid core may be synthesized de novo or obtain exogenously from the diet. Chylomicrons contain the smallest percentage of protein and the largest percentage of lipids. While HDL and VLDL displayed the highest and second highest protein to lipid ratio respectively of the lipoproteins. The apolipoproteins serve a variety of diverse functions including as coenzymes or activators or enzymes involved in lipoprotein metabolism and as recognition sites for cellular receptors. The apolipoprotein B portion of the lipoprotein LDL is one example. It's binding by LDL's specific receptors in liver cells triggers LDL's endocytosis, digestion, and the removal of LDL which is rich in cholesterol from circulation. A group of students studying lipoproteins in a laboratory class conducted two experiments. Experiment 1: The student separated serum lipoproteins by density gradient ultracentrifugation in which specific lipoproteins are separated into five sharply banded fractions according to their individual densities. Albumin, fatty acids, steroid hormones, antibodies, serum proteins, and other components were separated as sediment. The identity of each band was confirmed quantitatively by densitometry. Experiment 2: Students were then given four unknown samples containing a single lipoprotein either VLDL, LDL, HDL or Chylomicrons. Students treated each sample with SDS. Each of the four SDS treated fractions was then isoelectrically focused at a constant voltage for 90 minutes. **Note: This passage is throwing off terms that you probably should know and don't have to know. And SDS is something you should know from your content review. SDS refers to sodium dodecyl sulfate. It's a reagent used in certain biotechnologies. [04:57] Question 32 Infection by the Hepatitis C virus may result in chronic disease and permanent damage to the liver. If liver function is impaired, synthesis of which of the following molecules found in human blood and isolated in Experiment 1 would least likely be affected in adults? (A) Steroid hormones and antibodies (B) VLDL, LDL, ILDL, HDL, and Chylomicrons (C) Antibodies, fatty acids, and steroid hormones (D) Antibodies only Clara's insights: Basically, what this is asking is what is made in the liver which will be affected if infected with Hepatitis C. Antibodies are produced by the white blood cells, B cells specifically. They're producing them and releasing them in the bloodstream. Steroid hormones, in general, are going to be impacted by a permanent liver function because steroid hormones which are cholesterol-derived molecules occur in the liver, in particular, fatty acid and stearyl synthesis. All answer choices A, B, and C have these lipid base stuff and are in the liver. So the right answer here is D. [08:44] Question 33 Newly formed chylomicrons involved in the transport of intestinally absorbed lipids immediately pass from cells of the duodenum into: (A) Lacteals contained with intestinal villi (B) Capillaries profusing intestinal villi (C) Lacteals passing through the cirrus lining of the abdominal cavity (D) Capillaries supplying the muscular layer of the duodenum Clara's insights: The correct answer here is A. Lipids first get absorbed by the cells immediately lining the lumen of the intestine. Then you see the intestinal villi which are projections coming out of the walls of the intestine to increase the surface area. But lacteals are small lymphatic capillaries, although they're not really "capillaries" because they carry lymph and not blood. [13:20] Question 34 Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a familial disease characterized by excessive circulating LDL levels. Which of the following statements, if true, would offer the best support for the claim that FH is a hereditary disease as opposed to one caused by similarities in the diets of affected family members? (A) Liver cells of affected individuals express nonfunctional LDL receptors (B) Diets of families where FH is common are the same as those in families where FH is uncommon (C) The LDL receptors of some individuals with FH function in an identical manner to those of individuals who do not suffer from the condition (D) FH appears to be highly prevalent in some families but is not absorbed at all in the large majority of families Clara's insights: The correct answer here is B. Most students choose A here and others go with C and D as well. It's really easy to focus on the best support for the claim that it's hereditary, which is at the first part of the question. But then the second part is trying to prove that it's not caused by the similarities in their diets. And B addresses diet here, hence the right answer. But A, C, and D don't tell us anything about being hereditary and not caused by diet. On'y B really gets down to the core of what the question is asking. [18:22] Prepping for the MCAT? Check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT where we break down everything you need to know about the MCAT, including some practice stuff from Next Step Test Prep at the end of the book. Links: Next Step Test Prep The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT
Jan 02, 2019
125: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Discretes 2
Session 125 In our next set of discrete questions from Next Step Test Prep, we talk about insulin, beta-oxidation, and the IRB and research process. Follow along in the post. Today, Clara from Next Step Test Prep joins us as we talk about bio/biochem from Next Step Test Prep full-length 10 practice exams. Listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network including The Premed Years. [02:52] Question 27 In what order do electrons move through the ETC? (A) From carriers with lower reduction potential to carriers with higher reduction potential. (B) From carriers with higher reduction potential to carriers with lower reduction potential. (C) From carriers with stronger proton-binding capacity to carriers with weaker proton- binding capacity. (D) From carriers with weaker proton-binding capacity to carriers with stronger proton- binding capacity. Clara's insights: Because this is like a 2-in-2 question where two answer choices go together and then the other two go together as well. So it makes it relatively easy to eliminate two right off the bat if they're not relevant. The reduction potential is the tendency of a compound to gain electrons. So A and B are relevant to electron transport. But C and D talk about proton binding capacity which is not going to be relevant to the electron transport chain. The correct choice here is A. This is because reduction potential is a measure of what extent a compound wants to get reduced. A compound with lower reduction potential doesn't have a very strong tendency to get reduced but a compound with a higher reduction potential does. The higher the reduction potential the more likely something is to grab on electrons. Reduce means the tendency to gain electrons. [07:25] Question 28 All of the following are functions of insulin except: (A) Increasing glycogen synthesis (B) Increasing gluconeogenesis (C) Increasing glucose uptake by liver and muscles (D) Decreasing proteolysis Clara's insights: B is the correct answer here. Whenever you see the suffix -lysis, you can think of breakdown. So proteolysis would be the breakdown of proteins. Literally, the only fact you needed to answer this is that insulin causes glucose to get stored in the cells and it doesn't cause the opposite of that which is new glucose or new energy sources in the body. While proteolysis would be, for instance, you have plenty of proteins stored in muscle cells, proteolysis would be the break down of the muscle to form amino acids as an energy source. And we don't need energy source if we have plenty of glucose in the digestive tract so an insulin function would be decreasing proteolysis. [10:00] Question 29 In order to ensure approval by their Institutional Review Board Ethics Committee, which of the following would cancer cell researchers need to obtain prior to testing human cell samples taken from cervical cancer patients? (A) Informed consent of the surgeons who removed the tumors (B) Informed consent of the medical oncologists that were treating women (C) Informed consent of the women who had their cervical cancer removed (D) Informed consent is not required because the samples were obtained during a voluntary procedure. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is C. This is a pretty easy one since A and B are obviously wrong. And D neither since you would always get consent before any procedure. This question is a listing of the ethics of biotechnology. In psych/sociology, there is a testing of ethical design as well. [12:00] Question 30 Each cycle of mitochondrial beta-oxidation liberates a 2-carbon acetyl CoA unit as well as which of any other molecules? (A) NADH and FADH2 (B) NADH only (C) FADH2 only (D) Neither NADH or FADH2 Clara's insights: Beta-oxidation refers to the oxidative breakdown of fats. This is the kind of question where if you don't know it, there's not anything you can do since the answer choices are not very good clues. They're electron carriers. The answer here is actually A. Beta-oxidation is notable for producing both NADH and FADH2. So it produces both of the electron carriers that can be used during the electron transport chain to create energy. Even in a discrete question where it seems like you either know it or you don't, you might be able to eliminate one or two answer choices using the wording. [14:33] Next Step Test Prep If you're in need of MCAT prep, go to Next Step Test Prep and check out their course. If you qualify for FAP, give Next Step a call. There's a process to run through and get a discount on their course if you qualify for it. Check out Next Step Test Prep's course with over 100 hours of video hours and live office hours five days a week. You also get access to all the books and full-length exams. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money! Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD) MedEd Media Network The Premed Years
Dec 26, 2018
124: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 5
Session 124 We tackle passage 5 from Next Step full-length 10 which talks about peripheral nerves and stem cells. Follow along with the handouts at As always, we’re joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep as we take a deep dive into another Bio/Biochem passage. Please take a listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [03:53] Passage 5 Injuries to peripheral nerves are common and after injury, the proximal stump of the nerve is capable of regeneration and reinnervation. Repair requires bridging the gap and the introduction of Schwann cells, growth factors, and an extracellular matrix for guiding axonal extension and nerve regeneration. Axons regenerated along align Schwann cells, called Bands of Büngner. Stem cells may prove useful to treat spinal cord injuries. The availability of large numbers of human epidermal neural crest stem cells, hEPI-NCSC for autologous use and for disease modeling and drug discovering is highly desirable. hEPI-NCSC cells are biologically the most relevant cell plate to generate Schwann cells as they are direct descendants of the embryonic neural crest. Notably, hEPI-NCSC can be isolated via a small biopsy of hairy skin. And they could be expanded ex vivo into millions of stem cells at adherent culture. In addition, hEPI-NCSC-derived Schwann cells express neurotrophins and other growth factors essential for nerve regeneration. Angiogenesis is crucial for nerve repair. In vivo, Schwann cell precursors differentiate into immature Schwann cells which undergo terminal differentiation into one of two types of mature Schwann cell - myelinating and nonmyelinating. These mature cells rapidly proliferate with a doubling time of 12 hours. Schwann cell differentiation and maintenance are dependent on growth factors that are provided by the embryonic microenvironment and the axons with which they interact. To identify and examine the genes necessary for proper Schwann cell production, a comprehensive gene knock out profile was generated with RNA from hEPI-NCSC-derived Schwann cells. Individual genes were knocked out and then Schwann cell proliferation was measured by cell count after 24 hours. [06:10] Question 22 Which of the following is not a potential advantage of using hEPI-NCSC over adult stem cells in the study? (A) hEPI-NCSC and Schwann cells are both derived from the same precursor. (B) The significant migratory ability of neuro crest cells means that there's no need for purification of cell cultures. (C) hEPI-NCSCs do not form tumors in vivo, which is the homework of adult stem cells. (D) In vivo, hEPI-NCSC cells translocate away from the neural tube and give rise to a wide array of cell types and tissues. Clara's insights: The right answer here is D. Just because it's not mentioned in the passage doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. In this case, the migratory activity in Choice B wasn't mentioned either. And the "tumors" from Choice C weren't really mentioned. Here, we're just trying to figure out what is rational and what isn't, hence, we came up with D. If the cells don't form tumors, that seems like an advantage since tumors would seem like a disadvantage. And then for B, the reason that migratory ability is an advantage is that neural crest cells are the cells we're trying to isolate very close to their precursors. So if they had a significant migratory ability to travel far away, then we might not need to purify these cell cultures. You may only be left with the type of cell you want which migrated far away from the very similar precursors that might have been located into original position. [11:55] Question 23: Current hEPI-NCSC treatments require that they can be used as a source of the stem cells utilized in their treatment. This is because: (A) Using the host cells eliminates the need for ethical considerations. (B) It controls for the effect of external confounding variables in the treatment. (C) It reduces the chance of stem cell rejection by the host. (D) It reduces the incidence of crest cell-derived tumors. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is C. There's nothing special about stem cells. Any type of cell coming from another foreign cell to us is going to potentially raise the risk of rejection. [13:55] Question 25 Damage to which of the following cell structures would not cause the mitotic rates measured in the experiment to be reduced. (A) Nucleolus (B) Kinetochore (C) Centrosome (D) Aster Clara's insights: The correct answer here is A because B, C, and D are all involved in mitosis and A is not involved. The nucleolus is where we produce our ribosomal RNA, which is not directly involved in mitosis while the other ones are. The kinetochore is a protein complex found on the centromere. The centromere is where the chromosomes are being joined together and they're being pulled apart by spindle fibers and the Kinetochore is the part of proteins on the centromere that the spindle fiber is attached to. [16:20] Question 26 Which is the following cell types performs functions in the central nervous system and now, gets the Schwann cells? (A) Chondrocytes (B) Microglia (C) Oligodendrocytes (D) Ependymal cells Clara's insights: The correct answer here is C. Schwann cells have something to do with wrapping the peripheral nerves. The question is what wraps the nerve in the central nervous system. They are two very cell types but different locations. [17:20] Need help? If you're trying to figure out where you're going wrong, check out Next Step Test Prep and their tutoring options. Call them for a free consultation and they'll figure out what's wrong and what potential package would work best for you. Use the promo code MCATPOD and save $50 off their tutoring. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media Network
Dec 19, 2018
123: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 4
Session 123 Another week of MCAT full-length breakdown with Clara from Next Step Test Prep. We’re covering Passage 4 from NSTP full-length 10 bio/biochem section. If you’re looking to Next Step Test Prep's full-length packs, save 10% by using the promo code MCATPOD. Be sure to also check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [02:02] Passage 4 The compensations that led to an evolution of endothermic physiology are still being argued. A widely accepted model is that directional selection for incremental increases in aerobic capacity and sustained activity led to the evolution of endothermy, the aerobic model. The greater scope for physical activity means that endotherms tire less quickly and are therefore better able to forage, escape predators, and migrate. The parental care model suggests that increased non-shivering thermogenesis permitted parents to control incubation temperatures and thereby providing a selective advantage leading to endothermy. Thyroid hormone (TH) is a regulator of thermogenesis in humans. Thyroid receptors regulate gene expression by bonding thyroid response elements in the promoters of target genes. TH can also regulate protein function. An experiment was performed on two groups of Wistar Coyote rats, Group A rats were kept in an environment with an ambient temperate of 27 degrees Celsius while Group B was kept in a 9 degrees Celsius environment. In both groups, pharmacologically manipulated thyroid levels cause changes in relative sodium, potassium, ATP's activity, scales to muscle PGC-1 alpha, a transcriptional coactivator that regulates the genes involved in energy metabolism, mRA levels, and cardiac sarcoendoplasmic reticulum, calcium ATPase or circa activity levels. TH regulates these levels of physiology in ectothermic vertebrates as well, specifically in response to cold. The net result of these actions is a TH that buffers mammalian movement from the thermodynamic effects of low temperature. It is likely therefore that TH regulatory activity was under strong positive selection because it would improve fitness in variable environments. Even incremental increases in TH-mediated locomotor performance and physical activity under cold conditions would represent clear, selective advantages for accessing food and energy assimilation, parental care, and territorial gains. Additionally, ectotherms have restricted activity times that are closely tied to the operative thermal environment. [04:40] Question 18 Which of the following statements regarding endotherm development is most supported by the information presented in the passage? (A) Their designs became more advantageous because the physiological performance of early endotherms were increasingly uncoupled from environmental variation. (B) Their designs became less advantageous because the physiological performance of early endotherms were increasingly uncoupled from environmental variation. (C) Their activity was more restricted compared with ectotherms which allowed lesser environmental adaptation. (D) Their activity was restricted compared to ectotherms which led to an evolutionary disadvantage. Clara's insights: The passage talked more about how it was an advantage and how everything helped like accessing food, energy assimilation, and territorial gain. So we'd probably throw out D right away as well as C. So now we're left with A and B. But B also talks about being "less advantageous" so B, C, D all talk about the disadvantage except for A. So through the process of elimination, we pick A. Again, the passage was clearly talking about advantages over ectotherms, so A is the ideal answer. [08:00] Question 19 Localized radiation therapy of the thyroid would most likely affect another endocrine gland that has which of the following characteristics? (A) It consists of multiple cell types secreting a number of different steroid hormones. (B) High calcium stimulates the release of its major hormone product. (C) Hyperactivity of the gland can cause osteoporosis. (D) It synthesizes its hormone from cholesterol ester using enzymes found in the smooth endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is C. We can cross out A and D as they're both talking about, or at least referring to a steroid. And parathyroid hormone is not a steroid, but a peptide hormone. So we're left with B and C. Just remember that parathyroid hormone causes a decrease in blood calcium. And when you say hyperactivity of the gland causes osteoporosis, indicates blood calcium being taken away from the body. [10:57] Question 20 A medical student taking an important exam notes that her heart rate is significantly elevated due to thyroid activity. According to the experiment conducted in the passage, which of the following changes would not be expected in this student? (A) Increased cellular hydrolysis of ATP (B) Increased rate of gluconeogenesis (C) Increased passive transport of thyroid hormone through cell membranes (D) Increased translation of PGC-1a protein Clara's insights: This question combines being passage-based but also requiring some content knowledge. This can be confusing for students since we see PGC-1a protein and we thin we can get the answer from going back to the passage alone. Unfortunately, the passage is unhelpful with this. What you want to keep in mind here is you need to know the endocrine system inside and out for the MCAT. For C, thyroid hormone is not going to be transported passively through cell membranes, since TH is derived from tyrosine. So it's going to be too polar to pass through cell membranes. So, C is the right answer here. [15:27] Question 21 Thyroid storm is an acute life-threatening hypermetabolic state induced by excessive release of thyroid hormones with a 90% mortality rate in adults. It is observed that a hypermetabolic rate causes release of thyroid hormone which then further elevates the metabolic rate. This cycle indicates what kind of mechanism may be the cause? (A) Negative feedback loop (B) Positive feedback loop (C) Negative forward loop (D) Positive forward loop Clara's insights: There is a type of feedback loop called the feed-forward loop where something that is upstream, which is something earlier. A chemical pathway is going to act on layer steps. So it's like the opposite of a feedback pathway. But C is not a thing. So they're trying to mix up here. That being said, this is a classic case of a positive feedback. We can spot it when you see a cycle that seems to be going more and more out of control, where it's stimulating itself and it's going to increase and increase until something else stops it. [17:35] Next Step Test Prep Check out the full lengths offered by Next Step Test Prep. AAMC offers 3 scored full-length exams and 1 unscored. Next Step has 10 full-length exams for you - all with a real simulation of what you'll get on test day as far as the testing platform and interface you'll be using are concerned. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off. Links: Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep's full-length packs MedEd Media Network
Dec 12, 2018
122: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Discretes 1
Session 122 We’re still in bio/biochem mode for the MCAT podcast, this week, covering the first discrete set of questions from the section. As always, Clara from Next Step Test Prep joins us today. Subscribe to all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network. I recently got a comment on Instagram from a student who improved her MCAT score after listening to our podcast. No guarantee it would be the same for you, but this could help you too! So be sure to tune in every week. [02:46] Some General Tips on Discretes Clara sees a lot of students making the same mistake with discretes because they're generally so short and seem so easy, as well as content-specific. So they tend to rush. Typically, you'll hear an advice to do one discrete a minute. But a lot of times, students feel one minute is too long for a discrete so they end up rushing even further. So rushing through a discrete is just doing yourself a disservice. Consequently, if you're spending a lot of time on discretes and still missing them, then likely your issue is with content. [03:46] Question 14 Which of the following structures develop from the mesoderm of the gastrula? Lungs Red blood cells III. Cardiac muscle (A) II only (B) I and II only (C) II and III only (D) I, II, and III Clara's insights: The mesoderm is the germ layer that develops into intermediate transport-related tissues. For instance, the cardiovascular system and the muscle/skeletal system develop from the mesoderm. Hence, the correct answer here is C. Lungs develop from the endoderm. [06:50] But Anatomy Isn't a Prereq for Medical School or the MCAT? Clara recommends that if you have the time, take Anatomy and Physiology to help bolster your knowledge. There isn't really a ton of this on the MCAT now though. But this can be helpful in a way that it can teach you the way to think on the MCAT. [08:33] Question 15 Given the role of the reaction in cellular respiration, what is the most likely e standard, an electrical potential value for the reduction of oxygen to water? (A) 0.02 V (B) 0.82 V (C) -0.02 V (D) -0.82 V Clara's insights: This isn't actually a value that you need to memorize. You don't need to know reduction potential or oxidation potential, or electrical potential. But what they're getting at here is the reduction of oxygen to water is very spontaneous. This is because oxygen is the terminal electron receptor in the electron transport chain. It's the substance that's most likely going to become reduced so it should have all molecules of the change, it should have the highest or most positive reduction potential. So they're just asking us to make the most positive answer here which is B. The negative or positive may be mixed up among students and it can be confusing so just remember that positive values are always spontaneous and the negative values always denote non-spontaneity. SO here, we know right away that it can' be C or D since they're both negative and the reduction of oxygen to water is very spontaneous. [11:15] Question 16 Which of the following is the most plausible explanation for a patient experiencing hypoglycemia? (A) Accidental self-injection of excess insulin (B) Increased gluconeogenesis (C) A four-hour fast following a carbohydrate-rich meal (D) Increased rate of glycogenolysis Clara's insights: Basically, you want to take the odd one out here. B, C, and D seem like they're going to cause the same thing, which is to increase blood sugar. Then the answer has to be A. What could throw off a lot of students here is because of the phrase "most plausible" explanation. And so there could be another answer here that could be close. But that being said Clara points out that the MCAT is a very direct exam. So they're not definitely going to give you two plausible answer choices and make you decide which is more plausible. There will be three wrong answers and one correct one. So as long as you don't get caught up in that wording then you should be good. [14:12] Question 17 In a metabolic analysis experiment, researchers subjected fatty acid samples to beta oxidation. Mass spectrometry performed on the resulting products would reveal: (A) Glucose (B) Acetyl Co-A (C) Pyruvate (D) Succinate Clara's insights: The correct answer here is B. Acetyle Co-A is the product of beta oxidation, the breakdown of fatty acids. All the other ones are involved in glycolysis and succinate is involved in the Krebs cycle. [16:06] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep and the full length ten exams, which you can buy in packs of 4, 6, or 10. Save 10% using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: MedEd Media Network @medicalschoolhq Next Step Test Prep
Dec 05, 2018
121: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 3
Session 121 Passage 3 from Next Step Test Prep full-length 10 covers an interesting discussion on unfolded protein response and endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis. We're joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep every week. Please also take the time to listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [01:45] Back With Some More Biochem Work Our passage today is a good example that looks really dense. It strikes fear into the hearts of some premeds. But Clara says we don't need a whole lot of background information here. Here, we'd be talking about a lot of processes and pathways so we need to just pay attention to use the passage when we tackle the questions. Today, we talk about protein cascades and secretory protein processing. [02:45] Passage 3 Changes in the extracellular environment of a cell can adversely affect the homeostasis of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) disrupting the folding and processing of secretory pathway proteins. The resulting accumulation of unfolded proteins in the ER increases the demand from molecular chaperones and folding enzymes and activates the signal transduction cascade known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). This signal transduction pathway is largely cytoprotective, serving the decrease to detrimental effects of accumulated unfolded proteins by decreasing overall protein synthesis and increasing the capacity of the cell to eliminate unfolded proteins. In mammalian cells, the UPR is controlled in part by IRE1, a protein that sense ER stress and activates signals to downstream elements. IRE1 is an ER transmembrane protein that has a kinase and endoribonuclease domain in its cytosolic tail. When the ER is stressed, IRE1 is phosphorylated which in turn activates its endonuclease domain leading to the excision of 26 bases from the X-box binding protein, XB1 transcript. The resulting frameshift encodes the transcription factor that upregulates the expression of proteins that contribute to the folding or degradation of unfolded or misfolded proteins. Clara's Notes: Highlight as you go through the passage so this doesn't just look like a wall of text. But we see a lot of familiar stuff. Angiogenesis refers to the sprouting, migration, and remodeling of blood vessels and plays an important role in both normal and pathological physiological processes. In cancer cells, proangiogenic factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGFA, angiogenin, and interleukin-8 (IL-8) are released in response to decreased oxygen in nutrient supplies. A cellular stress pathway turned the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway, has been shown to promote the upregulation of proangiogenic factors in response to inadequate oxygen delivery. Recently, UPR activity has also been associated with abnormal levels of these factors. Researchers wish to assess the relationship between the UPR and the induction of proangiogenic factors. Cells from a human medulla blastoma cell line were treated with three known UPR inducers - tunicamycin, thapsigargin, and no glucose. And with two different inducers of the HIF pathway CoCl2 and 1% oxygen for 24 hours and the induction of VEGFA, angiogenin, and IL-8 was measured. [06:00] Question 10 The experimenters concluded that UPR activation significantly increases the level of VEGFA, angiogenin, and IL-8 transcription. What additional finding would most undermine this conclusion? (A) Angiogenin transcript levels were increased significantly more by hypoxic conditions than by treatment with thapsigargin or no glucose media. (B) Both tunicamycin and thapsigargin treatment resulted in significantly higher levels of IL-8 than exposure to no glucose conditions. (C) Cells treated with tunicamycin, thapsigargin, and no glucose conditions were found to contain lower levels of unfolded proteins than untreated cells. (D) In addition to being potent UPR inducers, tunicamycin, thapsigargin, and no glucose conditions also act to induce the HIF pathway. Clara's insights: Basically, what they're saying is that the experimenters came to this conclusion, but what additional finding would most undermine this conclusion. So which of these answer choices, if we found this out in addition to what we know now, will undermine what the first sentence of the question says. We found out that UPR activation decreases these things. Alternatively, we also found out that the increase is not caused by UPR activation. If this question seems too much for you, you can flag the question and then ten minutes left to the end of the exam, you can just come back to it. So if you think this question could take you too long then save your time for the easy points. To help you understand the answer to this question, there are a couple of keywords that can help you. So what we're trying to find out here which of these will undermine this idea that UPR activation increased these things. And we're trying to prove that it's not true essentially. A is talking about the difference between hypoxic conditions, thapsigargin, and no glucose media. Looking at the last paragraph of the passage, you would then know that hypoxic means low oxygen. So hypoxic conditions increase angiogenin more than thapsigargin or no glucose. But this sort of compare two unlike things since hypoxic conditions were parted as HIF pathway. And thapsigargin is part of this UPR pathway. So there are two different pathways and we have to figure out how they relate to each other. Now, second to the last paragraph, you see that the HIF pathway has been shown to upregulate proangiogenic factors. And all these factors we're talking about are proangiogenic factors like VGFA and angiogenin. So essentially, what it's saying is that the UPR is what we're actually studying in this passage, the unfolded protein pathway. But the HIF pathway is another pathway that also does the same thing as what we suspect the UPR pathway does. So let's just leave choice A. [13:20] Dissecting Answer Choice B and C B is talking about tunicamycin and thapsigargin treatment resulted in significantly higher levels of IL-8 than exposure to no glucose conditions. And this looks similar to A since it's saying these are the new treatments used are causing higher levels than this other treatment. So leave this choice as well. C says that cells treated with tunicamycin, thapsigargin, and no glucose conditions were found to contain lower levels of unfolded proteins than untreated cells. The UPR is the unfolded protein response, which is meant to save ourselves from unfolded proteins. So if cells treated with all these things that are part of the UPR, we found they contain lower levels of unfolded proteins, that makes total sense. But that doesn't undermine the conclusion of the question stem. [14:25] Dissecting Choice D This is where a phrase should stand out to you right away, which is "in addition to" and the "also act to induce." They're saying: In addition to being potent UPR inducers, tunicamycin, thapsigargin, and no glucose conditions also act to induce the HIF pathway. As soon as you see these things we're using in this experiment and treatments also do something else essentially that is related to this pathway, that is a confounding factor. So if tunicamycin and thapsigargin also act as part of the HIF pathway, maybe it's just the HIF pathway that's doing everything. Maybe it's just the pathway that's increasing the level of these angiogenic factors. And the UPR factor doesn't have anything to do with it. There's no way now for us to distinguish between UPR and HIF because the treatment used was badly chosen. It does both things at once. [16:53] Question 12 Which of the following statements about IRE-1 is least supported by passage information? (A) If IRE-1 promoted the excision of one additional consecutive base from XBP1, the transcription factor typically produced as the result of this excision would not be encoded. (B) A regional cytosolic tail of IRE-1 catalyzes the cleavage of bases one at a time from the end of the XBP-1 transcript. (C) Phosphorylation of IRE-1 results in posttranscriptional modification of XBP-1. (D) The endoribonuclease domain of IRE-1 is more likely to be rich in KND residues than in LNF residues. Clara's insights: Remember this is a "least" question so you always have to understand the question first. Posttranscriptional just means that it happens after the act of transcription. So essentially when transcription happens, that's what makes the transcript. And any changes we make to the transcript after that are post-transcriptional because it happened after transcription. Actually, C is supported by the passage information so we can get rid of this. D mentions amino acids. Even if the passage doesn't mention amino acids, they could still come up because one key factor you're supposed to know is some amino acids are polar and others are nonpolar. The polar ones tend to be found on the outside of proteins, facing the cytosol. And the nonpolar ones tend to be found buried in the inside of the proteins. And if we look at D, it's talking about the endoribonuclease domain of the protein which is in its cytosolic tail. In that case, it's in the cytosol and cytosol is polar and is likely to have a lot of polar amino acids. Then we have to know that KND are polar and LNF are nonpolar amino acids. So D is saying that this polar domain is more likely to be rich in these two polar amino acids than these nonpolar ones. And so this is true. For the MCAT, just know the amino acids, whether they're polar and nonpolar, and what their abbreviations are. These are information you need to know as early as possible in your prep. And everything else is just piled on top of that. The right answer here is B as it talks about the cytosolic tail of IRE-1 catalyzing the cleavage of bases one at a time from the end of the XBP-1 transcript. And if you go back to the second paragraph, they talk about being an endonuclease, which doesn't cleave from the end of the transcript, but somewhere in the middle. So it's exonuclease. [26:00] Question 13 The unfolded proteins that accumulate in response to ER homeostatic disruption most likely: (A) Exhibit disrupted tertiary structure due to a lack of proper covalent bond formation. (B) Exhibit disrupted secondary structure due to a lack of proper disulfide bond formation. (C) Exhibit disrupted secondary structure due to a lack of proper hydrophobic interactions. (D) Exhibit disrupted primary structure due to a lack of proper peptide and bond formations. Clara's insights: D is tempting since we know proteins have peptide bonds. But peptide bonds are not involved in folding, but only in the primary structure of protein which is the linear sequence of amino acids. So get rid of D. Tertiary structures talk about high level protein folding but secondary structure in Choices B and C, are talking about protein folding too. So at this point, we need to use this type of bond to find our answer. Starting with C, proper hydrophobic interactions are involved in folding but they're involved in tertiary structure which is that large scale folding.  They're actually not involved in secondary structure. Secondary structure is really basic repetitive folding. And it involves hydrogen bonds only. So B and C are out because they don't talk about hydrogen bonds. Hence, the correct answer here is A since one of the key components of tertiary structure are disulfide bonds which are a type of covalent bond. So secondary structure means folding and hydrogen bonding is something you need to remember! [30:08] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off their full-length exams, $50 off their tutoring, and 50% off their MCAT online course. They also include live office hours where you can go on and ask questions. Other students will be there as well and you'll all learn together from one of Next Step's highly qualified tutors. Links: Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD MedEd Media Network  
Nov 28, 2018
120: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 2
Session 120 We tackle passage 2 from Next Step Test Prep's full-length 10 bio/biochem section. The topic of this passage is all about insulin. Follow along with us. [02:18] Passage 2 Insulin is one of the smallest protein in the human body with only 51 amino acids. However, its role in maintaining homeostasis is tremendous. Insulin consists of cleaved two chain subunits linked together by a pair of disulfide bonds. The precursor of insulin, proinsulin, is a single chain peptide. Proinsulin is two basic amino acids to create insulin and a small peptide chain byproduct, Chain-C. Insulin's action depends completely on its binding to an insulin receptor protein found in most cell membranes. Patients with mutations in the gene that codes for insulin receptors suffer from Donohue Syndrome or leprechaunism, an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by severely stunted growth. The binding of insulin to its receptor sets in motion many cellular signaling pathways. Insulin encourages cellular glucose uptake by translocating GLUT-4 transporter proteins to the cell membrane. It encourages glycolysis, glycogen synthesis, and fatty acid synthesis. Insulin-like growth factor or IGF is a hormone secreted by the liver upon stimulation by growth hormone. It is highly similar to insulin. It binds to a variety of receptors in order to mediate human growth. Diabetes is a classic disorder characterized by problems with insulin. Type I diabetes is characterized by a lack of insulin production. Type II diabetes is characterized by the insensitivity of cells to insulin, known as insulin resistance despite insulin's presence. [04:22] The Danger of Knowing Too Much on the MCAT The same with CARS, if you have a lot of detailed background information about a certain topic, there can be a danger to it. This is a common problem especially with students who work in certain labs and studies phenomena where they know everything about insulin inside and out. But the questions are going to ask about what MCAT students need to know and whatever is on the passage. So you have to take this from a perspective of - what would an MCAT student who's really well-versed in the MCAT content but doesn't know anything outside of that, what would they know? And don't go beyond that information." [05:15] Question 5 Which of the following will most likely cause low blood glucose levels? (A) A hormone-secreting tumor in the alpha cells of the pancreas (B) A hormone-secreting tumor in the beta cells of the pancreas (C) A lesion to the beta cells of the pancreas (D) A hormone-secreting tumor in the thyroid gland Clara's insights: B is the correct answer here. The tumor is going to release too much insulin as opposed to a lesion that would impede insulin release. Know your content right and know that insulin is created in the beta cells, not the alpha cells. Alpha cells make the glucagon. Insulin and glucagon are both in the pancreas. [08:39] Question 7 Which of the following are possible terminal amino acids for the cleaved peptide chain-C? (A) Lysine and tryptophan (B) Arginine and arginine (C) Histidine and aspartate (D) Glutamate and aspartate Clara's insights: First, go back to the passage where they first mentioned the peptide chain-C where they talked about the two basic amino acids. You should walk into the MCAT knowing your basic and acidic amino acids. The basic amino acids are arginine, lysine, and histidine. And the only choice here that has two basic amino acids would be answer choice B. [12:23] Question 8 Which of the following best explains why the insulin receptor mutation described in the passage results in stunted growth? (A) Since insulin can't bind insulin receptors, the cells don't get enough glucose so growth is stunted. (B) Excess insulin competes for binding sites on IGF or insulin-like growth factor receptors. (C) This disorder is most likely a side effect of diabetes. (D) IGF normally binds insulin receptors. Clara's insights: A is the most commonly picked answer here. However, we're naturally predisposed to try to relate glucose to growth. If cells don't get enough glucose then we're not getting enough energy. The thing is glucose doesn't directly relate to growth. And a lack of getting enough glucose would cause all sorts of problems. There's no reason it would cause stunted growth more than anything else. But D where IGF normally binds insulin receptors, and if there's a mutation in the insulin receptors, then you can say IGF is a growth factor so it must be linked to growth. Now, it can't bind one of these types of receptors to where it binds to resulting in less growth. So D is the more direct answer here. Clara warns students to not make logical jumps on the MCAT as MCAT is a very direct test. Making a jump between not glucose means not enough growth is a big jump compared to not enough growth factor behind not enough growth is a much smaller jump. [16:47] Question 9 If the body is producing insufficient insulin, down-regulation of which of the following hormones would help lower plasma glucose concentration? (A) Cortisol (B) Testosterone (C) Prolactin-releasing hormone (D) Estrogen Clara's Insights: This is a pseudo-discrete question. In fact, it's a hard step for students to know which is not in the passage so there's no sense wasting time to go back. So this is something you would be able to answer based on your own knowledge. Using the process of elimination, B, C, and D are hormones related to the development of the reproductive system or secondary sex characteristics but not related to blood sugar. While A is Cortisol, is a stress hormone which does increase blood sugar. So having down-regulated cortisol would help lower blood sugar. [20:15] Recognizing Pseudo Discrete Questions This is an important skill to have and Clara suggests a few things that can help. First, really know your content. Otherwise, you're going to have no clue sometimes. But if you know content inside and out, as soon as you see hormones, you can see keywords and phrases where you can use your knowledge. Second, just pay a lot of attention to what the question and even what the answer choices are saying, whether or not they were mentioned in the passage. [22:22] Next Step Test Prep I get a lot of feedback from students that Next Step Test Prep is one of the best test preps out there which are the most realistic as the AAMC. So check out their full-length exams. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on their exams or any of their products including their course, etc. Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD) Follow us on Instagram @medicalschoolhq or our Facebook Hangout Group.
Nov 21, 2018
119: Next Step Full Length 10, Bio/Biochem Passage 1
Sesion 119 We're back with some more Next Step Test Prep full-length breakdown with Clara. This week, we’re covering passage 1 of the biology and biochemistry section of the MCAT. Meanwhile, check out all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network. [01:48] How to Prevent Panic Attack from Biochem Passages Some passages can really seem dense. The most important thing to do is to just know your content and what you're supposed to know. Know that everything else is going to be in the passage somewhere. Clara explains that there are a lot of pseudo-discrete questions which means you can answer even if you've never had the passage at all. You will see some of these in Biochem, although it's a little based on critical reading. It's based on experiments, processes, pathways, or details where you need to understand what you read. [03:50] Passage 1: Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of both mania and depression and researchers are considering both melatonin therapy and aerobic exercise as treatments for the manic phase of the disease. Myshkin mice and plus, a serginic type, are heterozygous from an autosomal missense mutation in the A3 isotope of the neuronal sodium-potassium pump. And serve as a model for the manic behaviors typical of bipolar disorder. Researchers divided the group of wild-type WT and Myshkin MYK mice into several cohorts and assessed the effects of melatonin treatment and voluntary exercise which was unlimited running wheel access. The effects of both treatments on manic behaviors were assessed along with the effect of melatonin on sleep and that of voluntary exercise on brain drive neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in the hippocampus. [05:15] Question 2 Which of the following could be the mutation seen in Myshkin mice? (A) GUU mutated to UAA (B) UAU mutated to UAG (C) GUU mutated to GAU (D) UUU mutated to UGA Clara's Insights: Clara first explains that typically, you will see a figure in a biochem passage, but sometimes you have to infer what these results might have been. Missense mutation is a mutation of one amino acid into a different amino acid. For the MCAT you don't need to know which exact three-letter abbreviations correspond to which amino acid because these aren't the amino acid three-letter abbreviations. They're actually the mRNA code-on sequence that correspond to those amino acids. So we don't need to memorize all those. What you should know is that the code-on sequences for the three stop code-ons. And it would help you here. They are UAA, UAG, and UGA. There's a good, classic mnemonics for this: U Get Away (UGA), U R Away (URA), U R Gone (URG). If you know this crucial piece of information, you'd notice that A, B,  and D are all mutations to stop code-ons. And a mutation to for a stop code-on is called a nonsense mutation. So those are all nonsense mutations. And C here is not. Hence, C has to be the answer here since non-sense mutations are not missense mutations. [11:00] Question 3 A male Myshkin mouse is crossed with a wild-type female mouse. What proportion of the male offspring would be expected to show the Myshkin behavior pattern? Clara's Insights: You don't need to know anything about dominant vs. recessive because we know what exact genotype we're looking for. Here, you're looking for M/+. You can actually do a Punnett square. M/+ goes on one side of the square and then it's getting crossed with the wild-type which is a genus of ++. There are certain pieces of information about mutations and genetics that the MCAT expects you to know. And one of these is that + is going to denote wild-type in general and M for Myshkin. The correct answer here is 50%. [15:05] Question 4 BDNF is a plasma-soluble protein secreted after being manufactured in the endoplasmic reticulum. BDNF most likely, (A) Diffuses through the plasma membrane of target cells and after binding to its receptor, acts directly on euchromatin to regulate transcription. (B) Frequently serves as a target in autoimmune diseases due to its close contact with dissolved immunoglobulins. (C) Contains external domain especially rich in V, W, and G residues. (D) Has its effect through binding receptors on the external leaf of the plasma membrane. Clara's Insights: (A) is like a steroid hormone which diffuses through the nonpolar lipid bi-layer. But once they get inside the cell, they need to bind with their receptor to get carried in the nucleus and then act as regulators of transcription. So A is similar to steroid hormones but steroid hormones are nonpolar. And the question states that BDNF is plasma-soluble so it's probably polar since the plasma is really watery which is highly polar. The right answer here is D. It talks about binding receptors outside of the membrane which is something a polar substance would do. Since it's polar, it can't diffuse through the nonpolar membrane so it needs to bind to the outside of it. The abbreviations on C are actually amino acids. You really have to know your amino acids. Clara says it's even the single most important thing to know for the MCAT. [21:10] Check Out Next Step Test Prep If you're just starting your MCAT prep, check out Next Step Test Prep. They offer tutoring, full-length exams, online course, books, QBanks. Save money by using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media Network
Nov 14, 2018
118: Changes the the MCAT AAMC Practice Material and Registration
Session 118 The AAMC is making some changes with their MCAT practice material. Some students don't like it. Also, we talk about MCAT registration and what to look for. Once again, we’re joined by Clara of Next Step Test Prep. Please also find all our other shows on MedEd Media Network. [01:35] A New Practice System Recently, we have some MCAT changes, the biggest one being that the AAMC is reopening their practice system, but different from what it is before. The system was shut down for a brief amount of time and then they reopened using BenchPrep, a new interface. There are changes to the system that students should be aware of. BenchPrep is a content diagnostic platform that hosts content. And they now host the AAMC practice materials on their platform. They made some changes to their platform to make it more test-like according to AAMC's specifications. But it's still the BenchPrep system. This is both for taking practice tests and QBanks. Practice tests on the BenchPrep system haven't changed very much. It's obvious that they designed this interface to look really almost exactly like the previous interface. So it's still good to highlight, strikeout, flag questions, navigate. All this would be normal. What's different is the practice. The question banks and packs are now in a different interface that is probably more similar to what BenchPrep provides for other companies. Currently, the practice system doesn't have any highlighting. So try this out when you get to your AAMC practice. [04:04] Is This Free Stuff? Should You Buy It? Clara recommends that you buy this.  The AAMC has always sold some of their own practice materials. They sell their own practice tests as well as a limited variety of other practice materials. So they recommend their students to buy these as they obviously come from the test-makers, hence, they're going to be great practice. Although you'll most likely use them a little bit later in your prep, not at the very beginning while you're still learning your content. [05:20] MCAT Registration 2019 MCAT registration has opened on October 25, 2018. Once registration opens, it doesn't mean you have to register on that date. Say, you're planning on testing in April or May, wait until you know when exactly you want to take it. Know more about what location you want to take it at. But if you really know where to go and want to make sure you lock down the testing center, then jump right in as soon as the system opens and get it set up. This is something to look at because there are so many horror stories from students where they tried to register and the closest location with an available spot was four states away. So they had to stay at a hotel and it was miserable. This is so much added stress to the MCAT day which already has enough stress surrounding it. So you need to go and schedule as soon as possible. Those testing centers are limited in space and there are only limited seats in each testing center. And if those seats fill up, you are out of luck! This is especially true for high-density areas like New York or California. Again, register as early as you know that you want to take it. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep AAMC BenchPrep
Nov 07, 2018
117: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 9
Session 117 Today, we cover Passage 9, the last of the CARS section which is going to be relevant to your future as a doctor because it’s about medical school and the education that takes place there. And once again, Clara from Next Step Test Prep joins us as we break it down for you. Next week, stay tuned for some Biochemistry questions! Meanwhile, listen to our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network so you can hopefully get all the resources you need to help you along this path to becoming a physician. Also, we've got a treat for you! Check out The MCAT CARS Podcast with Jack Westin. [02:22] Passage 9 At a medical school graduation ceremony, a young graduate offered thanks to professors and other healthcare professionals for the lessons about the competent and humane care of patients and for exemplifying the highest level of professional and ethical behavior. But she also thanked other unnamed faculty members for unintentional lessons on how not to behave towards colleagues, patients, and their families. Remarkably, no one who attended the ceremony, and was later questioned, seemed uneasy about the allegation. This may be an indication that a lack of professionalism is tolerated and perhaps even expected in medical schools. It would be overly simplistic to suggest that within that particular medical school or even within all medical schools, a few bad apples are responsible for such behavior. Rather, this graduate's experience reflects a hidden curriculum (i.e. information learned from the organizational environment taught by example by faculty and other professionals). It illustrates a deep-rooted culture of disrespect and dysfunction that is pervasive throughout our healthcare system. Professional behavior is easily defined. It is intention or action that fosters trustworthy relationships. Unprofessional behavior takes many forms. As the graduate elaborated behavior she witnessed included disrespectful patient care such as performing medical procedures against the will of patients who are fully capable of decision-making, withholding diagnostic information from patients, speaking to patients disrespectfully, and allowing medical students and unprepared residents to care for patients with insufficient supervision. It included expressions of racism, sexism, and homophobia directed toward students, residents, nurses and other physicians. In most institutions, there's a gap between the official version of medical aims, putting patients at the center of their endeavors, and the actual culture of the institution, which is maintaining a medical hierarchy. This conflict between ideal and real environment lease a cynicism as medical professionals begin to accept ethically and professionally dubious practices as culturally acceptable and as manifestations in medical practice. Moreover, increased workloads, diminished resources, and burgeoning demands on health care workers all lead toward the creation of an environment characterized by increased commercialism and decreased compassion. Such dysfunction has implications far beyond the medical school experience that leads to increased cost, medical errors, and preventable adverse outcomes. Healthcare institutions have taken steps to address the unprofessional and unethical behavior. While the methods are varied, each is created an institutional code for professional behavior, a structure for anonymous reporting and training for institutional leaders and dealing with issues regarding professionalism. Expanding such measures would send an even stronger message about the priority of ethical, professional behavior. The task ahead involves exposing the hidden curriculum of healthcare professionals in order to change the underlying culture of our institutions, thus fostering a revolutionary change in the way medicine is taught and practiced. [05:46] Question 48 The author suggests that the notion that "a few bad apples" are responsible for unprofessional behavior in medical schools is flawed because it: (A) Overlooks the possibility that many faculty members behave unprofessionally. (B) Only addresses the behavior of faculty members but not other healthcare professionals. (C) Leaves medical students with little recourse for reporting such behavior. (D) Fails to recognize that the problem of unprofessional behavior is systemic. Clara's Insights: The correct answer here is D because when you go back to the passage, you get the idea of what the author is saying. And it's actually clear enough that we predict the right answer and D matches perfectly. The only one that might be a bit tempting is A. You can get caught up in the phrase "a few" because it's not a few and it's actually many, But that's not what the passage is saying, which means it's part of the organizational structure. So it's systemic. Plus, it involves people other than just faculty members. [08:49] Question 49 Which of the following is an example of a hidden curriculum as described in the passage? (A) A medical student learns suturing by watching the procedure rather than by reading about it. (B) An apprentice electrician spends time assisting and learning from experienced electricians. (C) An office worker observes that managers overlook harassment of clerical staff. (D) Medical residents choose a specialty based on avoiding a stressful hostile work environment. Clara's Insights: The correct answer here is C since this matches with the definition they give of a hidden curriculum in the passage. Sometimes, people are tempted by A or D because they're about medical students or residents. But while it matches the topic, it's not analogous in terms of the situation. Also, A and B are similar to each other, in fact, identical so there's no way you can distinguish A from B. So both have to be wrong. [11:52] Question 50 The author's characterization of the gap in medicine suggests that there is a disconnect between: (A) An institution's stated goal versus its actual priorities. (B) What patients expect from medical care versus what they actually receive. (C) The idea of practicing medicine versus the day-to-day reality of it. (D) The experience of medical school versus the experience of healthcare work. Clara's Insights: The correct answer here is A. You may tend to think of B, C, D based on our own knowledge but they just don't match what the passage is saying. The passage makes it easy for us by talking about this gap directly. So you can go right back to the passage and find it. [13:22] Question 52 The author implies that the dysfunctional and unprofessional atmosphere described may have which of the following results? (A) It ultimately impacts the quality of medical care patients receive. (B) It discourages promising students from pursuing a medical career. (C) It fosters dysfunction in other non medical fields. (D) It projects an unflattering picture of the business of healthcare. Clara's Insights: The correct answer here is A. This is somehow an easy passage. It's also a good exercise to be good at your time management skills. Otherwise, you might just miss all these questions if you ran out of time. [15:50] Length of Passages On the actual MCAT, passages can vary pretty significantly. Most CARS passages fall between 500 and 600 words. And it's a pretty noticeable difference. For this podcast, we shortened the CARS passages a little bit. But you can definitely see some variations on the actual exams, in fact, a lot more than the sciences. Ultimately, Clara's takeaway for students with regard to the CARS section is to remember that CARS answer choices really are going to be direct. Most of the questions that you might have missed in the questions here were because you were thinking too much. But in reality, there's another choice that's really directly stated. So if you catch yourself doing a lot of speculating, then hold up. See if there's a more direct answer elsewhere in the passage. [17:45] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep full-length practice tests, second best to the AAMC test prep of course. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on their offerings. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media Network The MCAT CARS Podcast
Oct 24, 2018
116: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 8
Session 116 Struggling with CARS? Check out passage 8 from Next Step Test Prep, full-length 10. Listen to the struggles, learn from the mistakes to improve your MCAT score. Have you subscribed to the Premed Diaries yet? Check out episode 2 now! Be sure to also take a listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network to help you along this path to medical school, and ultimately towards becoming a physician one day! [02:33] Passage 8 The question of principle retreated here from a purely economical point of view since practical value measured by saving time, money, and effort must be the ultimate criterion by which the success or failure of so far, reaching a reform as in the introduction of an international auxiliary language will be decided. The bearing is such a reform of how an education, culture, race relations, etc., is not without importance. But the discussion of these points must be postponed as subsidiary. Democracy, science, and universal education are producing everywhere, similarities of institutions, of industry, of the whole organization of life. The similarity of life will breed a community of interest. And from this arises real converse, more give and take in the things that matter less purely superficial dealings of the guidebook or a conversation-manual type. The tendency of those engaged in advancing material progress which consist in this objection of nature to men's ends is to adapt more and more quickly their methods to change in conditions. Has the world yet faced in a business-like spirit the problem of wiping out wastage on words? The whole industrial revolution brought about by the invention of machinery depended upon this principle. When it was found that machinery would turn out a hundred pieces of cloth while the handloom turned at one, the handloom was doomed. Tests previously done laboriously by hand and hundreds of weeders cottages were now brought together in a single cotton mill. And a factory was born. Consumers had a little difficulty adapting to the new age of abundant products with linen manufactured. Governments, however, found that significantly harder. The instinct of governments is to protect unions and companies that already exist, not the upstarts that would destroy them. They shower old factories with subsidies and persecute bosses who want to move production. Governmental agencies spend countless funds backing the techniques and methods which they and their wisdom think will prevail. And they claim to mistaken notion that manufacturing is superior to services, let alone economics. Since the publication of a language in 1887, Esperanto has had a gradually increasing number of appearance who have used it for all ordinary purposes of communication. A great number of newspapers and reviews of all kinds are now published regularly in Esperanto in a great variety of countries. Articles are as clearly expressed and as easy to read as those in any similar review in a national language. Now, as the nations will never agree to give the preference to the language of one of them to the prejudice of the others, even where an artificial language to be no easier to learn than a natural one, the choice will be obvious. [05:57] Question 43 Supposed China were to dominate the international manufacturing market, with this country being the one that every other nation needed to communicate and trade with, the passage author would likely argue that: (A) The predominant Chinese dialect be accepted as a de facto international language. (B) The least economically powerful international trading nation be given the advantage of providing a lingua franca. (C) An artificial language should still be designated for international discussions so each nation is on equal footing. (D) Either Chinese or another national or artificial language be chosen, whichever minimizes total languages learned. Clara's Insights: The answer here is C. In fact, this is a good exercise for students not to overthink. There is a part of the passage that is actually direct, which is the last paragraph. This is where the author's opinion comes out. Clara recommends highlighting extreme and strong language. And the word "never" is really extreme - "...nations will never agree to give the preference to the language of one of them to the prejudice of the others even where an artificial language to be no easier to learn than a natural one, the choice will be obvious." So you can see from here that even if the author is saying that the artificial language is just as hard to learn than a natural language, the choice is obvious. And the beginning of that sentence tells us that his choice is obvious that we should pick the artificial language. And it's worth stopping taking even 15 seconds to figure out what is that choice. That way, you're giving a little more time and you know it's important because the author is so strongly worded there. Students choosing A and D are evenly split here, as the most tempting choice. While B is easy to eliminate because it seems logically backward to do. [12:26] Question 44 Which of the following would weaken the passage's argument for the adoption of an artificial official international language? (A) Dozens of non-Anglophone heritage countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America have since adopted English as a second official language for ease of international communication. (B) Each year, several heritage languages of small, affluent populations die, being preserved only in books and in the speaking knowledge of a few specialists. (C) Globalization thanks to increased transportation infrastructure and satellite and internet-based communication have brought in smaller, more isolated countries into the world trade market. (D) A comparison study suggests that several leading artificial languages are neither easier nor more difficult to learn than a majority of natural languages. Clara's Insights: For this, you can use the process of elimination and the correct answer here is A. B is tragic but not relevant at all. While in C and D agree with his argument. So it leaves you with A. [15:30] Question 45 Based on the passage, which of the following would the author least likely cite as a possible non economic benefit to an established artificial international language? (A) A decrease in ethnic tensions (B) An improvement in international education (C) A cultural advancement in participating countries (D) A strengthening of democracy across the world Clara's Insights: A and B were mentioned as important so you cross this one off. C is also listed there. The correct answer here is D here since it wasn't listed. Interestingly, this is missed by a lot of their students even though those three terms have been listed in the passage. Clara thinks the reason for this is that democracy has been mentioned too, but later. So they see that D might be something they can cross out too. But in reality, that was discussed separately, and not as an important result of this language change. It's reather discussed as democracy is reducing this similarity of institutions, sort of environment that makes the language change more of something we would want to do. [18:00] Question 47 Four possible languages are put forth as an acceptable international language. Which of the following would the author most likely agree should be used as the international language? (A) English as a total volume of international commerce carried out in English is already higher than any other language. (B) Mandarin Chinese as a total number of native speakers of this language is the largest in the world. (C) Esperanto as it has been constructed to have logical syntax and grammar making it easier to learn than national languages. (D) Binary code as it is already the language used by computers and is thus 100% logically constructed and executed. Clara's Insights: The correct answer here is C. You know the author is very pro on artificial language and we know Esperanto is an artificial language. We also certainly know that English and Mandarin Chinese are actual national language. So Esperanto is the only artificial language in there so it must be the right answer. The rest of the answer choices make sense too so it's important to check out. But as soon as you see that first part of the answer, you know that C is correct. [21:30] Tips and Tricks Clara recommends some suggestions to get around the questions even there's no tutor in your ear. When you don't fully understand what's going in the passage, keep an open mind with previous questions because a later question might actually eliminate more of the passage than you understood before. This way, you don't force your thinking into the previous correct answer you got for the later questions. [23:05] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep where you will find all of their full-length exams, in 4, 6 or all 10. Save 10% by using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: MedEd Media Network Premed Diaries Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD)
Oct 17, 2018
115: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 7
Session 115 Remember when I said we were on the last MCAT CARS passage last week? Surprise, we have 3 more to go! How about that for a fun prank! Enjoy and subscribe. Once again, Clara from Next Step Test Prep is joining us as we break down the passages over the next three weeks. [02:35] Passage 7 Robert Frank's 1958 volume of photography The Americans, is arguably the most influential book of photography published in the 20th century. The book chronicles a year-long road trip that Frank took across the country. Its 83 images are called from the nearly 28,000 photos he shot as he drove thousands of miles traversing the United States, stopping in Detroit factories, New Mexico saloons, Miami hotels, and hundreds of other locales. At the time that Frank embarked on his cross-country trip, photography was a "disdained medium" as fellow photographer Walker Evans said. Few American museums exhibited photographs. Those that did consisted primarily of images of well-known figures. One exception was photographer Dorothea Lange who, like Robert Frank, chronicled the lives of average people in difficult circumstances. Yet, while Lange's images convey a sensitive transcendence over adversity, Frank's work often belies a subject's hopelessness, their inability to step out of their despondency. In fact, the criticism of Frank's work had to do with a lurking despair embodied in his subjects - a bored teenage elevator operator in Miami, a carload of game faced politicians, a smog southern couple walking with hands tightly clutched. He portrayed a darkness that was difficult to acknowledge and even harder to behold. Clara's Note: There are a lot of names in this passage so it's a good thing to highlight as you go. But critics also look askance at other aspects of Frank's photographs. There were profound stylistic differences between Robert Frank's images and those that reflected the reigning aesthetic in photography at that time, best exemplified by Life Magazine. Life's photos, crisp, linear, and unambiguous in the story they told stood in contrast to Frank's photos, which had a messiness to them as well as a murking emotionality that was off putting to confront. "I leave it up to you," he says. "They don't have an end or beginning. They're a piece of the middle." In this way, Frank's intent differed from that of Henri Cartier-Bresson. While it might seem that both artists were drawn to candid shots of street life, Cartier-Bresson believed that a photographer captured a decisive moment while Frank was enraptured by "some moment I couldn't explain." A Swiss immigrant, Frank remained an outsider, an observer who loved his adopted country without shying from its darkness and flaws. Frank found an ally in writer Jack Kerouac whose novel On the Road spoke of cross-country ramblings through small towns. "Kerouac personified what I hope I'd find here in America. He was interested in outsiders, he wasn't interested in walking in the middle of the road," Frank said. After meeting Kerouac at a party in New York, Frank asked him to write an introduction to The Americans. Kerouac did, writing at Frank, "sucked a sad poem out of America onto film," taking rank among the tragic poets of the world. [05:55] Question 36 Of the following, which would provide the best title for the passage? (A) Frank, Lange, and Cartier-Bresson: Candid Photos of Three Photographers (B) Robert Frank: Mysterious Outsider (C) Robert Frank: An Outsider Peers In (D) Critique of the American Malaise: Robert Frank Clara's Insights: C is the right answer here. Since you're looking for the title of the passage, it has to be essentially the main idea of the passage. And the main point of the passage was all about Robert Frank's photographs. A is way off because we're not taking photos of the photographers. B is out since we're not told that Robert Frank is mysterious. And D doesn't just seem to fit as it's out of scope. [08:05] Question 39 According to the passage, which of the following statements best represents the stylistic difference between Frank's photographers and those of his mid-20th-century contemporaries? (A) Frank's photographs are sometimes blurry or messy while the more accepted photographs at that time looked crisp and clean. (B) Few of Frank's contemporaries took photos that were as overly critical of American life. (C) Frank's subjects are realistic while his contemporaries portrayed an idealized view of 1950s America. (D) Frank's photos are candid, unlike the posed portraits typical of Life Magazine. Clara's Insights: A is the correct answer here. D was wrong as Life Magazine was this contemporary that the passage compares to Robert Frank. As for C, we really don't know that his contemporaries did portray an idealized view. Again, be very careful to stay within the realm of what the answer choice says. Make sure you're not reading into what you're reading. It's easy to see an answer choice that looks really close to what the passage is saying or it has the same tone but not the same in meaning. Hence, we get rid of C. [12:22] Question 40 Supposed a critic who agreed with the theories of Henri Cartier-Bresson, were to write about a photograph taken by Robert Frank, which word would he be most likely to use in describing such photograph? (A) Transcendent (B) Indecisive (C) Unambiguous (D) Enraptured Clara's Insights: The correct answer here is B. It's important to keep in mind who was being asked about. The passage says that Frank was enraptured by some moment he couldn't explain, but that doesn't mean that the critic who agreed with this other photographer would be enraptured by Frank. But it was Frank who was enraptured. Hence, D is incorrect. B is perfect since Cartier-Bresson's photographs were described as decisive so a critic looking at Robert Frank's might say photos were indecisive. [15:40] Question 41 The author notes in paragraph 1 that The American's iconic status did not reflect his reception of publication and suggest that all of the following contributed to that reception, except: (A) At the time of publication, photography was not considered a wholly legitimate art form. (B) Frank's work was upsetting and forced to confront difficult subjects. (C) The style of Frank's photographs was not typical of either artistic or journalistic images at that time. (D) Contemporary viewers are more accepting of the viewpoints of outsiders than were mid-20th-century viewers. Clara's Insights: The correct answer here is D. A is the tempting wrong answer here since students are tempted to pick it due to the word "disdain" medium but it's not exactly what A is saying. Looking at D, the passage never mentioned contemporary or modern viewers at all. SO this is a really very good example where if you start to think too much and break apart an answer choice thinking the MCAT is here to trick you, it could lead you to pick the wrong answer because the MCAT is really a direct test. D is totally out of scope so it's the perfect answer. [19:15] Next Step Test Prep If you're in the market for full-length exams for the MCAT, get the three scored full-length exams from the AAMC as they're written by the people that write the real MCAT. Additionally, if you have the budget and the bandwidth, the time to do more full-length exams, go check out Next Step Test Prep. They offer 4, 6 or 10 full-length exams. Their testing software is set up exactly like what you see on MCAT test day. So you're simulating your real test day and this is really how you should be preparing for your MCAT. Use the promo code MCATPOD to get 10% off. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Promo code: MCATPOD)
Oct 10, 2018
114: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 6
Session 114 We're at the last passage of CARS on Next Step full-length 10. Hopefully, you've gotten some great tips and techniques to improve your CARS score! This podcast is in collaboration with Next Step Test Prep, where Clara joins us once again as she helps us cover Passage 6. By the way, have you checked out all our other episodes on MedEd Media Network? If you haven’t yet, take some time to listen to them as we strive to help you along your med school journey! [01:38] Passage 6 In December 2012, billionaire hedge fund Bill Ackman plays the highly publicized and high-stakes wager. Certain that the American nutrition company Herbalife was doomed to fail, he executed a $1 billion short sale on the company's stock. Ackman had one primary reason to bet against Herbalife. The company, which sold protein shakes and multivitamins to thousands of distributors worldwide, function under a multilevel marketing (MLM) business model. Instead of filling sales positions to salaried employees, MLM companies rely on non-salaried consultants or distributors. Consultants earn a commission for products sold but most rely on a separate, much larger source of income. Bonuses are additional commissions paid as a result of sales made by their recruits to the company. This model had convinced Ackman at Herbalife, along with other MLMs, was nothing more than a pyramid scheme, an illegal business model in the United States and many other countries. Ackman's claim certainly was not without support. MLM-style businesses have existed since at least the 1920s. In fact, one longtime MLM cosmetics company, Avon, which was founded as a California perfume company in 1886. Throughout this long history, hundreds of thousands of consultants have lost money, often due to large, irregular purchases in inventory, initial fees, or travel expenses associated with motivational events. The Statistic Brain Research Institute estimates that of more than 18 million individuals directly involved in MLM businesses, 99.7% lost money. Many of these individuals were attracted to these opportunities by promises of dictating their own schedule or being their own boss, and a large proportion were mothers or fathers, some of whom went into significant debt to pay for their future business. In recent years, some MLMs have been accused of encouraging consultants to take out loans to pay for inventory that they often fail to reimburse if the consultant chooses to leave the organization. Nevertheless, vocal supporters of MLM businesses certainly exist. Tiffany Ruiz, a recent recruit to Cutco Corporation, an MLM oriented around sales of kitchen knives, vehemently defends the controversial business model. "You get out what you put in," said Ruiz. "Funny how consultants lose interest quickly and of course, they suffer a financial hit. But the network associated with Cutco is amazing and I get to keep a portion of the sales from everyone I recruit." In fact, Ruiz' recruits or downline are non-existent as of yet. But she feels certain that this is about to change. With an established downline, she'll be able to start earning back her initial investment used to acquire a set of knives for demonstrations to potential customers. [05:15] Question 31 Mary Masterson, a friend of Tiffany Ruiz, works full time as a consultant for Herbalife. All of the following individuals are expected to benefit from the sales of Ms. Masterson's downline except: (A) Ms. Masterson herself (B) Bill Ackman (C) Herbalife upper management (D) The downline consultant who made most of the sales but who joined Herbalife only a month ago Clara's Insights: Clara says D is a tempting answer here, and that it's really easy to fall for this one since you can easily get rid of A and C. But the right answer here is B. Going back to the passage, Bill Ackman made a bet against Herbalife. So he has not invested in Herbalife. Clara recommends going back to the passage for questions like this as it only takes 10 seconds and it can save you from making a mistake. [08:12] Question 33 An assumption implicit in paragraph 3 of this passage is that. (A) Ruiz is able to maintain interest in Cutco better than the consultants who end up losing money. (B) Individuals who joined MLMs recently tend to defend them more wholeheartedly than individuals who have been with them for an extended period. (C) Ruiz is unlikely to ever recruit individuals to fill her downline. (D) Ruiz is unlikely to earn back the value of her initial investment through direct sales alone. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is D, which says that "with an established downline, she'll be able to start earning back her initial investment." Hence, this implies that she'll be able to start earning it back when she has an established downline which is to say, people selling under her, versus through direct sales alone. [12:34] Question 34 Tiffany Ruiz would be least likely to give which of the following as an example of a benefit of her role as a Cutco consultant? (A) An opportunity to gain interest on her initial investment (B) A close relationship with her downline, earlier Cutco recruits, or others (C) The chance to earn income without directly making sales (D) The opportunity to work to gain advantages associated with downline recruits Clara's insights: The correct answer here is A as the passage never mentioned this and the investment is knives used for demonstrations so it's not going to earn interest. [14:42] Question 35 Which of the following is most likely to be a defining feature of a pyramid scheme? (A) Its business model is illegal in the country where the business operates. (B) Recruiting customers for the company is encouraged with high bonuses or commissions. (C) A key aspect of the business model involved recruiting increasing numbers of participants. (D) Nearly all early investors in the business lose money. Clara's insights: The correct answer here is C. All the rest are not necessarily true as it may not be illegal in the country where the business operates. The passage says it's illegal in the United States and many other countries, but not all countries. So it's not a key defining feature of a pyramid scheme business model. The same with B. And with D, the passage says 99.7% of people as a whole involved in MLM businesses lost money. But we actually don't know anything about early investors. They could make a lot of money. [17:25] Next Step Test Prep Looking for practice tests for your MCAT prep? Go to Next Step Test Prep and check out all ten of the tests they have to offer. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Promo code: MCATPOD)
Oct 03, 2018
113: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 5
Session 113 Are you tired of CARS yet? This is one of the hardest sections on the MCAT, but hopefully, we're making it easier for you going through these passages! Once again, Clara from Next Step Test Prep joins us for another (hopefully, fun) round of the CARS section. Also, please listen to all our other podcasts onMedEd Media Network to help you along this journey! [02:06] Passage 5 With the recent increase in the visibility and attention to Indian literature, the almost strangling pull of family has become a common, inevitable trope, and Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day, for instance, the main character Bim, who has sacrificed her life to tending her family, realizes "they were really all parts of her, inseparable" so many aspects of her that as she was them. Whatever diminished them, diminished her. If there were hurts, these gashes and wounds in her side that bled, then it was only because her love was imperfect. This idea of self-sacrifice to the altar of familial obligation does not appear in fiction alone. Geographer Lisa Lau writes that despite the burgeoning of the middle class in urban India, which sees a radical economic shift towards increasing numbers of single women working outside their homes, as yet, there has not been any equally radical shift in the social, cultural, or familial situation. Subsequently, neither has there been a radical change in women's roles nor suicidal expectations of them, resulting, she argues, in a continued lack of autonomy in self-definition. Within the canon of American folk psychology, says role-related social expectation must inevitably lead to a reduced individual agency. Common sense about the motivation of others suggests that acting in response to obligation will result in a reduced sense of choice and fewer feelings of satisfaction that spontaneously performed actions. Yet, quantitative studies of motivation belie this belief. One recent cross-cultural study, for instance, that when presenting these similar scenarios of obligation to various people within their social circles, Indian students were far more likely to express not only obligation, but also satisfaction in fulfilling social expectations of friends and family in comparison to their more independent counterparts. This study expands upon a 1990 study that revealed greater moral ambivalence towards fulfilling the needs of others in U.S. respondents than Indian ones. This study stressed the personal moral orientation of U.S. subjects who, researchers argued, understood helping others as both a moral obligation and a matter of personal decision-making. An explanation for this difference between outcomes can be found in self-determination theory (SDT), one of the most pervasive theories within contemporary psychological models in motivation. SDT postulates that rather than reducing a sense of autonomy and resulting satisfaction, fully internalize role-related expectations can actually enhance them. That is, rather than reading collective values as controlling or coercive, subjects who have fully internalized such values tend to experience obligations in a highly agentic way so that such actions are read as autonomous and beneficial rather than coerced. Feelings of agency have been frequently demonstrated, empirically linked with satisfaction and well-being as well as increased effectivity. Thus, it can be argued that well-internalized role-related expectations can actually enhance a sense of autonomy. SDT theorists maintain that in all cultures. Agency requires coming to understand one's actions as internally motivated regardless of the initial sources of social obligations. [06:06] Question 25 Based on the discussion in Paragraph 3, agency differs from individuality in som much as agency: (A) Can be a result of successful internalization (B) Is the only empirical indicator of satisfaction (C) Requires the reduction of autonomy in a collective role-related society (D) Creates autonomy through the development of specific societal values Clara's Insights: If you find this question as too dense, moving on can be a good idea here. You might find that later questions in this passage are way easier so you might as well not sink a lot of time into this first question. But in terms of getting to the right answer here, get rid of B since it's really extreme having the word "only" there which is not anywhere in the passage. Then look at C first as "requires" is a strong word too. While the passage suggests that agency and autonomy are linked, not opposites. A is a moderate answer saying it "can be" a result of successful internalization. Just go back to the third paragraph and try to find "internalization" and see if it's there. And it talks about "subjects who have fully internalized such values tend to experience obligations in a highly agentic way" so you can tell right away it looks really similar to agency. Again, if you have limited time, you might as well spend it on questions you are more likely to get right. [10:43] Question 27 Studies have shown that American children, when given a choice of tasks, prefer and perform better on those which they chose independently. Whereas Asian children preferred and performed better on those which were chosen by their mothers. Based on the passage, what best describes this difference in outcomes? (A) The Asian children have internalized role-related obligations. (B) The American children assessed tasks within a personal moral matrix. (C) The Asian children do not recognize that their actions are coerced. (D) The American children have internalized agential values. Clara's Insights: Looking at C, the word "recognize" says their actions are coerced just that they don't notice it. And the author never said their actions are coerced. Instead, it's saying that because of these internalized obligations, they don't interpret their actions as being coerced. So we can't say they are coerced. So the correct answer here is A. B is a bit tempting and the trend of students taking this is they end up picking B. Personal moral matrix comes from the passage. But that personal moral orientation is discussing that these American participants' orientation toward helping others. And the question is not about helping others. It's just whether they prefer and do better on certain tasks, leaving B irrelevant. While D is trying to take exact wording from the passage. But the passage only talked about internalizing values in the context of participants in the more collective culture. So this answer choice is sort of picking and choosing words from the passage, but not correctly linking them to ideas. [16:05] Question 28 Based on the passage, folk psychology as a field depends on which of the following: Appeals to common sense Qualitative studies of motivation III. Seeking to explain mental states (A) I only (B) II only (C) I and III only (D) I, II, and III Clara's Insights: Don't assume Roman Numeral questions will always be difficult. Sometimes, they're just about finding each of the options in the passage. Here, just go back to the passage mentioning this and see whether any of these are discussed in the context of folk psychology. III is obviously a part of folk psychology. So III should be part of your answer. So that leaves with you C and D. Then I is in both, so you don't even have to look at I. Hence, you only have to look at II. Going back to the passage, you never really see qualitative studies of motivation, only quantitative. So II is out and you're left with C. Students often answer C, failing to recognize that the passage says quantitative, and not qualitative. Lesson: be sure to read carefully because you don't want to get so close to the right answer and miss it just because you missed a couple of letters. [20:08] Question 29 The author would agree that all of the following demonstrate a key tenet of self-determination theory,except: (A) The concept of dharma or duty, which is viewed as a means of personal spiritual refinement that derives from a perceived natural law. (B) The concept of the categorical imperative which places the judgment of behavior in the realm of abstract reason as opposed to personal values. (C) The concept of filial piety which embodies sentiments of affection and attachment rather than merely the idea of social compliance. (D) The concept of suban, which understands character as normalized through the embedding of societal norms, with entails that come to be seen as explaining personal choices Clara's Insights: If you see an "except" question, students tend to forget it's an except question and end up crashing out the correct answer. So be careful with this. Here, the right answer is B since "abstract reasoning" hasn't really been mentioned in the passage. [23:30] About Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep for their full-length exams that best simulates the test itself (second to AAMC), as well as all their resources to help you with the MCAT. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off those exams. Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code: MCATPOD) MedEd Media Network
Sep 26, 2018
112: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 4
Session 112 Learning how to do well on the CARS section is hard. Practice makes perfect and that’s why you should be following along with us on The MCAT Podcast! Check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media including The Premed Years, OldPreMeds Podcast, Specialty Stories, Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A, TMDSAS Podcast, The Short Coat Podcast, and many more to come. Clara from Next Step Test Prep joins us once again to drill into Passage 4 of CARS. This is a fun passage as it talks about playwriting - something different from the previous ones. [02:12] Passage 4 You ask me how one can write an excellent play. I must tell you that it's not as easy as it seems. That is, what is truly difficult is to write a play that the public will appreciate to be excellent. I do not intend to deny the value of talent, skill, and experience. But in what proportions do they contribute to the result? With study, patience, memory, and energy, a  man can gain a reputation as a painter, or a sculptor, or a musician. And those arts, they're a material in mechanical procedures that he can make his own. This man can gain talent. ability, and can attain success. The public, to whom that these works are submitted, have none of the technical knowledge involved. Thus, from the beginning, they regard the makers of this works as their superiors. They feel that the artist can always reply to any criticism. Have you learned painting, sculpture, music? No? Then don't talk so vainly. You cannot judge. You must be of the craft to understand the beauties and so on. It is thus that the good-natured public is frequently imposed on in painting and sculpture and music by certain schools and celebrities. it does not dare to protest. But with regard to drama and comedy, the situation is altered. The public is an interested party to proceedings and it appears, so to speak, for the prosecution in the case. The language that we use in our plays is the language used by the spectators everyday. The sentiments that we depict are theirs. The persons whom we set to acting are the spectators themselves and instantly recognize passions and familiar situations. No preparatory studies are necessary. No initiation in a studio or school is indispensable. Eyes to see, ears to hear. That's all they need. The moment we depart, I will not say from the truth, but from what they think is the truth, they stop listening. For in the theater, as in life, of which the theater is the reflection, there are two kinds of truth. First, the absolute truth, which always in the end prevails. And secondly, if not the false, at least the superficial truth, which consists of customs, manners, social conventions, the uncompromising truth which revolts and the pliant truth which yields to human weakness. It is only by making every kind of concession to the second that we can succeed in ending with the first. The spectators like all sovereigns, like kings and nations, do not like to be told the truth, all the truth. Let me add quickly that they have an excuse, which is that they do not know the truth, they have rarely been told it. They, therefore, wish they flattered, pitied, consoled, take it away from their preoccupations and their worries, which are nearly all due to ignorance. But which I consider the greatest and the most unmerited to be found anywhere because their own. [05:00] Question 19 The central goal of this passage is to: (A) Propose that it is virtually impossible to write an excellent play (B) Argue that painters, sculptors, and musicians are overly revered and playwrights underappreciated. (C) Plead that spectators learn to distinguish between absolute and superficial truths. (D) Explain the challenges facing the playwright as they relate to the predilections of the spectators. Clara's Insights: The answer here is D. A is so extreme so crash this out. B and C have some basis in the passage but instead of just spending a minute or two trying to figure out if they're true, you can actually just get rid of them since they're not the main idea here. B was only just talked about that first paragraph. And C was only later discussed in the passage. So D fits a lot better here because the whole passage is explaining the challenges facing the playwright in writing this play that the public will accept. [08:30] Question 20 What does the author most likely mean when he says that the public "appears for the prosecution in the case"? (A) The public expects playwrights to be knowledgeable about music, painting, and sculpture. (B) Spectators consider themselves knowledgeable about drama and feel free to criticize playwrights. (C) The public prefers dramas and encourages their neighbors to confront uncompromising truths. (D) The drama of the courtroom is a metaphor for the conflicts that individuals face in everyday life. Clara's Insights: The correct answer is B. D can be tempting for students to pick since of course, it is a metaphor. But then the rest of D isn't just right because it talks about individual facing challenges in everyday life. But the passage is talking about the challenges of the playwright in making this excellent play. B makes sense since the passage is about the struggle of the playwright to write a play that the public will accept. And this metaphor is a comparison to painting, sculpture, and music. The public thinks they can understand plays so they feel more open to criticize them. Whereas a sculptor or a musician can always say you don't understand sculpture or music so you can't criticize. [12:04] Question 21 According to the passage, which of the following words best describes the attitude that a typical individual might hold toward a concert violinist? (A) Reverent (B) Skeptical (C) Sentimental (D) Judgmental Clara's Insights: The right answer here is A. Just think about the attitude that was conveyed in that part of the passage. And reverent is a positive word whereas judgmental is negative. That said, you can always go back to the passage as this is a very specific part. The part about musicians, in general, is that first paragraph. There is a sentence there saying, "Thus, from the beginning, they regard the makers of this works as their superiors." So the public regards the makers of these musical or sculpture as their superiors, so this fits in with reverent. It's the idea that they revere them and think they're superior. Clara recommends that if you're confused between two choices, you can just look outside the window. The MCAT is a very direct test so if you're looking at one specific part of the passage and you're not sure, try looking at the sentence before and the sentence after that. There might be more clear phrase pointing towards the correct answer there. [16:07] Question 23 Which of the statements below might provide the author's answer to his friend's question regarding how one can write a play that audiences will regard as excellent? (A) I wish I knew. Audiences think they know but shy away from what's real and true. (B) The key is speaking your truth. If you know what you write is important, they will hear you. (C) Knowledge of the beauty is all. School yourself in paintings, sculpture, and music. (D) I'm not sure. But if you avoid the superficial truth, the audience will heed your message. Clara's Insights: This is the common dilemma for these two-part answer choices since the first part may look great and then you're unsure about the second part or vice versa. SO be sure to look at all the other answer choices to make sure A isn't the best option but here, it was. So A is the right answer here. [19:50] Next Step Test Prep Are you in the market for an MCAT tutor? Check out Next Step Test Prep. They're known for their one-on-one tutoring. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money off their tutoring and other services. Links: MedEd Media The Premed Years OldPreMeds Podcast Specialty Stories Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A TMDSAS Podcast The Short Coat Podcast Next Step Test Prep (promo code: MCATPOD)
Sep 19, 2018
111: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 3
Session 111 We’re back for some more Next Step Test Prep full-length 10 with CARS passage 3. Follow along with the handout on the blog post for this episode. Again, we’re joined by Clara from Next Step Test Prep as we break down the passage for you to help you rock your CARS section. [02:12] Passage 3, Paragraph 1 Free will, the ability to actively choose one's possible behaviors, has proven one of philosophy's most persistent difficulties and important concepts. Given its direct linkage with responsibility, many are loathed to accept that deterministic view that free will is a little more than illusion. Compatibilism, or soft determinism, accepts the core tenets of determinism but holds that free will still exists. Determinism is couched in several different terms, most commonly, causal determinism and logical determinism. That is, causal determinism asserts that every single event or effect has a cause that preceded it. And that those causes could not have possibly resulted in any different effect. The universe is seen as a vast, almost incomprehensibly complicated machine, ticking along with no room for human choice. Any behavior a person might exhibit is an effect of an earlier cause. And that behavior could not have possibly happened differently. Logical determinism is a closely related concept about the true state of propositions in a future tense. This view asserts that the sentence "it will rain tomorrow" is either necessarily true today or necessarily false. The fact that a weatherman can only say, there's a 75% chance of rain tomorrow, reflects a frailty of human understanding rather than an indeterminacy in the universe itself. [03:53] Breaking Down Dense Paragraphs Clara says that first when you see a passage as dense as the above, a lot of students can freak out. Accept that you don't have to understand every word you're reading as your reading through it the first time. The question can't possibly ask about everything, right? So it's not as if you really have to understand what every word is saying. Otherwise, you'll end up reading and rereading the same sentence over and over without really getting out of it. And this will take too long. Instead, Clara recommends reading through the passage and keep moving through it. Then highlight as you encounter key terms. For example, in the paragraph above, you can highlight things like free will, determinism, compatibilism, logical determinism, etc. This can be very helpful because it's likely that one or more of the questions will ask about one of those terms. Then it would be easier for you to go back to it. For notetakers, your approach may be a little bit different. But get the same core understanding. Something to keep in mind is not to write out whole words. For example, you can write words like FW for free will and then FW=direct linkage, responsibility. So you'd abbreviate those words. [06:47] Paragraph 2 Compatibilism asserts that while both of these forms of determinism are valid, free will, properly understood, still exists. The main focus here is only construing free will in a sense under which one has the freedom to act without outside compulsion. According to one's own motives and goals, rather than under some coercion or other threat, this kind of political liberty is constructed as a non metaphysical concept focused more on definite relations between people, rather than on complex attributions of preexisting brain states. That is, one is not held responsible for action X, if one literally has a gun being pointed at one's head with another person saying "Do X, or I'll shoot." Here, there is neither political liberty nor any sort of free will. However, if there is no threat of violence, no law, and no political compulsion to carry out action X, and if a person chooses to consider whether or not to do X and then ends up doing X, the person had political liberty over the choice and thus had free will in choosing to do X, and is therefore responsible for the action and its direct consequences. [08:21] Question 14 If they could be proven via quantum mechanics that the universe has phenomena that can lead to two different possible outcomes given exactly the same starting conditions, then: (A) Soft determinism would be a more accurate representation of reality than determinism. (B) At least, causal determinism and probably also logical determinism would be less likely to be true. (C) The passage author's argument about the proper definition of free will would be weakened. (D) It can be concluded that the neurological and psychological processes underlying human behavior are not deterministic. [10:00] Thought Process Behind the Answer The right answer here is B. So if an answer stands out as seemingly clear right away, there's no reason not to just pick it. But Clara recommends flagging that first or mark the question. So if you have a little bit of extra time in the end, you can go back to it and check. Going back to logical determinism that is part of B, it's pretty closely related to causal determinism so B makes sense. As with the other answer choices, they just don't work as well. The passage says that soft determinism accepts the core tenets of determinism. So if the question talks about undermining determinism, then it should do the same with soft determinism too. So (A) is wrong. (B) is not even in the passage. The author did mention free will but you won't really find any argument there. While (D) is not anywhere in the passage. You don't want to get tempted to pick it because it's complicated, which can be a common thing for students to do. Again, Clara stresses that if the answer choice makes no sense, don't pick it for that reason. That is actually the opposite of the reason to pick it because the test is not generally trying to trick you. [12:40] Question 15 The author implies that: (A) Any philosopher who thinks any responsibility must depend on free will hold to a non-deterministic view of the universe. (B) A person who is forced to carry out an action would not be held responsible for that action under any ethical framework. (C) Responsibility is of lesser concern to determinists than to compatibilists. (D) If determinists have a definition of responsibility that is applicable in the real world, it must not depend on free will. [13:20] Thought Process Behind the Answer The correct answer here is D. A can stand out here and it may be tempting to pick it. So you may pay attention to the other choices. Especially, when it gets to D, a lot of students can have their eyes all glazed over. Another point is that the word "any" in answer choice A is such a strong word. And seeing an extreme statement like that, be careful with picking that choice. B can be tempting too but it's also saying "under any ethical framework." The same thing as A, the passage doesn't cover "every" ethical framework. Again, it's too strong. Clara recommends highlighting extreme words on the answer choices or strike them out so that when you look back at the choice, you're not going to be tempted by it. C talks about comparison and the passage didn't give any comparison. They did mention responsibility in the first paragraph but they only did it in passing. Hence, you're left with answer choice D. The first paragraph says that the deterministic view is that free will is a little more than an illusion. So if a determinist thinks that responsibility is a concept that makes sense and free will is an illusion, hence they're not going to think that responsibility depends on free will. [20:03] Question 16 Compatibilists will hold someone responsible for which of the following actions: (A) A man chooses a speed while driving to work because he's late and causes a near-fatal car accident but the causes that made him late could not have resulted in any other possible outcome but his tardiness. (B) A person lives in a society whose laws require individuals to report possession of illegal drugs to the police. Thus, he reports his friend for possession even though he doesn't want to and knows his friend will be punished. (C) A hostage negotiator agrees to have a suitcase with a large sum of money delivered to a hostage taker because the hostage taker has demonstrated a willingness to kill innocent bystanders. (D) A person engages in a distasteful act because she's told will be killed if she fails to comply even though she is never shown a weapon or given a direct reason to believe beyond the threat itself. [21:18] Thought Process Behind the Answer Don't freak out when you see long answer choices like the above. Now, the correct answer here is A. All the other answer choices are similar where they're being in some sort of violence or force or legal pressure to commit an activity. But A is just the man's choice. He chose the speed when he shouldn't have done that. Where you find direct support in the passage here is near the end of the second paragraph when they talked about the compatibilism where if there's no threat of violence, no law and no political compulsion to carry out an action, that's when you have this free will and responsibility. Again, A is the only answer choice here with any force, political compulsion, or a law. [24:07] Question 17 Logical determinism differs from causal determinism in that: (A) Only logical determinism is consonant with compatibilism. (B) Only logical determinism is incompatible with soft determinism. (C) It can be demonstrated correct through deductive proof rather than scientific experimentation. (D) It is concerned with the present rather than the future effects. [25:00] Thought Process Behind the Answer Just go back straight to those terms. But if you've got to this point and you just want to pick an answer and just move on, you'd probably pick D since it says the word "future." And D is the right answer here. As you can see, sometimes, it can be that easy. Obviously, you don't want to pick an answer choice that has a word that matches the passage. But if you've got to rush, this is a better tactic than picking some other random answer. Digging a bit into logical determinism, they say that the sentence that it will rain tomorrow is either true or false right now. And the fact the weatherman can only predict the 75% chance of rain is just the frailty of his understanding. So logical determinists don't care about whether something is happening in the future or the present. They just say it's either true or false. We just don't know enough to know about the future. [27:05] About Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep currently has 10 full-length exams you can purchase to help you prepare for the MCAT. Take practice tests as this is one of the best ways to do it. Plus, get an understanding of what it's like to sit for seven hours and read the passage and questions. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Promo code: MCATPOD)
Sep 12, 2018
110: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 2
Session 110 Clara from Next Step Test Prep is back for some more Next Step full-length 10 breakdown—this time with CARS passage 2. Check out MedEd Media! We have a new podcast, the TMDSAS Podcast. The TMDSAS stands for Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service, which is the application system for the public Texas medical schools. [02:05] Passage 2 Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called salmonella. Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps soon after infection. But the illness usually self-resolves after 4-7 days. However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be treated. The salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and can cause death unless the person is treated properly with antibiotics. Such blood-born salmonella can then be spread through both fecal and blood-based routes. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe response. *Clara's notes: Right off the bat, you can tell this passage as it's something scientific since it's talking about a disease. Sometimes, students see passages like this and they get super excited. But don't get out of the mindset of being in CARS, where what the passage says is everything and the same thing is true here. "Stay in CARS mode." Humans obtain salmonella by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods are often of animal origins such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs. But any food, including vegetables may become contaminated. Thorough cooking kills salmonella. Food may also become contaminated by the hands of an infected food handler who did not wash hands with soap after using the bathroom. People may also become infected if they did not wash their hands after contact with pets or pet feces. Reptiles such as turtles, lizards, and snakes are particularly likely to harbor salmonella. Many chicks and young birds carry salmonella in their feces. People should always wash their hands immediately after handling a reptile or bird. Adults should also ensure that children wash their hands after handling a reptile or bird or after touching its environment. *Clara's notes: It's helpful to pay attention to strong language or strong opinions, such as comparisons. In the above paragraph, it's good to highlight "particularly likely. The pasteurization of milk and the treatment of municipal water supplies are highly effective prevention measures that have been in place for decades. In the 1970s, small pet turtles were a common source of salmonellosis in the United States. In 1975, the sale of small turtles was banned in this country. However, in 2014, they were still being sold and cases of salmonella associated with pet turtles have been reported. Improvements in farm animal hygiene in slaughter plant practices and in vegetable and fruit harvesting and packing operations may help prevent salmonellosis caused by contaminated foods. Better education of food industry workers and basic food safety, and increased restaurant inspection procedures may prevent cross-contamination and other food handling errors that could lead to outbreaks. Wider use of pasteurized eggs in restaurants, hospitals, and nursing homes is an important prevention measure. In the future, irradiation or other treatments may greatly reduce contamination of raw meat. *Clara's notes: This last paragraph may stand out as more interesting than the first three, which was just listing the symptoms or how it's transmitted. But this last paragraph shifted gears and started talking about the prevention of the spread of the disease. This paragraph, being different, is the biggest thing you should take away from it. [08:20] Question 8 Which of the following can be inferred by the information in the passage? (A) When salmonella spreads away from the digestive tract, it is more easily contracted by others. (B) Salmonella is often spread by coming in contact with an infected persons' blood. (C) The digestive tract is the only part of the body capable of sustaining salmonella. (D) Salmonella exists in small degree in the intestines of every person. Clara's Insights: C is out. Clara says the "only" there stands out, being a very strong word. The correct answer here is A. People obtain salmonella by eating food but it's also blood-borne. So if it's spread away from the digestive tract, so it could also be spread through the blood-borne route. Hence, it more easily contracted by others. Clara recommends to just note how extreme some of these other answer choices are. D is pretty extreme as well in that salmonella exists in the intestine of "every" person. If they don't tell us that it's not true, it's not going to be the right answer here since there's no way we can infer that. As with B, we don't know if that's true either. There is a blood-borne route but we have no idea whether it's spread that way "often." Clara adds that a common mistake students make is that looking for an answer directly stated. If you go back to the question stem, they're asking which can be "inferred." That said, they're not asking for an insertion or a statement, but an interference. Hence, this is something we need to deduce on our own without being told directly. So we say A is the correct answer here because they say salmonella can be spread through fecal and blood-based route. And if they're only in the digestive tract, it can't be possibly spread through the blood. But as soon as it spreads away from the digestive tracts, suddenly it can be spread through the blood-borne route. Hence, this is a logical interference that it's more easily spread that way. [13:48] Question 9: Which of the following is/are supported by passage information? Reptiles are more likely than birds to carry salmonella. Beef is more likely than poultry to carry salmonella. III. Mature birds are less likely than young birds to carry salmonella. Clara's Insights: So the correct answer here is I and III (answer choice B). I is true since it says "particularly likely" is the same as "more than likely." For II, the passage never compared beef to poultry so we can't know anything about it. Finally, for III, they never mentioned adult birds carrying it at all. What's said directly is many chicks and young birds carry it. So from that, we can deduce that III is the right answer too. A good strategy is to not think too far outside the passage. It's going to have the information you need to answer the question. So if it's asking what's supported by the information in the passage, there is absolutely anything in the passage ever dealing with mature birds at all. So we can be safe that III is a correct statement, even if there might be science outside this passage we don't know about. [17:25] Question 10 Which of the following is the author least likely to identify as a recent advancement in the fight against salmonellosis? (A) Radiation of meats (B) Pasteurization of milk (C) Increased restaurant inspections (D) Improvements in animal hygiene Clara's Insights: The answer here is B, for the reason that the question was asking for the "recent" advancement. And the passage talks about milk pasteurization happening for decades. Clara stresses that adjectives are everything in MCAT questions. So if they "recent" advancement, they're saying which of these are recent advancements. "Adjectives are everything in MCAT questions." [20:30] Question 11 An inspector discovers an outbreak of a mosquito-borne parasitic infection capable of infecting humans and livestock in a certain state. Based on the information on the passage, which of the following measures would the author be least likely to support? (A) Improvements in farm hygiene and slaughtering practices (B) Slaughtering all potentially affected livestock (C) Banning the sale of livestock from that state (D) Education of the public about safe cooking techniques Clara's Insights: If you go back to mention, it does mention things pertaining to answer choices A, C, and D. So B is the right answer here since it's a strong thing to say slaughtering livestock. [23:55] Next Step Test Prep Struggling with the MCAT or your practice tests? Look to one-on-one tutoring with Next Step Test Prep. Check them out and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money off their tutoring, course, and full-length practice tests. Links: TMDSAS Podcast MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD)
Sep 05, 2018
109: Next Step Full Length 10, CARS Passage 1
Session 109 Clara joins Ryan as the new MCAT expert from Next Step Test prep. We tackle the first passage of CARS. Follow along with the handout in the show notes. [01:45] Clara’s Background Clara is our new MCAT expert. She has been the MCAT Course Content Director for Next Step Test Prep for a couple of years now (four years in total). She is now here to take Bryan's place to provide all that great MCAT insights. Clara used to be a premed. She took the MCAT when she was a Junior in undergrad. She was planning on applying until she got stuck into the world of tutoring. She found she really loves teaching so she never saw a need for her career path to apply to med school. After being a tutor, she went on to develop a lot of content for Next Step and still love what she does! Clara's describes being misguided with the idea of being a physician. She was a lifeguard in high school and always really interested in the aspect of saving lives. She had witnessed medical emergencies that made her interested in being a doctor. But she didn't realize that some aspects of it weren't entirely for her (being afraid of blood is one of them!). She then found that the teaching side made more sense. That said, she was always excited to interact with so many future doctors. [05:25] Passage 1 The score of a composition is made up of musical signs that convey performance instructions. In order to be able to follow these instructions, performers have to know the conventions through which these musical signs can be translated into sound. However, sound aspects such as articulation, sound quality, and subtle differences in intensity and duration between notes are not clearly indicated by a score. These aspects are extremely important. They're a part of the music. They confer to it a specific character. Furthermore, they're crucial in distinguishing a great performance from a simply good one. Since these aspects are not to be found in the score, they can be realized by a performer in a multitude of different ways without contradicting the written text. (*Clara's notes: Highlight words like "have to" or "must" or "need to" because they suggest something imperative from the author.) Many authors seem to suggest that some of the performance instructions not specified by the score can be inferred by an analysis of it. As Eugene Narmour suggests in his 1988 essay, the score, which can be conceived as a kind of this syntactical roadmap based on a highly efficient, but therefore, limited symbol system, can be scrutinized in detail. Relations between its elements can be pointed out and the analytical findings can be translated into performance instructions. (*Clara's notes: In this paragraph, you not only have the author speaking, but there's another person speaking, Eugene Narmour. So this is something to highlight.) This technique is an example of what John Rink calls one to one mapping. He criticizes this kind of approach as being analogous to translating a book into another language word-by-word, without regard to the second language as particular idioms, inflections, grammar, and syntax. (*Clara's notes: Again, another person here who has his own opinion.) Relying on my experience as a pianist, I sympathize with Rink's criticisms of one to one mapping and with his ideas generally. Nevertheless, I would suggest that his way of proceeding can be counterproductive when applied to piano music at the second half of the 20th century. Following Rink's understanding, performers' informed intuitions are based on their backgrounds, their study experiences, the examples they've heard, the repertoire they have learned, and so on. Whether one likes it or not, pianist training is mainly based on 18th, 19th, and early 20th-century music. They're informed intuition is consequently molded by a language with a more or less clearly perceivable syntax and tonal harmony. It can be imagined that approach to recent composition relying on intuition and informed by contact with fundamentally different musical styles would not be dissimilar from driving a modern Formula 1 car, relying on our experience of an old roundabout. It would be possible, but the potentiality of a new object would only be partially explored. [09:33] Question 1 Based on the passage, the author would agree that all of the following are important aspects of a performance except: (A) Score (B) Rhythm (C) One to one mapping (D) Articulation Clara's Insights: One to one mapping is the correct answer here and it stands out right away as it's discussed a little bit separately. Rink is criticizing one to one mapping and then the author later says he sympathizes with Rink's criticisms. Since the question is asking about the author, you know right away that the author is critical of this concept. [11:23] Question 2 According to the author, which of the following is least likely to be an appropriate way to discover the unwritten conventions of a piece of contemporary music? (A) Listening to several recordings of contemporary music before trying to play it (B) Recording yourself playing the piece in different ways and critiquing your performances (C) Inventing new notation to explore different interpretations of a piece (D) Studying pieces which contain clearly perceivable syntax and tonal harmony Clara's Insights: The fourth paragraph is the place you want to go for this question as it's asking which is least likely to be an appropriate way to discover these unwritten conventions. You're looking for what the author would not want you to do. If you have to go back to the passage, then do so as it's inevitable to go back to the passage occasionally. Midway through the paragraph, you'd notice it's exactly the same wording as choice D. This is pretty common on the MCAT. Interestingly, you'd notice that these pianists who trained based on this older music had their intuition molded by perceivable syntax and tonal harmony. But then the author is complaining about that. So the author is saying that this is not the right approach. Another keyword from the question is "contemporary" which means modern. While answer choice (D) comes from a part of the passage where they base their conventions on older music. So it makes sense here as to what you may not want to do. [15:55] Smart Tip to Save Time A natural way to do this question is to look to the passage for one answer choice to another. And this could be time-consuming. Two ways here. First, you can go answer choice by answer choice and just not sink a lot of time into any given choice. Another way is to just go back to the most relevant part of the passage which is the fourth paragraph. And just start looking there right away without sinking a lot of time into analyzing these answer choices at all. [17:45] Question 3 Which of the following would be most similar to Eugene Narmour's conception of a musical score as used in the second paragraph? (A) A road atlas (B) The alphabet (C) A poem (D) A computer program Clara's Insights: A lot of students would be picking (A) here because it does look familiar since the paragraph is talking about mapping. But a way to approach this is to first not take it too literally. Just go back directly to that paragraph and just boil down to what the character is saying. Essentially, he's talking about a symbol system and it can be translated into performance instructions. The alphabet might look tempting here since it's also a symbol system. But it doesn't have any analytical findings that can be translated into performance instructions. And the poem is not a limited symbol system at all. It can be very complex. So then, (D) stands out here. [21:00] Question 7 Supposed a student approached John Rink for advice on performance choices not clearly indicated by the score, what advice would Rink most likely give? (A) You should examine relationships between elements to understand performance instructions. (B) You should ignore the score and just play what sounds good to your ear. (C) You should base performance decisions on your intuition. (D) You should not play modern pieces if you do not have a background in the genre. Clara's Insights: Nothing quite stands out as being right away since when you try to go back to the paragraph about Rink, nothing seems to fit. One strategy to use here is if you go back to the place where you think the passage is referring to and none of the answer choices fit in with that part of the passage, it's possible that you can find the answer somewhere else in the passage. The MCAT is a pretty direct text and it's not like you have to be digging around a ton or find hidden meanings. An easy way to figure this out is just to look for Rink's name, which is also in the fourth paragraph. So (C) stands out here. [25:05] Highlighting Names Clara recommends highlighting names in almost all cases. In this case, where there are three people mentioned here, it's, therefore, helpful to highlight names so you can look back to it quickly. When she doesn't recommend you to do this is if there's a ton of them, otherwise you'll be highlighting all over the place. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Aug 29, 2018
108: CARS Section Basics and How to Prepare for CARS
Session 108 This week, we jump into a CARS 101 before we tackle the CARS section starting next week. We’ll talk about everything you need to know for the CARS section. Once again, we're joined by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep. Use the promo code MCATPOD and save 10% off their full-length exams (there's 10 of them to choose from!) CARS is going to be hard to cover on the podcast. So for this episode, we're going to do a little primer and dive into some CARS stuff in the next couple of episodes. Meanwhile, check out MedEd Media Network for all our other episodes as you’re move along this journey to medical school and beyond! [02:40] How Should You Attack Passages on the CARS Section? CARS is one of the things that students have the most trouble with, especially those who are retaking. They're trying to prep again and just didn't come together for them, for whatever reason. And they don't know what to do. Bryan explains that at their fundamental core, they're a tutoring company. They recognize that every student is unique. Everybody's brain works a little bit different. So what they usually advise students is there is not one right way to do CARS. There is only your right way to do CARS. The number one mistake Bryan sees students are making when it comes to tackling the section is trying to jump the gun. They expect that you just give them what needs to be done and they'll do it. But you have to find your best method. That's hard, boring work. You have to be willing to fail a whole bunch in order to find your success. So you have to find your own way. All this being said, there are a few techniques on CARS and you have to try these to see what works. The Four Types of Studying Approaches [04:34] CARS Strategy #1: Note Taking You are given a laminated note board and a wet erase marker so it's possible to take notes. 80%-90% of students hate taking notes while they read. But for about 15%-20% of students, learning how to effectively use the marker and take notes while reading is game-changing for them. So learn how to take notes at the end of each paragraph and every passage. Jot down main ideas, jot down cause and effect relationships. Give it time to practice jotting notes and see if this can help you. [06:20] CARS Strategy #2: On-Screen Highlighter Most students end up doing highlighting a section of the test. You hit Ctrl+H and that puts a yellow highlight. Students like this because they don't have to stop and write anything down separately. The key thing is that the highlighter is like a scalpel, not a paint roller. Don't be slathering yellow all over the screen. Pick up individual phrases and keywords. Practice and see how you can maximize it. Try to see if you're overlighting or underlighting or is your highlighting pointless. [07:27] CARS Strategy #3: The Main Idea Approach Some prep companies say this is the only way to do it. You don't highlight or write anything down. Just stop at the end of the passage and write down the overall main idea of the passage. This is good if you're a very strong reader and you're able to naturally read quickly. You have a very good short-term memory and working memory where you can keep a lot of key ideas in your head at once so you don't get lost in the passage. Then you'd just have to contextualize it for yourself with the main idea. You can either write it down or say it in your head. [08:05] CARS Strategy #4: Skimming Bryan thinks skimming is a terrible idea but Bryan has had students who've had enormous success with skimming. They generally get a quick, loose idea of the passage and then get right to the questions and go back and do a lot of looking up. Most students don't like it, but you can try it still. See if this helps. [08:36] Try Different Techniques Now, you may not see yourself in any of these categories, so you have to try all these different things to see what amalgam of strategies is going to work best for you. This can take a lot of time and a lot of practice. It takes the willingness to try out a technique that doesn't seem to work very well for you but just give it an honest go. Do dozens of passages with that technique to see if you can make it work for you. If you can't, then move onto the next technique. Bryan adds that as we go on with the passages, he will be giving you suggestions as to how to approach these. But then again, there is not one way to only approach a paragraph with that concept, but depending on which approach works for you. They would just serve as the general guidelines for the key underlined concepts that you should take note of in some format or another. [10:15] Switching Between Approaches Most students have a core default style in dealing with passages. If it's a dry, philosophical, boring passage, some students highlight a lot more and then the highlighting becomes less about what they're highlighting. But it's more about giving them something kinesthetic to do to keep themselves engaged. So even if they're not the highlighter type of student, they find themselves highlighting more when they get bored. Similarly, some highlighters would turn into notetaking when it starts getting more technical and philosophical. So they tend to slow down and start jotting some notes down. Or if it gets into politics or an opinion-heavy passage where there are lots of people contradicting and disagreeing with each other, they suddenly become note takers. [11:30] The Biggest Mistakes Notetakers will have the tendency to be a little too rigid. They'll feel like every paragraph they read, they'd have to stop and jot something down. But MCAT passages can have entire paragraphs that are "throat-clearing." In this case, don't write anything down because you're only writing pointless notes. Highlighters may then to have this paint roller syndrome where they have the tendency to highlight everything. While people who either take the skimming or main idea approach can tend to get a little arrogant. As mentioned, they tend to work well for very strong readers. So they may take for granted that level of skill without recognizing that the MCAT requires more care and more subtlety of thought. So Bryan ends up reminding them to slow down and make sure they're getting it. [13:23] How to Calm Your Inner Doubt Bryan constantly tells students to just focus on the words in front of you. One exercise is to read out a sentence out loud. Put the emphasis on one specific word. Then read again and put the emphasis on another word, and so on. This is a way for you to see what your inner voice should be hearing when you read these sentences. Then you're able to bypass the issue of other elements of what your brain might be thinking. So you're constantly directing that inner voice to analyze what the sentence says. Then you know what has to be in your brain. Lastly, practice, practice, practice. And this is what we're going to be doing in the next few week as well tackle CARS. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD and save 10% off their full-length exams.)
Aug 22, 2018
107: Next Step Full Length 10, Discretes, Questions 57-59
Session 107 Solubility, fatty acids, and uranium are all topics of the three discrete questions we cover on this next installment of Next Step full-length 10 breakdown! This is our last set of discrete questions before we move on to our next section. As always, we're joined by Bryan Schnedeker of Next Step Test Prep. [01:05] Question 57: Solubility of Bases The addition of which of the following compounds to water would reduce the solubility of ferrous hydroxide? (A) Ammonia (B) Ethanol (C) Acetic acid (D) Trichloroethane Bryan's Insights: There are three scientific principles to remember. Recognize that hydroxide is a base (OH-). Anything that creates hydroxide is a base. And ferrous hydroxide is very sparingly soluble. It's not much of a base but technically it is. Bases would interfere with each other trying to dissolve, so they would reduce each other's solubility. Next fact to remember is that for solubility rules, acids and bases like to dissolve each other. They help each other dissolve. Since the OH and the H get together to make water. In that same vein, bases interfere with each other. So if you try to dissolve multiple bases, they're going to make each other harder to dissolve. Acids interfere with each other due to the common ion effect. Step 3 is just to know which of the answer choices is a base. Ammonia is a weak base. When the MCAT wants to give a weak base, 8 times out of 10, they use Ammonia if they want a weak base so this is the right answer here. [03:35] Question 58: Cell Membrane Forces Both eukaryotes and prokaryotes possess desaturases which can increase membrane fluidity by adding a cis double bond to a fatty acid chain on a phospholipid. What's the primary intermolecular force acting between adjacent fatty acid chains in a cell membrane? (A) London dispersion (B) Hydrogen bonding (C) Dipole-dipole (D) Covalent bonds Bryan's Insights: It says intermolecular force so you can eliminate covalent bonding since it's an intramolecular force. Fatty acid chains are just big long chains of hydrocarbons. It means the only intermolecular force that predominates for them is London dispersion. Hydrogen bonding requires hydrogen bonds to be bonded to fluorine, oxygen, or nitrogen. None of which is true in the tail part of the fatty acid chain. And dipole-dipole interactions require actual dipoles. [05:44] Question 59: Percentages and Conversion Naturally mined Uranium consists of two isotopes U-235 and U-238. U-238 is more stable than U-235 and cannot be used for nuclear energy. An industrial enrichment process increases the abundance of U-235 from 0.9% to 3.7% in a 500-gram sample of Uranium. How many additional moles of U-235 are yielded as a result? (A) 7.8 x 10-2 moles (B) 5.9 x 10-2 moles (C) 7.8 x 10-1 moles (D) 5.9 x 10-1 moles Bryan's Insights: So there are two steps here. Take that percentage increase on the 500-gram sample and then divide the grams by molecular weight to get moles. Doing some math, 500g times 2.8% (3.7-0.9) is 14 grams and converting this to moles (14/235) and the answer is B. You can also do rounding off just to make the math easier. But you also want to round something where you can reduce the fraction. Then try to round so that the denominator of the fraction gets as close as you can to either 100 or 50 or 25. Something you can just scale to 100 to make it a percent. This is a very common technique for manipulating fractions without a calculator on test day. [10:14] Next Step Test Prep If you haven't yet, join the Premed Hangout Group, composed of almost 6,000 collaborative, amazing premed students. And I ask the students there about what they use for full-length exams. And a lot of them go with Next Step Test Prep, saying that it's the test closest to the real MCAT they took. And their scores have the best approximation of score they got on their MCAT. Check them out and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off their full-length exams. Links: Next Step Test Prep (promo code MCATPOD and get 10% off their full-legnth exams) Join the Premed Hangout Group
Aug 15, 2018
106: Next Step Full Length 10, Passage 9, Questions 49-51
Session 106 Passage 9 covers isolating a specific drug, amino acids and Poiseuille’s law. Once again, Bryan Schnedeker of Next Step Test Prep joins us to help us break down these questions so you can come prepared for the MCAT and be ready to rock it! [01:45] Passage 9 Drug X is designed to assist the body with the rate limiting step of glycogenolysis. The drug molecule is 560 amino acids long and weighs 65 kDa. The drug can exist as an inactive monomer but is only pharmaceutically active as a dimer, with two matching sub-units. It's shown to be effective with glycogen but not cellulose. X-ray crystallography has identified four biologically significant sites on the active form - catalytic site, allosteric site, glycogen site, and a phosphorylation site. Glycogen is bound to the glycogen site prior to the initiation of terminal glucose cleavage. Further analysis shows that the phosphorylation site and the allosteric site are used in vivo for the regulation of drug X's activity. For example, secretion of epinephrine, a potent vasoconstrictor cause phosphorylation of the inactive monomer transforming it into the active dimer. It is hypothesized that a single enzyme phosphorylase kinase (PK) is responsible for this transformation. The proposed pathway is outlined in Figure 1 structurally, PK is polymer with four identical subunits. PK is activated by intracellular calcium levels when calcium exceeds 10–6 molar, PK binds calcium and is activated. [04:06] Question 49 Several attempts were made to isolate the active form of Drug X from a tissue sample. All but one test failed to yield a pure extract. Based on the information presented in the passage, this successful test was due to: (A) Excessive centrifugation of speeds that caused the breakdown of drug PK (B) Elevated pH levels that caused the hydrolysis of peptide bonds in PK (C) Calcium contamination that led to the phosphorylation of drug X monomer (D) Alcohol contamination that denatured the drug X monomer Bryan's Insights: Just understand the question. In this case, the passage says that to be active, it has to get phosphorylated. Active means phosphorylated. But to get Drug X phosphorylated, you're told in the second paragraph that calcium concentrations have to be high. So calcium activates PK and PK phosphorylates Drug X. It's like a three step process here. So the correct answer here is C. Students could be thrown off by the word "contamination". And the question may seem unusual, since it says "all but one test failed." So what happened in the successful test? We're not used to the word "contamination" being associated with "success" but that's exactly what happened. There was contamination that allowed us to successfully activate the drug and purify it. [07:40] Question 50 Which of the following amino acids could a transaminase not possibly transform into a beta amino acid? (A) ARG (B) PRO (C) TYR (D) GLY Bryan's Insights: You obviously have to know your three-letter abbreviations for these various amino acids and which one could not possibly become a beta amino acid. If you don't know the answer to this, don't spend a ton of time on it. Just pick and go. When in doubt with amino acids, go for Proline (PRO) because it's weird and different since its side chain connects back to its own amino group. In that regard, proline is unique. However, it's not the right answer here. So the rule of thumb doesn't work here. In this case, the key to the question is knowing what a beta amino acid is. The biological amino acids are alpha amino acids. So to have a beta amino acid, you have to have one more carbon, that beta carbon that is just one place over from the carbonyl carbon. So the alpha is the next door neighbor to carbonyl beta, two doors down. So in this case, to not be physically capable of becoming a beta amino acid, you simply pick the amino acid that doesn't even have a beta carbon. So the answer here is D, since Glycine is the simplest amino acid, where its side chain is just a hydrogen atom. It doesn't have a beta carbon so it can't possibly be altered into a beta amino acid. Rule of thumb, too, on amino acids, if you have no idea what's going on, Glycine is the other special one. It's the smallest, the simplest, it's the only achiral one. With this for instance where proline and glycine are both choices, flip a coin. [10:50] Question 51 After administration of epinephrine, the radius of the abdominal aorta is cut by one-third. According to Poiseuille's Law, if the blood pressure is constant across the length of the vessel, blood flow through the abdominal aorta will: (A) Decrease to two-thirds to the fourth power of its previous value (B) Decrease to one-third to the fourth power of its previous value (C) Increase by three-halves to the fourth power of its previous value (D) Increase to three times its previous value Bryan's Insights: Since it says the aorta is cut to 1/3. It means it's constricting the aorta. And when it comes to flow, you always want to flow through a fatter pipe. You want more room. Whether a current through a wire or water through a pipe, if you constrict it down, it becomes much harder to have flow. The real world example of this is when you take a coffee stirrer and try to drink your soda through that. You can't, obviously, because of its tiny radius. Back to this question, since your cutting the aorta down, you're getting less blood flow through it. So it has to be A or B here. If you're going through a smaller pipe, you're going to be faster, which means less pressure. But this is about blood flow and so if it's thinner, you're not going to get as many through. In fact, you actually don't have to know Poiseuille's Law here because answer choices are both to the fourth power so they both tell us that whatever the equation is, the relationship between radius and blood flow is of fourth power. Bryan explains this is more of an English language question where what does "cut by 1/3" mean? So to be cut by one-third means you are decreasing two-thirds your original value. So it's A. If you log into the Next Step Test Prep platform and after you finish the test, you get to see a little bar graphs of what everybody picks and answer choice B is a popular pick (at around 35-40%). "It is a critical thinking reading test. Read those questions super carefully even when there's all these numbers in the answer choices." [15:20] Next Step Test Prep I've been asking around in our Premed Hangout Group, a community composed of over 6,000 members, about what they're using test prep that they like. And one popular choice is Next Step, being the closest to the real MCAT they took. They  best approximated the score they got on their real MCAT. So check out their practice tests and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off their full-length exams. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Promo Code: MCATPOD and get 10% off!) Join the Premed Hangout Group
Aug 08, 2018
105: Next Step Full Length 10, Discretes, Questions 44-47
Session 105 ATP, blood vessels, fat stores and beta decay are the topics we cover in the next set of discrete questions from Next Step Test Prep Full-length 10. We are once again joined by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep. Also check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. [01:33] Question 44: Fat Molecules Fats are stored in adipose tissues primarily as: (A) Fatty acids (B) Chylomicrons (C) Glycerol (D) Triacylglycerols Bryan's Insights: The correct answer here is D. Glycerol is the three-carbon backbone and fatty acids are the little tails that get tagged onto the glycerol. So a glycerol backbone plus three fatty acids make up a full classic E-shaped triacylglycerol or just just fat molecule. Chylomicrons are the little clumpy bits that are used to transport fatty acids throughout the blood. [03:27] Question 45: Aorta vs. Capillaries Within the body, which of the following blood vessels is expected to have the greatest total cross-sectional area and the lowest fluid velocity? (A) Aorta (B) Arterioles (C) Capillaries (D) Vena cava Bryan's Insights: The word total is key here. And the answer here is C. There are tens of thousands of capillaries for every arteriole, much less for the aorta and vena cava in the body. The question also says lowest fluid velocity. The blood in the aorta and the arterioles is just rushing along because of all that pressure from the heart. So it's in the capillaries that the blood flows the slowest that it almost comes to a standstill so that your oxygen and carbon dioxide can get exchanged. If you're not reading this question very carefully, you might pick (A) Aorta. In fact, in the Next Step Full Length analysis, about 65% get this question right while the other 35% all pick the aorta. [05:23] Question 46: Fluorine What does 18F become after a beta+ decay? (A) 18Ne (B) 18O (C) 17F (D) 19F Bryan's Insights: The test would give you a periodic table where you click on the button in the corner of the screen. It doesn't give you much except for the atomic number and then the element itself. First, you need to know the weight of a beta+ particle. It's a position which is a fancy name for a positively charged electron. So beta- is an electron while beta+ is a positively charged electron. Relative to a proton, you can treat beta decay as having a zero mass. So if Fluorine starts with a mass of 18, shooting out a positron is not going to change the 18 at all because it didn't give out any mass. If shot off a positive charge, it means that one of it is positive, so the proton became a neutron. Fluorine which had 9 protons went down to only 8 protons. So you have to go to the periodic table and see what's element number 8 and you would see that it's Oxygen. [08:00] Question 47: ATP/ADP Ratio A cell in which an elevated ATP/ADP ratio exists is most likely to demonstrate which allosteric effect resulting for this elevation? (A) Inhibition of pyruvate kinase (B) Activation of phosphofructokinase 1 (C) Inhibition of ATP citrate lyase (D) Activation of hexokinase Bryan's Insights: The cell is in a really high energy state, which means you don't need to make any more. In response, you slow your Krebs cycle and all that mechanics down. So you don't want to pick the activation choices, leaving us here with A and C. The correct answer here is A. Remember that pyruvate is that last step in glycolysis so the key regulatory point when you wrap up glycolysis before you head over to the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex or Krebs cycle, you regulate glycolysis right at the end there. If you shut that off in the end and if you have tons of ATP floating around, you don't need to make more energy. Hence, you switch off glycolysis by switching off pyruvate kinase, the enzyme in the end. ATP citrate lyase is a key enzyme that links carbohydrate metabolism (the Krebs cycle) to fat anabolism (making fat). The enzyme basically converts the citrate to acetyl CoA, which goes over and the body makes fat molecules out of it for storage. If you have tons of energy and you want to store that energy, you would actually bump up your ATP citrate lyase. You would want to activate that whole chain of connections. [12:08] Quick Tips for Answering Biochemistry Questions First, understand what the question is asking since students get very hung up in metabolism and biochemistry, trying to memorize a million names of enzymes, substrates, etc. Of course you have to recognize names. But when it comes to actually answering questions on test day, just put it in the big picture. Contextualize it. Don't skip this first step because just from the names of the molecules, and recognizing the general situation, you can take a pretty good crack at the question. In terms of the Krebs cycle and all the different energy pathways, you have to know them backwards-forwards, upside-down. You should be able to list every enzyme in the Krebs cycle, every substrate that gets acted on by the enzyme, and all the coenzymes and cofactors, all the inputs and the outputs. "The Krebs cycle is your alpha and omega. You have to know the whole thing." As for any pathway in the body, just generally know the inputs and outputs and the regulatory steps. You don't have to list every single step in glycolysis on the MCAT. That's okay. That said, memorize the Krebs cycle backwards and forwards first and then remember all the key steps in all the other reactions. [14:45] Next Step Test Prep If you're interested in Next Step Test Prep's full length practice exams, use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off their offerings. Based on the feedback gathered from students, Next Step Test Prep simulates the real exam. They also found it to be the most accurate full length exam, outside of the AAMC exams. Links: Next Step Test Prep MCAT Practice Tests Promo Code: MCATPOD
Aug 01, 2018
104: Next Step Full Length 10, Passage 7, Questions 36-39
[smart_track_player url="" color="004075" title="Next Step Full Legnth 10, Passage 7, Questions 36-39" ] Session 104 Joined by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep, we continue to dive into Next Step Test Prep’s full length ten Chem/Phys section. [01:56] Some Reset Tips to Help You on Test Day If in the event of the test, you'd find yourself struggling with the sections, reset yourself and finish as strong as possible by taking micro breaks at some point. Interrupt those thought processes that aren't productive. Sit up straight. Put the pen down. Physically alter your posture. Put both feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and just take some deep, slow breaths to reset. Follow the classic relaxation exercise where you tense up a particular muscle and then release it. Take a slow breath in while making a fist. Tense your fists up until your arms are shaking. Hold your breath for a couple of heartbeats. Then slowly blow the air out and relax your hands. Do the same thing with the other parts of your body including your biceps or face for instance. [03:48] An Example of a Pretty Dense Passage The enzyme, urease, expressed by many subsurface microorganisms, catalyzes the breakdown of urea, the product shown in Equation 1 (it shows urea with an acid and water, breaking down into ammonia and bicarbonate). Reversible exchange naturally occurs between metal cations in the ground water and those bound to solid, soil particles. The urease-catalyzed reaction products favor dissorption of divalent metal cations such as calcium and strontium from soil particles. The co-precipitation of strontium substituted for calcium in a lot of sites of calcium carbonate crystals as shown in Equation 3. * This is a pretty dense paragraph. Bryan recommends that if you're reading along on test day and feel like you've lost some of it, then just keep going. You can't spend all day re-reading. Equation 2 shows a solid bound to a metal combining with ammonia and then the solid is bound to the ammonia instead and releases the metal. Equation 3 shows that the metal in bicarbonate combining to form a metal of carbonate with water and CO2 getting released. Under standard conditions, the Ksp of calcium carbonate is 2.8 x 10-9. While the Ksp of strontium carbonate is 2.6 x 10-9. A study of urease-driven removal from soil was carried out in three phases using a flow-through column packed with strontium-contaminated sediment. Phase 1: Ground water was pumped through the column to get in a steady state. Phase 2: Molasses-containing influent was injected into the column to stimulate microbial activities. (Put some sugar in the dirt to get those microbes active.) Phase 3: Urea-containing influent was injected into the column. [06:30] Don't Leave Anything Blank! The passage is a really dense one. Bryan recommends that on test day, you can skip if you need to. But you have to make that decision really early on, like within the first 10 seconds or so. Make sure to click on any answer choice for all the questions. Do not leave anything blank in case time runs out. Then get onto the next passage. The worst thing is to leave something blank because that's a guaranteed wrong so you might as well take a guess. [07:26] Question 36 During Phase 1, what affect best accounts for the concentration of calcium ions in collected effluent, initially exceeding the influent's calcium ion concentration. (A) Displacement of calcium ions by influent ammonium ions (B) Dissorption of soil-bound calcium ions (C) Formation of calcium carbonate co-precipitate (D) Change in the rate of urea hydrolysis Bryan's Insights: Phase 3 is where the urea comes from. So even without any idea about the chemistry, you could say that A and D are not even the right phase. C doesn't even mention calcium. And so D is the last one standing, hence the right answer. [10:34] Question 37 The crystal precipitate formed in collected effluent was composed principally of calcium carbonate with strontium carbonate inclusions. The large majority of the crystal units did not include the strontium because the: (A) Solubility constant of strontium carbonate is greater than that of calcium carbonate. (B) Solubility constant of strontium carbonate is less than that of calcium carbonate. (C) Effluent strontium ion concentration was much smaller than the effluent calcium ion concentration. (D) Effluent strontium ion concentration was much greater than the effluent calcium ion concentration. Bryan's Insights: You have to constantly be translating in your head from MCAT language to a very simple picture of what's going on. Go back to that picture in your head of a column of dirt running water through. You're just pushing water through dirt and collecting water at the bottom. Effluent is the stuff at the bottom and it's composed principally of calcium so you run the water through the soil and at the end, you got calcium out mostly. Why? So why would you get calcium precipitates? And the simplest answer is because you mostly have calcium to start with. In this case, C is the right answer. [13:30] Question 38 The catalytic mechanism of urease involves the displacement of a water molecule weakly coordinated to nickel in the enzyme active site. The weak coordinate covalent bond disrupted by urea binding is formed by: (A) Donation of two electrons from the ligand water to nickel (B) Donation of one electron from water and from nickel (C) Electrostatic attraction between the partial negative charge of water and positive charge of nickel (D) Electrostatic attraction following transfers of electrons from the metal nickel to water Bryan's Insights: Again, focus on the question and what it's asking for. So here, you just have to know what's a coordinate covalent bond. Covalent bond is defined by sharing of electrons while a coordinate covalent is defined by sharing electrons when both electrons came from the same starting molecule. Once the bonds exist, you literally can't tell the difference between them. Covalent bond tells you something about sharing while coordinate covalent tells you where those electrons came from. in this case, the answer choice that tells you both electrons came from one atom to start with is (A). [15:37] Question 39 Which of the following gives the correct Ksp expression for the dissolution of strontium carbonate in water? (A) 2.8 x 10-9 equals the concentration to strontium times the concentration of carbonate (B) 2.6 x 10-9 equals the concentration of strontium times concentration of carbonate over water (C) 2.6 x 10-9 equals the concentration of strontium times concentration of  carbonate (D) 2.6 x 10-9 equals the concentration of strontium times concentration of  carbonate over the concentration of strontium carbonate Bryan's Insights: This is just knowing how to set up a Ksp equation. For strontium carbonate, there's no way you would know the solubility of strontium carbonate off the top of your head so you need to go back to the passage. Right away, you can eliminate A. Again, as long as you keep your cool and do the best elimination you can, you're still getting ahead of somebody. Remember how you do Ksps and for that you don't put solids and liquids. H20 is a pure liquid and you wouldn't list that or the strontium carbonate solid itself. So B and D are out since in the Ksp equations, all you list is the ion.So C is the correct answer here since it's the one that only has the ions. [18:45] Next Step Test Prep Please watch Next Step Test Prep Course Review I made on YouTube. Check out their course which includes everything you need to prepare for your MCAT. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep Course Review
Jul 25, 2018
103: Next Step Full Length 10, Passage 6, Questions 31-34
Session 103 Together with Bryan Schnedeker of Next Step Test Prep, let’s dive into Passage 6 on Next Step’s full-length 10 which includes nutrition labels, understanding fiber, combustion, and others. If you didn't know yet, I also host The Premed Years Podcast, The OldPreMeds Podcast, Specialty Stories, Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A, and some more coming up on the MedEd Media Network. Stay tuned for all of those and subscribe on whatever platform you listen to! [01:52] Passage 6 Nutritional facts labels (Figure 1) the percentages supplied for one day of human nutrients provided by one serving of a particular food based on a daily diet of 2,000 nutritional calories. Since 1990, there have been a number of changes to the label guidelines. The purpose was to allow the public to make informed decisions concerning the food they eat. Table 1 provides thermodynamic information concerning water and changes for some combustion reactions. It should be noted that labeling is based on nutritional calories (nCal), which is equivalent to 1 kCal. Calories (cal) is defined as the heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. [03:23] Question 32: Read the Label Carefully Based on the information presented, what is the maximum number of packages of of this product that a person could consume in a day without exceeding the FDA's recommended caloric intake level? (So they're saying here a daily diet of 2,000 nutritional calories and the package says there are 230 calories per serving. But there are 8 servings per package.) If you have 230 calories and there are 8 servings per package, there's another 1,840 calories in one package. Therefore, it would only be one package that you could eat without exceeding the calories. Bryan says that when you look at data from full-length 10, a shockingly large number of students (almost 30%) who take this test actually pick 8 packages as their answer. But the reality is you could only eat 8 servings. So they're either misreading the label or misreading the question. Bryan couldn't emphasize more that the MCAT is a reading test that just so happens to be about science. So READ those questions CAREFULLY. [06:00] Question 33: Dietary Fiber Based on the information presented in the passage, how many nutritional calories per serving come from dietary fiber? (So in the label, dietary fiber is 4 grams. And it's 16% of the daily value.) (A) 0 (B) 230 (C) 240 (D) 320 Bryan explains that the MCAT doesn't expect you to know much in the way of nutrition. It cares much more about cellular level or molecular level of metabolism. But you should know that carbs is 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate. Again, based on the passage above, each serving has 230 calories. But you should walk into the test knowing that fiber doesn't have calories. Fiber serving is a bulking agent in your stool. The nutrition it provides is actually in the form of maintaining your gut micro bio. It helps maintain your intestinal flora. Aside from eating your fiber, the intestinal flora also make your Vitamin K. So while fiber itself may not be strictly required to keep that human cell alive, fibers are required to keep the human body alive because you need to maintain good intestinal bacteria so they can make your Vitamin K, essential in blood clotting cascade. So even though fiber doesn't have any calories, doesn't mean it's not a nutrient. In the same way that iron and calcium don't have any calories but they're still incredibly important nutrients. Looking at the statistics on students who have taken this test, most students get this right, probably almost 90% of them. That said, Bryan says this should be a question that is 100% everyone who reads it gets it right because you know that fiber doesn't have any calories. Or because the serving only has 230 calories. So all these answer choices except for zero are just absurd. "Don't surrender your common sense just because you're taking the MCAT." [11:14] Question 34: Propane How many grams of propane must undergo complete combustion to convert one kilogram of water at 25 degrees Celsius to steam at 100 degrees Celsius? (A) 1 gram (B) 10 grams (C) 51 grams (D) 90 grams Bryan's Insights: This is to remind you that there are some cases where you've got to do a whole load of math, whether you like it or not. Conceptually, this is a question wherein you have to know the framework. So if you have 1kg of water and you have to raise it 75 degrees. So the equation you need to know here is: q = mc(delta T); where heat equals mass x specific gravity x the change in temperature. The next thing you have to do is to steam at a 100 degrees C. So you have to do a phase change and the equation for this is: m delta H sub L where mass x latent heat. The heat of vaporization is given in Table 1. Once you add those up, you get some number of Joules. Then go back to Table 1 to see how many is the heat of combustion for propane. And you'd be expected to recognize the name Prop as a 3-carbon (the table doesn't give this to you; instead, it only has the molecule) So you should find C3H8 and you should recognize that as Propane. Then the delta H is 2219 kJ per mole that gets released by burning it. You would then have to figure out how many moles of propane are needed. The final step is converting moles back to gram by dividing it by the molecular weight. So there's a whole bunch of steps there. Heat the water up. Boil the water to steam. Get your Joule total. Go from Joules to Moles. Go from Moles to Grams. And the answer here happens to be 51 grams. Bryan says this is one of the cases where there's no cute way to do it, no shortcuts. You really have to pick up that marker and calculate this out. Again, you definitely have to recognize the names of these molecules. [15:40] About Next Step Test Prep If you're in the market for full-length test prep exams, check out Next Step Test Prep and save 10% on any of their full length exam packages. Use the promo code MCATPOD. Also, check out their MCAT course or their one-on-one tutoring. Links: Next Step Test Prep The Premed Years Podcast The OldPreMeds Podcast Specialty Stories Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A MedEd Media Network
Jul 18, 2018
102: Next Step Full Length 10, Discretes, Questions 27-30
Session 102 We’re back with discrete questions from full-length 10. We’re looking at enzymes, ATP, antioxidants, and buoyancy. Check it out and don’t forget to subscribe. New to the MCAT world? Check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT. It's a book that I, along with Next Step Test Prep, has put together as a basic MCAT 101 - when to register, how to register, can you qualify for a fee assistance program, how to study, the best resources, etc. If you're just starting your MCAT journey, then this book is what you need. Get it on Amazon and Kindle. [02:13] Questions and Passages in Random Bryan explains that there's always four sets of discrete questions and the section always ends with a set of them. Other than that, it shifts around the bunch. It can either be two passages and then discrete or a set of three and then discrete. So they're basically given in random. [03:03] Question 27 An object weighs 150 grams in air, 75 grams when fully submerged in water, and 60 grams when fully submerged in an unknown fluid. What can be concluded about the specific gravity of the unknown fluid and the order of layers when water is mixed with the unknown fluid, assuming the unknown fluid is immiscible in water. (A) The specific gravity of the unknown fluid is 1.2 and the water will be the top layer. (B) The specific gravity of the unknown fluid is 0.83 and the unknown fluid will be the top layer. (C) The specific gravity of the unknown fluid is 0.56 and the unknown fluid will be the top layer. (D) The specific gravity of the unknown fluid is 1.5 and the water will be the top layer. Bryan's Insights: Take note here that the thing has weight in water, meaning it sinks to the bottom. So like when you put a little bathroom scale on the bottom of your pool and drop this thing in, it does sink to the bottom. Hence, we know this thing is more dense than water. And given that 2:1 ratio, it's probably twice as dense as water, which is 1. Buoyant force is that upward force that's suspending it and it's proportional to the density of the fluid. So if this fluid is able to push up on this object a little bit better, then it's more dense than water. Obviously, B and C are out because they're both less than 1. Looking at proportional change in the apparent weight, it goes from 75 to 60 so it loses 1/5 of its apparent weight, which is 0.2. So it's 1.2, which is a little bit denser than water. Whereas 1.5 is already pretty dense, otherwise the apparent weight would be chopped all the way down to 50 grams and would lose half as much of its apparent weight. [06:55] Useful Tips When Tackling Physics Bryan points out that just because there are equations in physics doesn't mean we always have to start doing calculations. Sometimes, if you can just picture the scenario in your head, imagine pulling and pushing and sinking, then ask yourself that if this stuff is super floaty then it's not very dense. So imagine visually what's being described here. You can often pick answer choices that are reasonable without even applying any particular algebra, without doing any particular equation. Especially with physics, students find it to be so abstract so they think it has something to do with variables and letters, do some math, get their answer and that's it. But Bryan explains this stuff is the real world. Like this is the physical reality that your brain has evolved to operate it. So use that monkey brain and those monkey fingers. Imagine pushing and pulling and speeding up and slowing down, turning and floating, etc. This is the real physics that shows up on the MCAT. So you've got to trust that intuition sometimes as you may not have time to do all these in-depth calculations. [08:40] Question 28 Which of the following is most likely to be the enzyme labeled x in the figure below. (Figure is shown in the handout where x is catalyzing a reaction in which NADP+ becomes NADPH, in which glucose 6-phosphate becomes 6-phosphogluconate.) What would catalyze the reaction of Glucose 6-P to 6-phosphogluconate? (A) Glucokinase (B) Phosphoglucomutase (C) Glucose decarboxylase (D) Glucose dehydrogenase Bryan's Insights: NADP is becoming NADPH. So the only atom being moved around here is hydrogen. So if literally all you saw was a hydrogen moving, then you'd pick (D). And this is the right answer. Again, it's really that easy. With enzymes, it can seem so complicated but the names tell us what they do. So glucose dehydrogenase pulls hydrogen off glucose and slaps it on NADP+ in this case. For glucokinase, recognize the "kin" part of this where it moves a phosphate group around. Mutases change between isomers. Particularly, phosphoglucomutase is important in glycolysis, changing G1P to G6P. Decarboxylase does exactly what it sounds like where it takes off the carboxyl group to CO2 group. And of course, dehydrogenase pulls off hydrogen. [11:00] Question 29 Which of the following best describes the primary cellular energy source ATP? (A) ATP contains a pentose sugar and a purine base. (B) ATP contains a pentose sugar and a pyrimidine base. (C) ATP contains a hexose sugar and a purine base. (D) ATP contains a hexose sugar and a pyrimidine base. Bryan's Insights: Walking into MCAT, this is something you need to know where you should be able to draw ATP. ATP is a nucleic acid derivative. So they're all ribose sugar which are 5 carbon sugars. The mnemonic you want to use here is Pure as Gold and Cut the Pie. Specifically, Pure (purine) As Gold (AG) and CUT the Pie (Pyrimidine). So A and G are purines and C, U, and T are pyrimidines. Hence, the right answer here is answer choice A. [12:40] Question 30 Many processes in living cells produce free radicals. All of these molecules can perform an antioxidant function in vivo, except: (A) Ubiquinone (B) Vitamin E (C) NADH (D) FAD Bryan's Insights: NADH and FADH2 are classic cargo molecules where they can get oxidized to get produced. Ubiquinone is very important in the transport chain so you should know this. So it has to be C or D here. NADH can lose its H or it could be FAD since it can pick up the H. In the whole Redox scheme where one gets oxidize and the other gets reduced, it's got to be one of these two. In this case, the right answer is FAD because FAD gets reduced to FADH2. And somebody that gets reduced, oxidizes someone else. So FAD is an oxidant, not an antioxidant. So when you get reduced, you're oxidizing somebody else. If you oxidize someone else, you're an oxidant. And if you reduced someone else, you're a reductant. NADH reduces someone else, which would be the opposite of oxidizing someone else. So NADH could be called, theoretically, an antioxidant. Because an antioxidant is a molecule whose job is to not oxidize other people. But if it was just NAD, instead of NADH, then it would also be a reductant. So it's really about having that H or not. Links: Next Step Test Prep The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT
Jul 11, 2018
101: Next Step Full Legnth 10, Passage 4, Questions 18-21
Session 101 Once again, I'm joined by Bryan of Next Step Test Prep for some more full length 10, passage 4. Passage 4 on Next Step full-length 10 covers human hearing and sound waves. Bryan emphasizes that taking full-length practice tests is the single most important thing you can do to get ready for the MCAT. [02:08] Passage 4 Passage 4: In order for humans to hear, pressure waves are transferred, funneled into the ear by the way of the auditory canal and reach the tympanic membrane. This oscillation is transferring energy to the membrane to cause to vibrate. Via resonance, these vibrations stimulate hair and associated nerve cells. And sends information to the auditory cortex for pitch and intensity. Bryan says this is one of those classics he calls, "throat-clearing paragraphs." The AAMC likes having passages where the opening paragraph is just backward information you should know anyway. Having said that, take a minute to just read it through to make sure you know. Moving on, you'd find a diagram that compares decibel level to frequency for the threshold of human hearing. Human hearing detects vibrations in the range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Our range of hearing shrinks with age and the upper age for hearing is the most affected. Ultrasound is not physically different from other sounds that we do hear but the brain is not capable of processing these vibrations. Loudness is a characteristic of a pressure wave associated with amplitude. The greater the amplitude, the greater the stimulation of nerve cells. Loudness is a subjective property that depends on the individual. In an attempt to quantify loudness... [03:55] Question 19 What is the intensity of a 70 decibel sound at a frequency of 103 Hertz? (A) 10-12 wm2 (watts per square meter) (B) 10-7 wm2 (C) 10-5 wm2 (D) 10-2 wm2 Bryan's Insights: Before walking into the MCAT, students should know the decibel equation. This should be one of those you've got to have off the top of your head. In particular, that equation is decibels = 10 log of the intensity of the sound over 10-12. And you notice right away in the answer choices that (A) is 10-12. It's the threshold of human hearing, the quietest sound the human ear can perceive. But you might remember that and then just jump on it because it's familiar. And you don't want to do that as you want to do the actual calculation. Even with the numbers as answer choices, the wrong answers are going to have something tempting and a little tricky about it. But you want to know the calculations here, which would result to what in your answer choice C. [08:04] Question 20 Based on the passage information, which of the following statements about sound waves in water is correct? (A) Ultrasound waves are attenuated and more difficult to perceive in the water. (B) Sound waves in water are more intense than sound waves in air. (C) Sound waves have greater wavelengths in the water than in the air. (D) Sound waves have higher frequency in the water than in air. Bryan's Insights: You want to remember that the word "perceive" is a specific technical meaning. It's a specific psychology term that means available to your conscious awareness. And we can't perceive any ultrasound at all. What you want to remember about sound waves is that they speed up or slow down based on what they're traveling through. They go the slowest in air, and faster in water. And then they go the fastest in a solid. Sound waves are just molecules bumping into each other. So if the molecules are right next to each other then they bump into each other really quickly and fast. Then the sound waves just jet along. It makes sense then that the sound waves really quickly through a solid. But it's going faster, something has to be changing about the width. There's an equation, velocity = frequency x wavelength. Or if it's a light wave, then c = λf. This is a very simple but very important equation in sound or waves in general. If the left side of the equation goes up, if v goes up, it's faster in the water, then either f goes up or λ goes up. So one of them has to change. In this case, you should walk into the test knowing that when a wave, light sound, anything at all, goes from one medium to another, frequency is constant. So if the sound is going faster through water, v goes up then λ goes up as well. The wavelength has to be going larger. This leads us then to answer choice C. [12:24] Insights into Using Equations Very important in Physics is that you've got to know your equations. In this case, we take these two questions because #19 is an example of an equation where you have to do the math. While #20 is an example where you have to know the equation but you just have to deal with the conceptual, no need to actually do that math. [13:33] Next Step Test Prep If you're interested in Next Step Test Prep's 10 full-length exams, use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money off their full-length exams, online course, one-on-one tutoring and more. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jul 04, 2018
100: Next Step Full Length 10: Questions 14-17
Session 100 We tackle Passage 3 on Next Step's full-length 10 covering a passage about proteins in milk and what happens when you heat them up. Take a listen! As always, we're joined by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep. [01: 55] Passage 3: Whey Protein Passage 3: Whey proteins are globular proteins found in milk that are an important component in the American diet, particularly among athletes. Whey is noted for its ability to enrich foods through enhancing their texture, and water and flavor holding capacity. As a whey containing solution is heated, the proteins denature, unfold, and aggregate. This process is called gelation and leads to an increase in the viscosity of the solution. It has also been observed that introducing ions into a protein solution causes thickening. Food scientists have become increasingly interested in thicker protein gels because subsequent aeration of these mixtures can induce gas bubbles to be trapped in the solution. This leads to a higher volume of product that can be sold without increasing the amount of ingredients used. A group of scientists was contracted to determine optimal protein concentration, salt concentration, and temperature to obtain gels with the best capacity to hold air bubbles. It's observed that no gelation occurs after 30 minutes of heating at 80 degree Celsius. Protein solutions were then mixed with calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, or iron chloride. Solutions were foamed immediately after adding the salts for 30 seconds at 2,000 revolutions per minute. (The results shown on Table 1) [04:00] Protein Structures Question 14: Denaturation of whey proteins involves the loss of which levels of protein structure? Primary structure Tertiary structure III. Quaternary structure (A) II only (B) I and II only (C) II and III only (D) I, II, and III Bryan's Insights: A well-prepared MCAT student should be walking into the test knowing that to denature proteins means to unfold it all the way down to its primary structure. But that you don't actually break apart the primary structure. It's like a ball of yarn where the primary structure is the string of yarn itself. The secondary structure would be little coils of yarn. The tertiary structure is the whole folded up yarn ball. And then the quaternary structure is two yarn balls that get tangled into each other slightly. So to denature is like ripping two yarn balls apart and unraveling them all the way down to just the string and then you leave the strong alone. [05:40] Strategy for Looking at Passages There is this strategy where you read the passage first before looking at the questions or vice versa. But which one should you actually do? Bryan explains that typically, you do want to read the passage first. Although the one place you could maybe get away with going to the questions first is the Chem/Phys section. And for the purposes of this podcast, Bryan and I have actually selected out questions that are a bit easier to answer by just listening. But even in the first passage we did, we had to go back to two of the questions to directly reference the passage. For the most part though, we've selected out shorter, more readable questions. All this being said, you should always be reading the passage first as a mainline strategy. And if it's not working for you or you're running out of time, maybe you can try a questions first approach. But this is not the optimal first choice. [06:55] Proteins and Ions Question 16: What is a likely explanation for why whey protein solutions become thicker after the introduction of ions? (A) Ions form new compounds with atoms found within the whey proteins and these new compounds aggregate. (B) Ions disrupt bonding within in between protein subunits leading to protein unfolding and aggregation. (C) Ions will thicken any solution due to their large size relative to most other compounds found in solutions. (D) The introduction of ions causes novel bonding relationships between subunits to form ultimately leading to larger polymers of proteins that can aggregate. Bryan's Insights: Looking back at the passage, where it says "as a whey containing solution is heated, the proteins denature, unfold, and then aggregate. So it's like using the same ball of yarn analogy we mentioned above. First, unravel the ball of yarn. Now you have this loose string and it's easy for that loose string to get tangled up with all the other strings and make a big, squishy mess, which is what gel is. The heating itself makes the gel form but ions make the gel form more. You get more gel because it forms faster. But notice that the core process is you take the ball of yarn, unravel it, and then let that loose yarn get all mushed up with all the other strings in the solution. This is the process of gel forming. And what ions do is make that happen faster. The correct answer here is B in that one of the things that holds quaternary into some tertiary structures together is called salt bridges. So the ball of yarn stays as a nice, neat compact ball due to a salt bridge. And the introduction of exogenous salts can actually disrupt the bridges. It helps untie the ball of yarn if you sprinkle a little salt on top. [12:54] Heating Proteins Question 17: After a solution-containing whey protein is heated to 70 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, what is most likely happening to the proteins? (A) Hydrogen bonds within and in between the protein subunits are being broken. (B) Disulfide bonds within and in between the protein subunits are being broken. (C) Covalent bonds within and in between the protein subunits are being broken. (D) No significant breaking of bonds is occurring. Insights: When you go back to the passage, it says nothing happens when the protein was heated at 80 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes. So nothing should also be happening at 70 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes. Hence, D is the correct answer here. As a side note, this is an example of a thought process where there are multiples of the same so they're all wrong. [14:33] About Next Step Test Prep If you're interested in full-length exams, check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off. Episode Resources: Next Step Test Prep
Jun 27, 2018
99: Next Step Full Length 10: Questions 10-13
Session 99 Questions 10-13 on Next Step Test Prep’s full-length 10 are the first set of discrete questions that we're going to cover during this full-length breakdown. Take a look! Next week, we're celebrating our 100th episode for The MCAT Podcast. And we're giving away access to Next Step's MCAT course for one lucky winner. The runner up will also be getting a six pack of Next Step Test Prep's full length exams. Enter to win and get the details by visiting or text MCAT100 to 44222 (in the U.S.) You have to enter prior to midnight Pacific time on June 24, 2018. [02:25] Passage vs. Discrete Bryan explains that in all the science sections, all have the same compositions with 15 discrete questions given in four little chunks of 3-4 questions each. The test always ends on a chunk of discrete, independent (no passage) questions. And then the other three chunks are sprinkled throughout where in every two or three passages, you will get a little break. You won't have to read a passage and you just get some independent questions. [03:14] Stationary Charge Question 10: A stationary charge lies to the right of a current carrying loop of wire as depicted in the figure below (Please see the handouts). While the current is flowing, the charge will: (A) Accelerate out of the page (B) Move out of the page at a constant speed (C) Accelerate into the page (D) Remain motionless Bryan's Insights: The current is actually going clockwise with a positive charge. Bryan explains there's a couple of components underlying this question. First, flowing charge or current makes some magnetic field. So you have this magnetic field being generated and you have this charge hanging out over on the side. The question is once the magnetic field is present, what does the charge do? Students need to remember the equation F = QVB sin theta. But the questions says that the charge is stationary. So based on the equation, there is no velocity. So there's no force. Hence, the magnetic field doesn't actually push on the charge at all. Then you have to remember Newton's second law, which is F = ma. No force, no acceleration. This means it doesn't start moving. It doesn't slow down. It doesn't change direction. So the right answer is D. [06:15] An Issue of Spontaneity Question 11: While solving a chemistry problem, a student uses the equation Delta G = negative NFE to determine that Delta G is negative 179kJ/mol. Which of the following must be true: The reaction is spontaneous. The reaction is exothermic. III. The reaction increases entropy. (A) I only (B) II only (C) I and II (D) I, II, and III Bryan's Insights: It's an important fact to remember that the sign of Delta G is really the definition of spontaneity - so things like breaking apart ATP. They have negative Delta Gs. They are exergonic or spontaneous. What you don't want to confuse is exo and endothermic or increase or decrease of entropy which is Delta H and Delta S respectively. So we end up with answer choice (A) I only. [07:58] Phosphoric Acids Question 12: Which of the following phosphate ions is amphiprotic? (A) PO43 minus (B) HPO42 minus (C) P2O74 minus (D) H3PO4 Bryan's Insights: By amphi, that means it can go either way or has both. In the case of amphiprotic, it means you can accept the proton or you can give one out. So you can do both. If amphiprotic requires that you could give one out, B and D could give out because they have one Hydrogen. But could you take one? It could take one and come up to negative one, or it could give one and go down to negative 3. So it can be a switch hitter, whereas H3PO4, you can't another proton because phosphate is full now. Phosphate only has room to take three protons. Bryan adds that students should be very comfortable and very familiar with phosphoric acid because it plays a key role in nucleic acids. He hints that the new MCAT biochemistry component really likes phosphoric acid. [10:30] Bernoulli's Principle Question 13: Which of the following statements are true: Blood velocity and pressure are higher in the arteries than in the capillaries. Blood vessels do not follow Bernoulli's principle if viscosity of blood is taken into account. III. For an incompressible fluid undergoing a laminar flow through a pipe, with both narrow and wide sections, the fluid velocity is higher in the narrow areas than in the wide areas. For an incompressible fluid undergoing a laminar flow through a pipe, with both narrow and wide sections, the fluid pressure is higher in the narrow areas than in the wide areas. (A) I only (B) I and III (C) II and IV only (D) I, II, and III Bryan's Insights: A common strategy is to answer the easy Roman numerals, where when you read it, you recognize it's wrong right away. So you can do the process of elimination this way. However you do it, do the easy thing first. Based on the physiology, I is true. So the answer choice C is out since it didn't have Roman numeral I. Looking at Roman numeral II, you have to remember that Bernoulli's principle is one of these idealized, abstract physics descriptions. So II is just a true statement about how we apply Bernoulli's principle on the MCAT. It's an idealized equation for laminar flow. But if you take viscosity into account, then it doesn't work anymore. So II is also true. And you don't even need to go over III and IV here. [14:00] More Tips about Roman Numerals Again, follow some simple steps. Read the question. Try to eliminate some and without doing more work than you need to, you would already get to the answer. Do the Roman numerals that seem easier for you. In this case, Bryan just picked I and II because they were shorter than III and IV. But whichever one you knew right away is the one you should go to. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jun 20, 2018
98: Next Step Full Length 10: Questions 5-10
Session 98 We continue Next Step's full-length 10, questions 5-10 covering a passage about body density. Follow along, download the handouts, and don't forget to have fun! For this episode, we've got Physics for Passage 2. But in the real exam, you’re going to be seeing consecutive passages under one section. As always, we’re joined by Bryan from Next Step Test Prep as we dive right in. The podcast is part of the MedEd Media Network, which includes The Premed Years, The OldPreMeds Podcast, Specialty Stories, Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A, as well as The Short Coat Podcast, a production of the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa. [02:49] Passage 2: Athlete’s Body Fat Percentage Body fat percentage is a measure of fitness and can be estimated using the hydrostatic weighing method. Archimedes' principle can be used to calculate the body's density, which is then used to estimate fat percentage and lean body mass (total body weight minus body fat). Equation 1 is known as the Hume Formula and is primarily used in adults which tells us lean body mass is equal to... (equation is given). Measurements of dry body weight and the apparent weight of the body and fluid allow for density calculations. This is then used to estimate percent fat using the Siri Formula (equation 2 given). (Note from Bryan: You should know where the equations are and what they're about. You don't actually analyze them until a question forces you to.) Both formulae depend on three assumptions. The body is made only of fat and fat-free mass. The density values of fat-free mass components, protein and mineral tissue are constant and equal across all individuals. There is a constant non-fat tissue ratio based on average population ratios of bone and muscle. For health club members participating in the hydrostatic weighing procedure, each participant was struck to a chair supported by a hoist and four cables which were attached to an accurate scale. Prior to submersion, the participant was asked to fully expel all air from his or her lungs. Next, the chair and the participant were fully loaded into the pull and remained underwater until a stable scale reading was obtained. Finally, the chair and the participant were removed from the water. [05:10] Question 5 How would the accuracy of the hydrostatic weighing method in a well-muscled athlete compare to the accuracy of the test in an obese person? (A) In the athlete, the true percentage would be equal to the calculated percentage while in the obese person, the true percentage would be lower than a calculated percentage. (B) In the athlete, the true percentage would be higher than the calculated percentage while in the obese person, the true percentage would be lower than a calculated percentage. (C) In the athlete, the true percentage would be equal to the calculated percentage while in the obese person, the true percentage would be higher than a calculated percentage. (D) In the athlete, the true percentage would be lower to the calculated percentage while in the obese person, the true percentage would be higher than a calculated percentage. [06:10] True Percentage vs. Calculated Percentage True percentage refers to the actual body fat the person has in reality, while calculated percentage is the result when you dump them underwater and do all this math. First, you always want to conceptually get your head around the question. Most students make the mistake of immediately doing the math, given the equations in the passage. But back up a second and focus on the question. So here, the question indicates a well-muscled athlete, and as you know, an athlete would have denser bones and muscles. So when you dunk him in the water, they're just going to sink right into the bottom of the pool. The calculation we do with someone that has abnormally dense body means that when you do the math, the formula is going to tell you the guy has literally no fat at all, since fat floats. But in reality, even your most high end of Olympic athletes will still have body percentage, but very low. So the answer here is (B). Reading the answer choices provided, where they mentioned the athlete first, you don't even have to consider the obese person anymore. [09:38] Full Credit for Partial Knowledge Bryan calls this full credit for partial knowledge where you get full credit for the question just by figuring out the super dense guy who sunk right to the bottom of the pool. So just take a second about the question that was just asked and think about where you want to go before you start talking. Take a second and think about what is asked of you before start diving in and doing equations because you may just be able to answer it without doing any equations. [10:15] Question 7: Specific Gravity of Fat If the average bone mineral density is 3.88 grams per cm3, which of the following is a reasonable estimation of specific gravity of fat in the body? (A) 0.09 (B) 0.8 (C) 4.2 (D) 9.1 So here, you have to know what specific gravity is, which is density relative to water. So water has a density of 1 gram per cc. Anything less than 1 is going to float and anything bigger than 1 is going to sink. You want to know that fat floats. So right away, you can eliminate C and D. And you're left with A and B. 0.09 means 9% density is like a life jacket or a pool noodle. It's so airy and light and non-dense. Then you'd start floating away. So logically, you're left with 0.8. Fat floats a little bit and it slowly floats to the top so it's a little bit less dense than water. As you can see here, all the choices are numbers and no math has to be done. You just have to use reasonable everyday common sense. [12:40] Question 9: Buoyancy What is the most likely reason that the subject's required to exhale completely prior to immersion in the water tank? (A) Air in the lungs decreases the apparent weight of the body in the water and increases the percent fat estimation. (B) Air in the lungs decreases buoyancy and decreases the apparent weight of the body in the water. (C) Air in the lungs decreases buoyancy and increases the body density estimation. (D) Air in the lungs increases buoyancy and decreases the percent fat estimation. Breaking down the question: When you take a deep breath, you float a little bit. So it's going to increase buoyancy. Hence, choices B and C are out. The answer here is A. Anything that makes you floatier is going to make the machine call you fatter because fat floats. And anything that makes you sinkier is going to make you less fatty because everything else sinks. So air which makes you floatier is going to make you read as having more fat. [15:11] About Next Step Test Prep If you're looking for the best full length MCAT practice exams, check out Next Step Test Prep. Save 10% off those by using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: MedEd Media @medicalschoolhq The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement The MCAT Podcast Hangout Group on Facebook
Jun 13, 2018
97: Next Step Full Length 10: Questions 1-4
Session 97 This week we're starting a new series, breaking down questions from Next Step Test Prep's full-length 10. We go from the very beginning until the end. We start with the first passage and question 1. We can't cover every question each isn't specifically suited for a podcast. So we're skipping questions but you're going to get a lot of them. The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT is finally available in Paperback ($9.99) and in Kindle ($4.99) formats. Also, stay tuned for The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement, coming out soon! Check out Session 288 on The Premed Years Podcast where we had the Director of Admissions for the University of Illinois Medical School. We talked all about how they take an application from A-Z, who gets accepted, who doesn't, and why. We discuss how they look at everything along the way. You will find all of other podcasts on MedEd Media. If you want to get access to Full Length 10, use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money upon check out. Basically, these are grab bag questions that we'll be covering over the course of several months in this podcast. We will really walk you through the Full Length 10. [03:55] Passage 1, Question 1 Sodium dodecyl sulfate, also known as sodium lauryl sulfate, is an anionic surfactant commonly used in household cleaning and personal hygiene products. In biochemistry and biotechnology, its most frequent use is to denature or linearize proteins and negatively charged the resulting fragments. Proteins treated with SDS can be linearized in a similar fashion to proteins subjected to acid-catalyzed hydration. The mechanism of action is different. However, scientists utilizing SDS for this purpose often run into difficulties with proteins that have greater hydrophobic content, typically those found in the context with regular exposure to surfactants. Question 1: Which of the following proteins would likely be most accurately analyzed using SDS-PAGE? (This is discussed in the passage but a good MCAT student should be able to recognize your SDS-PAGE backwards and forwards before you even walk in on test day.) [06:10] Answer Choices: If we're looking for most accurately, we want the ones that have very little hydrophobic content. (A) Protein A: a small protein with many hydrophilic surfaced structures typically found free-floating in the bloodstream of mammals. (B) Protein B: a large protein found in the internal portions of the phospholipid bi-layer of human white blood cells. (C) Protein C: a large protein found almost exclusively in reptilian adipose tissue. (D) Protein D: a small protein observed experimentally in the surviving portion of bacterial populations that have been exposed to high doses of surfactants. [08:10] The Breakdown The inside of a phospholipid bi-layer, the inside of the cell membrane, is the fatty portion, the hydrophobic portion. And C is the adipose tissue, it's fatty, hydrophobic. So both B and C are hydrophobic. It doesn't matter what the question says. When two answer choices say the same thing, they're both wrong. A is hydrophilic, while B and C imply hydrophobic. So B and C are out. Then D mentions high doses of surfactants. The passage says that scientists run into difficulties with surfactants. So D is out as well. [09:05] Question 2 Question 2: Chiral manipulation of which of the following amino acids could theoretically result in a meso compound. Methionine Proline III. Cystine (A) I only (B) II only (C) II and III only (D) None of the above [09:28] The Breakdown The reference to amino acids came a little bit later in the passage (not mentioned above). But you just have to know your amino acids from outside knowledge. This is when you should be able to know the answer even without seeing the passage in front of you. Again, on one level, there's no such thing as high yield. You have to know everything. (*Except for one high-yield thing - amino acids.) Every single MCAT given has at least one, if not two to four questions that just ask about amino acids. In this case, you have to know what a meso compound is. Then you have to know your amino acids so you know which one could be a meso compound. A meso compound is a compound that has two chiral centers with an internal plane of reflection. So if you put a mirror in the middle of the molecule, it would reflect on to itself. Classically, the human body is like a meso compound where if you put a mirror down the middle of the human body, one side would reflect onto the other side. As a rule, amino acids only have one chiral center. Therefore, normal amino acids don't fit into this definition. The only amino acids that have a second chiral center are isoleucine and threonine. Students should know these are the two that have the side chain that have a chiral carbon in them. even so, they wouldn't still have an internal plane of reflection because the other chiral center wouldn't map in the reflection way back onto the main chiral center of the alpha carbon. So no amino acid could be a meso compound. So the correct answer here is D, none of the above. If you had no idea at all and if you were completely lost, you should guess answer choice B only. Proline is one of those weird amino acids. You'd get it wrong here but that's a decent guessing strategy. [12:10] Question 4 Question 4: This passage states that scientists utilizing SDS-PAGE often run into difficulties with proteins that have a greater hydrophobic content, typically, those produced by organisms in context where surfactants are regularly encountered. Which of the following is a reasonable explanation of why this might be the case? (A) The negatively charged sulfate head on the end of SDS cannot easily penetrate hydrophilic regions of the proteins to disrupt non-covalent interactions, thereby inducing higher variability in the ratio of bound SDS to the target protein molecule. (B) The negatively charged sulfate head on the head of SDS cannot easily penetrate hydrophobic regions of the protein to disrupt non-covalent interactions, thereby inducing higher variability in the ratio of bound SDS to the target protein molecule. (C) The negatively charged sulfate head on the end of SDS cannot easily penetrate hydrophilic regions of the protein to disrupt non-covalent interactions, thereby inducing higher variability in the ratio of unbound SDS to the target protein molecule. (D) The negatively charged sulfate head on the end of SDS cannot easily penetrate hydrophobic regions of the proteins to disrupt non-covalent interactions thereby inducing higher variability in the ratio of unbound SDS to the target protein molecule. [14:00] The Breakdown Sating it's a charged molecule, whether it's negative or positive, you should be able to analyze what it can penetrate versus cannot. Choices A and C say that negatively charged cannot penetrate hydrophilic. And then choices B and D say negatively charged cannot penetrate hydrophobic. Think about a table salt. Things that are charged like to dissolve in water, just like table salt dissolves in water. So negatively charged can penetrate a hydrophilic region. Salt charge things. They love water and so they're hydrophilic. Hence, right off the bat, A and C are out because charged things can go to hydrophilic regions. Whereas, B and D got it right. So now we look at your bound and unbound. This is just a simple recollection of the mechanism, how you run an SDS-PAGE. The SDS binds to the protein and coats it. Then you take that solution with proteins, wearing an SDS coat. And those are the things you run through the gel. So you only care about the SDS that actually got coated on the protein. So the answer here is B. [18:30] About Next Step Test Prep If you're on the market for full length practice tests for MCAT scores, go check out Next Step Test Prep. Their full length exams are getting awesome reboot where you get more in-depth answers, actual access to snippets of information from their textbooks to give you more knowledge so you don't have to go bouncing around to different resources. Links: Next Step Test Prep PMY 288: This is How UICOM Reviews Your Medical School Application MedEd Media
Jun 06, 2018
96: Psychology Grab Bag of Discrete Questions for the MCAT
Session 96 Psychology is one of the newer subjects on the MCAT. Bryan from Next Step Test Prep and I cover the topic to help you learn how to answer the questions. The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT is now available on Amazon, Kindle, and Paperback. Just a reminder, you don't have to have a Kindle device to read a Kindle eBook. You can use a Kindle app on every device you have. It's $4.99 for the Kindle at this point and $9.99 for Paperback. If you're just starting out on your MCAT journey and trying to figure things out, then this is the book for you. It will give you the ins and outs of the MCAT. It's not a content review book but it will help you choose one if that is something you're looking for. Next week, we begin to deep dive into the full length exam and break it own question by question. So be sure to stay tuned! [02:15] Why Psychology is on the MCAT Psychology is a section included in the MCAT as a reminder that we're not just treating machines or robots, but we're treating human beings. So the psychological context in which we treat those illnesses matters tremendously. [02:35] Universal Emotions Question 28: Which of the following emotions is considered a universal emotion? Disgust Contempt III. Love (A) I only (B) II only (C) I and II only (D) I, II, and III Bryan's Insights: The method you can do here is to do whatever Roman numeral is the easiest for you. You can read 10 different MCAT books and get ten different supposed tricks for Roman numeral questions. At Next Step, Bryan says they're not big fans of the idea that the MCAT is a magic trick. But there are rhythms you can use and real, simple techniques. If you read (C) and think III is obviously wrong, then don't try to figure out the other two Roman numerals. Just use that for process of elimination before considering the other remaining Roman numerals. In this case, it pretty strongly suggests that it's one of those I and II since III only shows up in a single answer choice. But if III is a correct answer, then you're done. But did you know that C is not the right answer here? Bryan explains that there's an important subtext to this question that only comes out if you really know your Psych backwards and forward. If you've ever seen the phrase, "universal emotion" on the MCAT, they're talking about a very particular phenomenon. The psychologist Paul Ekman had what he called as the universal emotions, specifically referring to one phenomenon. This involved emotions that are reflected universally in facial expressions. So he studied people in wester society and went to Papua New Guinea and investigated tribes. He basically traveled all around the world and examined facial expressions for different emotions. He developed this list of seven emotions that every society everywhere had these emotions and had the same facial expressions for them. Every society everywhere has happy and sad and shows them in the same way on the face. Then surprise and fear are the next two. Contempt and disgust are very strongly negative emotions. And the final one is anger. A good example is the movie Inside Out where love is not part of the emotions there, right? [08:00] Types of Therapy Question 30: To foster the use of problem-oriented strategies, with a minimum number of patient-doctor sessions, a clinician would most likely use what modality of therapy: (A) Psychodynamic therapy (B) Systems therapy (C) Cognitive behavioral therapy (D) Humanistic existential therapy Bryan's Insights: There's a giveaway here according to Bryan in that the "problem oriented" phrase suggests something behavioral. Cognitive behavioral therapy is problem-focused, specifically centered around solving very solvable problems in the person's life. Examples include addiction problems, food disorders, depressive disorders, where it teaches the patients to recognize their cognition. Then recognize the behaviors that come from those cognitions. Then you disrupt that so you get away from those maladaptive behaviors. [10:00] Bias Types Question 45: A board of trustees investigated the rising cost of hospital and found that employee turnover was rising, causing deficient unskilled care and leading to increased cost and lower revenue. The hospital board is setting a hospital's tradition of excellent care and happy employees decided to ignore this report's recommendations in favor of those given by an outside consulting group who said the cost rise was due to local economic conditions. This choice exemplifies what kind of bias. (A) Ingroup bias (B) Confirmation bias (C) Outgroup bias (D) Attribution bias Bryan's Insights: It said here that they went with an outside consulting group so that tells you it's not an ingroup or outgroup bias. Ingroup bias is when you think better of them. And outgroup says you look down or biased against the outgroup. But in this case, they went with the outside consultant. An attribution bias doesn't even fit the description which is a systems level problem. Attribution bias is how you attribute certain behaviors to people. You watch a person do a thing and then the researcher asks why he did that thing. And then how you answer that question or how you attribute the behavior can be biased. And there's no individual referenced to in this question so it's not relevant. Hence, the right answer here is B. [12:45] Next Step Test Prep If you're in the market for full-length MCAT tests, check out Next Step Test Prep. Use the promo code MCATPOD and save 10% off your purchase of full length exams. They're set up in a way that the testing experience is exactly the same as what you get on the AAMC during test day. Links: Next Step Test Prep The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT
May 30, 2018
95: Biochemistry Grab Bag of Discrete Questions for the MCAT
Session 95 Bryan from Next Step Test Prep and I cover biochemistry, a huge pain point for many premed students. Take a listen and learn some biochem with us. The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT is finally available in Paperback ($9.99) and in Kindle ($4.99) formats. Also, stay tuned for The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement, coming out soon! [02:00] Insulin Function Question 28: All of the following are functions of insulin except: (A) Increasing glycogen synthesis (B) Increasing glucogenesis (C) Increasing glucose uptake by liver and muscles (D) Decreasing proteolysis My thought process: I have a father who's a Type 1 Diabetic who's always taking his insulin. So we know that insulin is secreted from the pancreas after meals and some sugar spikes in the blood to help store glucose. My best guess here is that A is true. (B) sounds like a big red flag -  a false fact, therefore, the correct answer. Bryan's Insights: Insulin is the most powerful anabolic hormone in the body. It's for building up big molecules. Glycogen is a big molecule and it does that by taking up glucose. So A and C go right out. Anabolic is about building up big molecules so proteolysis, breaking down proteins would be a catabolic process. Gluconeogenesis is the exact opposite of what insulin would do. Insulin is to lower your blood sugar, not fabricate and then dump more sugar into your blood. [04:20] Informed Consent: Who Gives Them? Question 29: In order to ensure approval by their institutional review board ethics committee, which of the following with cancer cell researchers need to obtain prior to testing human cell samples taken from cervical cancer patients? (A) Informed consent of the surgeons to remove the tumors (B) Informed consent of the medical oncologists that were treating the women (C) Informed consent of the women who had their cervical cancer removed (D) Informed consent is not required because the samples were obtained during a voluntary procedure My thought process: Informed consent is everything in medicine these days. As physicians, we always go to the patient for consent. So would need informed consent from the patient who had their cervical cancer removed. Every premed student should hopefully know Henrietta Lacks and what her cancer cells have done for research (her cells now called HeLa). It was a big ethical thing because she didn't give an informed consent. Bryan's Insights: Bryan actually admits he was able to work with HeLa cells as an undergrad in the 90s. He had no idea what HeLa stood for and the professor he was working for didn't know what it stood for. That being said, it was just a part of the landscape. It wasn't until the mid2000's when it really became a big news story about this woman who had made such important contribution but have never been asked. More broadly, you get informed consent from the subject of any study. So the woman who had the cervical removed is the right answer obviously. [06:50] Nociception and Baroception Pathways Question 44: A medical student stubbed her toe and observed that there was a momentary gap between when she realized she had stubbed her toe and when she felt the onset of pain. To wonder if this might relate to a structural difference in the neurons involved in baroception versus those involved in nociception. Which of the following is the best hypothesis for explaining this observation? (A) The neurons in the nociception pathway are not myelinated whereas those involved in the baroception pathway are myelinated. (B) The neurons in the nociception pathway have more dendrites than those in the baroception pathway. (C) The neurons in the baroception pathway are not myelinated whereas those involved in the nociception pathway are myelinated. (D) The neurons in the baroception pathway have more dendrites than those in the nociception pathway. Bryan's Insights: The toe hit the chair at a certain point in time. So all the nerves fired at that moment. So you're not going to explain the differences in when the nerve signal fired, rather the differences in conduction speed. Conduction speed comes down to myelination. Nerves are myelinated to increase the speed of conduction where that action potential jumps from the Node of Ranvier in between the myelin. Being myelinated increases the speed of transmission. And with the baroception moving faster, we would assume that baroreception is myelinated where as the nociception is not. The correct answer here, therefore, is (A). When you stub your toe, that signal has to go from your toe all the way up to your leg and to your spinal cord. Once it hits your spinal cord, it's myelinated so it goes right up to your brain. So that little quarter second difference is the fact that the touch or the baropressure gets transmitted right up to your spine right away. Then the pain takes a quarter second because it's not myelinated. [10:30] People with MS as an Interesting Example I have three spinal cord lesions from my MS and I have one particular finger that if I hit it with a safety pin during the testing, where a neurologist will do when they poke your finger with something sharp, I experience a weird sensation from where my lesion is. Then the pain takes longer to go through the lesion. So it's very cool physiologically to have that happen. Although I don't have brainstem or brain lesions, I also have facial symptoms. It doesn't make sense because the facial nerve is coming out of the brain stem so obviously it needs to be something there. The trigeminal nerve has a spinal trigeminal nucleus. So the trigeminal nerve goes down into the spinal cord where I happen to have a lesion and goes back up into the face. It serves some facial sensory issues. Anatomically, it's cool to have a spinal cord lesion affect facial sensations. [14:00] About Next Step Test Prep If you are in the market for some full-length exams, check out Next Step Test Prep. The feedback I commonly get from students is they have the best full-length exams outside of the AAMC. The testing environment for their full-length exams is exactly the same as you will see on your test day. Practice, rather, perfect practice makes perfect. Testing in that real environment is perfect practice as your clicks and highlights are simulated exactly like the real MCAT you see at the Pearson testing centers (as of this recording). Get the first one for free as well as the half-length diagnostic test. Sign up for their exams and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on those tests. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Promo Code: MCATPOD) The controversy around Henrietta Lacks The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement
May 23, 2018
94: Biology Grab bag of Questions for the MCAT
Session 94 In today's MCAT Podcast, we cover biology, including pregnancy, connective tissue disease, and skeletal myocytes. Follow along in the blog post for the questions. Joining me is Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep as we give you free weekly tutoring. New to this show? You have 93 other episodes you can go back to listen to and learn from. The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT is now available on Amazon, Kindle, and Paperback. Just a reminder, you don't have to have a Kindle device to read a Kindle eBook. You can use a Kindle app on every device you have. It's $4.99 for the Kindle at this point and $9.99 for Paperback. If you're just starting out on your MCAT journey and trying to figure things out, then this is the book for you. It will give you the ins and outs of the MCAT. It's not a content review book but it will help you choose one if that is something you're looking for. Now if you're past the MCAT, The Premed Playbook; Guide to the Medical School Interview is what's next for you! Now, let’s go back to this episode. [02:57] Conception and Menstruation Question 47: A couple trying to conceive without using IVF methods would most likely have their highest chance of pregnancy: (A) Early in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. (B) After the onset of menses. (C) During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. (D) Midway through the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Byran's Insights: To maximize your chance of conception, you want sex to happen right before ovulation, not on the day of ovulation itself because the sperm would need time to make the trip up the fallopian tube. Remember the basic order of the follicular phase, then ovulation, the luteal phase. So if you're waiting until the luteal phase, you're late to the game. The highest chance of pregnancy is around 1-4 days before ovulation. So this makes (D) the right answer. The only concern here is that midway is a little bit of a squishy word so it doesn't tell your precisely when the sperm was starting their journey. If you try to figure it, the follicular phase is something like 13 days long and the ideal time increase your chances of conception would be 1-5 days before then. The other way to get around the answer is by doing the process of elimination. Early in the follicular phase would be right after menstruation is over. This is way to early. After the onset of menses, you missed it. And the luteal phase, ovulation has already happened so you're a bit too late. By the process of elimination, D has got to be the winner here. [06:10] Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Question: Patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome commonly suffer from hypermobile, unstable joints, and fragile, easily bruised skin. Which of these loss of function mutations is most likely to cause Ehlers-Danlos syndrome? (A) Mutation in actin (B) Mutation in keratin (C) Mutation in elastin (D) Mutation in collagen Bryan's Insights: The right answer here is (D). Collagen is the primary supportive and structural connective tissue protein. So when in doubt, go for collagen. Actin is not viable with life. If the actin fibers wouldn't be working properly, your muscle tissue wouldn't be working properly. If your muscles didn't work, then your heart wouldn't work either and you'd never make it out of the womb. A problem with keratin would be related to hairs and nails. Whereas elastin, depending on the nature of the function, you'd either end up with tissues that were super stretchy or not stretchy enough. Neither of those gets to the joint problem. [07:45] Actin and Myosin Question 58: In skeletal myocytes, calcium is normally released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum after: (A) The muscle begins to relax. (B) Myocin releases actin. (C) The membrane depolarizes. (D) Physical damage to the muscle occurs. Bryan's Insights: Remember that the MCAT may have tricky passages, but it doesn't have trick questions. When in doubt, they're just testing the normal, straightforward, base level understanding taught in every freshman college bio 101 class. In this case, they want you to remember that the nerve signal comes down the axon to the skeletal muscle. And that action potential that comes down the nerve fiber is a whole depolarization-repolarization cycle. And when you get to the motor end plate and the neurotransmitter goes across to the muscle, the first thing that happens in the muscle is you depolarize the muscle cell. That causes the sarcoplasmic reticulum to dump its calcium out into the main body of the muscle itself. That kicks off the whole cycle. In this case, the answer is (C) because that's the response to the nerve. Links: Next Step Test Prep The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT The Premed Playbook; Guide to the Medical School Interview
May 16, 2018
93: What the Average MCAT Score Increase Means to You
Session 93 The MSAR recently released their updated stats and it showed a big jump in average MCAT scores for matriculants and for applicants. The data has actually been out there since December 2017. But the average MCAT score for applicants and matriculants has gone up pretty significantly from 2016-2017 application year to the last year they have the data for 2017-2018 application year. How does this happen in just a one-year time span? Listen in as I and Bryan from Next Step Test Prep discuss this matter and dish out their theories. But before that, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT (Kindler version) is now available on Amazon. You don't have to have a Kindle to read Kindle books. If you have an iOS or Android device, Amazon makes that Kindle app for your device. Go ahead and buy the book right now for only $4.99. [03:00] Total MCAT Score Has Gone Up Based on the AAMC MCAT Table A-16, the total mean MCAT score is 501.8 for 2016-2017 for all applicants. For 2017-2018, that score increased to 2.9 points to 504.7. The standard deviation is the same but how has the score gone up almost 3 points? Bryan says it's still pretty significant for a single year when you're talking about tens and thousands of data points. But does this actually reflect an underlying improvement of students? Secondly, another thing to look at is the thing you were measuring with change. The MCAT radically changed in one year. The third possibility is statistical artifact. Personally, I think the AAMC must be changing the scale somehow. Maybe there were passages that needed to be thrown out so they increased some scores. And that the 2018-2019 data will come back down once they've figured out those passages in this testing time period. [05:30] Is It Just a Statistical Artifact? Bryan points our this scenario that if an average score is 500.1 and then the next year it might be a 500.8. That would even still be a pretty big swing. Realistically speaking, Bryan sees this as a statistical artifact. The AAMC calls this out of the bottom of Table A-16. They explicitly say that the 2016-2017 scores are not comparable to previous years. The 2017 scores are not comparable to the 2016 scores. And they call out the fact that people took the old MCAT. Remember, MCAT scores are generally good for about three years. So if you manage to take the old MCAT in January 2015 and had a good score, surely you're not going to retake the exam. [06:53] 510 is the New 30 So for the first couple of years, what admissions committees were looking at was that applicants with old MCAT scores that were really good. They took the old MCAT, they did great, and they held onto it and applied with it. This means that if you're going to construct an incoming class and you want their average score to be about 510. Then they're going to be taking on the old scale, the 35s, the 34s, the 37s. You're taking all the top end of the old scale. This means you're being a little more forgiving on the new test. But now as of 2017, in this new application cycle, we've basically entirely transitioned over. The 2014's were no good anymore. Bryan feels actually vindicated and he actually published this big blog post where 510 is the new 30. (30 on the old scale was the number everybody wanted). And he was absolutely certain that 510 was the new 30. [08:53] Here's a Better Picture So if an admissions committee is accepting an incoming class and you're going to take some kids with high MCAT scores (90th percentile), then those with average MCAT scores (80th percentile), and then weak MCAT scores (70th percentile). That's the typical behavior of an admissions committee. During the two transition years, you're 90th percentile kids, were overwhelmingly kids who had good old MCAT scores. So when you took your low end of your incoming class, you were taking more new MCAT scores out of the 70s. So for two years, the old MCAT was disproportionately represented among high scorers and the new scorers were disproportionately represented among the low scorers. And now they've made the switch. Bryan suspects the 510 is the number we see year after year. [10:48] What Does This Tell You? It doesn't fundamentally change the prep process. You always want to do your best and master content. Practice strategies and take practice tests. All it does is shift the calculation a bit if you feel like you're ready. So if you thought you're close to 508 so you're ready, since you're getting 506 or 507, now you might look at that and consider pushing it back and consider prepping for another few weeks. [11:50] One More Thing to Keep in Mind! As you go through the MSAR, the numbers that you see on each of those web pages for those schools are median numbers. That is not the average. Median means 50% of the class is above it while 50% of the class is below it. Average is different. So keep that in mind. If you are below that median number, so is 50% of the class. So it doesn't really mean much. Hence, don't look at MCAT and GPA when applying to medical schools. That goes counter to whatever every other "premed" says. "Don't look at MCAT and GPA when applying to medical school." Links: AAMC MCAT Table A-16 Next Step Test Prep
May 09, 2018
92: Physics Series 4: Fluid Dynamics on the MCAT
Session 92 In our last week of the physics series, we're going to cover some fluid dynamic discrete questions that seem to trip up a lot of premed students. Listen now! The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT is now available for preorder or available to buy on Amazon and Kindle. The eBook is now available while the paperback is coming soon. This book is basically The MCAT Podcast boiled down into a book. As always, I'm joined by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep and we go over almost everything you need to know for the MCAT. [03:35] Absolute Pressure Question 14: A billiard ball is submerged in a small tank of water at a depth of exactly 60 cm. However, the tank is located in Denver, Colorado, where the ambient pressure is roughly 0.83 atmospheres. What is the absolute pressure experienced by the ball? (A) 6,000 Pascal's (B) 6,830 Pascal's (C) 84,245 Pascal's (D) 90, 245 Pascal's Bryan's Insights: When asked about the absolute or total pressure, you have to add atmospheric or gauge pressure, which is the pressure you get from being underwater or submerged in any fluid. There's some amount of gauge pressure here. One of the things you need to walk into the test knowing is that an atmosphere is around 101,000 Pascal's. Here, 0.83 atmospheres x 101,000 is already going to give you about 84,000 Pascal's. And if you had paper and pencil or laminated board and marker. You could do it all by hand. Looking at the answer choices, it's going to be either (C) or (D). If 0.83 atmospheres is already going to give you about 84,000 Pascal's but you also have to add the gauge pressure, then the answer is (D). You actually don't have to do any more math. [07:20] Some Techniques When Answering Math Questions Pretty much, a lot of students would really want to make sure they're getting the specific answers, especially for a lot of the Type A premed students. But Bryan says the MCAT is very much about answering with 100% confidence when you're only 70% on the way there. Additionally, the test allows you to "flag" where you click a little button to flag a question. So if you're unsure about a particular answer, just flag it then move on. And if you have the time, go back and do the flagged question. [07:55] Cohesion and Adhesion Question: 20 milliliters of an unknown fluid is added to an empty test tube resulting in the situation picture provided. (The picture shows a test tube with your typical meniscus where the fluid is crawling up the sides of the test tube. The lowest point of the meniscus is in the middle of the fluid and on the edge crawls up the sides of the tube.) (A) Adhesive forces between fluid particles are greater than cohesive forces between the fluid and the glass. (B) Adhesive forces between fluid and glass are greater than cohesive forces between fluid particles. (C) Cohesive forces between  fluid particles are greater than adhesive forces between the fluid and the glass. (D) Cohesive forces between fluid and glass are greater than adhesive forces between fluid particles. Bryan's Insights: The word "cohesion" already gives you a clue that like things are being together. And an adhesive is like glue where you stick two separate things together. In this case, the fluid is crawling up the sides of the test tube. It's clearly the attractive force between the fluid and the test tube is the stronger thing. [10:45] Pressure on Vessel Walls Question 18: A salt solution with a density of 1075 kg/cubic meter is moving through two consecutive closed vessels. Both vessels are positioned at the same height but the solution travels twice as quickly through one vessel A as the next vessel B. If a pressure exerted by the fluid on the walls of vessel A is 6,000 Pascal's, the pressure exerted on Vessel B is: (A) 3,000 Pascal's (B) 6,000 Pascal's (C) 12,000 Pascal's (D) A value that cannot be determined Bryan's Insights: Bryan stresses that so much of what students are scared of on Physics is they'll have to do all this math. And yet so often, it's not the math. It's just the conceptual use of the equation. You have to know what the equation is but then you don't actually have to do any calculation. In this case, with density showing up and height, speed, pressure, you know you're using Bernoulli's equation. It says that the pressure of Point A plus the height at Point A. Pressure + height + velocity is 1/2*rho*v2. And this equation at Point A has to equal the same thing at Point B. The tricky bit is those plus signs. If all stuff were being multiplied together or divided, then it would be so simple. Like it travels with twice the velocity so it's half or double the pressure. Or if it's a squared relationship, then quadruple the pressure. But because you're adding these various terms together, it doesn't translate into a perfect direct relationship. You can drop out the Height since the question says it's at the same height. The density was given as well as the ratios of the velocity. And then you're still left with an equation where it's: 6000 + 1/2*rho*v2 = x + 1/2 * rho *2v2 But you still have the unknown which are two and then the velocity. The way you handle it when you have multiple unknowns in a problem is just divide the x over to the other side of the equation. Then the variables will cancel each other out and then you can solve it. The + sign here in the Bernoulli's equation, it just throws the monkey wrench into the works there. If you try to divide velocity over, you'd end up with multiple wacky ratios separated by + signs. The important point is don't be afraid if the answer choice cannot be determined because maybe it can't be really determined. [17:37] Is Water Wet? As to whether water is really wet, Bryan would have to look at the definition of wet to see what exactly that's meant. Water is a molecule and water itself is just a bunch of water molecules and isn't wet. But water on a surface is then wet. So while water itself is not wet, but when it's on a surface then it's wet. [19:00] About Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep for their full length practice exams. They're known as one of the best companies out there for practice exams, right behind the AAMC. When you use their practice exams, you're using the real-life, fully simulated environment you're going to be in when you go to your Pearson testing center to take the MCAT. Rest assured that you're practicing in the best environment possible. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.)
May 02, 2018
91: Physics Series 3: Light Waves and the MCAT
Session 91 Why is the sky blue? That's just one of the questions that may come up on the MCAT when talking about physics and light waves. Check out the questions. Also, check out MedEd Media and you'll find The Premed Years Podcast, Specialty Stories, OldPreMeds Podcast, and Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A. By the way, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT is going to be available very soon. Written with Next Step Test Prep, we will soon be putting it up on Amazon and other stores as soon as possible. Go to to sign up and be notified. Also check out our other books The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview and another one coming up in August is The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement. This episode is a continuation of our series from two weeks ago and this time we talk all about light! [02:20] Light Frequencies Question 7: Yellow light has a wavelength of 570 nanometers. Which of the following has a higher frequency than yellow light? (A) Orange light (B) Infrared light (C) X-rays (D) Radio waves Bryan's Insights: For MCAT, you need to know the electromagnetic spectrum with radio waves on one end with low frequency and low energy. Microwaves are like that with relatively low energy. Infrared is low energy, low frequency. ROYGBIV goes through the visible spectrum. Then it goes up to x-rays which are very high frequency, high energy all the way up to gamma rays that have very high energy and very high frequency. So you should recognize these terms in where they fall generally on the electromagnetic spectrum. In this case, x-rays would have a higher frequency than the yellow light for sure. [04:50] Why is the Sky Blue (Of Oceans and Polar Bears) Question 9: Which of the following colors of light will bend the least when moving from a vacuum to a glass prism? (A) Blue Light (B) Red Light (C) Green Light (D) Yellow Light Bryan's Insights: This is another thing you have to know. If you're a visual learner, you can have a classic picture in your head of the prism and light going through the prism and getting bent. This might help. So it's like one of the classic questions, why is the sky blue? The answer is because blue light scatters the most or bends the most when going through from one medium to the next. When the sunlight is just cruising along the earth's atmosphere, the blue gets bent or scattered the most. Hence, blue or violet light bends the most. Then if you follow blue as on the one end of the extreme and it scatters the most or bends the most, then red would bend the least. Now, why does the sky change its color when the sun sets? Bryan explains that you're now looking right next to the sun. It's the same phenomenon as the blue light getting scattered but it's just a difference of where you're looking. During daytime, you essentially get the blue photons getting scattered down to earth. When you're looking right at the sun, the blue light coming out of the sun is getting scattered away from your eyeballs, so what's left is the red. As to why is the ocean blue, it's really not. Rather, it just reflects the sky. Now, what is the color of the polar bear's fur? It's not white actually, but clear. Bryan assumes it's just bending the entire spectrum because it's clear, not scattering one wavelength preferentially over another. Or if blue light is getting bent more, because the polar bear is fluffy and the hairs point out in random directions, you're ultimately getting all of the various wavelengths of light coming out of the fur. So all the wavelengths mush back together into white when it hits your eye. [09:25] Index of Refraction Question 11: Which changes our experience by visible light as it moves from medium 1 with N (index of refraction) of 1.16 to medium 2 which has an index of refraction of 1.68? (A) Wavelength remains constant while frequency decreases. (B) Wavelength decreases while frequency remains constant. (C) Wavelength decreases while frequency increases. (D) Wavelength increases while frequency decreases. Bryan's Insights: We perceive color as a function of frequency in the same way we perceive pitch as a function of frequency. It's often written as wavelength in the charts. If you imagine speed of light in a vacuum, frequency and wavelength are inversely related. So one can swap out for the other. But when you move from an optically less dense medium at 1.16 to a more dense medium of 1.68, the light actually shows down. The media so optically dense is that you can jog faster than the light. You actually have to walk into the MCAT knowing this. The thing to remember is that frequency is constant. When you go from one medium to the next, any wave is constant. Frequency is a property of the source. Hence, this only leaves us with answer choice B. Links: MedEd Media The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement
Apr 25, 2018
90: When Do I Need More Content Review vs MCAT Test Skills?
Session 90 When you're struggling on the MCAT, there may be a few different reasons, with content review and test skills being just two. How do you know what to work on? Great news! The Medical School Headquarters and Next Step Test Prep have again teamed up for a book. The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT is coming very soon! Just go to and signed up to be notified when it's available or find out where to purchase it. Please take a listen to all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media to help you on this journey to medical school! As always, we're joined by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep. We talk about how to figure out where to go if you're not getting the score you think you need but the score you want. Let's dissect further whether it's a content or test skills issue. [01:40] Content vs. Test Skills As what I've been mentioning, the MCAT is not a content-based test. You have to know the content but it's not testing you specifically on the content. You have to analyze and think critically, etc. If you're a student struggling with taking your practice exams, how should you figure out what those next steps are to improve? Bryan clearly explains that for every student, it's always both. Meaning, no student has the perfect MCAT content knowledge and no student has the perfect test strategy. So everyone can always improve both. [03:20] If You're Scoring Below 500 (490-500) At Next Step Test Prep, their rule of thumb is that if you're scoring below 500, you almost certainly have quite a few content areas that you haven't yet mastered. In fact, Bryan has never seen a student who scored below average that didn't have some content areas they need to work on. This doesn't mean though that you don't need to build up your MCAT test skills. It's possible even if your performance is below average and your content is above average. Nevertheless, you need to work on content. [04:26] If You're Scoring 480-490 Now, if you're scoring between 480-490, almost universally, there are very, very serious content deficiencies. Every student unique and every situation is unique. But if you find that you're consistently scoring in the mid to low 490s, you are not going to do well on the MCAT until you address those content concerns. This being said, you will also have to work on strategy. If it has been many years since you took the class in college, which is common among nontrads. They could be 3-4 more years out of college and they only did okay in the class, then they may need to go back again and audit some classes at a college. [06:45] Resources to Help You Bryan has noticed too that it does tend to come back once you start studying it. In this case, Bryan recommends mixing books and videos. Work through the Next Step books and then do the Khan Academy videos in conjunction. So you're getting a multi-modal presentation and not just all text again and again. Lastly, this is not a one-size-fits-all problem so go to as many places as you can - forums, reddit, and ask these questions. Ultimately, it's up to you (not somebody else) to figure out to tell you what the answer is. [07:50] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep, the company for full-length practice exams. Buy them i packages of 4, 6, or 10. And save 10% off those packages using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the code MCATPOD to save 10% off the practice tests.) The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT Khan Academy MCAT Test Prep MedEd Media
Apr 18, 2018
89: Physics Series 2: Water, Buoyancy and the MCAT
Session 89 Water and fluid dynamics and physics go hand in hand on the MCAT. This week we're cover this topic to help you improve your physics MCAT section score. As always, we're joined by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep. The questions are taken from the QBank, which costs $50 if you purchased it separately. And if you purchase the ten packs of full lengths for $49, then you're going to get the QBank for free. It's great deal. So for $250, you're getting ten full-length tests, so it's $25 per test. It's literally the best deal you can buy anywhere. The QBank has the equivalent of essentially two more full length MCAT worth with 127 passages and a thousand discrete questions and more! [02:25] Life Raft and Density Question 11: A foam life raft has a density of 491 kg/m3. When placed in a pool of pure water, what percentage of the raft's volume will be above the surface of liquid? (A) 4.91% (B) 49.1% (C) 50.9% (D) None. The raft will be entirely submerged. Bryan's Insights: You always have to follow the math where it leads you, but at the same time, the MCAT is grounded in reality, real science, the real world. So you're pretty sure, it's going to float. Hence, it's going to be a, b, or c. When they're giving you 4.91 and 49.1, this is a strong clue that it's not D. They're expecting you to mess up by a factor of 10. So there's outside knowledge that you need here. You have to walk into the test knowing the density of water. And water's density is 1000kg/m3. It sounds odd but people don't realize how big a cubic meter is and it's an enormous box. It's very heavy. And this life raft only has a density of 491kg/m3. So a little less than half is dense. So if you put it in water, it's going to float. The simple rule of thumb is if you take the density of the object and divide it by the density of the fluid, that ratio is going to give you the percentage that will sink into the fluid. Think of like a pool noodle that barely sinks into the water at all. And if you said it has a density that's 5% of water, a density of 50kg/m3 and water has a density of 1000 kg/m3. So it's 5% the density of water and only 5% of it sinks down into the water. And if you think of an actual pool toy, it really does seem to rest right on the top of the water.Whereas it's something at a density of 97% of water, it would almost entirely sink. IN this case, 491/1000 is 49.1. So this is how much it would sink. And the question asks for that which is floating above the surface, so the correct answer is (C) 50.9% that's emerging above the water. Tip: Always read the questions carefully. Answer the question they actually asked you. [08:15] The Mystery of the Ideal Fluid Question: A variety of experiments are being conducted in a large tank containing an ideal fluid. A spherical object with a volume of 0.84 m3 and a specific gravity of exactly 1.05, which is true? (A) The object will rapidly sink beneath the surface of the fluid until it reaches the bottom of the tank. (B) The object will sink beneath the surface but will not hit the bottom. (C) At least part of the object will project above the surface of the fluid. (D) Not enough information available to answer. Bryan's Insights: The rule for floating is simple. If you have a density greater than the fluid, you sink. If you have a density less than the fluid, you float. And if you have a density equal to the fluid, you just stay wherever you are right now, or you keep moving with whatever your current velocity is. This tells us the object has a specific gravity of 1.05 but it doesn't tell us the specific gravity of the fluid. In this case, the correct answer is (D). [10:15] Density of Ionized Water Question 13: A sample of deionized water is kept in a cylindrical beaker with a radius of 4cm and a height of 10cm. The density of the water is closest to: (A) 5.024 x 10-4 kg/m3 (B) 1 kg/m3 (C) 502.4 g/m3 (D) 1000 g/L Bryan's Insights: The reason Bryan picked this question here is to make this general point. You want to remember that on the MCAT, on the passage and even in the questions, there can be extra information. In this case, what's the density of water. Who cares what's in or if it's a beaker or it in a cup or in the ocean. Regardless, the density of water is what it is wherever it is. As mentioned a while ago, the density of water is 1000 kg/m3. However, you need to know the other way of expressing this same notion which is 1g/cm3, 1 gm/ml, or 1kg/L. The density of water is often described as 1 because it is in three different unit analysis. The correct answer here is (D) 1000 g/L which is just 1 kg. So that's it. Note that the question only required one thing and that's you should know the density of water. [13:00] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking for full-length practice exams, go to Next Step Test Prep and sign up for a free diagnostic. And you also get one free full-length. They also have other full-length exams that you can purchase. You can sign up for four or six or ten exams and save 10% when you use the promo code MCATPOD. Links: Next Step Test Prep Practice Tests
Apr 11, 2018
88: Physics Series 1: Spring Systems for the MCAT
Session 88 As always, Bryan from Next Step Test Prep is joining us today as we start off a sequence of episodes - all about physics! Physics is one of the hardest subjects on the MCAT. Over the course of 4 episodes, we're going to dive into high-yield physics topics to help you score higher! What makes so hard for students, as Bryan explains, is that metaphorical "hard science" meaning a lot of numbers, fact, or truth to it. And for MCAT students, it gets hard because of the math primarily. Some students are not really into math, and add pressure to that where you get no calculator on test day. Plus, a lot of students to take Physics really early so when they roll around in their MCAT by Junior or Senior year or even after college, it's been a long time since they've taken Physics. Lastly, Physics is like the "orphan" science that lives over on the side that it's not often obviously directly plugged into Chemistry or Organic Chemistry, Biochem, and Biology. And you can create this whole matrix of all your other classes where the information relate to each other. And on the side, Physics asks questions about, say, shooting cannonballs in the air. [03:30] Pendulum and Oscillation Question 6: By what factor does the period of oscillation of a pendulum change when its length is extended from 1 cm to 9 cm? (A) Original period is multiplied by 0.33. (B) It's original period is multiplied by 2. (C) It's multiplied by 3. (D) It's multiplied by 9. Bryan's Insights: If you have a pendulum that's a lot longer, it would swing back and forth slower. And remember that period is the time it takes to oscillate all the way out and then back again. So if it has to go slower, then the period would have to increase as well. Thinking about how equations are arranged, if you took one of the variables and give it a 9x times 9, B does not seem to fit. And even if you can't remember the equation, you'd probably guess it to be C or D. In this case, the correct answer is C because of the square root relationship. The period is proportional to the square root of the length. So when you multiply length times 9, period goes up by 3. The exact equation here is: T = 2π√(L/g) Where: T = period, L= length, g = gravity [06:44] Periodic Motion Question: A spring system shown below (diagram of a mass at the end of a spring resting horizontally on a table), with Mass (m), representing the mass attached to the spring, (k) representing the spring constant, and (x) denoting the distance, stretched or compressed from the spring's equilibrium position. What expression gives the minimum value for the magnitude of velocity of the mass after the system is stretched and released? (A) 0 (B) 1.2 kx² (C) x(√(k/m) (D) x²k/m Bryan's Insights: This can still show up on the MCAT, like if they say, bone is slightly compressible and can be modeled as a spring and so on. What you want to know here is that when you oscillate back and forth whether you're a spring vibrating back and forth like the car shocks bouncing up and down. Or rather a pendulum swinging back and forth. In any kind of periodic motion like this, you want to be aware of what happens at the extremes like when the pendulum swings all the way up, or when the spring compresses all the way down, or vice versa. When happens in these periodic motion systems at the extremes, a pendulum for instance, when the mass swings all the way up in a pendulum, velocity goes zero and stops moving. Then it starts swinging back down. This is the same thing here. This may look like a crazy algebra question, when in fact, you only had to know one concept about how periodic motion works. This means that at the extremes, you stop for a second, turn around, and start going back. So the answer here is (A), with no algebra at all. Let's go over the other answer choices above to make sure you recognize them. (B) is the measure of the energy stored in a spring. Students may see this and and tend to pick this but this is not the minimum possible velocity. [11:08] Stretching the Spring Question 10: A certain elastic coil has a spring constant of 100 Newtons per meter. How much must this spring be stretched in order to store the same amount of energy held by a 50-kg mass at rest, 1m above the surface of the earth? (A) 10 cm (B) 31 cm (C) 3.1m (D) 10 m Bryan's Insights: Bryan explains this being a two-step problem. There's an equation for energy which is E=mgh. So 50 x 10 (for gravity) x 1 = 500 J of energy. Then you can re-read the question knowing that what you need is 500 J of energy. So the k is the spring constant of 100 Newtons. You have to remember that the energy stored in the spring is 1/2 kx². So you've got 500=1/2 kx².  So right about 3 is your answer (C). Additionally, you're going to be working on SI units on the MCAT. So the base unit for length is meter. The big takeaway actually is to know all of your equations. But certainly when you're doing Physics, this is going to be a big part of your problem solving. [16:30] Do Practice Full Lengths The AAMC has full lengths for sale. They make the MCAT so their test writers also have a practice exams which you can buy from them directly. You can buy three practice exams plus a sample task that's not scored.There are conversion tables you will find online but don't trust those. For a full view of resources that may help you. Links: Next Step Test Prep Promo code: MCATPOD to save some money.
Apr 04, 2018
87: Psych/Soc Series: Social Movement, Classes, and More
Session 87 Our last week of the Psych/Soc content is here. This week we dive more into sociology and talk about social movements, socioeconomics and more. Check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media, especially The Premed Years Podcast where we talk about MCAT, writing your personal statement, preparing for interviews, applications in general. We also talk to a lot of motivating and inspiring premed, medical students, and physicians, including some Deans of Admissions. Back to today's episode, this is the fourth and final week of your psych/soc block here, specifically covering more on Sociology this week. Again, we're joined by Next Step Test Prep's Bryan Schnedeker. [02:10] Proactive Social Movement Question 2: Which of these situations best exemplifies a proactive social movement? (A) A large number of middle aged men who often organized in attempt to ban women from voting in federal elections. (B) Over 10,000 high school students across the nation who campaign for gender neutral bathrooms in their institutions. (C) A coalition that has a goal of preventing the expansion of green energy programs in the United States. (D) More than one of the above Bryan's Insights: First off, Bryan explains that these kinds of questions are much more meant for "drill and kill" content repetition. You'll see answer choices like A, B, and C. So there are some answer choices that are not as common in the AAMC but are specifically designed to make you think super carefully about the content. So he goes on to say that "more than one of the above" just means, between A, B, and C, it's two or all three of them are true. Bryan explains that social movement is literally any time a group of two or more people attempt to create or resist change in the society. It could be any change, ex. how we change electricity or elect our representatives, any social change. The key here is to know between proactive versus reactive. Proactive is pushing for change while reactive is opposing change. So answer choices A and C, would be pretty reactive as you're trying to roll back a hundred years of progress. Then (C) trying to prevent green energy is again opposing change. While B is a proactive one. As you go over your practice test, it's important that you look at the ones you got right as well. [05:53] Social Capital Question: An individual who's a member of a lower socio economic class is likely to: Have strong ties but a smaller network connection Have weak ties and a larger network connection III. Have less social capital since he or she exists in a smaller network of people Have less social capital since he or she exists in a larger network of people (A) I (B) II (C) I and III (D) II and IV Bryan's Insights: Social capital is the additional status you gain beyond just your money. It's the people that you know have actual value when it comes to your social status. In this case, those on a lower socio economic class, you're going to have less social capital compared to having a high social capital. If you know doctors, you could shadow them easily and that gives you good shadowing experience on your medical school application. So it's not money, but it have value. It's harder for somebody with a lower socio economic class who doesn't know any doctors. So they have less social capital. For this question, certainly III has to be true. Just by the definition of it, III has got to be true. Now, this is a classic MCAT reasoning, we just reasoned out that III was true and we're done. So on the MCAT, don't do more work than you have to. [08:24] Cultural Capital Question 8: Cultural capital can include: I.Educational degrees or certifications Networking connections gained from membership in a fraternity III. Public speaking ability Retirement and college funds (A)  I and II (B) I and III (C) II, III, and IV (D) I, II, III, and IV Bryan's Insights: Number II is social capital, not cultural capital so this is definitely out. Obviously, the answer here is (B). You didn't even have to know what cultural capital was. You just have to know that networking is social capital. Capital refers to the resources that can help you determine your status in a society. And one resource is who you know. So that's social capital. Additionally, knowledge and facility with the culture that you move in. Your vocabulary is part of your cultural capital, not capital or people. It's just a piece of paper that helps to save your status in American status. So (A) is the classic example social capital. Things like really good fashion sense, or how to dress for the appropriate number you're i is another example of social capital where you can clearly communicate your status. [12:28] About Next Step Test Prep Go back to Session 84 where started the first of this series. Next week we're tackling four weeks of Physics where a block in the middle covers something different. If you're struggling with your MCAT prep, go talk to Next Step Test Prep and see how a tutor may or not help you in your test preparation. They offer online tutoring online or in-person.But wherever you are, a tutor can help you. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money upon checkout. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep The Premed Years Podcast
Mar 28, 2018
86: Psych/Soc Series: Erikson, Kohlberg and More
Session 86 This is our third week of Psych/Soc for the MCAT and we’re covering more very nuanced models of stages and development. Back in Sessions 84 and 85, we talked about this section and next week will be our final week of Psych/Soc. Bryan from Next Step Test Prep joins us once again as we dissect these questions for you. Meanwhile, also listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. [02:00] Strategies for Studying Definitions Bryan says that although you can reason through conversational english definition of the words, you still want to be technical. Psych terms are strictly and tightly defined so part of it is repetition. Don't take it for granted. Students often think this section is easier since there's no math involved. But you have to give it due respect and give the time to memorize all these things. Lastly, if you find it hard to memorize abstract words is to give it some context. Try to connect it with people you know, memories, and experiences in your life. And build mnemonics that you know are going to mentally stick in your mind. These can be emotional or outrageous. Whatever it is, try to use a number of techniques to make sure you're able to thoroughly memorize the content rather than just passing familiarity. [04:10] Erikson's Stages of Development Question 3: According to the model articulated by Erik Erikson, which example demonstrates an individual in the industry versus inferiority stage of development? (A) A 30-year-old male gets married and struggles to align his goals with his partners. (B) A 50-year-old female that dedicates her life to a nonprofit organization in an effort to feel like a contributing member of society. (C) A happy, healthy 8-year-old male leads his soccer and goals, scored, and excels in Mathematics class. (D) A 16-year-old female feels awkward in her body and questions her sexual identity. Bryan's Insights: Erikson likes to split the human life cycle down based on social relationships. If you look at his answer choices, (A) deals with intimacy vs. isolation, so this doesn't apply. Answer (B) would refer to adulthood or later adulthood from 40-64. 50-year-olds resolve the crisis of generativity vs. stagnation. Answer choice (C) is school age deals with industry vs. inferiority, so this is the right answer. Answer choice (D) is the adolescence stage where they deal with identity vs. role confusion. [07:05] Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development Question 4: Which of these situations involves a person whose view of morality falls within the conventional stage of Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development? (A) A teenager refuses to join his friends painting a graffiti on a public building because he's afraid he'll get caught. (B) A college student believes every woman should have the right to an abortion because she thinks that control over one's body is a fundamental human right. (C) A young man never speeds when driving his car because he thinks that people should abide by the rule of the law. And if everyone drove too fast, the roads would not be safe. (D) A man participates in a gay pride parade even though he does not identify as gay because he believes that everyone has the right to express and be themselves. Bryan's Insights: Kohlberg's whole idea was that you can pose people moral questions. There's that classic one of somebody who needs to to save his wife's life but didn't have the money to buy the medicine. So is it okay for him to steal the medicine or does he have to let his wife die? And for Kohlberg, he didn't care what the answer was. Instead, he was interested in why and how you reasoned your way to that answer. In this case, for answer choice (A), the teenager was afraid of getting caught. So his moral reasoning isn't about right and wrong. It's just about fear of getting caught. And Kohlberg calls this pre-conventional. The most basic level of moral reasoning was, what can I do to avoid getting caught or what can I do to get a reward? So it's about getting punishment vs. reward. Answer choice (B) suggests reasoning at the level of universal rights. Whether xyz is moral or not because of an overall universal, abstract human right. The same thing with (D) in that even though he doesn't identify as gay, but he believes that everyone has the right to be themselves. Kohlberg would call this post-conventional reasoning. This is the highest or most advanced stage of moral reasoning. You don't care about social convention anymore. You're not just looking at your peers or worried about being punished or rewarded. You're thinking on an abstract level of universal, ideal human behavior. Answer choice (C) is the correct answer here where it's just about getting along with your peers or society. A man thinks he shouldn't be driving fast because he thinks he should obey the rule of law. That person is not concerned about abstract universal rights. He's not even concerned about getting punished. But the person thinks it's the right thing to do to obey the law. So his moral reasoning is just based on the conventions of the society he lives in. What's morally correct is obeying the law. That's classic conventional moral reasoning. [12:24] Demographic Transition Model Question 1: Which of these descriptions accurately characterize stage 1 of the demographic transition model? The fertility rate is higher than would be expected for the same population in stage 3. The overall population is shrinking due to the high mortality rate. III. Education for children is typically mandatory. The population size tends to fluctuate moderately due to disease and catastrophe. (A) I only (B) I and IV only (C) !, II, and IV only (D) All of them Bryan's Insights: The demographic transition model is how you transition from a third world rural country into a fully developed industrialized nation. In stage 1, fertility rates are very high so are mortality rates. That tends to mean that the population fluctuates. So the first thing that happens is the mortality rate goes down because medicine gets better. You start taking care of babies better so the mortality rate drops. Then in stage 3, the fertility rate starts to drop as well. And this is where you start getting things like educating children. There's clearly a link between the more educated women are in the country, the lower the fertility rate is. Then finally in stage 4, both fertility and mortality are really. So if the baby gets born, there's a good chance the baby is going to make all the way to old age. So the right answer is (B). Links: MP 84: Psych/Soc Series: Hearing, Weber's Law and More MP 85: Psych/Soc Series: Visual Pathway, Piaget and More Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media
Mar 21, 2018
85: Psych/Soc Series: Visual Pathway, Piaget and More
Session 85 Week two of our Psych/Soc MCAT series on the podcast and we're covering more straight psych questions that you are going to need to know for the MCAT. This podcast is a collaboration with Next Step Test Prep. Today, Bryan joins me once again as we continue on this series. We will start more on the bio-based psychology questions until moving to the more classical psychology questions. [01:20] Visual Pathway Question 10: All of the following statements regarding the visual pathway are true, except: (A) The temporal fibers do not cross paths. (B) At least some of the optical fibers do cross paths. (C) At the optic chiasm, it is the nasal optic fibers that cross to opposite hemispheres. (D) Visual information does not travel through the parietal lobe. Bryan's Insights: You can see where the trick is in this question. You could walk into the test having remembered that the occipital lobe is where all the visual information is processed. So if you're reading a little fast and you see the word "not" and "parietal," you may think it's true. But the optic pads have to get to the occipital lobe and then traverse the parietal lobes as they get there. So the right answer here is D. [03:20] Piaget's Stages Question: An 8-year-old child has recently developed the ability to understand the perspectives of her family members. According to Piaget, which stage has she entered? (A) Concrete operational (B) Formal operational (C) Pre-operational (D) Sensory motor Bryan's Insights: Answer choice D is out here since sensory motor is 0-2 years old where the kids are developing object permanence. They understand that what they see in the world stays there even when their eyes are shut. Concrete operational stage is around 7-11 years old which is a pre-adolescent or school child age. Just the fact the child is 8 years old alone would tell you that it's concrete operational. Formal operational is from teenagers and up (12 years old and up) while preschool include the early toddlers. Theoretically, MCAT could throw in awkward ages and this could come off as a trick. But Bryan clarifies that MCAT is not out to trick you. If they were going to give you an "unusual presentation in the clinic," they would make it a point of calling it out. For example, they could ask something like: "Despite being 8 years old, the child is still unable to understand that other people have other perspectives.This tells us that the child is stuck in which of the following stages:" So as you can see, it will be real deliberate. [06:35] Crystallized Intelligence Question 2: Which of the following demonstrates the use of crystallized intelligence? (A) An 18-year old man visits France for the first time, buys a map at a local story, and uses it to navigate Paris. (B) A doctor sees a patient with a variety of strange symptoms. Using logic and deductive reasoning, he accurately diagnoses her with a very rare disease. (C) A toddler learns to walk after falling down during her first several attempts. (D) An experienced accountant fills out several financial statements over the course of an hour. Bryan's Insights: What MCAT wants you to know here is fluid intelligence versus crystallized intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is something you've learned to do over a long period of time. And it's applying your previously learned knowledge. So it's not a new situation, not anything novel or weird. It's something you're really good at doing. In this case, answer choice A talks about doing it "for the first time" so this tells you they're in a weird, novel situation so they're using their fluid intelligence to solve a new problem. A doctor (answer choice B) is the same way where he sees a strange symptom so he uses logic to diagnose a very rare disease. So the doctor is using their fluid intelligence to adapt to this novel situation and figure out what's going on. Answer choice C, where a toddler learns how to walk and after falling down during her first several attempts, notice the word first there. So it's still like the first time. Hence, answer choices A, B, and C are all fluid intelligence. It's being flexible to it. It's a new kind of learning. Answer choice D mentions "experienced" so this is someone who has done this a million times before. They are highly intelligent at it and they have this rigid intelligence to fill out these financial statements. There is nothing novel here nor does it require any kind of fluidity or flexibility. It's just applying already learned knowledge to these forms. [11:05] Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep offers a full-length course. Check out my full review of that course on YouTube. Th course features over 100 hours of videos, ten lives office hours every week where you can actually ask questions to a tutor, their ten full-length exams, all the AAMC materials, and so much more. Plus, save some money on the course by using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep review on YouTube
Mar 14, 2018
84: Psych/Soc Series: Hearing, Weber's Law and More
Session 84 This is week one of our Psych/Soc series on the MCAT Podcast. We're covering some biology questions which is a subject covered in the Psych section of the MCAT. A lot of students struggle with this section because they're very specific on what you need to know. Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep is here, as always, to help us break down these questions for you so you can crush your MCAT come test day! Also make sure to take a listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [02:44] Bio Questions on Pysch/Soc Section Several students have actually been surprised to see biology questions in the Psych/Soc section. They fall for that trap of thinking that all they have to do is study these high yield topics and they're good to go. But remember that with the sole exception of amino acids, there's really no such thing as a high yield topic. If you want to do well on any of the science questions, you've got to know everything. You've got to really cover your bases. [03:23] Ear Questions Question 1: Which sequence best describes the pathway used to transmit auditory information in humans? (A) Cochlea > Organ of Corti > Medial Geniculate Nucleus > Auditory Cortex (B) Organ of Corti > Cochlea > Auditory Cortex > Medial Geniculate Nucleus (C) Cochlea > Organ of Corti > Auditory Cortex > Medial Geniculate Nucleus (D) Organ of Corti > Cochlea > > Medial Geniculate Nucleus > Auditory Cortex Bryan's Insights: Luckily, I guessed A right and Bryan says it was a "textbook-perfect" reasoning for the MCAT. You use one fact to narrow it down and then eliminate stuff that was the same with the remaining answer choices. [05:22] Weber's Law Question: Weber's Law can be applied to: (A) Sound as when a constant 30 decibel tone in an individual's ear (B) Weight as when two study participants each hold a steel bar that have different masses. (C) Visual stimuli as when a man attempts to distinguish between images at different brightness levels (D) A, B, and C - all of the above are true Bryan's Insights: Weber's law is also called as the "just noticeable difference" which means that if I present to you two different stimuli, will you say, that's the same thing or that this stimulus is more or less intense than the other stimulus. For A, it doesn't work since you have to have two different tones to detect the different loudness of those two tones. B doesn't work either since it's two different participants are each holding their weight. But Weber's law is about a single person distinguishing between two different stimuli. This means that that the right answer here is C since there's one observer and two different stimuli. Can the person tell the difference? And that's Weber's law. So theoretically, it can be anything that the human organs of sensation can attempt to distinguish between. The basis of Weber's law says that the differences are proportional, not absolute. So this could be touch, pressure, weight, vibration, sound, brightness, color - literally anything that you can distinguish between. The idea here is that if you were given two different objects, each of which weighs less than half a pound. And if one is 10% heavier than the other, you'll be able to tell the difference. Even though that 10% might only be a couple of ounces, you will be able to tell it. Then you could be given two enormous blocks, one of which weighed 30 pounds and the other weighed 32 pounds. It's a two-pound difference. With the little weight, you were able to tell two ounces, of course, you can tell two pounds. But Weber's law says you can't. Because you picked up the 30 and then you lean over again. Lift with your legs, not with your back. And then you scrunch down and pick up the 32. And you would say they're the same as each other because the difference between them is less than a 10%. So Weber's law is not absolute, but it's proportional differences that we notice. [09:23] Sensory Adaptation Question 4: Which of these scenarios exemplify the process of sensory adaptation? (A) A steel worker wears a thicker gloves after noticing calluses on his hands. (B) A flight attendant gradually overcomes his fear of heights as his flight hours increase. (C) A pastry chef begins to stop noticing the appetizing and distracting smell of pastries in her kitchen. (D) A child starts to associate the smell of her dog with affection rather than fear. Bryan's Insights: Remember when you say sensory, it's the raw data inputted into your face. As opposed to perception, which then starts to involve higher cognitive processes, what to choose to pay attention to, and your cultural preconceived notions. So perception operates on a much higher level. Sensation is a very kind of raw, biological, mechanical thing. So sensory adaptation is just an unconscious process. The relevant organs just stopped responding to a particular kind of stimulus. Unlike the child who starts to associate the smell of the dog with comfort rather than fear, you see the association. And that's a learning process. It's not just an unconscious adaptation While the pastry chef just stops smelling the food in the kitchen since there's just less response from the relevant sense organs. [12:22:] Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep has an MCAT course! They used to be known for their one-on-one tutoring, but then last year, they came out with an MCAT course that a lot of students are loving. Sign up for the course and get access to over 100 hours of videos. Get access to all 10 of their full-length exams, all the AAMC materials, and ten hours a week of live office hours where you get to talk to their tutors who know all of the information. By the way, check out the review of their MCAT course that I created which I've posted on YouTube. Check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money when you sign up for any of their resources. Links: Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep Course Review MedEd Media
Mar 07, 2018
83: MCAT Foundational Topic: Physics Broken Down
Session 83 Physics is one of the harder sections of the MCAT for many students. If you are one of those students, you're not alone. Check out our foundational series now. We take questions from Next Step Test Prep resources and we cover those with Bryan Schnedeker. By the way, check out all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media. This week as we talk about the foundation of Physics, it would have to mainly deal with movement and energy. [01:35] Knowing the SI System Question 4: Which of the following are base units in the SI system? Kilometers Grams III. Seconds Kilograms (A) I andII (B) II and III (C) III and IV (D) II, III, and IV only Bryan's Insights: If there's one thing Americans buy every single day in metric is soda. Remember that the question asked for the base unit. In the case of grams and kilograms, one of them is the base unit and the other one is the derived unit. Kilogram is actually the base unit, and the actual standard. Then you get to narrow down your answer choices to C and D. Obviously, C is the right answer here since D includes grams. Kilometer is not a base unit but the meter is. This is important since the MCAT wants you to know the difference between base and derived units. This is as fundamental as you can get in measuring the world. [05:25] Potential Energy Question 8: A 12-kilogram bag of clothes is lifted 360J of potential energy. Approximately how long will it take to hit the ground of dropped? (A) 0.3 seconds (B) 0.6 seconds (C) 0.8 seconds (D) 6 seconds Bryan's Insights: The equation you have to know for gravitational potential energy is MGH. M is 12, G is 10 (for the MCAT), and H is the unknown. So 360 divided by 10 is down to 36. Divide it by 12 and it's down to 3. So the 12-k bag of clothes is 3 meters off the ground. Since you're dropping the object from 3 meters, you should recognize that everything falls at the same acceleration, which falls at 1G (10 m/s2). So if you drop from 3 meters, how long would it take to hit the ground? The kinematic equation you need to know here is Distance = V initial x Time + 1/2 AT2. The nice thing about this equation is that if you're just dropping an object, it has no initial velocity. You simply have to open your hand and initial velocity starts at 0. So you can drop that whole chunk of the equation. So the equation is now simplified to Distance = 1/2 AT2. Here, Distance is 3 and acceleration is 10. So to solve for T2, you get 0.6. Again, with MCAT, you don't have to be super precise with the math, but what you need to have is a really pretty solid number sense. You have to know what happens to a decimal when you take the square root of it. 0.6=T2, means the square root of 0.6. The MCAT wants you to know that if you take out the square root of a decimal, it gets bigger. So the square root of 0.6 is 0.8. To summarize, there are two equations involved here. Potential Energy = MGH Distance = VT + 1/2 AT2 [10:24] Greatest Horizontal Distance Question 9: Jessie's high school Physics class is running a potato cannon competition. The goal is simple, shoot a potato the greatest possible horizontal distance. Right now, Jessie's cannon shoots potatoes at a 30-degree angle from the ground with a total velocity of 14 m/s. What changes can Jessie make to increase for potatoes' travel. Increasing the velocity to 80 m/s while keeping all other factors constant. Decreasing the masses of potatoes to make them fall more slowly. III. Changing the angle to 45 degrees with respect to the ground. Changing the angle to 90 degrees with respect to the ground. Notice that cos30 = 0.87, sin30 = 0.5, cos45 = 0.71, and sin45 = 0.71. (A) I only (B) I and II only (C) I and III only (D) I, III, and IV only Bryan's Insights: You want the greatest distance, so IV doesn't sound right since if you shoot it up, it's not going to go anywhere. So I'd get rid of the D right off the bat. The question asks for the greatest possible horizontal distance so shooting it straight up is no way to get any horizontal distance. The right answer here is C. (II) says decreasing the masses of potatoes to make them fall more slowly is not right since everything falls the same. Everything falls at G. [13:07] Potential, Kinetic, and Total Energies Question 11: Consider a positively charged particle is experiencing a force due to an external electric field. Which of the following are conserved for the particle? Potential energy Kinetic energy III. Total energy Momentum (A) I (B) III only Force creates acceleration, not velocity. If you're going to start moving faster and faster as you push on it, then momentum is not going to be conserved. It's going to go up. So IV is out. Kinetic energy is out here as well since you're not going to conserve kinetic energy here since it's going to go up. II is out as well. This leaves us to C and D. This is just one of those foundational concepts of the universe - the Law of Conservation of Matter and the Law of Conservation of Energy Potential energy is just the kind of energy. Total energy III is always conserved. So B is the right answer. [16:05] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep and their full length practice exams. They are the second best to the AAMC, the official makers of the MCAT. So they're right there next in line. Save 10% off any of their exams. Just use the promo code MCATPOD. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep
Feb 28, 2018
82: MCAT Foundational Topic: Chemistry Questions
Session 82 Chemistry is one of the first classes you'll take as a premed and it shows on the MCAT. Today we'll cover some foundational topics related to chemistry. Once again, Bryan of Next Step Test Prep is joining us as always. And by the way, don't forget to check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. This time, we're doing General Chemistry so we're going to the real basics - the atoms and compounds. By basic, it doesn't mean it's easy. These questions can still be tricky. They do require that you have mastered the fundamentals. That said, start by mastering the periodic table. "The MCAT is a mile wide and an inch deep, but you really have to master that inch of depth that it has." [02:20] Molecules and Compounds Question 5: Which of the following statements are true of CO2: It is a molecule. It is a compound. III. Seven moles of it contain 3.5 moles of oxygen When mixed with water, one mole of it yields three ions. Answer choices: (A) I and II (B) I and III (C) I and IV (D) II and IV Bryan's Insights: Remember the definitions and this is true in all of MCAT. Make sure you understand and remember all of the definitions. First, a molecule is anything that's multiple atoms stapled together. So O2 is a molecule. A polymer of esters and a single molecule can be three feet long but that's still a molecule, anytime you stitch atoms together. For CO2, we stitched together three atoms that's a molecule. So I. is correct. A compound is a type of molecule that's multiple so there are different kinds of atoms. O2 is an oxygen is a molecule, but not a compound. It's just oxygen. Whereas CO2 is carbon and oxygen atoms so that's a compound. So II. is also true. So the answer here is (A). And you're done! [04:17] Ionic and Covalent Bonds Question 7: Of these options, the elements that would form a bond with the least ionic character are: (A) N and O (B) B and S (C) H and F (D) Li and N Bryan's Insights: When remembering ionic and covalent molecules, the ionic ones are those that happen when a molecule or atom gives its electron to its neighbor. And then they're held together by electrostatics. So in table salt (NaCl), sodium gives out its electron and becomes Na+ and gives its electron to the Chlorine atom, making a Cl-. And then plus and minus 1, stick together and that's how a table salt sticks together. Covalent, on the other hand, refers to the sharing of electrons. Now the question said least ionic, so mostly kind of covalent. The way to figure this out is looking at where the atoms are situated on the periodic table. Atoms that are far apart, all the way to the left and all the way to the right are going to be more likely to be ionic. And the atoms right next to each other in the periodic table are more likely to be covalent. If they're next to each other and certainly if they're in the same column, then that means they have similar behavior. So when they're together, they're going to want to share. On the MCAT itself, you would have a periodic table, but you should be familiar enough with the periodic table to recognize that as you're reading those answer choices, the very first choice, N and O are right next to each other on the periodic table. So when they form a bond, it is a polar covalent, but still covalent bond which as the least ionic character. When you want to check the periodic table on the MCAT, it's found on the upper right hand corner of the screen. [06:44] Forming a Bond Question 8: A particular element overwhelmingly prefers to form one bond and possess three lone pairs. Which group does this species likely belong in? (A) Group 1 (B) Group 15 (C) Group 17 (D) Group 18 Bryan's Insights: This group would more likely be the halogens. This would be relatively straightforward once you recognize that description of halogens. You can just open the periodic table and look at what group it is and halogens are group 17. [07:44] Next Step Test Prep Don't forget to check out Next Step Test Prep. They're online full length practice exams have just been revamped to match the new user interface that the AAMC and Pearson has ruled out for the MCAT. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media
Feb 21, 2018
81: MCAT Foundational Topic: Biochemistry Broken Down
Session 81 Biochemistry is a foundational topic on the MCAT and we're going to cover some of the foundational pieces of information that you're expected to know on the test. Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep is joining us again to discuss some biochem questions to help students get the score they need. Bryan explains that while the cell is the fundamental thing in Bio, in Biochemistry, the real foundational thing would be proteins and amino acids. Check out all the other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [01:55] Beer's Law Question 2: The absorbents of a protein solution is 3.37. If the concentration of the solution is known to be 4 moles and the path length is 1cm, which value best approximates the extinction coefficient? (A) 0.04 (B) 0.08 (C) 2 (D) 5 Bryan's Insights: 3.37 = extinction coefficient (x) x concentration (4) x path length (1) This is a typical MCAT math where it looks like it's going to be ugly numbers but calculating it, x is just a number a little less than 1. So the 4 goes down to 3.37. In this case, the answer that's a little bit less than 1 is (B). Bryan says that on the MCAT, you can always approximate your answers since you'd notice how far the answer choices are. They usually range the choices from 200-300% bigger or smaller than each other all the way up to tens of thousands of times bigger and smaller than each other. So you only have to get vaguely close. Bryan points out that it's probably better that MCAT does not allow the use of calculator, otherwise, they would require precision in your answer and this can be very challenging. [04:50] Protein Structures Question 3: A particular protein largely lacks both secondary and tertiary structure. Which factor, if any, is responsible for the resting state of the proteins. (A) Entropy (B) Hydrogen bonds between amino acid residues (C) Dipole to dipole interactions (D) None of the above Bryan's Insights: An important thing to notice here is that hydrogen bonds between amino acid residues are important for secondary structure. But the question here says "lacks" secondary structure. Hence, (B) is out. (C) is a classic part of tertiary structure. Again, the question is looking for protein that lacks tertiary structure so this is also out. Now, something has to account for the how the protein settles itself. And the answer is (A). [06:25] Functions of Antibodies and Antigens Question 9: A researcher compares two antibodies that recognize the same antigen even though they're made by different animal species. How will these antibodies differ? (A) The antibodies will have different constant regions. (B) The antibodies will be exactly the same. (C) The antibodies will have entirely distinct variable regions. (D) This situation is impossible. No two antibodies can recognize the same antigen. Bryan's Insights: Remember the constant Y-shape of an antibody and the tips of the very top of the letter is the variable. And at the very tip is the hypervariable region. This is the part that's different from antibody molecule to molecule. And this is actually the part that binds to the antigen. So if you have an antibody being made a cow, a dog, or a person, and all three of those attack the same part of the common cold virus, then they're going to have hypervariable regions that are similar, although not exactly the same. This is because they're all attacking the same antigen. So (C) is out. The constant region is the tail at the bottom of the Y. This is the handle that the rest of the immune system grabs onto. The tips of the end of the Y grab onto the bad thing and the tail of the Y is grabbed onto by your antibody and the rest of your immune system. This is going to be different from species to species, and even from person to person. For instance, you can theoretically take antibodies from one person and then inject them to another person and the antibodies will be recognized as antigens. So the right answer here is (A). [09:54] Enzymes: Competitive vs. Noncompetitive inhibition Question 11: Maxine is reducing ways to reduce the activity of an enzyme implicated in a number of diseases. She's attempting to engineer an antagonist molecule that will competitively inhibit this disease-causing catalyst. Should Maxine create a molecule that most closely resembles: (A) The substrate of the enzyme catalyst reaction (B) The transition state (C) The product (D) The enzyme itself Bryan's Insights: If you want to competitively inhibit a protein, you need to create a fake substrate. Remember that competitive inhibition is that the inhibitor looks like the substrate and slots into the active site and blocks it. Noncompetitive inhibition just binds elsewhere on the enzyme and shuts it down. [12:25] Next Step Test Prep Need help with your MCAT prep? Check out Next Step Test Prep as they have the second best (next to AAMC) full length tests that you can buy to prepare for the MCAT. Save 10% by using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep
Feb 14, 2018
80: What MCAT Score Do I Need if I Have a Low GPA?
Session 80 If your GPA is low, you may have heard that the MCAT might save you if you get a good enough score. Bryan Schnedeker, VP for Content Development at Next Step Test Prep, is again joining us as tackle a common question that comes in about GPA and MCAT score. [01:17] What MCAT score do you need to overcome a low GPA? Medical schools do holistic admissions. They look at everything, not just the numbers. So Bryan says that the correct answer to this questions is that there isn't a single number. Based on AAMC Data Table A-23, you will see an MCAT and GPA grid for applying and accepting students. There's a ton of really good and interesting data there. So don't obsess over it because it's not the end all be all due to the holistic admissions. But the data can help wrap your head around the question. Looking at the table, the acceptance rate at all GPAs and all MCAT scores is listed as 41.9%. This is the baseline. This means that the average premed has 41.9% chance of getting into some medical schools somewhere. Then compare against that baseline average of 42%, what will get you above it? What's an asset? And what will drop you below 42%? What's the detriment? So if you have a 3.0 GPA and you averaged a B, this puts you well behind the running. The GPA slice from 3.0 to 3.19 only has an overall acceptance rate of 15.2%. This really hurts compared to a national average of over 40%, you've only got a 15% chance of getting in. If you want to bring up your chances if you only have a GPA of 3.0-3.10, is get your MCAT to the 514-517 score range. Then the odds of getting in goes up to 41.7%. Interestingly, if they're over 517, it's only 36%. [04:23] Historical Data and the Digital Shredders Please understand that this is historical data. which means that the chart was based on the data for last year. Next year, you may need a 518. So we don't know. Hence, it's really hard to look at this data and conclude on the score you need. Moreover, don't focus on just the score. Obviously, as good as you can get is the answer then make sure that everything else is there as well. As mentioned above, that it's this holistic aspect of the application. But this being said, to get to the holistic admissions part, you need to make sure that you get past the digital shredders, the filters. Schools have filters set up that if you have below a certain GPA or below a certain MCAT score, the school may not look at your application. [06:33] Looking at Your Total GPA Bryan refers to the Next Step data of the next trench down in GPA from 2.99, where the national average for acceptance rate is under 10%. So when you're asking what you have to do to make up for a GPA, then what actually was your total GPA? If for instance, you had a really bad freshman year, dragging your average down to a 2.85, then you need to go back to school. Take a master's program. Get straight A's. Because no matter what your MCAT score, once you drop below 3, the acceptance rate just drops off a cliff. Additionally, medical schools look at whether you have an upward trend. Even if your undergrad GPA still looks terrible, but you have a strong positive trend and you have a good MCAT score and the rest of your application looks great, then that's great. [07:57] Check Out Next Step Test Prep Time and time again, the feedback we get from students is that Next Step Test Prep tutoring, course, and practice tests are all the best test. They feel they're learning better, they're treated better, and the materials are better. Use the promo code MCATPOD upon checkout to save some money. Lastly, keep posted with my new book coming up, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement. Check it out to get notified. Links: AAMC Data Table A-23 Next Step Test Prep The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement
Feb 07, 2018
79: MCAT Foundational Topic: Biology Questions Broken Down
Session 79 We're starting a series of foundational subject material. Each week, we'll cover some foundational topics for each section. This is what you need to know. I am joined every week by Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep. He's the VP for Content Development at Next Step for the MCAT. He knows his stuff. He's got some amazing history on his scores (he gets 525s!). And os his taking his expertise to us to help you crush your MCAT! By the way, check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. Back to the episode today, we discuss some foundational stuff. Bryan adds we're touching the "fundamentals" over the next few weeks. These are questions that get to the real core of the sciences on the MCAT. Specifically today, we're looking into membranes, being one of the most foundational topics in Biology. [03:05] Fluid Mosaic Model Question 03: Of the following statements, which correctly describes the fluid mosaic model? (A) Plasma membranes have a consistent composition and an even distribution of lipids and proteins. (B) Proteins and lipids tend to separate into rafts based on size. (C) Plasma membranes are formed up lipids and proteins that remain virtually motionless in their respective positions. (D) Plasma membranes act as two-dimensional fluids that allow the free diffusion of proteins and lipids within the leaflet. Bryan's insights: For (D), a leaflet is one half of the plasma membrane. And this is the right answer. The fluid part of fluid mosaic means that the proteins can flow around within a given chunk of the cell membrane. Bryan says you can cut corners on the passage, but you've got to read every word of every answer choice when you work on the questions. Again, within the leaflet means within the membrane. A leaflet can either be outward-facing part of the membrane or the inward-facing part of the membrane. So two leaflets make a membrane. [06:25] Fatty Acids and Sterols Question 04: A researcher is attempting to create an artificial cell membrane that retains its fluidity at extremely low temperatures. Which features should he incorporate in this membrane? (A) High levels of unsaturated fatty acids (B) High levels of sterols (C) High levels of saturated fatty acids (D) Both A and B Bryan's Insights: Butter becomes a fat because it's saturated. Olive oil stays a liquid because it's unsaturated. Unsaturated has a little kink in the chain. So instead of a nice, smoothly packing big, long fatty acid chain that can pack up right against another one, unsaturated introduces this fluidity. In this case, the right answer is (D). Cholesterol helps maintain fluidity as well as the unsaturated acids. [07:58] Transmembrane Proteins Question 05: Which of these statements accurately identify a function of transmembrane proteins? They act as receptors for hormones and initiates signal transduction pathways. They allow for transport of charge molecules across the cell membrane. III. They are responsible for the production of the majority of the ATP synthesized in eukaryotic cells. (A) I only (B) III only (C) I and II (D) I, II, and III Bryan's Insights: The right answer is (D). [09:55] Ions and Membranes Question 07: A researcher is investigating the absorption of manganese ions by epithelial cells. After observation, he concluded the manganese is moved into a cell until it reaches a concentration equilibrium. At which point, transport stops. Which of the following can be inferred? (A) Transport is passive and manganese can diffuse through the membrane. (B) Transport is passive and manganese uses a protein channel to pass through the membrane. (C) Transport is active and ATP is required to shove a manganese into a cell. (D) Transport is active and manganese is couple with another ion which moves down its concentration gradient as manganese is carried inward. Bryan's Insights: Remember that ions don't easily pass through cell membranes. And because ions are charged, and cell membranes are nonpolar, so the answer choice (A) is not going to work. Since the question suggest equilibrium, if you're going to actively pump something in a direction, you're going to push it well past the equilibrium position. You're not just going to hit one molar inside or outside. You're going to actively pull it in. But manganese just hits the equilibrium position of even concentration, so the right answer here is (B), passive and uses a protein channel. So make sure you're solid on what sorts of things can just diffuse passively directly through the cell membrane versus what sorts of things need a channel to go through. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media
Jan 31, 2018
78: Get Ready for the New MCAT User Interface Changes
Session 78 With a new testing center, comes new changes to the MCAT user interface. Things won't be drastically different, but we thought you should know as you prepare. We have a new book coming up called The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT. Go to to be notified when it comes out! This book is published with the Next Step Test Prep. This book is the third installment, along with my other books, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview (released in 2017) The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement (coming out in 2018). Meanwhile, check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [01:55] The User Interface Changes on the New MCAT: The Good News Bryan dishes out the good news and bad news to this. Good news: even though change is scary, there's not going to be any surprises. All of the AAMC practice tests, Q Banks, section pack, etc. have all been updated to this new interface looking feel. Students listening to this podcast in January 2018 when this has just happened, you will be able to get a lot of practice in. While for Next Step, they're going to roll out big updates after the January MCAT, to all of their practice tests. So that by Feb. 01, 2018, all of their tests will have the same look and feel as the AAMC. So there are plenty of practice opportunities to familiarize yourself with the new interface. [03:05] The Bad News The bad news, as Bryan says it, is everything else about the User Interface. The basic functions remain the same. You can strike things out, highlight things, navigate back and forth, and through the questions. You can "flag" a question and review  questions you've left blank. When you get to the review screen at the end, you can review all of the questions you flagged. So the actual physical functions have not been changed. For keyword shortcuts, they didn't not add Ctrl F where you can just find stuff. Unfortunately, no. They didn't do that. There was nothing physically about the mechanics has changed at all. The bad news is the actual implementation which is awkward. Bryan describes it as a weird mishmash of having a drop-down menu. You select highlight or remove highlighting or select strike out. You can now strike out and highlight anything, anywhere. It sounds good at first. But it can get in the way if you make a mistake. There is no need to highlight or lowlight in the question. So it's not helpful. The keyboard shortcuts where you can pick CTRL H to add highlighting is a nice addition. Some students have already expressed dissatisfaction with using the new interface. [05:30] You'll Get Used to It It's not really a monumental change. But it's a change. You can just adapt with it very quickly. Bryan encourages students to familiarize themselves with it. If you're taking the January 2018 MCAT, use the official AAMC resources to do so. But if you're preparing for any other MCAT in the future, use either Next Step Test Prep or official AAMC resources to get the hang of it. [06:25] The Reasons Behind the Change Not that this is something students should care about, but the actual company that physically administers the MCAT switched over from being Prometric to Pearson. And the UI update was announced at the same time. Bryan has been to Pearson testing centers and he has taken other Pearson tests. He was surprised that a lot of the icons and color schemes all looked like how Pearson administers the GRE and PCAT. So Bryan suspects this is just the Pearson tech guys working with the AAMC to fold the MCAT into the company's infrastructure. Whether that's true or not, we don't know. [07:30] Next Step Platform's New UI The Next Step platform has rolled out the New UI to go with the new UI from the AAMC and Pearson. If you are taking full-length practice tests, go to Next Step Test Prep. They have ten full-length practice tests. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off their full-length tests. Time and time again, we get feedback from students saying that the Next Step full-length exams are the most accurate. It's second to the AAMC (of course, the gold standard since they're the ones making the exam). Links: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT. Go to MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview (released in 2017) The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement (coming out in 2018) AAMC practice tests
Jan 24, 2018
77: A Grab Bag of MCAT Discrete Questions
Session 77 The MCAT has four sections with a broad variability between sections. This week, we're covering a grab bag of science questions to help you get a better score on the MCAT. Bryan of Next Step Test Prep is joining in to give out his insights as always. Check out MedEd Media to see all of the amazing podcasts we're producing to help you on this journey. [01:30] Embryology Question Question 14: Which of the following structures developed from that mesoderm of the gastrula? Lungs Red blood cells III. Cardiac Muscle (A) II only (B) I and II only (C) II and III only (D) I, II, and III Bryan's Insights: The mesoderm develops all the things related to movement, meaning how the body physically moves around (bones and muscles). So Bryan's mnemonic for this is the "move-o-derm." Additionally this also develops how you move things around inside your body. Ex.circulatory system Not only does the mesoderm moves things around your body is that it also gives you the motivation to move. Ex. urinary system and the gonads Lungs would be from the endoderm. Endoderm means inside. So if you can't remember and it's an internal organ, just guess endoderm. So the right answer here is (C), which are both part of the circulatory system. [04:28] Psychology Question Question 13: One of Janis's 8 characteristics of Groupthink is self-censorship, the withholding of opposing information by group members. It's brought on by another one of Janis's characteristics, the pressure for conformity, which encourages uniformity of opinion and characterizes deviation from the group as disloyal. This self-censorship in the face of pressure and perceived loyalty is most similar to: (A) Deindividuation (B) Cognitive dissonance (C) Repression (D) Sublimation Bryan's Insights: The correct answer here is (A), which means losing that sense of self and behaving in a group in a way that you never would by yourself. This is what people tend to do in Groupthink. They start altering the way the behave in a way they never would if they were on their own. Repression and sublimation are ego defense mechanisms. They don't have anything to do with the group. While cognitive dissonance is the unpleasant sensation of behaving in a way that is out of line with your other behaviors or beliefs. Or that you have a belief that is not aligned with your other belief. Although someone in a group may experience cognitive dissonance, nothing in the question though described conflicting beliefs. [06:34] Nucleotides vs. Nucleosides Question 45: GTP is best classified as a member of which class of biological molecules? (A) Amino acids (B) Peptides (C) Nucleotides (D) Nucleic Acids Bryan's Insights: GTP stands for guanosine triphosphate. Nucleic acid is a polymer so you'd have to have multiple units. So by itself, it's not a nucleic acid. Rather, it's a nucleotide, which is the base polymer unit. Remember the difference between a nucleotide and a nucleoside. Guanosine itself (sugar + nitrogenous base) is a nucleoside. As soon as you start tagging on phosphates, it becomes a nucleotide. (Ex. GTP, ATP, CTP, UTP) On the other hand, peptide is a polymer of amino acids. It's just a fancy way of saying protein. [08:45] Share This Podcast! Share this podcast with a friend, neighbor, advisor, and let them know about this podcast. As what we always say on The Premed Years Podcast, "collaboration, not competition." Links: MedEd Media The Premed Years Podcast Next Step Test Prep
Jan 17, 2018
76: Breaking Down Sociology MCAT Discrete Questions
Session 76 Today, we're covering some sociology MCAT questions looking at specific definitions that you need to know to help you get the best score possible on the MCAT. Sociology is one of the hardest ones on the MCAT because they're so nit-picky on the details of those words, definitions, and everything else. Also, go check out all our other amazing podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [01:10] All About -Isms Question 29: Researchers use a symptom list similar to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders in order to diagnose psychiatric disorders and screen incompatible subjects from a study. When comparing data from previous studies, it was discovered that the symptoms on the most recent DSM differ from the symptoms on the previous list. Which of the following social theories best explains this discrepancy? (A) Social functionalism (B) Social interactionism (C) Social antipositivism (D) Social constructionism Bryan's Insights: Ryan takes a random guess and he goes with (D) just because it seems right. ANd this is correct. Bryan further explains that social constructionism is the idea where we socially construct our concepts, categories, and definitions, rather than being objective facts or something you individually makeup. It's like "we" as a society construct xyz. In this case, what's being socially constructed is our notion of mental wellness or illness. And so if the symptoms can change form addition to the next, then that tells you there's not some objectively correct definition of, say, schizophrenia. Rather, we as a society construct the definition of schizophrenia. So it can change from book to book. Functionalism is how large scale social structures interact in a functional way. An example of this is how the police force interacts with legal system. Interactionism is the the idea that individual people interacting is the core substratum that makes up society. Social terms are defined by interactions happening between individuals. Positivism is the notion of how science investigates the world. so antipositivism is the idea that sociology in some sense is not a science. Or not a "science" in the same way that physics is a science. [04:35] A Professionalism Issue Question 44: When medical faculty members engage in unprofessional behavior towards the patient or a student. What type of norm do they violate? (A) Edicts (B) Laws (C) Folkways (D) Mores Bryan's Insights: Ryan's guess is (A). Bryan explains that an edict is a proclamation from an authority figure. For example, the king gives out an edict, or Congress. Being unprofessional towards a patient, however, is not a violation of an edict. Laws are laws obviously which are the written laws. In this case, they might be doing something illegal. But the question doesn't really explicitly describe anything illegal. Folkways are normal everyday interactions like shaking hands with your right hand. Or when you stand in an elevator, you face the doors. Mores are defined as a moral or ethical behavior. And this is the right answer. Also, folkways are way too minor to be considered a professionalism issue. Mores tell you the difference between right and wrong. Folkways tell you the difference between right and rude. [07:02] All About Rates Question 47: Many sociologists predict that cardiovascular disease will affect a larger proportion of the population as the average age of a U.S. citizen increases. This statistic of cardiovascular rates per 1000 people is known as the: (A) Sufferance rate (B) Mortality rate (C) Incidence rate (D) Appearance rate Bryan's Insights. Ryan's guess is (C) and he's correct. The question only mentions cardiovascular disease and didn't mention any fatality. So it's not mortality. Students have to know the difference between morbidity and mortality. The former is the appearance of the disease whereas as the latter is it kills you. Sufferance rate and appearance rates are not actual public health terms in the context of MCAT. Prevalance is how much of it is out there while incidence is how many new cases per 1000. [08:37] About Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep is known for their one-on-one tutoring and they've grown now to having a course and books. But if you're looking at an MCAT course, taking it at big name companies would usually cost $2500 for an in-person or online course. This means you're being taught along with a group of people. If you want to maximize your score, for only a couple hundred dollars more, you get a one-on-one tutor from Next Step Test Prep. Plus, save some money using the promo code MCATPOD. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media Network
Jan 10, 2018
75: MCAT Biochem Discretes - beta-oxidation, Krebs cycle & more
Session 75 Cellular respiration, beta-oxidation and some Krebs cycle problems are the topics covered on the MCAT Podcast today. Come learn along and crush your MCAT! If you're a nontraditional student, check out The OldPreMeds Podcast. This week, Ryan and Bryan from Next Step Test Prep dive into some biochemistry questions. First, they're going to look into the theme around metabolism. A lot of biochem on the MCAT overlaps with Biology, this is one of the areas where the lines between the two get pretty fuzzy. [01:30] Voltage and Electrical Reduction Question 15: Given the role of the reaction in cellular respiration, what is the most likely standard electrical reduction value for the reduction of oxygen to water? (A) +0.02 (B) +0.82 (C) -0.02 (D) -0.82 Bryan's Insights: The positive voltage is a favorable thing. When you think about batteries, for example, you have a 9-volt batter, not a negative 9-volt battery. It's a large positive number that shows a favorable chemical reaction. Inside that 9-volt battery. some chemistry is going on that's producing 9 volts. In this case, remember that metabolism starts with oxygen which you breathe in and ends with water, which you sweat, breathe, or pee out. So oxygen to water has to be a favorable thing. It has to something that wants to happen on a chemical level. So you know the answer has to be one of the positive numbers. Then the answer has to be either (A) or (B). And because it's the very end of the process, the way the body changes to get multiple reactions is going towards more and more favorable reactions. Hence, the answer here is (B) since it has the biggest most positive voltage here. Bryan says you have to recognize oxygen to water as the final step of metabolism. From that alone, you can pick either, answer choices (B) or (D), thinking you need an extreme answer. So it's either the biggest positive or the biggest negative even if you couldn't remember the rule about the General Chemistry underlying it. [04:35] Fat Oxidation Question 30: Each cycle of mitochondrial beta oxidation liberates a 2-Carbon Acetyl-CoA unit, as well as which, if any other molecule/s: (A) NADH and FADH2 (B) NADH only (C) FADH2 only (D) Neither NADH nor FADH2 Bryan's Insights: Ryan's guess is answer choice (C) as something that stands out for him. The correct answer here is (A). This is a pure memorization question for the students. You need to know the key metabolic pathways including glycolysis and the Krebs cycle and beta oxidation to burn fat. And then when you have an even numbered carbon fatty acid, the standard beta oxidation cycle applies. You just chop two carbons off the very tail end of the molecule. And in the process of doing that, you get and NADH and FADH2. [07:00] Mitochondrial Function Question 46: DCCD is a chemical that blocks the proton pore of ATP synthase. If treated with DCCD, which of the following is most likely to decrease in the actively respiring mitochondrion in an adult rat cardiac cell? (A) H+ concentration in the internal membrane space (B) ADP concentration in the matrix (C) Oxygen consumption (D) The chemiosmotic gradient across the inner membrane Bryan's Insights: Thinking about the mitochondrial function, there's the electron transport chain and how it works. What happens if you plugged up the end of the pipe? You block the proton pore at the end in the ATP synthase. Remember that ATP synthase is actually the molecule that uses oxygen. If you clog that pipe, it doesn't work anymore so you're not going to consume any oxygen. Hence, oxygen consumption decreases. On the other the electron chain pumps protons into the membrane space. And that's going to go up a lot because you blocked the pipe. And because you blocked that at the end, you can't take those ADPs and ramp them up to ATP. So the ADP just builds up. The chemiosmotic gradient also increases because it's the same thing as (A). If the proton concentration gradient in the internal membrane space is building up, then the overall gradient is building up. [10:30] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking for a full-length MCAT practice test, check out Next Step Test Prep. Based on students' feedback Ryan has heard is that Next Step's full-length tests are the most realistic scoring-wise to their real test. Buy up to ten full-length exams from Next Step and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep The OldPreMeds Podcast
Jan 03, 2018
74: MCAT Psychology Discrete Questions - Groupthink and more
Groupthink, some physiology, and personality traits are some of the topics we covered in this MCAT podcast session. Check it out and don't forget to subscribe.
Dec 27, 2017
73: MCAT Biology Discrete Questions - Acetyl-CoA and more
Session 73 Hypoglycemia, the electron transport chain, and beta-oxidation are the subjects covered by Ryan and Bryan on this episode. [01:02] Hyploglycemia Question 16: Which of the following is the most plausible explanation for a patient experiencing hypoglycemia? (A) Accidental self injection of excess insulin (B) Increased gluconeogenesis (C) A four-hour fast following a carbohydrate-rich meal (D) Increased rate of glycogenolysis Bryan's Insights: Ryan goes through is thought process until arriving at answer choice (A) which is the right answer and the right thought process. The correct answer here is (A) since all the other choices involve putting sugar into your blood, whether you're making it directly by breaking down the glycogen to make it or just by eating a bunch of carbs. The MCAT can have "tricky" questions. They can be subtle, but there's never trick questions. They're not out to fool you. So the right answer is always going to stand out in some categorical way or for some categorical reason. In this case, categorically, three of the four answer choices would raise the blood sugar. [04:00] Fat Oxidation Question 17: In a metabolic analysis experiment, researchers subjected fatty acid samples to beta oxidation max spec performed on the resulting products would reveal: (A) Glucose (B) Acetyl-CoA (C) Pyruvate (D) Succinate Bryan's Insights: Ryan guesses (B) and it's the right answer. What Bryan usually tells students is if they're not sure about biometabolism question is that it's not bad to guess Acetyl-CoA. Because it's the taxi cab of the metabolism system. It's that two carbon group that shuttles energy around in all sorts of different processes. Beta oxidation is burning fat and making Acetyl-CoA which can be used for energy. All the other choices, glucose and pyruvate are part of carbohydrate metabolism, not fat. And succinate is part of the Krebs Cycle. So it's not directly part of fat metabolism. [05:33] All About Electrons and Reduction Potential Question 27: In what order do electrons move through the ETC (Electron Transport Chain)? (A) From carriers with lower reduction potential to carriers with higher reduction potential (B) From carriers with higher reduction potential to carriers with lower reduction potential (C) From carriers with stronger proton binding capacity to carriers with weaker proton finding capacity (D) From carriers with weaker proton binding capacity to carriers with stronger proton binding capacity Bryan's Insights: Start with the electron transport chain. So there are two answer choices here (C and D) that don't make any sense - proton binding capacity. It's not the proton transport chain we're talking about here but the electron transport chain. Reduction potential means that the more positive, the more favorable it is. Reduction potential is how much something wants to be reduced. How desperately does it grab onto electrons? So if you have a really high reduction potential, really big positive number, that means you really want to be reduced. You want electrons. The electron transport chain basically starts out with electrons with really high energy. So you can stick them on a molecule that doesn't have much in the way of reduction potential. It doesn't really want the electrons. It's like a sponge that's not very absorbed. But those electrons are so high energy that they can just plug it right on there. And since you're passing those electrons from one molecule to the next, and in each step along the way, the next molecule down the line really wants those electrons more than the guy in front of them. So you go to higher and higher reduction potentials as you go down the chain. So answer choice (A) is the right answer here. Hence, the reduction potential is the level of electron attractiveness. [09:10] Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep has just updated their MCAT scheduling software inside of their course to better help you figure out how to schedule your MCAT studying. It's part of their course that includes over 100 hours of videos, live office hours five days a week, access to all of their practice tests, the AAMC material, and books. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on them. Stay tuned next week for some Psychology questions! Links: Next Step Test Prep
Dec 20, 2017
72: How Do I Remember Material I Studied Four Months Ago?
Session 72 When you study for the MCAT, your schedule usually stretches out over several months. How do you make sure that you remember all of content you studied? Also, check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. Listen to The Premed Years Podcast to help you on your premed journey as well as our newest podcast, Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A. [01:25] Strategies for Long-Term Retention Bryan from Next Step Test Prep dishes out some strategies to help you prepare. First, learn the information of course. "You can't retain it for the first six months if you can't retain it for the first six days." One strategy for long-term retention is to make sure you're learning it the right way at the beginning. Learn it through connections and context in the real brain-friendly way, which means learn things the way your brain learns things. Isolate independent facts such as repetition flashcards may not be very good for MCAT memorization. This is so, as Bryan explains it, because you'll run into exactly the problem they're asking about. You'll learn it for a day or two. This is fine if you just had to spit the fact up on a final exam the next day. But for the MCAT, you would have to retain it for months. So you wouldn't just memorize some single random fact. For example, you learn that "reduction is the gain of electrons" on a single flashcard. Instead, you have to build the whole context of how does redox chemistry work. You would learn it in a way and learn it so well that if someone just gave you a chalkboard and a piece of chalk, you could give a 15-min lecture just off the top of your head. So it's not just a single fact, but a whole series of connected facts. "Ultimately, that is what our brain is good at - connections between ideas." [03:17] Build a Review Day for Repetition So if you want to remember it for the first six months of your prep, first learn it the right way. The second thing is that you have to be willing to invest the time and effort in the repetition and reinforcement. There's that curve of forgetting where you initially learn some information and then your retention drops off almost instantly. MCAT students often freak out about the stress and how much they have to do that they always want to rush things ahead. It's always about the next thing. What Bryan does with the students he's working with is build one day a week for review day. One day, every single week, you are literally doing nothing new. No new chapters, no new tests, no new facts, no new anything. Your only job all day is to just repeat the information from the past week and to review your notes from earlier weeks. "From the get-go, build in a review day every week so you can just have that repetition, have that repetition, have that repetition." [05:11] Create Artificial Connections Next week's episode on The Premed Years Podcast (episode 265), our guest is Luis Angel, who is a world-class memory master. He's going to share about how to retain information. So be sure to check it out once it's published. Bryan adds that what these people who can memorize a deck of cards so fast is that they create these artificial connections. They memorize certain funny connections. Then when they open a deck of cards up, if it's those three cards are in order, they will then create a story in their head. So it becomes so much easier to remember. So if you could give a 15-min lecture off the top of your head and tell the story of say, how redox chemistry works, then you know that you know it. Not just if you can spew out some random fact. [06:50] Listen to The Premed Years Podcast Episode 265 Again, stay tuned for Episode 265 of The Premed Years Podcast where I will be having Luis Angel, a world-class memory master. If you have struggles with memorizing and remembering things, be sure to take a listen. Links: MedEd Media The Premed Years Podcast Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A Next Step Test Prep
Dec 13, 2017
71: More Biology Questions Broken Down for the MCAT
Session 71 Biology infiltrates a lot of different areas of the MCAT, so you need to be prepared for it. We break down some biology discrete questions today to help you! If you're in the California area, try to make it to the UC Davis Prehealth Conference. They are huge so try be there next year if you can. Surprisingly, a feedback I got from the students there was that they love listening to us discussing questions. So we want to give what students want and we're doing some biology discrete questions today. Also, check out all the other podcasts at MedEd Media. Lastly, don't forget to check out Next Step Test Prep if you need some help with your MCAT prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Back to today’s podcast... [01:55] Vitamins Are Important Question 11: Many vitamins are cofactors which are important in the proper functioning of: (A) Glycolipids (B) Phospholipids (C) Proteins (D) Glycoproteins Bryan's Insights: Why are vitamins so important? And cofactors are important for the functioning of the enzymes. Vitamins, themselves, are helper molecules. They help out our enzymes to do their jobs. And the enzymes are proteins. Therefore, the right answer is (C). [03:00] Let's Talk about the CNS! Question 57: All of the following are glia in the central nervous system, except: (A) Oligodendrocytes (B) Astrocytes (C) Ependymal cells (D) Schwann cells Bryan's Insights: Schwann cells are the myelinating cells in the peripheral nervous system. This is the correct answer since all the others are in the central nervous system. Oligodendrocytes are myelinating cells in the CNS. Astrocytes are supporting cells. Ependymal cells make cerebrospinal fluid. You have to recognize that glia is a foreign word for glue. So it's the glue that holds the central nervous system together. Most MCAT books will have a list of all the glial cells and what they do. So you have to know them. Well-prepared MCAT students should be able to recognize these. [04:48] Sperm Issues Question 58: In cases of azoospermia, the lack of sperm generation, most likely results directly from exogenous suppression of which hormone? (A) FSH (B) LH (C) GNRH (D) Somatotropin Bryan's Insights: The correct answer here is (A). FSH is Follicle Stimulating Hormone. It helps germ cells mature. MCAT students spend a bunch of time memorizing the hormone cascade of the menstrual cycle. It's a popular topic for questions on the MCAT. Bryan says it's just complicated enough to be able to scare you. But once you understand how all the pieces go together, you'd realize it makes sense. Having said that, you can't ignore them. You have to recognize that FSH is not just maturing ova but it's maturing sperm as well. So an issue with the sperm is an issue with FSH. LH is Luteinizing Hormone that causes ovulation. It also helps produce testosterone in the male. GNRH is the tropic hormone that causes FSH and LH to be released. Somatotropin is just a fancy name for growth hormone. So it's not directly related to primary sexual characteristics like maturing germ cells. [06:52] One Step at a Time When analyzing multiple steps such as the above and things like intracellular cascades of signalling molecules or endocrine cascades or metabolic pathways, only go one step at a time. Go to the next step in the process or one step back in the process. Look if it's the answer. If yes, then done. Don't go four steps away or even two steps away if you don't have to. [07:25] Vitamins, Again Question 59: An experimental drug designed to prevent capsular contracture around medical implants works by sequestering a co-factor required for collagen synthesis. Which co-factor is the most likely target for this drug? (A) Vitamin A (B) Vitamin B1 (C) Vitamin C (D) Vitamin D Bryan's Insights: Lack of Vitamin C causes scurvey. Vitamin C is very important for connective tissue, specifically collagen. If you targeted Vitamin C, that would affect collagen manufacture, maintenance, and so on. You're not expected to know everything that vitamins do in the body. But you should know some basics. Vitamin A has immune function and is involved in cell growth, especially epithelial cell growth and maintenance. Vitamin B1, Thiamine, is associated with metabolism. The MCAT fact that tends to crop up a lot is thiamine deficiency which is most commonly seen in the first world and severe cases of alcoholism. This results to Korsakoff Syndrome, characterized by memory derangement and language problems. Vitamin D is primarily associated with being generated by UV light hitting your skin. That's where we get the final form of Vitamin D made. It's primarily associated with proper calcium absorption in the intestines. So we put Vitamin D in milk to allow better calcium absorption. The MCAT is an inch deep and a mile wide. So when you're studying, know a little bit about it. Don't memorize everything about every pathway of each vitamin. [10:19] Next Step Test Prep Again, don't forget to check out Next Step Test Prep. If you're looking for the premier way to study for the MCAT, get their one-on-one tutoring. It's the best and only way I recommend if you want the best MCAT prep. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep UC Davis Prehealth Conference
Dec 06, 2017
70: Breaking Down Discrete MCAT Chemistry Questions
Session 70 Chemistry on the MCAT is hard for a lot of premed students. Today, I and Bryan of Next Step Test Prep will go over some chemistry questions and break down each of them to give you a head start. [01:20] Amino Acids Question 10: At pH 7.3, what is the bond order of the shortest bond to Oxygen in Glycine? Bryan's Insights: You should recognize that pH where 7.3 to 7.5 is the physiological pH. Glycine is an amino acid. A physiological pH acid exists as zwitterions. The amino part is positively charged, NH3+. And the acid part is negatively charged, COO-. This is the memorization side of it. Then you have to apply what you know about resident structures. The acid part of an amino acid is usually drawn as carbon double bonded to oxygen with another single bond to an O-. The potential trap here is just immediately picking two, that the strongest and shortest bond is a double bond (C=O). But you want to remember that COO- exists as a resident structure. So the single and the double bonds are actually residents with each other so the bond order is 1.5. In fact, that's the only bond between carbon and oxygen in Glycine. So 1.5 would have to be the right answer whether they ask for the shortest or the longest. Bryan recommends that what you do with flashcards and study sheets for amino acids is draw the physiological pH. But in the end all that really matters is consistency. As long as you're studying the same way every time and know the underlying principles, you'll be okay. [04:05] Lab Techniques Question 30: Commercial preparations of the compound Captopril requires that it be separated from its enantiomer. Which of the following techniques would best accomplish this? (A) Fractional distillation (B) Thin layer chromatography (C) Chiral resolution (D) Recrystallization Bryan's Insights: This is a question around lab techniques which are very important for the MCAT. So you have to know how all of these separate various molecules. Fractional distillation is based on boiling point like all distillation. Thin layer chromatography is based on polarity whether something likes to stick to the stationary phase or move along with the mobile phase. Chiral resolution has something to do with isomers pulling them apart. And recrystallization has to do with solubility. This could be crystallization at the bottom of the beaker or it stays dissolved. In this case, you're separating enantiomers, a particular kind of isomer. Chiral resolution, therefore, is how you would separate them. [05:54] Ideal Gas Assumptions Question 57: Which of the following is not a characteristic of an ideal gas? (A) The average kinetic energy of the gas sample depends on the mass of the molecules. (B) Collisions between gas molecules are elastic. (C) There are no attractive and repulsive forces between gas molecules. (D) Gas particles have a volume of zero. Bryan's Insights: My guess here is that gas in a volume of zero just sounds weird to me so I would pick that one. Bryan explains that (D) is an assumption of ideal gas. You'd assume that the molecules themselves have no size. So when the gas is filling up the balloon or the beaker, all of that space is just filled with the space between the molecules. In this case, the ideal gas law just have some basic assumptions. So the answer choices B, C, and D are three of the big classic assumptions that the gas molecules have no forces on each other. Either attractive or repulsive, they take up no size. And that any collisions are perfectly elastic. The ideal gas law assumes that the gas particles are these perfectly spherical little ping pong balls bouncing off each other perfectly elastically. The ping-pong balls themselves take up no space. So it seems a little silly but useful assumptions about the gas molecules themselves. So if you're not sure about kinetic energy and you couldn't remember the equation for that, just set aside (A) for a moment. And see if all the others are ideal gas assumptions. Then come back to A, which is the right answer. [08:30] Next Step Test Prep Next week, we talk about biology questions. Meanwhile, share this podcast to your friends, classmates, and everyone. Also, check out Next Step Test Prep's MCAT course. They're known for their one-on-one tutoring. If you're looking for a course and want a more "classroom" environment where you want to do it at your own pace, go check out their online course. It includes 100 hours of videos and a custom MCAT scheduling generator. Plug in all the information and their tool will give you the schedule you need to maximize your score. You also get live office hours every week and get to talk to their amazing tutors. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money! Links: Next Step Test Prep online course
Nov 29, 2017
69: More Physics MCAT Questions Broken Down for You
Session 69 Today, I am once again joined by Bryan of Next Step Test Prep, as we take a grab bag of physics questions and break them down to help you on your MCAT journey! Don't forget to share this with your classmates. Check out all of our other podcasts on MedEd Media. And if you need help with your MCAT prep, go check out Next Step Test Prep. Use MCATPOD to save 10% off their package. [01:43] Isotope Decay Question 27: Following radioisotope-aided imaging, the isotope 99-TC decays to a 99-RU, and it's cleared by the kidneys. What particle is ejected during the additional decay step? (A) An electron (B) A positron (C) A gamma photon (D) An alpha particle Bryan's Insights: This is one where you have to recall each of the answer choices what their mass and charge are. In this case, the mass didn't change. The TC and RU both have a mass of 99. This means we can't be ejecting anything with mass. Basic conservation of mass says that alpha particle (answer choice D) is the wrong answer. An alpha particle has a mass of 4. And if you shoot out something that has a mass of 4, you would have to go from 99 down to 95. Next, a photon has no mass and no charge. It means that when a radioactive element undergoes gamma decay, it doesn't change its mass or its number of protons. You would have to go from 99-TA to 99-TA in order to eject the gamma ray. Think of all the protons and neutrons that make up the element. They're jumbling around into a lower energy state. None of the blocks go anywhere but they release a whole lot of noise when they collapse.It's just like a Jenga tower! So in gamma decay, the nucleons jostle around a lot and settle into a more stable environment. Then that jostling around shoots out a gamma particle. In this question, it went from TA to RU. So something changed. The number of protons changed. So (C) is also out. Now, it's between an electron and a positron. But you would need a periodic table to make the final determination between the two. For the purposes of answering it here (since you would have a periodic table on test day), TA has 43 protons and RU is element 44 so it has 44 protons. To get an additional proton, you would have to shoot out a negative charge. Take away a negative and the guy that gets left behind is more positive as a result. So in this case, the answer is an electron or a beta minus particle. [05:10] Unit Conversion Knowledge Question 28: The inner mitochondrial membrane has a thickness of 5 nanometers and an average membrane potential of 150 millivolts. What's the magnitude of the electric field across the mitochondrial membrane in these cells? (A) 3 times 10-2 volt per meter (B) 3 times 104 volt per meter (C) 3 times 107 volt per meter (D) 3 times 1010 volt per meter Bryan's Insights: This question illustrates an important principle when it comes to math on the MCAT. People tend to freak out about calculations and equations. But when in doubt, you can kind of side your way up to the right answer. In this case, the units for every answer choice is volt per meter. And when you look at the question, it says 150 millivolts and 5 nanometers. So there was a volt and a meter. The units in the answer choices imply that you just divide the volts per the meter. Is it really that simple? Bryan says it is. "There's no such thing as a trick question on the MCAT." The MCAT can be subtle but it's not actually out to trick you. So just read the exact wording on the screen. Read the exact wording on the answer choice. So here, you have to know your exponents. Milli is 10-3 and nano is 10-9. Remember that when a negative exponent is in the denominator, you minus a negative so it's becoming a positive. So 10-3 minus 10-9 becomes 106. So in this case, answer choice (C) is close enough so you'd already have the right answer. [08:07] Let's Talk About Pressure Question 44: Turbulent flow in humans is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis, the build up of plaque on arterial endothelium. Ignoring any potential effects of turbulence, what effect would atherosclerosis have on blood flow? (A) Narrowing of the artery causes the velocity to increase and the hydrostatic pressure to decrease. (B) Narrowing of the artery causes the velocity to increase and the osmotic pressure to decrease. (C) Narrowing of the artery causes the velocity to decrease and the hydrostatic pressure to decrease. (D) Expansion of the artery causes the velocity to decrease and the hydrostatic pressure to increase. Bryan's Insights: A couple of weeks ago, we did an interview on The Premed Years Podcast with Dr. King Li, the Dean of Carle Illinois College of Medicine. It's an engineering-based medical school. It's interesting how he described how they're going to teach the curriculum. They're not adding a ton of stuff. They're just teaching it differently. He gave a specific example of plaque buildup. Instead of just memorizing what happens with plaque, you go into an engineering model of what exactly happens. Bryan explains that the answer is (A). Osmotic pressure implies that the blood is getting more concentrated. Osmotic pressure relates to the number of solutes dissolved in the blood. There's no reason to think that based on the simplified model that the question is proposing. Fluid flowing through a narrower straw doesn't make the fluid saltier. So you can start by eliminating (B) saying that in order to change the osmotic pressure of the blood, you'd have to sweating more or drinking more water. You have to be doing something with your fluid balance to change it. Now we're left with A. When fluids move faster, they exert less pressure on the walls of the container. The classic example of this is the simplified model of a paper airplane. Where you tape a paper over a pencil and blow it across the top. Because the air is moving faster across the top, you an get the little paper wing to swing upwards. There's less pressure on top. Or another example is the shower curtain. The warm shower heats up the air so the air moves up and out of the shower. So it's a combination of both movement of air passed through the curtain lowers the pressure. This cause the curtain to swing in. And it's the physical movement of the air by convection. [12:55] Final Thoughts I spoke to five premed clubs the week before this has been recorded. And out of five, one had three students who knew about the podcast. And if you're part of a premed club and you're not emailing or posting in your Facebook group or on Twitter to your club members, you are doing them a disservice. So go let them know about this podcast. Also, check out what Next Step Test Prep has to offer you on your MCAT prep journey. One of the biggest mistakes students make is not taking enough practice tests. And, they're not reviewing the practice tests properly. Don't fall into that same trap. Check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off their package. Links: MedEd Media The Premed Years Podcast Episode 256: A Look at Carle Illinois College of Medicine with Dean Li Next Step Test Prep
Nov 22, 2017
68: Breaking Down MCAT Psych/Soc Discrete Questions
Session 68 Psychology and sociology can be sneaky hard on MCAT as it turns out to be one of the hardest sections on the MCAT. As always, I am joined today by Bryan Schnedeker of Next Step Test Prep. Follow along with us and tell your friends about the podcast and what you've learned. We have a new book coming out called The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT. This is the second book in the series. (My first book is The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview). I just got word from our editor and we're hoping to have it out soon. Go to and register there. Sign up to get notified when the book goes live. [02:15] Psych/Soc Is Your Dessert on the MCAT Over the past couple of years, this has become one of Bryan's favorites because he finds it easy. However, this turns out to be one of those sections many students are struggling with. And since Bryan also finds this easy to teach, students can really benefit from all the tips and strategies that will be shared here. [03:11] Take a Guess, Trust Your Instinct Question 10: A Sociologist investigating the efficacy of a newly implemented breast cancer screening tool and how it has impacted healthcare delivery for all women in the country would best achieve this goal by conducting a: (A) Repertory Grid Test (B) Weber Test (C) Cochrane Review (D) Power Analysis Bryan's Insights: I guessed it right this time since it's the only choice that I've heard of. The right answer here is C. Bryan explains a Cochrane Review is just a way of doing a systematic review of primary research in health care. Bryan adds that MCAT students should trust their instincts. If something looks familiar to you, it's probably because you saw it while you were prepping. So it's more likely to be the right answer. Whereas if something is really mystifying. It doesn't mean it's wrong but it's a strike against an answer choice. Okay, so what my gut was telling me was that this is the only one I've heard of and I don't want to waste any time so I'm just going to go with this. Bryan says you have to answer every question. At some point, you need some sort of a rationale. And then you just keep moving even if the rationale is shaky. This is the tenth question and there are still other more questions to do so you've got to keep moving. I also want to add that there's no reason not to leave a blank one because you're not marked for wrong answers. Bryan says blank is wrong so you might as well take a guess. Just a quick run through of the answer choices though. The repertory grid test is an individual psychology test which is sort of a personality assessment. A Weber Test is where you play a noise in each ear at the same time. Then ask the person which is louder. This is a way to test if someone's got unilateral hearing or hearing degradation. And Power Analysis is a statistics test which you do before the study to figure out your sample size you need. [06:18] Native- versus Foreign-Born Doctors Question 11: In the last ten years, the number of practicing doctors in the U.S. who went to medical school in a foreign country has increased at twice the rate of the number of native doctors has increased. The difference in growth is most closely related to which demographic phenomenon? (A) Increasing urbanization (B) Demographic transition (C) Globalization (D) Falling fertility rates Bryan's Insights: I'm taking a guess and I'm choosing (C) since more people are moving around and their travel to the U.S. used to be easier. And this happens to be the correct answer. Bryan explains that the question didn't say anything about urban versus rural. It just said native-born and foreign-born doctors. So it's not (A). Demographic transition is a very specific thing. You start off as a third world country with high rates of birth and death and then you move to Stage Two where death rates fall of with better care of infants. And then you move to Stage Three where birth rates fall off as well. With higher socio-economic status and more education, women tend to delay child birth. And Stage Four is the classic American, Western, European, and Japan model with both very low birth and death rates. So this has nothing to do with foreign versus domestic. Lastly, fertility rates falling wouldn't make sense since the question says increasing rates. [09:05] Let’s Talk About Groups Question 12: Veterans are typically incredibly supportive of and loyal to others who have served. Most take pride in belonging to a group dedicated to the protection of the U.S. even if they're no longer serving. And they're happy to be lifelong members of the Armed Forces. This version of self identity best fits which category? (A) Reference group (B) Outgroup (C) Secondary group (D) Ingroup Bryan's Insights: I'm taking a guess once again and as a former member of the Armed Forces, there's only one thing that I recognize here and that's Reference Group. Unfortunately, I didn't get this right this time. Bryan explains this is a classic in Psych and Sociology where you get this jumble of words. All of which sound similar and kind of sound conversational English words. They don't sound super technical. But they do have technical meanings which have very specific definitions. A reference group is a group that sets certain norms against which you compare yourself. There's nothing in the question about comparing yourself with other veterans. The classic example is knowing how much your salary should be by comparing yourself to your coworkers. In this case, other people who have a similar job is your reference group. An outgroup is just a way of saying "the other," which is a group you do not identify with. Any group you think you're not a member of is an outgroup. In this question, it's about belonging to the group so it's the opposite and that would be answer choice (D). An ingroup is any group that you define yourself as a member of. This could be everything from very small groups (siblings) all the way to a group that includes millions or even tens of millions. So anything you identify with is a member of your group. [11:48] Differentiating Primary Group and Secondary Group The secondary group is different from a primary group. Primary groups are long-lasting, emotionally intimate, and they tend to be formed for your whole life and not for a specific purpose. The classic example is your family. It wasn't formed to achieve a particular purpose. It lasts your whole life. There's bonds of emotional support and trust there. On the other hand, a secondary group tends to be large, transient, and only formed for a specific purpose. The classic example would be your co-workers at your part-time job while you're in college. You work at Starbucks and the group of employees there was formed for one purpose - serving overpriced coffee. You're not emotionally intimate with those people and you only work there a couple of years. In this case, your military unit could be seen as a secondary group. Or it can be a primary group that could last a long time. But the key thing here between primary and secondary is that the question explicitly says that they take pride in belonging to the group. And they see that being a veteran is a lifelong label for them. So the world "lifelong" is your clue. It's not a transient secondary group so something is not right. So answer choice (C) is not the right answer. [13:40] Dispositional Attributions Question 13: Which of the following statements represents an environmental attribution with respect to a driver's failure to stop at a red light? (A) The driver believes that they are too important to be delayed. (B) The driver is a reckless person. (C) The driver is generally rude to others. (D) The driver is rushing to visit an injured spouse in the hospital. Bryan's Insights: How analyze this is that the answer hinges on the environmental attribution. And to me, environmental is outside of the person. A driver believing is not outside so is the driver being reckless as well as the driver being rude. So I would choose (D) here. And I got correct! Bryan explains this is called a dispositional attribution. A person is just disposed to behave a certain way. And when you think of attribution theory, the reasons we explain to ourselves about why people do what they do is because of this certain disposition. And then there's environmental, which is not about the person. This means "he did this because in this case..." [15:15] Get Notified Once Our New Book Is Out! Once again, go check out Register and sign up to get notified when The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT comes out. It will be on sale when we release it. It's taken for Next Step's books with some strategies and passages. It offers a ton of information about how to properly prepare and plan for the MCAT. This will not replace your Next Step book or whatever books you have. This will help you plan all out so that you're not just cramming out all the content in your face. And so that you won't forget about all the small details that will help you get the best score possible. Links: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview Next Step Test Prep
Nov 15, 2017
67: The AAMC Has Released Another Scored MCAT Full-Length!
Session 67 The AAMC is the organization behind the MCAT. When they do something, it’s news. They recently released the third scored full-length practice exam for the MCAT. Today, Bryan at Next Step Test Prep is again joining me to discuss this breaking news. If you haven't yet, check out The Premed Years Podcast. We talk to medical students, deans of admissions, and other people who can help you on your journey to medical school. Also, check out our other podcasts on MedEd Media. Please help us spread the word and share this podcast with somebody. Our motto? Collaboration, not competition. So don't keep this podcast to yourself. Go share it with your friends to also help them crush the MCAT. [01:25] MCAT Practice Exam 3 Is Available Not only is the registration now open for 2018 and that there's a new testing center company doing all the test. But the AAMC has just announced that their third full-length for the MCAT is out. As of this recording, you can buy it now at $35. Or it's also bundled in with the AAMC online practice bundle at $234. You get the three scored exams, the unscored sample test, and a couple other things. [02:15] Where to Buy Moreover, Bryan cites a couple things students should know. First, of course, you need this test. You need every scored AAMC test. You can sign up for the Next Step Test Prep online class which includes not only books, but also, thousands of practice questions and hundreds of hours of video. And they've also bundled in all the AAMC tests, including the latest one. You can buy the test individually. But if you're individually purchasing your resources than getting an all-in-one pack with a class, Bryan suggests buying the AAMC MCAT Online Bundle . You're going to need all of that stuff anyway. [03:15] Total Scored and Unscored Exams Just to clarify, the new scored exam doesn't replace the unscored one. So in total, there are four tests instead of three. First is the MCAT Sample Test which is unscored for $25. It was released back before the MCAT was given in the new form. And then the three scored tests are called the MCAT Practice Exams at $35 each. [03:50] AAMC: The Official Source + Next Step Test Prep Even though Next Step has their own practice exams, the AAMC is the company that makes the MCAT. If they have the practice exam, it's likely from the same people writing the real test. So it's going to be as close as possible to the real test and to your real score. As an educator, Bryan emphasizes he wants everybody taking their MCAT prep seriously to go to the official source. They are the most official you can get so you absolutely need to get them. With that being said, students may also sign up for a free account on and they will see that their practice tests are by far the most representative to the real AAMC. Other companies selling practice tests, unfortunately, miss the mark. So between buying the official AAMC exams and the Next Step exams, students will be well-prepared. [05:22] Observations from the New Exam As soon as the test was released, Bryan got to it and took the exam. And all of his fellow MCAT tutors also took a look at the exam. And they have observed a couple of things. First, the science passages seemed a little short. Or they're shorter than they've been expecting. They've been seeing so much of heavy experimental focus. They've been seeing lots of graphs and tables and charts based on primary research. So these have been common. And in the Psych/Soc section, the passages were surprisingly brief. The CARS section seemed pretty much standard with the usual array of topics and difficulty. Bryan describes CARS to have been steady forever, even when it used to be verbal reasoning. They also noticed one passage to have bullet points randomly in the middle of the passage. He found it weird as they've never seen passages with bullet points before. Normally, they're just paragraphs and text. But they didn't change the questions. The Bio/Biochem section of the new exam looked very much like what you see from the new MCAT. There are lots of primary research, graphs, and figures. [06:48] Be Aware of MCAT Practice Exam Variations The impression they had at Next Step, coming away from the test, was they found the Chem/Phys section to be short and easy. The Bio/Biochem seemed kind of long and kind of tough. What this emphasized to them which is important for students to recognize is that every MCAT can be a little different. Every MCAT is going to have some variety in it. So you have to be very wary about any claims. Be wary of some saying that every MCAT have the following topics or tone or style. The reality is that there is variation from test to test. This said, you need to do plenty of practice. Do all four AAMC tests. Do six to ten of the Next Step exams. Make sure you've got a broad experience as possible with prepping. [07:50] What's Bryan's Score? Bryan actually took it un-timed because he was trying to analyze it, not assess his first performance. He did take the new MCAT in 2015 and got a 525. It was good enough for him. At Next Step, Bryan says they hire people who got 526's and 527's. Last week, they had to turn down somebody with a perfect 528 because he just wasn't a very good teacher. They get so many brilliant people coming to them to be tutors so Bryan feels humbled. So just because you scored great on the test doesn't mean you're going to do well teaching it to somebody else. Since the test updated, they have had three people with perfect 528 scores apply to become tutors. They hired one and turned down two. They want teachers, not just walking and talking perfect MCAT scorers. [09:10] Final Thoughts Try to wait for those last couple of weeks to take the AAMC scored exams so that you can make sure you're prepared to score your best on the MCAT! Stay tuned for next week's Psych/Soc discrete questions. Links: AAMC 3rd Full Length Practice Exam AAMC online practice bundle Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep online class MedEd Media The Premed Years Podcast
Nov 08, 2017
66: Breaking Down More Bio Discrete Questions for the MCAT
Session 66 Today, Bryan and I discuss more biology discrete questions as well as some tips to help you do well on the MCAT Also, please check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. And if you're preparing for the MCAT and you think would need the help of some experts so you can rock the test, check out Next Step Test Prep. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. [01:25] Learning Terminologies Question #13: A bacterium has a faulty lac operon in which there is a structural defect in the operator. In this bacterium, (A) There's a mutation in a segment of DNA that binds a promoter. (B) A missense mutation is found in the gene that codes for their repressor. (C) There's a structural problem with a segment of DNA that binds a repressor. (D) There will be no proteins available capable of digesting lactose Bryan's Insights: Lac is a protein for lactose. And this is one of those terminology stuff when it comes to the lac operon, the classic example of gene expression regulation. The issue students run into is a bunch of "word salad" where words like represser, operator, and promoter can get jumbled around. Bryan recommends to use flashcards or a study sheet, so you know all the terminology. And if you know the terminology, this would be a relatively straightforward question. Since it says defect in the operator, you should know that the operator is a little DNA segment that binds with a repressor. Lac operon is a repressible system. So this leads us to answer choice (C). [03:40] The Process of Elimination Question #14: Unlike the cells from which human organs are composed, the cell of a unicellular organism such as algae... (A) Has a genome where nearly all materials codes for protein. (B) Typically utilizes mitosis for cellular division. (C) Can perform catabolic reactions to gain energy from macromolecules. (D) Contains membrane-bound organelles to execute cell functions. Bryan's Insights: This is an example of the process of elimination to approach the question. Answer choices B, C, and D are human functions. So the correct answer is (A). You have to be willing for answer choices that feel really uncomfortable or not thrilled with. But sometimes you have to pick them because they're the last man standing. In humans and higher organisms, there's tons of introns and the majority of A's and C's and T's and G's in the body are just freeloaders. To say that all materials code for protein is true of a bacteria, algae, or something tiny. But this is not true for people. [06:40] Eukaryotes vs. Prokaryotes Question #15: Some eukaryotic cells are covered with small, ciliary projections used for absorption while others contain larger flagella used for propulsion. These cellular structures are composed of: (A) Microfilaments (B) Microtubules (C) Intermediate filaments (D) Myosin Bryan's Insights: Microfilaments are not for cilia and flagella. They work with myosin to do muscle stuff. Both eukaryotes and prokaryotes can have these little projections of the cells. But remember that flagella are made of flagellin. But in eukaryotes, cilia and flagella are made of microtubules so the answer is (B). The MCAT also wants you to to remember that for eukaryotes, it's the 9 + 2 arrangement. This means nine pairs of microtubules in a little hollow cylindrical shape with two more microtubules in the middle providing the backbone. [08:32] Next Step Test Prep To help you get the best score that you can get, check out Next Step Test Prep's new course. With over 100 video hours and ten live office hours every week, you also get access to all their books, full-length practice tests, and the AAMC material. use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep
Nov 01, 2017
65: Breaking Down Biology Discrete Questions for the MCAT
Session 65 Biology is a core subject for the MCAT. It infiltrates a lot of different areas, so you need to be prepared for it. We break down some questions today to help! In this episode Bryan and I cover Biology. We're covering a grab bag of biology discrete questions to help guide you as you're preparing for the MCAT to make sure that you're rocking it. For MCAT prep help, check out Next Step Test Prep and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Also, listen to our other podcasts on MedEd Media. [01:48] Genomic Library Question 29: Which of the following is not a difference of between a cDNA library, and a genomic library? (A) A genomic library is larger than a cDNA library. (B) A genomic sequence contains both coding and non-coding sequences, whereas a cDNA library includes only coding sequences. (C) A cDNA sequence is difficult to express in prokaryotic system whereas a genomic sequence can be conveniently expressed in a prokaryotic system. (D) A genomic library includes promoters but a cDNA library does not. Bryan's Insights: Bryan explains that a genomic library is exactly what it sounds like - all the genes, all the DNA in the cell. The c in the cDNA means "complementary" DNA. And the way you construct it is to take the actual, expressed, final mRNA and then reverse transcribe it back to DNA. Then this makes a little library that can store all of it. So what you've got is that the DNA that just codes for the actual RNA that's going out to do the job. Since the question asks for "which is not a difference," looking through the answer choices, you can cross off the three that are a difference. (A) is a difference so cross it off. (B) is again, true. (D) is also true. The key takeaway here is that for cDNA, only the final expressed mRNA,not the extra junk. So (C) here is what's not the difference. And it's the correct answer choice. Saying that a cDNA sequence is difficult to express in prokaryote is a false. That's the point of cDNA library. You want to make this particular gene product that is normally a human protein. And getting bacteria and human stuff to play together is difficult. Prokaryote and eukaryotes have different architectures. Again, cut out all that extra junk in the human genome and just get the actual final expressed mRNA. And then the DNA from that can be put right into a bacteria. This can then be grown in massive quantities to produce huge amounts of a protein you want to study or use therapeutically. [05:32] ELISA Technique Question: An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) can be used to measure the concentration of antigen in solution. During ELISA, an enzyme is conjugated with an antibody which results in the color change and end products that correlate to the amount of antigen present in the original solution. If a control has an absorbance of 0.35 and a sample solution has an absorbance of 0.64, which of the following can be concluded? (A) The antibody of the sample solution was downregulated. (B) The antigen of the sample solution was upregulated. (C) The antigen of the sample solution was downregulated. (D) The antibody of the sample solution was upregulated. Bryan's Insights: From a test strategy point considering how confusing this could be, it might be smart to just guess and go for a bunch of students. The key thing that this question is getting at is first, the difference between antigens and antibodies. They want you to have that kind of basic immunology knowledge. Then reading the question of how an ELISA works, although you shouldn't theoretically need that description. ELISA is a very common test or a very common lab procedure. So you should actually walk into the MCAT already knowing what an ELISA is and how it works. We use them literally everyday, not even just in the lab. A form of an ELISA assay is how a normal pregnancy test works when you buy it off the shelf. That little stick you're buying is a kind of a consumer-grade ELISA. As we should walk into the test knowing, an ELISA test is testing for the antigen, the protein we want to test. Remember that the antibodies are what the immune system uses to react against antigens. So ELISA are testing for antigens. And right away, you're eliminating answer choices A and D. Antibodies are just a step in the process and not the one an ELISA is testing for. So although it could be confusing, if you just remember that one fact about what an ELISA tests for, you could at least get down to a 50-50 and move one. And at that point, the amount of light absorbance is a measure of the thing you're measuring. Since the number went up and there was more absorbance, there was more. So that would mean the antigen in the sample was upregulated, which is answer choice (B). [09:01] Blotting Techniques Question #59: A biologist wants to determine whether the high levels of a particular transcript results in increased levels of the associated protein. Which of the following tests could be used to measure protein production? (A) Western blot (B) Eastern blot (C) Northern blot (D) Southern blot Bryan's Insights: This is another thing that you have to walk into the test knowing. They ask about protein so you have to know that western blots test for proteins. Southern blots test for DNA. This was the first developed some forty plus years ago. Interestingly, this has nothing to do with the direction on the map. The actual name of the guy was Dr.Southern. And he created this technique for testing for DNA. Then when they later invented the RNA, they just called it a northern blot (like using equivalent analogy). And from there, western became protein and eastern became posttranslational modifications to proteins. So it's just this kind of central dogma thing and there should be mnemonics you can use for this. [11:09] Strategies for Breaking Down Questions When breaking down questions, you don't know if the information in the question is, say extra versus critical. Bryan suggests that you read the entire question. Have the whole question in your eyeballs. And then rephrase or reformulate exactly what the question asked you to do. So it's like two-step process, and not a skip-right-to-the-end-of-the-question process. Because sometimes the question has extra junk and sometimes it's all essential. So you don't know until you've read the whole thing and then rephrased the wording in your own terms. [12:15] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep, specifically their one-on-one tutoring, which is what they're known for. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD)
Oct 25, 2017
64: Should I Take the MCAT in the Spring or During the Summer?
Session 64 One of the most perplexing problems that faces premeds is if they should stack the MCAT up in the Spring, or wait until the Summer to take it. We often talk about the recommended "normal" timeframe for prepping for the MCAT which is March or April. But then you're still in the middle of all of your classes. How are you going to prep for all of your classes and prep for the MCAT at the same time? How should you, as a student, think about it? You don't want to be delayed for your applications but you're also still in school and worried about your courses. I and Bryan from Next Step Test Prep share with you our insights. Also, check out our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network including The Premed Years Podcast, The OldPreMeds Podcast, and Specialty Stories. [01:43] Spring or Summer? During this time, you've got all these Spring semester classes that you're taking. The alternative is to wait until the summer (June, July, or August) when you no longer have academic pressure. Although there's no single best answer, it depends on what the demands are for the Spring semester or the demands for the Summer. But should you decide to push it back to July and spend May and June prepping after your semester is over, what is this going to do to your application timeline? [02:28] The "Normal" Timeline The normal timeline is to submit early June. But what a lot of students don't know is that the first wave of applications don't go out to schools until mid to late June. So even if you submit early June, nothing's going to happen for another couple of weeks. So schools won't know that you've applied to their school. You're not going to get any secondaries back for several weeks. This is a good reason to submit early so you have time to write your secondaries before they come out. "The first wave of applications don't go out to schools until mid to late June." But once schools get your applications, secondaries come in, say beginning of July, assuming you're applying early. Then you take two to three weeks to return your secondaries. This would push you back to mid-July to late July. And that's when your application is considered complete. Your primaries are in. Your secondaries are in. Is your MCAT score in? That's the other big factor. Reason we say to take it as early as March, April, or May so your score is already in. That said, your application would be complete. [03:43] What Could Happen When You Take the Test in July? However, if you take the test in July, your score is not going to come back until roughly a month later, which is beginning or late of August. So what happens here is that the schools are going to sit on your application until that MCAT score is in. They can see based on the application that you have the score pending. So they're not going to look at your application until then. So this is the biggest determinant when it comes to applications and how your MCAT timing can affect your application. Because medical school admissions is rolling, the sooner your application is submitted, the sooner you can get secondaries. The sooner you can submit secondaries, the sooner your scores are in. The sooner your application is complete, the sooner it's reviewed. The sooner you're invited for an interview, the sooner you're accepted. And this is why the MCAT timing matters. "You've got to drive home that fact, as early as possible, which is why the MCAT score timing matters." [04:48] Don't Undermine Your Grades or Your Score In terms of the difference in MCAT score it would take for you to say pushing it back was worth it, I talk about how August is delayed. But in the grand scheme of things, August is still early. My point, however, is the fact that they are rolling admissions. So every delay is going to affect you negatively. As to  how much, it's impossible to answer. It comes down to each student. Obviously, grades are still very important. So there's a huge balancing act. "Don't undermine your grades just to take an early MCAT. Don't undermine your MCAT score just to take an earlier MCAT." [06:33] Taking a Gap Year The other thing to keep in mind is if you are delaying the MCAT a little bit, you're prepping for the MCAT but you're also doing the other things for the application. You need to write your essays, your extracurriculars, your secondaries. These can get in the way of your MCAT prep. So there's so many things to juggle. This is another reason a lot of students are taking the gap year so they can take their MCAT during the gap year and they don't have to worry about anything else. Bryan adds a gap year allows you to have the mental breathing space so you can focus on your grades. The GPA is the one big number that competes or beats the MCAT in importance. This gives you time to do more of resume-building even if you're just starting an internship or a job at the beginning of the summer. Then you can put that on the application for instance. "For a lot of students, the gap year starts to sound like it makes a whole heck of a lot of sense." [07:36] Our Verdict... As to whether you should take it during the Spring or the Summer, there is no right answer for every body. You have to look at yourself. Look at your ability to stretch yourself. This could mean going with a little less sleep and sacrifice some nights out with friends and movies, etc. And focus 100% on school and MCAT. Or do you know yourself that you know you're going to get burned out during that time? So it's best to delay for a little bit. This is a very common thing that we talk about in all our other podcasts. So do what works for you. [08:40] Next Step Test Prep If you're looking for MCAT full-length practice exams, Next Step Test Prep has you covered. Currently, they have ten full-length exams. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off. Register for their diagnostic test and you get the first full-length for free. Links: MedEd Media Network The Premed Years Podcast The OldPreMeds Podcast Specialty Stories Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save 10% off.)
Oct 18, 2017
63: When Can I and When Should I Register for the MCAT?
Session 63 The MCAT registration opens up this year on October 18th. You need to be ready to sign up for a seat to make sure you can’t take the test when you want to! This week, we talk about when you can and when you should register for the MCAT. MCAT scores came out recently for the last batch of students. And for students anxiously chomping at the bit for registering for next year (2018), that opens around mid-October. Listen in as Bryan and I dish out what students should be doing right this minute, in preparation for registering for the exam as soon as possible. Check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network and for some help with prepping for the MCAT, find out what Next Step Test Prep has to offer. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. [01:30] Register as Soon as You Can! If you're looking to take the MCAT before registration has opened, all you can do is plan. But if you're planning to take the MCAT and it's possible to register, do it instantly. Do it as soon as you know. [02:03] Know When to Take It Think about the overarching study plan. For example, you're going to take the MCAT in April before you have your final exams (if you're in school). Or since you're working while prepping for the MCAT, you're going to take it roughly in July based on when your work schedule allows you to prepare. So basically. have the idea of when you want to take it so that you know as soon as it's possible to register, you can hop in there right away. The reason for this is that you don't want to get locked out of a location. You don't want to end up having to drive all the way across the state, or worse, fly somewhere to take the MCAT. So register early. [02:48] New MCAT Administration AAMC announced that they've switched their contractor (computer centers where you take the MCAT) from Prometric to Pearson. For students, that change should be largely transparent. This shouldn't mean anything for those students who have not yet registered for the MCAT. [03:30] Geography Concerns That said, there are some obvious changes. Prometric and Pearson are two different companies. They have locations in different places. In Arizona, where Bryan is, there's Prometric center that's just a ten-minute drive away. But now a Pearson is like a 30-40 minute drive. So there's a geography concern there. [03:50] Change in Mechanics The mechanics of how they administer the test will be very similar. But Bryan says that once they get reports from students, they might be able to find some little cosmetic differences. This could be in terms of check in procedures and so on. [04:12] Keyboard Shortcuts Available Moreover, there is an interesting announcement from AAMC and Pearson where they are going to offer keyboard shortcuts for navigating the test. However, they've been non-specific about what that means. There's no essay on the MCAT anymore so there's no need for Ctrl C or Ctrl V. Bryan suspects that the new Pearson administration of the MCAT will let you hit the forward arrow or back arrow to navigate between questions. The big concern students want to immediately know though is, does "keyboard shortcut" mean Ctrl F? Does it mean you can "find on page" keyboard shortcut? As in this time of recording, we don't have any answer yet. But Bryan is 99.9% sure that the answer is no. The reason is that a substantive change like this would literally skew test results. The hallmark of standardized testing in the MCAT is no exception here. You don't change anything about the difficulty, content, or administration of the test that makes it any easier or harder. So even though Pearson has announced some kind of nebulous keyboard shortcut fact, Bryan suspects it won't change much in terms of the experience of the test takers. [05:55] Next Step Test Prep Check out what Next Step Test Prep has to offer including full-length MCAT exams, an MCAT course with 100 hours of vidoes, ten live office hours every week, access to all of their practice exams and AAMC material, and so much more. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep
Oct 11, 2017
62: MCAT Prep On Any Budget (Should I Spend $3000??)
Session 62 I found a post on Twitter about a student claiming she needed to spend $3,000 on an MCAT test prep course to pass it. Do you really need to spend this much on MCAT prep? Bryan (of Next Step Test Prep) and I discuss that today. Also, check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [01:15] Do You Need $3,000 to Pass the MCAT? I came across this tweet where somebody said that they found an MCAT program they needed to buy to make sure to pass. It was at $3,000 and they were freaking out about that. So I wanted to raise these two questions: Does someone have to spend $3,000 to pass the MCAT? What else can a student do to figure out other options? Bryan explains that being able to prep on whatever your budget is part of Next Step Test Prep's mission. They want to provide quality guidance and quality prep to students at whichever point they are. The free bundle they give away is almost $400 worth of prep materials. The idea that you would need $3,000 to pass the MCAT is 100% wrong. You don't need to spend that much to pass the MCAT. "You don't even need to spend anywhere near $3,000 to have professional level prep." [02:55] Level 1: The Student Ramen Noodle Level First is the free level. If you're on that student ramen noodle budget and you don't have a ton of money to spend on prep, the absolute minimum required is the registration for the MCAT itself. It's about $300. It's significantly less expensive if you qualify for the the free assistance program. If you have no other money to invest in prep, the Khan Academy is free. Their quality of prep material ranges from excellent to pretty good. It's the official partner of AAMC and it's free. Next Step Test Prep has the free bundle. It includes a full-length of 500 questions, science content diagnostic, MCAT diagnostic, QBank, lesson videos, review videos - almost an entire $400-worth of stuff for free. Of course, you also have this, The MCAT Podcast has tons of practice questions we read through every week. [04:20] Level 2: The Self-Study-er If you decide to be a self study-er, the first thing your purchase for $204 (as of this recording) is the Online Bundle from the AAMC. Go to the AAMC's website and look for the Online Bundle. This includes a whole bunch of real official practice material. It's a pretty nice discount for buying it all together. All the official online stuff you need for a couple hundred dollars. Typically, what most students find is they need a little additional prep beyond that. This is where test prep companies come in such as Next Step Test Prep. Sign up for a free bundle. Make sure you like it. Then sign up for either $99 or $149. Sign up for one of their text packages to get the additional full-length practice you need. You can also get a content review with the Khan Academy or pick up a set of Next Step content review books. This will run you another couple hundred dollars. "What you really need to keep up with the Joneses on the MCAT prep is more like $300, not $3,000." So Bryan pegs it $300 to about $600 to get the AAMC material and get your Next Step full-length practice tests. And then either borrow a set of books or use the Khan Academy. This is what he considers the "minimum" that most students would need. [06:30] Level 3: Next Step Test Prep However, for a lot of people, the self-study approach is not going to work for them. They need a class and the social support of classmates. They need live interaction with faculty members. And they want one-stop shopping. They don't want to have to go around a million different places to get everything. They want to only do one thing. Even in this level, you don't spend $3,000. Well, you could go to companies out there that charge thousands of dollars for a class. But this would be silly since the Next Step class is only at $1,300. It is significantly less expensive and has literally everything you need. They have a bundle in the AAMC and on top of this, they have ten full-length practice tests. They have 70 hours of class videos. They have ten hours a week of live office-hour instruction. You get a six-month enrollment so that's equal to 250 live hours. You get videos, Qbank, tests - everything you could possibly need for your MCAT prep. "For a lot of people, the self-study approach is not going to work for them." [07:30] Next Step's Study Planning App Most importantly, what sets Next Step apart from being $1,000 less than competition, is they have an industry exclusive study planning app. It allows you to get a customized study calendar based on your own calendar. Sign up for their class and you get a study planning tool that generates a calendar for you. There are companies that do the study planning app but not test prep companies that are intimately familiar with all of the material of the whole MCAT process like Next Step is. A lot of websites and apps out there do study planning but that's all they do. The upside is a lot of them are free. But the downside is that they're not really very user-friendly. You have to manually enter every book and test you're going to do. You have to manually answer the number of pages you're going to do everyday. They're not smart enough to know when Christmas is or the fourth of July. So there are a lot of problems with a lot of apps out there because they're more of the generic planning tools. While Next Step's app literally does one thing - it builds you your MCAT plan. "Ours literally does one thing - builds you your MCAT plan." [09:45] For Those Qualified in AAMC's Fee Assistance Program Aligned with Next Step's mission, they see themselves as educators first. They recognize that this might be outside the budget range for some students. Bryan wants you to understand that if you qualify for the AAMC's fee assistance program, they will essentially honor that. They give you their course for half off. Next Step wants to make sure that students are not locked out of the opportunity to take a class just because of those budget concerns. Again, "As part of AAMC's FAP program, you can get their course for practically less than a set of books and tests for another company." [10:48] What's Worth $3,000? Finally, Bryan wants to address the $3,000 price point. What is actually worth $3,000? It's not a group course. You don't go to a prep company and give them $3,000 for a group course. If spend that much, you deserve the absolute premium service, which is one-on-on coaching - not you and 20 people. Just you and the expert. At Next Step, their 24-hour comprehensive plan is $2,899. Even that is slightly less than $3,000. But more realistically, what you need is just about $1,300 for their course. [12:00] Last Thoughts No, you don't need to spend $3,000 for an MCAT course. Next Step Test Prep has their course at $1,300. This includes access to all of their practice tests, AAMC materials, books, etc. If you really want to spend $3,000, you can already get a one-on-one tutoring from Next Step. To save even more money off their services, use MCATPOD upon checkout. "Don't think you have to spend $3,00 for a course which isn't going to cater directly to you." Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media Network Khan Academy - MCAT AAMC's fee assistance program
Oct 04, 2017
61: Is the MCAT Getting Harder?
Session 61 A common question we get is if the MCAT is getting harder with the new iterations. We’ll discuss what you as a premed need to understand to do well. The MCAT Podcast is part of the MedEd Media Network. If you're a nontraditional student, check out The Premed Years Podcast episode this week where I talked to Dr. Glenn Cummings, the Associate Dean and Director of Bryn Mawr College's Post Baccalaureate Premedical Program. Thank you for joining me and Bryan Schnedeker of Next Step Test Prep today, as we discuss whether the MCAT is really getting harder or not. A common thing I see on many social media posts and even emails is people walking out of the MCAT just totally destroyed. They think it's the hardest thing they've ever seen. They think it's so much harder than the practice test. [02:00] Is the MCAT Getting Harder? As Bryan explains it, the MCAT changed back in 2015. It was that cycle when it felt like the AAMC was "finding their feet" with the new format. And then we have the 2016 season and finally finishing the 2017 season. One of the things students often comment on is how it feels so hard and harder even than last year or the year before. And Bryan answers this with both a yes and a no. [03:06]  The Yes Part of the Answer -  An Alphabet Soup Bryan mentions this one piece of feedback from students is that the passages feel very much more like complex. He calls it like numbering letter abbreviations for enzyme names, protein names, and pathways. So whenever you get a real, complicated, primary research journal article like the passage, there's a lot of alphabet soup in the passage. It's a lot of letters and numbers for genes and transcripts. Although students tend to panic, this assessment is basically true. The AAMC made it clear that there's an emphasis on the ability to get through a reading passage from taken from an actual primary research journal. And not from a textbook, a summary, or a lab guide. So the article is cut down into an MCAT passage. "This part is super intimidating and this part can be hard." [04:23] The No Part of the Answer Bryan illustrates two things in the MCAT that haven't changed at all. First, the questions haven't changed in terms of the difficulty level, the depth of analysis, the breadth of content required. On the one hand, you have this intimidating passage and alphabet soup everywhere and crazy figures you have to analyze. This can throw some people off their game. But then when you get to the questions, they're asking the same straightforward stuff. They're asking for the same one or two-step analysis. They're asking for the same basic process of looking at a figure, looking at the text, and drawing an inference. If you're familiar with what an MCAT question looks like, it hasn't changed at all. "Even though the passages seem crazy, the questions are basically the same." [05:20] Equated, Not Curved Remember that the MCAT is not a curved test like in your college classes. Instead, they're equated. The AAMC essentially does a "curving" against the difficulty of the test form across 20,000 test takers. And it's not curved against the 20 kids in the room. Bryan explains what this means on a nationwide level. Assuming that any two or three-year period and the pool of premeds doesn't change much, it can't get any harder. 500 has to be an average MCAT score for your average premed year after year. And the kind of slow migration that might happen over ten or twenty years in the student base is not going to matter for you, listeners, because you'd only care about the students one year before and one year after that. So there's not much change on that kind of time scale. "Yes, it looks harder. But objectively, no. Because you're competing against the same people and the questions are the same." [06:55] Reading Scientific Journals I want to add that those types of passages are so hard to read. Even as a physician, reading journals is hard because they're written in a very scientific way. There's actually big move in the scientific community to get out of that trend and start writing journal articles in a way that more people can readily read them and understand them. Bryan recalls writing his thesis on microbiology during his undergrad and he was so proud of his draft after working on it for a year. And when it got back from his adviser, the whole thing had more red text than black. It's that weird, abstract, journal-like language. "Almost studying that style of writing is its own field of study." [08:05] Other MCAT Sections The CARS (Verbal) is not getting any harder. The bad news is it's always a bear. For Psychology/Sociology, the AAMC is treating this section as really intensive memorization. It's broadly based. Every time the MCAT is administered, students comment on being asked a random theory they've never heard of. They checked ten different MCAT books and no one had it on their index. This feedback is common. But the takeaway for this section of the MCAT is to allocate the time you need to memorize everything in Psych/Soc. Memorize every keyword, every famous name, every famous theory. "There's no way getting around it if you don't know who Mead is." [09:22] A Qbank is Not Enough The other piece of common feedback which especially came up this year is that students are starting to get overly confident now that the AAMC has finally released a good amount of prep material. When the test was new, we knew so little about it. But now, we have a bunch of practice tests and the section bank. So students think just taking the AAMC section bank is enough. "You can't assume any one Qbank is going to exactly tell you what's on the test." Just because one test or the AAMC section bank happens to be light in Physics doesn't mean you can blow it off. You really have to start from a broad-based review of everything that's on the MCAT. [10:34] It's Not the Same for Everybody The same goes for hearing your friend's perspectives as they walk out of the MCAT. What they had on their test might not be what you have on your test. Bryan adds that in the three seasons of the MCAT, the only one consistent point from literally everybody is, amino acids are important. That's it. Other than that, one student would complain about so much physiology and digestive or what not while the next student would say they didn't get any physiology on his whole test. "You can never just rely on these single accounts of what people have seen." [11:11] Next Step Test Prep Stay tuned for next week's episode as Bryan and I discuss a topic around a tweet I've read on whether or not you really need to spend $3,000 for MCAT prep. Join us next week here on the podcast. Don't forget to subscribe. Lastly, check out Next Step Test Prep. Their one-on-one tutoring is tailored to what you specifically need in the time frame you need. They also have an online class with over 100 video hours as well as access to all their practice tests, AAMC material, to all of their books, and ten live office hours every week. Priced at only $1,300. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on all of their services. Links: MedEd Media PMY 253: Almost Everything You Need to Know About Postbac Programs
Sep 27, 2017
60: Breaking Down a Grab Bag of Science Questions for the MCAT
Session 60 Today, we're diving into discrete MCAT questions from various subjects. Follow along and have a listen. Don't forget to subscribe and tell your friends. Last week, I and Bryan of Next Step Test Prep talked about this last week. Even something like Physics can touch all these other disciplines. So it's great to also do a grab bag and do a whole bunch of different disciplines in the sciences to practice that quick shifting of mental gears that the MCAT demands. Please listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. [01:46] Physics Question Question #30: The transition from a vapor phase directly to a solid form is known as: (A) Condensation (B) Freezing (C) Sublimation (D) Deposition Insights: Sublimation is from solid to gas. A classic example of this is dry ice. This one going from a vapor to solid is deposition. You deposit down onto a solid. Condensation is vapor into a liquid like drinking ice into a hot day or the morning due. And obviously, freezing is from liquid to solid. [02:49] Biology Question A researcher analyzing a genome measures the cytosine composition of 19%. What is the expected adenine composition of this genome? Insights: The C and A have to add up to 50% because the G and T will add up to the other 50%. So you get to an answer of 31%. Many months ago, we handled a tricky question because it was only a single-stranded DNA segment. So you always have to be careful. This question said the whole genome so it means it's double stranded. This said, you can do the math we just did above. [04:00] pH Question Question #47: The gastric juices in the stomach have a pH of approximately 2. What is the hydroxide ion concentration in this solution? (A) 0 molarity (B) 10 to the minus 2nd molarity (C) 10 to the minus 7th molarity (D) 10 to the minus 12th molarity Insights: The MCAT is going to expect you to remember the pH equation. pH is the negative log of the H concentration. You want to remember that the shortcut when you're doing this pH or negative log problems. You take the exponent on the 10 and bring it down and get rid of the negative sign. So for 10 to the minus 7, the negative log of that is just 7. Take the minus 7 and bring it down and just get rid of the minus sign. So if your H concentration was 10 to the minus 7, that's a pH 7 solution. In this case, the gastric juice have a pH of 2. This means that the H concentration is 10 to the minus 2. But remember to answer the exact question they ask. They didn't ask for the proton or the H concentration. They specifically asked for the hydroxide ion. Remember that the hydroxide ion is OH minus. So it's kind of the converse of the acid. If you have a 10 to the minus 2 of your acid concentration, they have to multiply out to ten to the minus 14. Your acid times your base has to get you to 10 to the minus 14. Your pH plus your pOH has to add up to 14. In this case, if you're going really quick and rushing, you would be led to the wrong answer choice (B). Because it's not the answer to this question. The questions asks about the hydroxide ion, not hydronium ion. Hydroxide ion is answer choice (D). [06:28] Just Answer the Question Asked This is a very common extra little trick that when you're doing acid-base chemistry, make sure you solve for the acid or the base. Answer what they actually ask you for rather than just the first thing you calculated. Bryan who has been doing this for sixteen years, he would still sometimes be working with a student and make a mistake. Then they both get all twisted around. So even while working together, they get confused on a problem. They stop, take a breath. And just realize, that you just need to answer the question they asked. [08:25] Physics Question An unknown fluid has a specific gravity of 0.75. What is the volume of 22.5 kg of this fluid? (A) 10 liters (B) 20 liters (C) 30 liters (D) 40 liters Insights: The right answer here is 30 liters. But just be careful and don't fall for the trap of just going right to this or that number. Always be attentive to every MCAT question. Be careful but don't assume they're out to trick you. Assume that they're just asking you exactly what they asked you. So specific gravity 0.75. If you know what specific gravity is, that is essential. They give you a mass and they want you to convert to the volume. You have to walk into the test knowing the specific gravity of water (this is by definition) which is 1. And water has density of 1 gram per ml or gram per cubic centimeter. Or it has a density of 1 kg per liter. These are all facts you have to walk into the test knowing. In this question, you see 22.5 kg and you would go 22.5 liters of water. That is your baseline answer. But this fluid only has a specific gravity of 0.75. It is less dense than water. And if it's less dense, it takes up more space. That said, your answer has to be bigger than 22.5. So it has to be 30 or 40. But 0.75 is still pretty close to 1. It's not like you have to double it up to 40. Without even doing any math, just using your gut instinct to it, 30 is the right answer. And it turns out the math is actually really simple since you just divide the numbers. 22.5 divided by 0.75 gives you 30 and this is the right answer. [11:20] Use Your Imagination You can do the whole unit conversion. But Bryan is much more a fan of physics in a way that you just imagine or think through whether it's a big or small number or does it get bigger or smaller. Is it something heavy or light? Throw the object straight up in the air and have a fall right down. It's a matter of using your imagination a little bit on the MCAT. [12:18] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep on their products and services to help you on your MCAT journey. There are lots of ways to prep for the MCAT like a do-it-yourself course or a live online course. Get a tutor or go through a summer intensive. There are books and full-length practice exams that you can look at too to help you on your journey. Next Step Test Prep offers all of these. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money off their offerings. Links: Next Step Test Prep MedEd Media
Sep 20, 2017
59: Breaking Down Physics Discrete Questions for the MCAT
Session 59 Physics on the MCAT is hard for a lot of students. Today, we'll go over some physics discrete questions and break down each of them to give you a head start. Check out all our other podcasts at MedEd Media Network. [01:03] Diving into Physics Physics was my favorite subject as a premed. And it's Bryan's favorite to teach but as an MCAT student himself, he was indifferent to it. Nevertheless, what he loves about physics is being able to do problems that are grounded in the "real world" so to speak. [02:55] The Doppler Effect Question 16: A scientist uses and ultrasound device mounted to a vehicle to measure fluid flow underground. The device makes use of the Doppler effect to track fluid movement in the water table. Which of the following scenarios is most likely to produce a readable Doppler shift? (I) The fluid is flowing at a velocity twice that of the sound-emitting device in the same direction as the device is moving. (II) The fluid is flowing at the same velocity and in the same direction as the sound-emitting device. (III) The fluid is not moving at all. Thinking points: The example usually uses the ambulance where it's high-pitched coming towards you. Then as soon as it moves past you, it becomes low-pitched. The sound is a wave and when the vehicle is moving towards you, the high points of the wave or the low points gets all crunched up. With a shorter wavelength, the frequency is higher which the human brain perceives it as a higher pitch. If we relate this to the question here, the sound is going in the same direction the ambulance is going and coming at you. Bryan says, imagine two cars driving in the same direction at 40 miles an hour. Relative to each other, they're not moving at all. So there's not going to be a Doppler shift if everybody is flowing in the same direction at the same speed. So (II) is out which lets us eliminate choices (C) and (D). That said, (III) doesn't make sense since you need that movement to have that Doppler effect so the correct answer here is (1). [06:12] A Sensation Question Question 18: Presbyopia is diagnosed when the lens of the eye focuses incoming light rays to a position between the retina and the choroid. Which type of lens should be placed in front of the eye to focus light on the retina and correct this condition. (A) Flat (B) Spherical (C) Diverging (D) Converging Thinking points: Answer choice (A) is out since it's just a window. It wouldn't do anything to where the focal point is. Both (C) and (D) could be spherical lenses so (B) doesn't directly answer the question. In the case of myopia, the light rays are getting focused together soon before you even make it to the retina. So you fix that with a diverging lens. So the right answer here is (D). Note: You actually want to walk in with this fact already in your head. Myopia is nearsightedness corrected with a diverging lens and presbyopia or farsightedness is corrected with a converging lens. [10:16] Total Internal Reflection Question 19: Light inside the thin glass tube of a laparoscopic surgical device strikes the edge of the glass tube and is entirely reflected back into the tube with none of the light exiting to the surrounding medium. Which of the following must be true? (A) Theta incident is 90 degrees. (B) Theta incident is zero degrees. (C) Theta incident is greater than or equal to the theta critical value. (D) Theta refracted value is equal to theta incident. Thinking points: The phenomenon here is called Total Internal Reflection - light striking the inside of the glass tube and reflecting inside the tube itself. This is the entire basis of fiber optics. In order to get total internal reflection, the key issue is that every medium (glass, water, plastic, etc.) has a certain critical angle. The nice thing about the MCAT is you can get full credit for partial knowledge. If critical angle was the only thing you remembered about fiber optics, then you'd probably choose answer choice (C). And this is the right answer. The rest of the answers do not give any relationship relative to the critical angle. So just remembering that fact is enough to get you the right answer. [12:30] Radiation Question Question 31: A certain type of tissue is sensitive to radiation with damage the tissue receives directly proportional to charge on the radiating particle. Which of the following radiation types will cost the least damage? (A) Gamma (B) Positron (C) Beta (D) Alpha Thinking points: This question has a recall element to it where you have to know the charges of all the physics particles. Specifically, since you want the least damaged, you want the least charged. So you should obviously walk into the test knowing that an alpha particle has a charge of +2, a beta particle has a charge of either +/- 1 depending on the type of beta particle. A position is just a beta plus charge or it's +!. And finally, the right answer of the question is (A) gamma because it's a very high energy photon so it has no charge at all. [14:14] Final Thoughts Even on physics, it seems to be the most independent of the sciences. It doesn't tie into biochem or chem. But there is still this kind of clinical, biological lab-based lens. So you know that even if it's as abstract as physics, you've got to be able to think about it through the lens of the biological sciences. [15:00] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep and avail of their one-on-one tutoring. Or you can take a self-paced course where they have 100+ hours of videos, live office hours five times a week, and access to their books, full-length tests, and more - all at a very reasonable price. So much value with such a small price tag compared with the other test prep companies. Get to save some money using the promo code MCATPOD at checkout. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep
Sep 13, 2017
58: How Do I Know if I Should Void the MCAT?
Session 58 A lot of students plan on going into the MCAT ready to void it, some think about voiding it during the test. We discuss when you should actually void the MCAT. This podcast is a collaboration with Next Step Test Prep to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. [01:44] What Is Voiding? When you take the MCAT, sit in the testing center, and you void it, that test doesn't get recorded. It still counts as a take for how many MCAT tests you can take in a year or in a lifetime. The different sections are for the AAMC. But it doesn't get recorded. Bryan further explains that when you think about a void, it essentially never happened. Nobody gets to know it happened except in two places. First, your checkbook. Well, you have to pay for the test. So voiding it means several hundred dollars you never get back. And there are limits. So you can take the MCAT three times in a year or at most four times in any two years. Or a lifetime limit of seven. So even if you void, that counts towards one of your lifetime seven limit. [02:57] Using the Actual MCAT as a Practice Test There are students that purposefully go into a test knowing they're going to void it. Bryan thinks this is a ludicrously overpriced practice test. If somebody said to you they'd give you a practice exam but it's going to cost you $300 or whatever, would you ever buy it? Of course, not. You can actually reschedule and push it back so you don't have to have this void on your record. You would not have wasted $300 on what is functionally a practice exam. This just strikes him as the height of silliness. However, there is now a window for rescheduling in the test which has a cutoff date. I had a student who wanted to reschedule and she missed the window to reschedule. So she had to either take the test or not show up. So she was in a situation where I said go take it but void it because she was not ready to take it. It's almost barely a week or two before the test where you could still recoup some of the cost and reschedule your exam. But if you literally realize the day before the test that you're not ready, of course you could go in, take it and void it just for practice. "You know within two or three weeks until the exam if you're on track and ready to roll." Go back and listen to Episode 40 where we talked about the last minute tips for the MCAT including those last three weeks or so before your test date. This will help you have a feeling on where you should be. [05:08] Considering Voiding in the Middle of Test Day The mechanics of voiding it is that it's done at the end of the day. If you're going to leave in the middle of the test, they're going to score your test. So to void the exam, you have to get to it all the way up to the end. There will be a question whether you want your exam voided or not. If you don't answer it, the timer will run out after five minutes and your exam will be scored. "Voiding is a very specific conscious choice you have to make. And they will even ask you to confirm twice." Bryan's rule of thumb here is that if you're even asking yourself the question whether you should void your exam, the answer is no. But if the question you're asking yourself is when you can void the exam, then go ahead and void it. The reason is because premeds who are used to getting straight A's. There's a certain touch of neuroticism there. They can tend to have that OCD where they have to get everything right. It's been Bryan's experience with the hundreds of tutoring students and thousands of classroom students he has worked with over the years. People walk out of the test feeling so knocked out. But you can't make the judgment based on some subjective feeling that it didn't go well. Nobody feels like it went well. "There's no correlation between your subjective perception of how it went and your objective performance." It's okay if you left three or four questions blank. But if it's two entire passages with about eleven or twelve questions blank, that's when you start saying it was abnormal for you. Or if you have that moment in the middle of the test where this realization just hits you that you're nowhere near where you need to be, then go ahead and void your score. [10:30] Taking Full-Length Under Real Practice Conditions I think this would happen mostly to students who don't take a full length under real practice conditions. They take the different sections and they do well in them. But the first time they actually sit down for seven and a half hours is the real test day. That just destroys them. Did you actually take them under real test-like conditions? Did you sit your butt in the seat for seven hours? So if you're in the middle of a full test day and realize you needed to do this a bunch for practice and you haven't then it's time to void and retake. [11:30] Final Thoughts Don't go into the test wanting to void. When you're in the middle of the test, if you're asking yourself should you void, it's probably not the best idea to void. But if you're asking why you're actually there and you're nowhere near prepared then go ahead and hit that void in the end. Finally, check out Next Step Test Prep. They offer premiere one-on-one tutoring service for the MCAT. You get a two to three-month custom study plan, the pretest diagnostic, content review books, strategy and practice books, CARS passage book, and more. You also get all of their full-length exams. All this for $400 more than a live online course. So it's like paying $17 an hour extra for those. Get a tutor who can help you cater your studying plan to your specific needs, not to the class average. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: MP 40: Last Minute MCAT Tips Leading Up to Test Day Next Step Test Prep (Promo Code: MCATPOD)
Sep 06, 2017
57: Do Medical Schools Superscore the MCAT for Multiple Attempts?
Session 57 Join me, Dr. Ryan Gray, and Bryan Schnedeker of Next Step Test Prep as we dive into the forums over at the Also, take a listen to all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network. Today, we talk about how medical schools are going to look at multiple MCAT scores? If you are familiar with the SAT, then you know that your best score is a combination of multiple tests. Do medical schools do the same for MCAT retakes? If you are taking the MCAT for a second or third time, this is a good one for you. If this is your first time taking the MCAT, you should listen to this one too (just in case you have to take it again.) [01:21] How Medical Schools View Multiple Scores Bryan thinks it's just par for the course for the college kids now. I think where the biggest confusion comes from is that students take the SAT and think they can take it ten times. Then they take the highest score from those ten takes and that will their SAT score.That's the rule and sort of the standard. But when it comes to MCAT, it's not that way. Bryan adds that when it comes to the MCAT, all of your scores are reported to the med schools. This is every single time you've taken the MCAT except if you void your score. Voiding is not reported to med schools. So all of your schools are reported. What medical schools are going to do with multiple scores is whatever they well please. There is no rule that they have to follow. It's not like there is an AAMC mandate to do with multiple MCAT scores. So they're just going to see all of them and take the most recent or the highest. If they're looking for a reason to reject you, they take the lowest. They can actually do whatever they want. [03:27] When You're Considering to Retake When you're thinking about retakes, for instance, if you have a score right on the edge, say your goal is a 508 and you got a 507, they're always going to get to see that 507. It doesn't go away. It doesn't get super scored with anything else. So if you're going to take it again, you've got to make sure that second score is significantly higher so that you're showing the school that you're not just diddling around and not taking the MCAT seriously. [04:10] Behind-the-Scenes in the TMDSAS Application I did an episode on The Premed Years Podcast where I talked to the people behind the Texas application. They gave a little behind-the-scenes on how the information is portrayed to the medical schools. Every single data point that gets entered into your application gets sent to the medical school. And the medical school has their own software and their own filters to look at that information however they want to look at it. Think of an Excel sheet and your MCAT scores are all lined up there. There's four different columns for your different sections and fifth column for your total score. They may sort by total score and look at the highest one and say that's great. Or they may take your scores and have another column that takes the average of those scores. Or they may have some algorithm that looks at those different sections and consider the whole idea of the superscore. There are some medical schools that have said they do a superscore based on the information that comes to them. But those are few and far between. Based on the information I've seen from the premed advisor world is that most schools look at your highest score. Bryan clarifies they take the highest overall score then whatever subsection scores came with that higher score, those are your subsections as well. [05:50] Looking at Your Most Recent Score and Trends A premed advisor put together a list of 34 MD schools and 3 DO schools. There are a lot of highest scores but there are a lot of most recent scores as well. So you always have to second guess when you get that score. Do you really want to retake it? Because it's that most recent score that they're going to look at. Bryan adds that in the end, that's proprietary to that med school. They don't have to justify their algorithm to anybody. They can do whatever they please. Additionally, some of them also look at your most recent plus your trends. So if you've got a 510 and wanted a 520, you had to retake it and you got a 508, it's still a great score but now you have a negative trend. [06:55] Looking at Your Judgment When we talk to advisors at these premed conferences, they are considering the judgment that you display in taking or retaking.And if you say you thought your score was superscored and didn't realize then that shows you didn't do the research for how multiple scores are treated. Medical schools want to see that you're a serious student who understood the MCAT, took it seriously, and did it right the first time, or at most, the second time. So this would show you're not displaying some poor judgment. [07:35] Final Thoughts Check out everything that Next Step Test Prep has to offer specifically practice tests. If you're taking practice tests or if you aren't taking practice tests yet, check out the MCAT practice test bundles Next Step offers. You can buy MCAT full-length exams for a low price. It's the best way of prepping for the MCAT. Take those exams. Review your answers, both right and wrong answers. So you can improve and get a better score each time. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: The Premed Years Podcast Episode 245: Why Does Texas Have Its Own App and More TMDSAS Questions MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD)
Aug 30, 2017
56: The Anatomy of an MCAT Question and How to Break it Down
Session 56 This week, we discuss the anatomy of the MCAT question and how to systematically go through a question to maximize your chance of getting it right. We talked about dealing with passages in the past but we haven't really talked about dissecting the question itself. Bryan says that at Next Step Test Prep, they're a fan of not having a whole lot of jargon or the seventeen-step method for analyzing the question. The notion is all of your attention and all your focus in mental energy should be on the actual content of the question itself. So they don't have a method for answering the questions. But what they have is a mental rhythm that you go through whenever answering basically any MCAT question. [02:22]  Read and Rephrase Of course, the first thing to do is read the question. This is a logical thing to discuss considering a lot of students are taught that they should read the answers first. Then go to the question so you know what you're looking for. These are tips for the exams we take in junior high and high school. But they're so different from the MCAT. So you want to get rid of all those bad habits. After reading the question, take a breath. Pause for just a moment. Ask yourself the question of what are they really asking here. Or what are you doing with this question? The rhythm most people have thoughtlessly is they read the question. The start plowing through the answer choices and go right back to the passage. But they don't just ask themselves what's asked of them to do. What was the question itself? After working with hundreds of tutoring students, Bryan can't tell you how many tens of thousands of times over his career to watch the student flail around the question. The got themselves so twisted up in the answer choices. They're so twisted up in the passage that they completely lost sight of what they're doing. So you need to read and rephrase. In your own words, what are you doing here? [04:39] Research, Then Predict or Eliminate Once you've taken that mental breath, do whatever the research is that you need to do.It could be our outside knowledge. It could be math on the scratch paper. Basically, you crank through the solution of the problem. Then go and check the answer choices. See which one fits the idea in your head. Bryan cites a dichotomy here where you can do a predicting approach. You read the question and rephrase in your own terms. Then you come up in advance with, "I'm looking for xyz." Then you go look for it among the answer choices. Or you can directly go the process of elimination. Dive right into the answer choices and start crossing them off. Neither one of these is inherently better. They both have strengths and weaknesses in predicting or doing the process of elimination. So you just have to try it and figure out what works best for you. [06:25] Spotting Out Extreme Answers This is a very common thing especially in the CARS section. What students are looking for in terms of extreme answers (which are less likely to be write) is those big categorical words. Examples of these words are always, never, only, must. Another example is when they phrase things as if it was a certain fact. For example, x will be found to have increased y. Rather than saying would or might or maybe, if you categorically say is or will, that often ends up being too extreme for the right answer. [07:33] “I'm Down to Two Choices” Bryan recommends that if you ever run into trouble while you're answering the question, like you get it down to the classic "down to two" syndrome, follow this. First, reread the question. If you got it down to two and you really can't figure out the right answer, it doesn't mean both are good choices. There's only one good choice. So rather than going back and rereading all four answer choices or reading the whole passage, just reread the question. Rephrase it. Make sure you understood what the goal was. Then reconsider those two answer choices. Listen to our other podcasts at MedEd Media. Check out The Premed Years Podcast, The OldPreMeds Podcast, and Specialty Stories Podcast. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep The Premed Years Podcast The OldPreMeds Podcast Specialty Stories Podcast
Aug 23, 2017
55: How to Best Use Flashcards to Study for the MCAT
Session 55 Flashcards are a great tool to have for all your studying needs. Bryan and I discuss how to use flashcards for the MCAT to maximize your study time!  Also check out our other podcasts over at including The Premed Years Podcast, Specialty Stories, The OldPreMeds Podcast, and much more. [01:31] Buying Them versus Making Them Flashcards are one of the most popular study tools out there. There are lots of different options and the first biggest consideration is whether you should buy them or make them. Bryan says he's contractually required as a teacher to say it's always better to make your own. The act of making your own flashcards really helps solidify it. And sometimes just the act of making them helps you learn the material better than just having the flashcards. [02:57] Paper Flashcards versus Digital Flashcards The AAMC sells flashcards. For $10, you can buy flashcards direct from the AAMC. But you want to be real clear on what that is. The fact it's an official AAMC prep product means a lot of people are just going to buy it without checking it first. But the AAMC flashcards are little 3 x 5 cards. A science discrete question is printed on one side and the answer is printed on the other side. If what you want is a hundred discrete science questions, go ahead and buy the card deck. But spending $10 for a hundred discrete science questions, Bryan says, is a pretty bad deal. For $30, you can already get 2,000 science questions from something like the Next Step MCAT QBook. So Bryan warns you to not be fooled in the sense that the AAMC is not a series of science flashcards like you'd normally think of. You can go to one of the big publishing companies like the Barron's MCAT Flashcards you can pick up at Barnes and Noble. However, Bryan doesn't recommend them. In fact, the ones you can have on your phone are much better. But if you have an old-fashioned study style, then the print flashcards from Barron's are totally fine. [04:50] AAMC Flashcards versus Digital Flashcards When you think about how people would study with flashcards, they're meant for learning, drilling, and repeating content. For example, one side says "List all the hormones secreted by the anterior pituitary and then the other side of the flashcard lists the answers. It's about drilling science facts, not practicing questions and passages and strategies. So it struck Bryan as really weird when the AAMC says they're offering flash cards. He was totally psyched. But what we got instead is this weird little collection of practice problems. But that's what you're doing an online Q bank for. Why Bryan prefers the digital flashcards is the idea of spaced repetition as a learning technique. What a good flashcard app will do is provide you with a spaced repetition algorithm. The underlying idea is if it's something you're good at, you should repeat it very rarely. And if it's something you're bad at or you're still trying to master, you should repeat it more frequently. [06:35] Brainscape and Anki Apps Brainscape is the company that Next Step Test Prep partners with. They have an app that will show you your MCAT flashcards. Then as you answer each question on each flashcard, you push a little button in half a second. Rate it from one to five. Five is where you perfectly know the card and one is you've gotten it completely wrong. As you cycle through the cards, the app is smart enough to show you any card you rated one, two, or three more frequently. Then the three's and four's are shown less frequently and the five's even less. So if you just sit down and keep turning on these flashcards until you've turned all of them from one to three ratings to five's then you really know that you've mastered the content. Another hugely popular option is the AnkiApp, a flashcard display algorithm. It doesn't provide you with the complete flashcards itself. So you can download Anki and make your own flashcards which is the best.  Or they have this built-in function to share decks of flashcards with each other. You can look around online and find someone else's deck of MCAT flashcards. But be careful since you're relying on the quality created by other users. It's a free app but you have the option to upgrade to the premium version if you like. [09:03] When to Start Using Flashcards If you're thinking of being premed, then start using flashcard app style of studying your facts as early as freshman year of college. This makes sure all of the content you're learning just doesn't just disappear out of your head the second you take your exam. Because then when you get around your MCAT when you're junior in college, much more of it will have been stuck in your head. Bryan recalls being second year of college. He was taking a class and the professor asked a question that brought up a point. He remembers raising his hand and bringing up something from the previous course. The professor got shocked since he never had a student bring up something from last semester's class before. It's depressing everyone just immediately forgets everything after the final exam. Unfortunately, this really hurts you when the MCAT rolls around. So the sooner you can start learning on a permanent basis, the better. Links: Next Step Test Prep Next Step MCAT QBook Brainscape AnkiApp Barron's MCAT Flashcards
Aug 16, 2017
54: Looking at MCAT Amino Acid Questions
Session 54 Amino acids should be like the air you breathe for the MCAT. You just don't think about it. We'll cover some questions today to help you with that. We've discussed it before that every single premed student walking into the test center for the MCAT should be able to draw out all of the amino acids. They should know their one or three-letter abbreviations and everything else. Thanks for listening to this show. Also listen to all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. [01:50] Proline Question Question 16: A particular oncogene product has an unusually high number of proline residues. These residues: (A) Aid in the formation of alpha helices (B) Are more likely to be found throughout beta-pleated sheets (C) Aid only in the formation of antiparallel beta-pleated sheets (D) Are more likely to be found in turn regions of the protein Bryan's Insights: When it comes to amino acids, Bryan says there are a few rockstars. They are hugely important because of how different they are. Two of which are glycine and proline. Glycine has a side chain with only one hydrogen. It's the only achiral amino acid. So glycine is special in that regard. Proline is special because its side chain connects to its own amino in the amino acid part. It has this weird little looped structure. So one is so tiny and proline has this weird, rigid self attachment structure. As a result, neither glycine or proline tends to play nice when it comes to secondary structure (alpha and beta) particularly proline. Proline is the combo breaker on your alpha and beta structures. A turn region in the protein is a loose, unstructured region where the amino acids are not locked into an alpha or beta structure. If proline is going to show up, it's going to be like it's breaking the alpha and beta sequence into a more unstructured, turn region. So the right answer here is (D). [03:47] Proteins in a Membrane-Spanning Domain Question 26: Which of the following segments of amino acids would be most likely to be found in the membrane-spanning domain of the sodium channel in a nerve axon? (The choices are one-letter abbreviations.) (A) DDR (B) EVE (C) LAD (D) LIV Bryan's Insights: Remember that the inside of a plasma membrane is nonpolar. The outside phase and the inside phase are polar because they're facing the water. But within the membrane itself is nonpolar. So we need nonpolar amino acids. Fortunately, Bryan thinks the test writers here were kind enough to have three of the answer choices include either D or E. Remember that aspartate and glutamate, DNA respectively, are charged amino acids. They have a full-negative charge on them in the body. And you don't want to put a charge in ion inside the middle of a cell membrane. But you want to have nonpolar amino acids that can fit with a nonpolar environment or surrounding here. So cross out all the first three answers here. Then you say that nonpolar amino acids in a membrane-spanning domain, that's going to be LIV. These are all nonpolar so they would fit for the membrane-spanning domain of any protein. Bryan goes on to explain the typical areas in the body where you don't want any charges in them. On the insides of a globular protein, you want the polar guys pointing out towards the water. This is in the case of a protein floating around in the cytoplasm or floating around in the blood. So the inside of a globular protein would be nonpolar and the inside of the cell membrane would be nonpolar. [06:34] Positive and Negative Charges Question 47: Assuming all other conditions are equal, which of the following amino acids is expected to have the most positive charge at physiological pH? (A) ARG (B) MET (C) ASN (D) ASP Bryan's Insights: This is a quick recall question. You've got to know your positive amino acids. Lysine and Arginine are your two positive amino acids at physiological pH. Lysine is not in the answer choice here but Arginine (ARG) is. Histidine is a switch hitter but it generally gets lumped in as a positive under physiological pH. Back to the answer choices, ARG is positive. MET and ASN are neutral, and ASP is negative. So the answer here is (A). [07:33] Things to Remember About Amino Acids The last question discussed above is a chemical property category. Every amino acid needs to have a label on it. That label will either read positively charged or negatively charged or polar or nonpolar. One of those four labels applies to every amino acid. What you need for the MCAT is to be able to put a label on it, draw it and know its names and abbreviations. [08:28] Next Step Test Prep As you're preparing for your MCAT, one of the best things you can do is take practice tests. Next Step Test Prep has ten full-length practice tests for you. The goal of the practice test is not to take as many as possible. But you need to take them and review them. Take your practice tests with Next Step and get ten full-lengths for a great price. Save some money using the promo code MCATPOD at checkout. Links: MedEd Media Network Next Step Test Prep
Aug 09, 2017
53: How Will an Unbalanced MCAT Score Affect Me?
Session 53 If you're like many MCAT takers, your section scores are unbalanced. Learn how that might affect your medical school application. Check out our other podcasts at MedEd Media as well as Next Step Test Prep's one-on-one tutoring. They can help you score the best that you can score, not just based on the average of the class. Go check out everything Next Step has to offer and use the promo code MCATPOD. [01:13] How Unbalanced Is Your MCAT Score? Another aspect of students that I get an email from every now and then is a good overall score of, say, 5.6, 5.7, or 5.9. However, it's a very unbalanced score. Their sciences are 130's but their CARS is at 123. Bryan has just heard back from one of his own tutoring students who had an initial diagnostic score of around 495-497. Then he brought up his score up to a 512. It's a phenomenal score but he got a 123 in CARS, his lowest verbal score ever. So even with a 512, since he got 123 in CARS, he had to retake the MCAT. Such low score in verbal would get his application thrown out. There are certain schools including a couple of Canadian schools where they really take a look at your verbal score because they know they can teach you the science. How bad is an unbalanced score depends on the nature of it, how extreme it is, and what schools you're applying to. [03:22] Some Schools Filter Out Subsection Scores Typically, I would recommend students to make the most informed decision possible. This information includes the fact that schools have the ability to filter their applications based on a section of the MCAT. A lot of schools will filter out anything below 124 or 125 in a subsection. So if you're getting a 123, you're going to be filtered out by some schools. A lot of premed advisors out there want to say that most schools have this holistic admissions review now. While I agree with that to some extent, the truth is there are thousands of applications and schools don't have the time to look into all of them. So they will rack and stack them, put the highest MCAT/GPAs first. Yours might not get ever looked at because they're just too low. And they've already interviewed everybody they want to interview for the application cycle. But there are still going to be some schools that will take a look at you. So you have to weigh out the pros and cons to determine whether or not you can still boost up your section score in a short period of time. And decide on whether you want to continue with the application cycle this year or wait till the next year. [05:05] Assess Your Situation Bryan points out the fact that every student is unique that's why at Next Step, they spend so much of their focus on one-on-one tutoring. Bryan reiterates the kind of self-assessment you need to do when thinking about doing a retake. What are you going to do differently? What's your particular situation? In the case of the student mentioned above, Bryan recommended the student to do one additional tutoring session to make sure his skills were still there. He also told him to retake it because he had literally never scored below 125 in CARS ever. His baseline coming in was 125 and he was getting 126's and occasionally 127. That was a fluke so he needed to retake immediately. On the other hand, Bryan has had other students who get really unbalanced scores where their CARS or if they had a weak Chem/Phys background. But their score is actually in line with their practice tests. So the improvement they say was not enough. Hence, they need to keep working. Do they have another three months to essentially just re-study really hard on this section? Then the calculation finally comes down to exactly looking into whether you can apply this cycle or do you need to consider pushing back. [08:38] Next Step Test Prep Check out what Next Step Test Prep has to offer, specifically their one-on-one tutoring. They are the key to performing well on the MCAT especially if you're struggling. If you've taken Kaplan or Princeton Review, etc. and you're still not doing well, take a look at Next Step Test Prep one-on-one tutoring. I've had one student who went with Kaplan and only scored a 499. So he got his money back based on Kaplan's higher score guarantee. Then he worked with a tutor at Next Step Test Prep for two weeks now. He took his first full-length and scored a 506. A one-on-one tutor is there to help you score the best that you can score. Not just based on the average of the class. Go check out everything Next Step has to offer and use the promo code MCATPOD. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep
Aug 02, 2017
52: Breaking Down MCAT Sociology Questions
Session 52 First off, we're giving away five ten packs of Next Step Test Prep practice exams to celebrate our 50th episode and closing in on one year of podcast. Text TESTGIVEAWAY to 44222 or go to Also, check out all my other podcasts at MedEd Media. Back to our episode today, Bryan and I tackle some sociology questions to help you break down how the MCAT writers are creating their questions. [02:02] The Biggest Struggle Bryan says students mostly have difficulty with the technical definitions when it comes to the Psychology/Sociology section. It bears repeating that so much of the language used in the hard sciences is so technical and unique to the sciences that students give it the respect it's due. Conversely, so much of the language in sociology and psychology can sound like normal English words so students are tempted to just rely on being an educated English-speaking person instead of really knowing the technical definition. Place Theory, for instance, and when you're seeing the answer choices, you're tempted to make a really completely wrong inference based on the wording of the answer choice or the question or passages. Then you make an incorrect guess just based on the fact that you were just using what sounded like normal English words. Hence, know your terms. Know the technical definition of the terms. [04:44] The Rich and the Poor Question 44: A sociologist is evaluating the interactions between clients and personal injury attorneys. She examines relations between rich, successful white attorneys and clients rapport in front of immigrant families. The sociologist seeks to focus her analysis and the difficulties that arise as a result of the differing levels of wealth and status possessed by the attorneys and clients. This analysis could best be described by which sociological framework. (A) Symbolic interactionism (B) Functionalism (C) Conflict theory (D) Norm deviance dynamics Bryan's Insights: This comes back to knowing just what it means. To be prepared for the MCAT, the students should be able to rattle off a little 90-second definition for functionalism and conflict theory. There are some keywords you want to pull out of here. Each of these questions even if they're discreet, has a little story that it tells and you've got to pull out the relevant info from the story. In this case, we're given a contrast between socio-economic status of rich versus poor. These are the keywords that signal if there is some sort of difficulty or conflict coming out of the class struggle, that is a textbook example of conflict theory. Hence, the right answer here is (C) Conflict theory when you see people fighting over money or you see rich people and poor people having trouble interacting in some way. [06:52] The Process of Elimination Question #45: Sociologists have found that for first generation immigrants from West African nations, health outcomes and healthcare disparities are relatively minor compared to white nation populations whereas the children of West African immigrants experience health outcomes and healthcare disparities nearly aligned with U.S. born African-American populations. This short downward change in a single generation is likely: (A) A negative consequence of social segregation into ethnic conclaves (B) Due to lifelong exposure to higher socioeconomic environment of the U.S. as opposed to West African nations (C) Unrelated to educational attainment (D) Due to an increased social and cultural integration into the U.S. Bryan's Insights: Using the process of elimination, the idea that immigrants who come from certain parts of the world have health outcomes that are more or less in line with the kind of majority white population and then their children actually do much worse. It's kind of the inverse of what we think as the typical immigrant story where folks come to the U.S. and they work really hard and their kids do better and then their grandchildren do even better. We do see instances where it goes the other way around and the children end up doing worse and it's notably from things like certain Caribbean countries from West African nations. Looking at answer choice (A), the conclaves can provide a protective effect so they actually produce better health outcomes. They stick to a diet that's lower in fat and sugar and salt so they end up being healthier because they eat healthier diet. So in this case, (A) would be self-contradicting since you can't say a negative consequence of the ethnic conclaves because if they had stayed in the ethnic conclave, they actually would have been healthier. Answer choice (B) contradicts the question since higher economic status makes you healthier. So if they were exposed to higher socioeconomic status, they should be healthier. But these second generation family members are doing worse. Answer choice (C) somewhat is a distractor. But then again, socioeconomic status, education, and health status all tend to be correlated. Those who are well-off get better schooling and those who get better schooling tend to be healthier. So to say it's unrelated is a bit of a stretch. Looking at answer choice (D), when an immigrant group comes in, the people who came to the U.S. will stick to the healthier diet they had back in their home country. Then they come here and the kids eat the really terrible American standard diet and they end up being unhealthy as a consequence. Hence, D is the right answer. [11:15] The Bystander Effect Question #58: Walking down a city sidewalk, a woman carrying several large shopping bands slips on some ice and drops her things. In which of the following situations is the woman most likely to receive help? (A) The slip occurs during the morning of rush hour period. (B) The sidewalk is in a suburban neighborhood in a mixed-use area of the neighborhood. (C) The sidewalk is in a busy urban avenue with many dozens of people around her when she slips. (D) The sidewalk is otherwise deserted with only a single person walking towards the woman when she slipped. Bryan's Insights: This is one case where knowing the technical terms, "the bystander effect" helps. Or you can maybe answer this from the gut instinct. Hence, (D) is the right answer. From a strategy perspective, answer choices A and C where there are dozens of people around should be eliminated. Any time two choices present essentially the same idea, they have to both be wrong. [12:48] Next Step Test Prep Check out Next Step Test Prep's MCAT class that offers over 100 hours of videos, access to all ten of their top-rated MCAT full-length practice exams as well as access to five live office hours every week where you can go and ask questions to some of the top tutors. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on the MCAT class. Links: MedEd Media Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD)
Jul 26, 2017
51: What is a Competitive MCAT Score?
Session 51 Last week, we covered MCAT retakes. Today, we'll cover a question that you have to know first – what is a competitive MCAT score? If you're listening to this before July 31, don't forget to enter to win one of five ten-pack full-length tests from Next Step Test Prep in celebration of our 50th episode and one year of podcasting. Simply text TESTGIVEAWAY to 44222. [02:10] Your Starting Position The AAMC has provided data from the 2016-2017 application cycle where they give you a grid of GPA crossed with MCAT score and the acceptance rate, how many people applied with these numbers, and how many people were accepted with these numbers. When you think about the odds of getting in and how does that relate to an MCAT score, there is no such thing where A is a good score or getting a perfect 100. With the MCAT, either my score hurts my application or my MCAT score is neutral on my application or it's good enough but it's nothing special or my MCAT score helps in my application. Based on the student's background, they're probably thinking a good score is just a score that doesn't hurt me or anything that's just good enough. For the over-achievers, what's a good score for them is something that helps their application. Looking at the chart, the very bottom right of the chart shows all the applicants in the country (27, 772) and all the accepted students in the country (8,883) with an overall acceptance rate of 32%. With the MCAT, it's like "My odds of getting into med school as a starting position of a totally average, generic, human x with no traits or qualities." So the average human's chances of getting into med school is 32%. This is where you start. "Anything that can get you over the 32% helps you application and anything that drags you under that is going to hurt your application." This is tough as a starting point to go in, which could mean 2/3 chance of failure. But this is the starting position for considering what helps and hurts. But there is a silver lining to this. When you actually remove a lot of the students that shouldn't be applying, like anybody below a 3.0, their acceptance rates are very poor and if you remove a lot of those people then the acceptance rates shoot up a bunch because there are so many people applying. there are still a lot of people out there that because they don't know the process and they're not listening to this podcast or The Premed Years Podcast, they're applying with stats that they really shouldn't be applying to medical school. [06:57] 508 is the New 30 If we start with the most generic average information possible, the nationwide average for people who got accepted into an allopathic and do an MD program in the US was about 5.09. Before the test was released many years back, Bryan says their mantra at Next Step was: "508 is the new 30." They were telling everybody 508 is the number to shoot for and this was based on percentiles considering the MCAT has always been competitive and always demanded that you be about among the top 20% in the nation on the MCAT and a 508 was just about the 80th percentile so it was a little lower than that this year. Ultimately, Bryan felt really vindicated when they saw the data and that if you want to get a 509, that's going to help your application because it puts you in with the average student who gets accepted and not with the average applicant that puts you into the average matriculant. [08:20] What is a Competitive Score? Bryan explains that anything below a 508 is going to hurt you. 508-510 are all fine and if you don't get in, it's not because of your MCAT score, and anything that's 510 and above will help you. I agree with Bryan and this is going to discourage a lot of people because they may only be getting 504 or 505. "There is a huge difference between what is a competitive score and what is a score that will get your application a look and possible get you an interview." I've worked with plenty of students that are getting 501's or 502's and they're still getting interviews and acceptances. So the difference between competitive and good enough is huge and it all depends on that complete application. A lot of students focus on the MCAT thinking it's all they need to get into school. Looking at this table, more than 10% of students who had more than 3.79 GPA and greater than a 517 on the MCAT still couldn't get into medical school. [10:00] A Well-Rounded Application "There are no guarantees." Bryan says that's the top 5% in the nation on the MCAT but he assumes it's pretty high up on the GPA percentiles which vary among colleges. So 12.5% of those people managed to screw up the interviews so badly they didn't get in or they wrote poor personal statements or poor letters of recommendations. Usually, the people getting these high scores are possibly not the most social people and they may not have great communication skills so you need to have a well-rounded application. It's not just the MCAT or the GPA. It's so much more than that. But going back to the heart of our conversation today as to what is the competitive score, I think Bryan nailed it on the head. Looking at the column 502-505, it's little cut above average but you busted your butt just a little bit harder and did a few points above average. Look at the bottom of that column aggregating all the data in that score and the application acceptance rate is 33.3% while the national acceptance rate is only 32%. Not to mention, this can go all the way up if you cut out all the students scoring below a 3.0 GPA and their GPA doesn't speak well to being able to handle medical school curriculum, that number could even be better. [12:00] Hitting 560-509 to 510 and Above So the students who are doing about average or a little above average, this is good enough to get a look and probably good enough to get an interview although you would have to knock it out of the park on everything else, that could get you an acceptance rate that is about the national average. Then when you get to the 506-509, there's a pretty significant jump in the acceptance rate at 46.2% so now you're well above the national average that's likely to be accepted. And then there's an enormous jump once you get to the 510-513 mark at 60.3%. And then the percentage for the top tiers reaches up to almost 80%. "This shows that once you hit 510, that becomes a real asset on your application." Nevertheless, Bryan points out the compounding effect as to the kind of student who is with it enough to really work hard and get a high MCAT score is probably also doing their clinical exposure and their lab work and all the other things they're supposed to be doing as well. [13:20] Hitting a 520: Does It Make a Difference? Bryan says unless you're trying to come work for him and become a premium tutor, there is literally no reason to go for a 520. He adds that the GPA and the MCAT score only really serve two functions. First is to make sure they don't throw out your application. They have to be good enough so they will look at you as a human being. Second, they have to be good enough that they will interview you because no med school in the country takes someone without interviewing them as that ultimate step. So if you got a 510, they're certainly going to interview you as long as everything else is fine. Bryan has never heard of someone whose application was otherwise good and the 510 got them rejected and the 520 would have gotten them accepted. Unless you really want to get into Harvard or Washington University or one of these schools that have hilariously high MCAT averages, then a 520 wouldn't really make a difference if your goal is only wanting to be a doctor. [15:15] Final Thoughts Now you know what you should be shooting for on your MCAT. Knowing where you want to go is important to achieve your goals. Write down the score you want on a piece of paper and pin it up on your wall. Draw it on your bathroom mirror. Tell yourself everyday that you're going to get a 510 or a 505, whatever score you're shooting for. Make it happen. Shoot for the stars and it will happen. Lastly, don't forget to enter to win one of five 10-pack full-length practice tests from Next Step Test Prep before July 31. Otherwise, check out their MCAT course, a do-it-yourself program with access to over 100 hours of videos, full-length exams, AAMC material, and access to five live office hours each week. Use the code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: AAMC Table A-23 Next Step Test Prep (Text TESTGIVEAWAY to 44222 and enter to win their ten-pack full-length tests before July 31. Otherwise, use the code MCATPOD to save some money.) MedEd Media Network The Premed Years Podcast
Jul 19, 2017
50: How Can I Score Higher on my MCAT Retake?
Session 50 In our episode today, we dive into MCAT retakes. If you are worried about needing to retake the MCAT, this episode is for you! Take a listen and share it. In celebration of our 50th episode of The MCAT Podcast, Next Step Test Prep is giving away five ten-pack full-length practice exams to help you maximize your score on the MCAT. Practice exams are one of the best ways to help you prepare to take the MCAT. To enter, text TESTGIVEAWAY to 44222 and we will send you an email on how to enter to win! Back to our episode today, I've been getting a lot of emails from students lately who got their scores back then they're freaking out thinking to take the MCAT again. Ultimately, it all comes down to needing to retake the MCAT, what do they need to do next? [02:20] Evaluating Whether You Should Retake the MCAT Bryan Schnedeker, Next Step's Academic Director and MCAT Guru, tells us that more of the people come to them for a retake rather than people coming to tutor with them and they need another retake. They get a ton of phone calls everyday from students where they hear some variation on this story, whether they took a generic group class or they self-studied or did this and realized they weren't ready so they need to retake and they're asking for help. [03:05] Is the Retake Necessary? Is the retake actually necessary? Based on what you got the first time and the rest of your admissions profile, do you really have to retake? However, a lot of students skip past this questions because this is the common reaction of premeds who are straight A students and are used to getting 99% of questions right when they get an MCAT score they didn't expect. "Step back and be objective. Decide if the retake is really necessary." [04:02] What Went Wrong? Assuming you really need to retake the MCAT, the next question to ask yourself is what did you do that led to that first score? What were your habits? What were the study methods that generated the score you were unhappy with? "Be really, really brutally honest with yourself. Was this really your best effort?" When you signed up for the class, did you actually do all the homework? When you say you were getting practice scores that were xyz, were you taking them under test-like conditions? Figure out the approaches that led to the unhappy score at first. [06:07] What's Going to Be Different This Time? What are you going to do in terms of how you study and what you study that's going to change your performance? Data from the old MCAT shows that for lots of students who retake the MCAT, the score is 0 to +1 or -1. Basically, the score doesn't really change much at all. If you even extend it out to +2 or -2 score change, Bryan explains that you actually start sweeping up the plurality, and in some cases, the majority of students who retake. That said, the students who got a four or more point score increase is only about 20%. So make sure you're in that percentage of students who have this significant score improvement. "What's going to change this time so you get the results you want?" [08:58] Getting Stuck in Your Comfort Zone It all comes down to this human psychology of not wanting to go outside of our comfort zone. For the MCAT, the comfort zone is going to work, doing the normal job, making the money, going to school, doing those classes, hanging out with friends, and spending a couple of hours on the MCAT. Then maybe doing that full eight-hour full-length to really test our skills is outside of a lot of people's comfort zones so they maintain their same schedule and same trends and don't improve. Bryan adds that it can be shocking to be told you're below average when you've been getting A's your whole life and this shock itself tends to be one of the biggest motivators. "Something has to change because the MCAT is not going to change for me. I've got to make that change." [11:22] Intensity Level and Active Engagement Are you willing to make the MCAT nearly a full-time job? Can you find three to four hours a day or treat it like a full-time job where you're waking up in the morning, going to the library and working on MCAT from 9am to 6pm everyday? The second big part of it is the active engagement with the learning. You can't just be passive. You can't just look at a chapter and read all those notes you wrote down or highlighted in the book. It doesn't matter how pretty and organized or color-coded your notes are. You have to really ask yourself if you actually know this. Can you close your notebook and entirely from memory, give a ten to fifteen-minute lecture on the basic function of the nephron? Can you seriously teach the nephron to your little nephew who's a high school senior in bio class? If you don't have that level of knowledge where you can clearly understand and explain the concepts at that level, chances are, you don't know it well enough for the MCAT so you've got to work on it more. [12:58] Doing An Autopsy on Questions This idea that you need to do more and take another test after another as your way to succeed is this autopsy afterwards. It's the review afterwards that actually lets you learn and improve. Sitting down and doing a passage of MCAT verbal practice does literally nothing for your score. It's in analyzing afterwards and figuring out what are the lessons learned and the takeaway points is where you will improve but so many people are not willing to do this. Bryan recommends spending the entirety of the first few lessons taking just five of these questions instead of a hundred and really do an autopsy of each question and get a takeaway point. You should have at least three to four good lessons learned from a passage and a set of questions. If you're not taking the time to do that to extract lessons learned, that's how you spent last summer prepping for the MCAT and didn't get the score you want. "You put the right time into it but you didn't put the right kind of time into it." [14:18] The GPS Analogy A lot of this comes down to being self-aware and doing a good self-assessment on what went wrong and figuring out where to move forward. This is like plugging in directions to a GPS. You know the destination of getting a good score but you need to know where you're starting from. So having that good self-assessment and being self-aware of where you fell flat on your first test or second test and needing to retake it and where to improve on. [15:14] Enter to Win! MCAT retake is a very important topic but don't worry, retaking the MCAT is okay. Again, don't forget to enter to win one of the five ten-pack full-length practice exams that Next Step Test Prep is giving away to help you prepare for the MCAT. Text TESTGIVEAWAY to 44222 and we will send you an email on how to enter to win! This content will run until July 31, 2017 and winners will be announced on August 1. If you happen to come across this after July 31, you still have access to everything Next Step Test Prep has to offer including all of their full-length practice tests, books, MCAT course, and their one-on-one tutoring. They have over 100 hours of videos and access to all then full-length practice tests including live office hours. Use the code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep
Jul 12, 2017
49: Round Four of our Deep Dive into MCAT Discrete Questions
Session 49 This is our 4th week of diving into a grab bag of discrete MCAT questions from various topic areas. Follow along and have a listen! Don't forget to subscribe. [01:33] Metabolism Question Question: Which of the following molecules would be expected to have the lowest tissue concentrations in active skeletal muscle deprived of O2. (A) Glyceraldehyde 3-Phosphate (B) Lactate (C) Citrate (D) Pyruvate Bryan's Insights: What's given is an active skeletal muscle but in the absence of O2 so we're talking about anaerobic, the kind of quick, explosive muscle movement rather than a sustained, marathon kind of muscle movement. Then they're looking for that which is not there, having the lowest tissue concentration.  If you recognize answer choices A, B, and D, they all have something in common. They're all parts of glycolysis. Glyceraldehyde 3-Phosphate is in the middle of the chain, Pyruvate is in the final step, and then Pyruvate is fermented into Lactate. These are all anaerobic and all part of glycolysis. Hence, the right answer is (C) Citrate because it's part of aerobic respiration (the Krebs Cycle or the Citric Acid Cycle). [03:09] General Chemistry Question #29: Which of the following factors would be most likely to cause acetic acid to completely dissociate in aqueous solution? (A) Higher temperatures which increase the PKA of the acid (B) Enzymes that catalyze the forward reaction (C) Continuous addition of acetic acid to the solution (D) Continuous removal of protons from the solution Bryan's Insights: You want to walk into the MCAT recognizing some of your classic weak acids and weak bases. Acetic acid is a classic weak acid which is literally, vinegar, which we take on a regular basis. The question wanted to completely dissociate but it's a weak acid so it doesn't really dissociate very much. We need to drive the process of dissociation forward and rip those protons off the acetic acid. Think about the fact that if you want to drive a reaction forward to completion, one way to do that is to remove the products. If acetic acid breaks apart into acetate and proton, remove the proton. By Le Chatelier's principle, that will cause the reaction to continue moving forward. So answer choice (D) could theoretically get you to complete dissociation. [04:50] Amino Acid Question Question #47: Assuming all other conditions are equal, which of the following amino acids is expected to have the most positive charge of physiological pH? (A) ARG (B) MET (C) ASN (D) ASP Bryan's Insights: You would be expected to walk in knowing that ARG, which is the three-letter abbreviation for arginine, is a positive charge at physiological pH. MET is Methionine and ASN is Asparagine, and they're both neutral amino acids. They have a sulfur-containing group and an amide group but they're neutral at physiological pH. ASP, Aspartic acid or Aspartate, is a negative charge at physiological pH.  [07:24] Sociology Question Question #59: In which of the following societies would anomie most likely be observed? (A) A high school with a science and technology focus in which students who graduate are far more likely than average high school students to believe that arts funding is a waste of public money. (B) A college of campus on which students are required to make such extensive use of technology that the level of normal face-to-face interaction drops precipitously below the norm at other college campuses. (C) A large corporate campus for a multinational food additive company in which upper management actively promotes certain political views and candidates. (D) A committee of military generals with high group cohesiveness that over-estimates its own ability to make military planning decisions and is unwilling to consider descent. Bryan's Insights: It's a classic sociology concept and any one of these can represent anomie although one answer choice should definitely standout to the well-prepared MCAT student as representing a different concept. Answer choice (D) where a group of people with high cohesiveness, unwilling to consider outside views is a classic example of groupthink. Even if you didn't know what anomie is but you know what groupthink is then you can cross this answer choice out. Bryan explains there's this incorrect perception of you can always get it down to two and you get the wrong one, which is this dismissal process of elimination. Anomie is a situation in which society begins to break down because the normal interactions and values of a society have started to fall apart. It is primarily characterized by alienation and isolation. When people are feeling isolated from each other, they're feeling alienated from their larger society. In this case, answer choice (B) are college students who are extensively using technology that normal face-to-face interaction drops precipitously. So by not having that direct contact with their peers, this is a society that could be expressing this idea of anomie. I personally think this is where we are going as a society right now with all our phones. Bryan adds that everyday there's a study that says the use of social media and phones makes you unhappy and is bad for you. This reminds of an article I found online featuring a newspaper article from the late 1800s and they were saying how society was going to end and that things were changing and it wasn't good, all because of kaleidoscopes where everybody in town had their face glued into their kaleidoscopes so history is just repeating itself over and over again. [12:33] About Next Step Test Prep Most known for their one-on-one tutoring, Next Step Test Prep has an amazing new class called The MCAT Course, which includes over 100 hours of videos, access to all ten MCAT full-length practice tests, AAMC full-length exams and materials, as well as access to five live office hours every week with your instructors, all at a price much less than any other big test prep companies out there. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on all their offerings. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.) If you have any topics in mind that you would like us to cover here, shoot me an email at
Jul 05, 2017
48: Deep Dive Into More Random Discrete MCAT Questions
Session 48 This is our third week in a row where we’re covering various discrete MCAT questions. We're basically doing a grab bag today to mix it up and keep you on your toes as Bryan and I break down these different MCAT questions so you can crush the MCAT. [01:20] Sociology Question Question #47: Which of the following statements, if true, least accords with social construction theory? Bryan says this can get a little twisty. The "if true" phrase tells you not to argue with the choices and it's kind of a standard "test maker" talk like, "Don't fight with me about A. Just accept it's true and then tell me whether or not that sounds like social constructionism." (A) The inclusion of many social networking features in the typical smartphone is a result of the value systems of those who designed it. (B) An art film containing several scenes depicting explicit sexual activity is marginalized because no "good" member of a society is willing to view it. (C) World War II is seen by most Americans over the age of 50 as "the last good war" in which the U.S. was unequivocally on the side of justice. (D) The high value of the automobile in enabling personal autonomy is universal across widely disparate societies. [03:12] Bryan's Insights In this question, they're looking for "not" social construction. Social construction theory is the idea that society is built by the people in it which is made up of multiple people interacting through systems, primarily language. Then each society is just built by the people that make up the society. Answer choice (D) presents a fact as if it were some absolute law because of the word universal. So if you see words such as universal or the synonyms of it, they're certainly not social construction theory. Hence, answer choice D is the right answer here. The other answer choices are about the opinions or the behavior of people in a society constructing the society out of those interactions. This is a standard Sociology question. They're going to want you to be able to rattle off the definitions of various views of societies such as social construction theory, conflict theory, feminist theory, social interactionism, or functionalism as it's sometimes called. They won't literally ask for the definition but it can be presented as scenarios and they'd adk oyu to pick something that best fits or least fits the definition. [05:07] Know Your Fatty Acid Question: A fatty acid is composed of a carboxylic acid head and a tail-end comprised primarily of: (A) Hydrocarbon groups (B) Phosphate groups (C) Amino groups (D) Sulfate groups. Bryan's Insights: A fatty acid is made up of a fat as the word suggests, with a head and fat tail and then you just have to remember what a fat molecule is which is just a whole bunch of CH2. So the answer would be (A) Hydrocarbon groups. [06:05] Presence and Absence of Oxygen Question #58: Several Salmonella species are facultative anaerobes. Assuming that other external conditions are controlled for, would the expected growth rate of a Salmonella colony be slower in the presence or absence of oxygen (O2)? (A) In the presence of O2 because aerobic respiration produces CO2, a byproduct that is lethal to facultative anaerobes. (B) In the presence of O2 because the final product of aerobic respiration contains more energy than the final product of fermentation. (C) In the absence of O2 because the bacteria will need to produce pyruvate decarboxylase, an enzyme required for entrance to the Krebs Cycle. (D) In the absence of O2 because these conditions result in lower production of ATP which can fuel binary fission. [07:20] Bryan's Insights Remember the difference between metabolism when you have oxygen versus metabolism when you don't have oxygen and how you get more energy if you're just going to say, take a single glucose molecule and you want to just squeeze all the possible energy out of it and produce whatever the products were going to be. Aerobic is more productive. The reason a human being would die after no oxygen for four or five minutes is because in the absence of oxygen, anaerobic respiration does't produce enough ATP and of course the brain is this total energy hog. It has to have that energy constantly. It's the same for bacteria. The question says where will the growth be slower and so you're going to be slower in the absence of O2 because you're not getting nearly enough energy out of it. Hence, the correct answer is choice (D). Answer choice (C) is not the right answer because in the absence of O2, you're not going to do the Krebs Cycle so this choice is self-contradictory where it says the absence of O2 but you will do the Krebs Cycle so it doesn't make sense. [09:30] Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep can help you with your test prep needs. I think the number one reason a lot of students don't do well on the MCAT is they don't study properly. They put their head in the books and walk up to their test day and take the MCAT. This is what they've been taught going through undergrad which is to study, study, study then take the test. The MCAT is completely different. You need to study. You need to understand the content. But beyond that, you need to take practice tests. You need to understand the format of the MCAT. You need to understand how to take the MCAT so you can succeed on it. Next Step Test Prep has ten full-length practice exams for you to take. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.) MedEd Media Network The Premed Years Podcast Specialty Stories Podcast OldPreMeds Podcast
Jun 28, 2017
47: More Discussion of a Mix of Discrete MCAT Questions
Session 47 This week is a continuation of last week's grab bag of MCAT discrete questions that Bryan and I covered so you can max your score come test day! [01:10] Anatomy and Mnemonics Question #44: Each of the following structures are derived from the mesoderm except: (A) Kidneys (B) Spinal cord (C) Triceps (D) Circulatory system Bryan's Insights: The standout here is the spinal cord because the brain, spinal cord, and nerves are all derived from ectoderm, along with things like the skin, hair, and the lens of the eye, and so on. So the correct answer here is (B). You can use this mnemonic of the mesoderm as a "move-o-derm." First, the move-d-derm controls how you move your body around such as bone, muscle, cartilage, and so on. Second, it controls how you move things inside of you (ex. circulatory system). The blood vessels are just muscular tubes but this plugs back into that idea of being a muscle. Third, the move-o-derm is so good that it doesn't just move the body around or moves things around inside your body, but it also gives you the motivation to move. So if your lazy butt is sitting on the couch on any random Sunday and why do you get off the couch to move? Probably because you have to pee. So mesoderm gives you the kidneys, the excretory system, as well as the reproductive system. Endoderm means inside so if it's an internal organ and you don't know, just guess endoderm like liver or spleen. Ectoderm is stuff on the outside so skin, hair, eyes, oh and by the way, brains. [04:35] Chemistry and the Bases Question: Which of the following compounds would not be useful as an antacid? (A) MgOH2 (B) AlOH3 (C) C2H5OH (D) CaCO3 Bryan's Insights: The common mistake here would be to pick answer choice (D) Calcium carbonate which is the only that doesn't have an OH and remembering that OH is a base so perhaps choices A, B, and C are all bases and D is not. However, answer choice (C) is ethanol which is an alcohol so it's not a base at all. That OH there is not an OH- so they can break off. In fact, it has a basically neutral and ever so slightly acidic pH. Whereas (A) Magnesium hydroxide and (B) Aluminum hydroxide are going to release an OH. They could counter an acid so they can be an antacid while (D) Calcium carbonate is literally the actual medical antacid we've all taken at some point. So the correct answer here is (C). [06:14] Universal Emotions Question #46: Three individuals, one from a large urban center in Canada, one from a remote world, which is a village in Bulgaria, and one from a tribe in the Brazilian jungle are presented with the following stimuli. Which of them is most likely to be interpreted the same way by all three individuals: (A) Hunched body posture and upright body posture (B) A facial grimace and a smile (C) A long loud sigh (D) A shout of a vulgar word in a romance language Bryan's Insights: There are the classic universal emotions that are expressed in our faces the same way everywhere. They're just kind of hardwired into what it means to be a human brain with a face. Happy, sad, surprised, disgusted - these are things that are the same everywhere. So the facial expression here is absolutely the right answer. [07:45] Key Takeaways It's always important for the little story I told about the move-o-derm. It moves your body. It moves the stuff inside you. It gives you the motivation to move. So it's always important for those mnemonics to be something that you can connect with personally or tells a little story. Mnemonics are not just random strings of letters. Take the time and effort to build your own meaningful mnemonics and they will serve you well on test day. [08:35] Next Step Test Prep If you're struggling with your MCAT prep and you're deciding what to do for your MCAT prep, go check out Next Step Test Prep for your MCAT prep needs. They have ten full-length exams. They have a brand new MCAT course that includes 100+ hours of video. It like a do-it-yourself paced course but you also get access to live office hours five days a week. Use the promo code MCATPOD. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code: MCATPOD) MedEd Media Network
Jun 21, 2017
46: Deep Dive Into a Mix of Discrete MCAT Questions
Session 46 This week we're staying away from one specific section and are doing a grab bag of discrete MCAT questions. Take a listen and follow along with us. [01:22] Mental Flexibility Bryan mentions that the real MCAT really requires you to be flexible for your brain to change gears quickly on the fly under timed conditions. So for this week and the next couple of weeks, we intend to jump from topic to topic in order to flex that mental agility. A real life-example of how this works is golf. When you go to the driving range, you usually use one club over and over again and then switch to another club and go over and over again. But that's not how you play golf. It's one club, one time, another club, another time. So you need to practice how you're going to perform. [02:17] Question #32: A researcher carries out a column chromatography at physiological pH, using a stationary medium with a net positive charge. If a solution containing the following oligopeptides is poured into the column, which oligopeptide will most likely be found in the first fraction collected? (A) DDGE (B) EILD (C) KRVV (D) VEGP Bryan's Insights: The trick here is recognizing the charges amino acids have at physiological pH. This is something the MCAT is definitely going to expect us to know at the top of our head. Recognize that the medium has a positive charge so anything that's negative is going to stick to the stationary medium and just stay there. The question wants the first fraction that falls through this column. You should remember that the amino acids D (aspartate) and E (glutamate) are the two that have a negative charge at physiological pH and D and E, aspartate and glutamate go the same order alphabetically. Answer choice (A) DDGE is a whole bunch of negative and (B) EILD where E is a negative and (D) VEGP where E is a negative. So three of the four answer choices have a negative amino acid and that negative amino acid would stick to the positive charge and stay in the column. Hence, the right answer for this one is answer choice (C) KRVV because K and R are positive and V is neutral so it would just fall right along the positive so it would repel each other. [05:00] Understanding Amino Acids For each amino acid, you would need to understand specific things such as name, the three-letter and one-letter abbreviations, whether it's charged, and broadly what its chemical behavior is like (polar versus nonpolar). Finally, you should be able to draw all 20 of the standard canonical amino acids from memory. You don't have to remember the weird ones like the selenocysteines as they're much less likely to come up. [06:16] Question #48: Which of the following solvents would lead to the fastest SN1 reaction: (A) N-hexane (B) Benzene (C) Tetracholoromethane (D) Propenol Bryan's Insights: You can always play the game of which one of these doesn't belong when you get one of these orgo questions with four different molecules for choices. Hexane and benzene are fairly generic nonpolar solvents which are hydrocarbons. Benzene is a ring and N-hexane is a chain. There is no reason to pick one over the other so you can cross both of them out. For choices (C) and (D), chlorine is electronegative so that would make a polar bond except when you have tetrachloromethane. All four chlorines pulling on the same carbon. Technically, the bond is polar but the molecule is not because it's kind of a four-way tug-of-war whether they will all cancel each other out. Hexane, benzene, and tetrachloromethane are all nonpolar solvents. You can cross them all off together. Propanol alcohol is not just polar but protic. It's got that OH group and the alcohol that makes it very water-like in its chemical behavior. If nothing else, that's how you would get to the right answer there. [08:07] Understanding SN1 and SN2 Reactions You should walk into the test being very comfortable with SN1 and SN2 reactions and knowing that SN2 prefers an aprotic so no water and no alcohol whereas SN1 prefers a protic solvent. When it comes to named organic chemistry reactions, when they switched over to this current format of the MCAT in 2015, they switched almost all of them. But SN1 and SN2 are the old die-hard's and Bryan says when humanity has gone the way of the dinosaurs, there's still going to be a standardized test asking about SN1 and SN2 somewhere. [09:03] Question #46: A single sports fan is capable of yelling at an intensity level of 80 decibels from a given distance. If 10,000 similar fans were all yelling from the same distance, which of the following will be the closest to the observed intensity level? (A) 84 decibels (B) 120 decibels (C) 160 decibels (D) 320 decibels Bryan's Insights: Decibel is a measure of intensity which is a measure of loudness. A crowd of 10,000 screaming at you is going to be louder than one person screaming at you. So it's going to be a number bigger than 80 and all of the answer choices are bigger than 80. In this current version of the MCAT, even if it's a physics question, you can reason from biology. You want to walk into the test knowing that 80 decibels could be a human screaming very loudly and the threshold of pain to the point where the noise itself starts to actually cause pain in your ear is somewhere in the 130-140 decibel range. Imagine a stadium full of people all shouting, that's going to be pretty loud. Answer choice (A) is only a little more than 80 so that doesn't sound right for an entire stadium full of people shouting at you. Then you have to decide whether it's loud enough that it's going to start physically hurting just hearing a stadium full of people cheer, maybe yes, maybe not. Answer choice (B) is below the threshold of pain while (C) is above the threshold of pain. Choice (D) would be like shoving your head in the jet engine. It's massive and that could be causing earthquakes. So you could edge your way close to the right answer here even if you couldn't remember the equation. Although you should know the decibel equation which is a logarithmic scale. So going from one person up to 10,000 people, you recognize 10,000 as 104 times bigger than the original intensity level. But the thing about the decibel scale that makes it a pain in the butt to remember, unlike other logarithmic scales like pH or pK or whatever, the decibel scale is ten times the log of the intensity or the intensity difference. So the 4 becomes a 40 and our 80 decibel goes up to a 120 decibels. It could be a pain in the butt but you have to remember that decibel equation is ten times the log of the intensity. [13:30] Final Thoughts Our episode today is basically all about things you need to memorize for the MCAT. Know your amino acids. Know your SN1 and SN2 stuff. Know your decibel equation. Don't forget that even if you can't remember the exact content, you can edge your way closer to the right answer by thinking in terms of the biology or playing which one doesn't belong. [14:15] Next Step Test Prep Check out everything that Next Step Test Prep has to offer. They are the leader in one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT. If you're struggling right now and freaking out right now as of this recording in June that you're not getting the score you need, contact Next Step. Talk to a tutor. For the next month or so, set up a specific individualized plan for you to figure out where your weaknesses are to be able to improve on your score. If you're scoring about the same, there's something wrong with your practice. Talk to Next Step and figure out what that is. Next Step Test Prep offers classes, tutoring, and full-length exams. Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.) MedEd Media Network
Jun 14, 2017
45: How Can I Prepare for and Improve My CARS MCAT Score
Session 45 There are four sections on the MCAT, three of them focused on the sciences and one is this random CARS that seems to demolish everybody. What used to be called Verbal Reasoning is now termed as CARS. The CARS section of the MCAT is typically the hardest for most premed students. Today, Bryan from Next Step is dishing out some recommendations on how to best prepare so you can improve your CARS score. [01:23] Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section is not only an upgrade in terms of the name, but it's also a longer and tougher section than the old verbal reasoning. The name really points out critical analysis and reasoning skills. One of the common pieces of advice you read out there is to read a lot. Read The Economist magazine or The Atlantic monthly. Nothing wrong with that as more reading is always good. Reading is the best way to prepare for the MCAT. But in and of itself, it's a too passive notion that casually reading a magazine is enough to improve your skills. It will bump up your reading but it will not build up that critical analysis and reasoning part. [02:15] Your Philosophical Stance You have to focus very intently as you read. You can just read actual MCAT practice passages from a book or online resource such as the Next Step's MCAT Verbal Practice: 108 Passages for the New CARS Section Book. However, make sure to think about the reasoning that underlies the passage. Not just what you're reading but why is the author putting together the passage that way. Don't just read but critically analyze and reason. [02:47] There is No “One and Only Way” The other big and important part of prepping for the CARS and this is a major mistake that students make is thinking that somehow there is one simple method that is going to unlock everything. It's not that simple. Moreover, Bryan thinks this idea is so pervasive that there is a "right way" to do the verbal passages because this gets peddled a lot by different prep companies, tutors, or books telling you the xyz method for CARS. They're going to present it like this is the "one way and only right way" to do things. [03:50] Mastery of CARS To really master the CARS section, it's not a matter of learning the CARS method but it's a matter of finding your CARS method. Some people like to use the onscreen highlighter. Others have to stop every paragraph and jot down notes on their scratch paper. Some people like to skim real fast and get to the questions. Others like to read quickly and then write the author's main opinion or main idea and then go to the questions. There are all sorts of different ways to successfully approach these passages and questions. Therefore, the biggest takeaway is that the best way to prepare for CARS is to try different things, keep track of your progress (what methods work for you and what methods don't) and do that as soon as you start your MCAT prep. You want to find your preferred method within the first one-thirds or one-half of your MCAT calendar so you can spend the subsequent half or two-thirds of your calendar mastering what works best for you. [05:15] Transferring Your Skills When you're reading and working through Psychology/Sociology and the other sciences, you may also be using the same skills for CARS in those sections. The parts that are transferable are looking at connections in the passage. If it's an argument about some form of poetry, for example, just look at the logic and think on a structural level like how is the passage structured. This helps in both the science and reading. [06:45] Strategies for Reading Articles and Journals As you're reading different articles in different magazines, focus on the opinion. What's the author's opinion? What are the contradictory opinions? Once you've understood the various opinions being presented, take the next step and figure out the reasoning to support those opinions. Always look for the evidence the author uses to draw conclusions. And if you're not consciously thinking about it, it's very easy to get passive. Writers have a tendency to present their own beliefs as if it was the truth and present everything as if the facts were incontrovertible and absolutely correct. So if you're reading long-form journalism, just stop at the end of every paragraph and ask yourself, whose opinion is this? How does this support someone's opinion? How does this refute someone's opinion? [07:54] Final Thoughts Start early, start early, start early. The day you start your CARS practice is the day you start your MCAT practice. Finally, go check out what Next Step Test Prep has to offer. They have a 10-pack full-length exam and an MCAT course that includes five live office hours every week. They're also best known for their one-on-one tutoring. Use the promo code: MCATPOD to save some money on their products and services. Links: Next Step Test Prep Next Step's MCAT Verbal Practice: 108 Passages for the New CARS Section Book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview The Short Coat Podcast MedEdMedia Network The Economist The Atlantic
Jun 07, 2017
44: Answering Discrete Sociology Questions for the MCAT
Sociology is one of the new kids on the block for the MCAT. Take a listen to this episode to hear how to approach sociology questions on the new MCAT.
May 31, 2017
43: Breaking Down MCAT Psychology Discrete Questions
Session 43 Did you know that there is biology on the psychology section of the MCAT? I didn't either! Check out our latest episode to learn more about the psych section. If you're listening to this before June 4, 2017, text BOOKGIVEAWAY to 44222 and get a chance to win one of 50 copies of he Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. In this episode, Bryan and I are diving into some Psychology questions on the new MCAT and how to best answer them. [01:40] Sensation and Perception Question #18: An object viewed in full sunlight can be seen to have several shades running from light blue on the left side of the object through teal to light green on the right side of the object. Viewed in moonlight, the same object appears, a uniform grey. This is due to: An increased activation of the optic nerve due to sympathetic upregulation The decreased light sensitivity of cones relative to rods The increased night vision image clarity created by the phobia The stereo optic vision created by having two front-facing eyes [02:35] A Psychology Question? Remember that perception and sensation are considered psychology and the psych section of the MCAT does include 5% bio questions and another 5% that the AAMC has specifically called out as psychology questions but sound like bio. Just remember that even the psych section of the MCAT has almost 10% of its questions that feel like biology especially around sensation. [03:13] C for Cones, Rods for Night Vision The correct answer here is choice B. At night, everything looks grey because you're looking with your rods and in full bright daylight, everything looks colored because of your cones. Answer choice B talks about sympathetic upregulation that involves being in fight or flight mode. Choice C talks about the phobia creating increased night vision but it's actually the exact opposite. The phobia is your hyper-detailed bright light vision which is the most precise part of the eye that requires the most light. Choice D which is stereo optic vision is just the way to see in 3-D by having your two eyes pointing forward. [04:10] Projection Question #29: A young boy begs his parents to let him get a puppy. He wants to show his parents that he's growing up and he can handle the responsibility of training the puppy. For several weeks after getting the puppy, the boy has great difficulty training the dog to urinate outside or do the basic tricks. When he becomes frustrated, the boy repeatedly calls the dog a dumb little baby and a bad boy who can't be trusted. Psychoanalytic theory would assert that the boy's yelling demonstrates: Projection An oedipal issue Repression Transference [04:45] Bryan’s Insights Answer choice A. Projection is the right answer. The boy is afraid of being seen as immature. He wants to seem like a grownup who can handle training his puppy and so he yells at the puppy that the it's a dumb little baby and so he's projecting his insecurity onto the puppy. The oedipal complex is the classic Freudian theory of early psychosexual development that involves the relationship with the mother. Repression is choosing not to think about an unpleasant thought. Transference is when you take feelings from one source and transferring it over to another source. An example of transference is when in therapy where the patient starts to view the therapist as the parent. As the patient works through whatever Freudian issues they have related to their parent, they start to see their doctor that way. [06:06] Group Polarization Question: A group of six likely voters are gathered in a conference room. All six people have voted for conservative political candidates in the past. They're asked to discuss three possible candidates, Candidate A who is a liberal, Candidate B who is a middle-of-the-road conservative, and Candidate C who is very strongly conservative. At the end of the discussion, the six voters are asked to cast a ballot for their choice. Which candidate would likely receive the most votes? An even split with no plurality Candidate A Candidate B Candidate C [06:50] Bryan’s Insights The correct answer is choice D. Bryan says there are times you can get the right answer and would really feel good about it and get it right for like 75% of the right reason but you should still be reviewing every question you do. Because even on the questions you get right and thought were easy, there could still be a good takeaway point from there. The takeaway point here is that you need to remember the phrase group polarization. As I would have suggested, it's about consistency. This explains the "foot in the door" phenomenon and a whole series of phenomenon. But Bryan explains that specifically for this group of six conservative voters, if you put them all in a room together and ask them to discuss possible candidates, the group will end up even becoming more polarized. So if this was a group full of middle-of-the-road conservatives, by the end of the discussion, they're all going to talk themselves into wanting the really extreme conservative candidate. This isn't just in the political context but this goes for anything. Put a group of people together and they will talk themselves into a more polarized position. [09:10] Review The Questions You Got Right Another takeaway here is to review the questions you got wrong and the questions you got right and find out why they're right. Maybe you got right answer because you just got lucky. Bryan adds that the conundrum especially comes up with the "I got it down to two" phenomenon where people always think I got it down to to and I always got it wrong. Yes, true, because you didn't review the ones you got right. If you reviewed the ones you got right, you would see a bunch of times you got it down to two and got it right. Therefore, you've got to review every single question. [10:00] Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Reasoning Question #56: Steve is instructed by his boss to forge a document. Steve knows this is against company policy and possibly against the law but he's afraid he might lose his job if he doesn't comply. Under Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development, what stage is Steven if he decides to forge the document. Pre-operational Pre-conventional Post-conventional Concrete operational [10:30] Bryan’s Insights Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Reasoning are important for the MCAT so you have to know them. The first thing you want to do is to eliminate pre-operational and concrete operational because those don't refer to moral development but to Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development. For example, infants are pre-operational and school children are concrete operational. Now we're down to choices B and C. Steve is behaving with his morality being determined by fear of punishment and this is something that generally guides children. the correct answer here is B. Pre-conventional. With Kohlberg's moral reasoning, the pre-conventional stages are the way children reason about what they should do in moral situations like don't get caught or don't get punished. The conventional stages of moral reasoning are like what does a good little girl do or what does a good boy do. You have to obey the law. It doesn't matter what the law says, you just obey it. More highly educated adults will eventually develop into post-conventional moral reasoning where they follow universal moral principles rather than following a law just because it's a law. [12:37] Next Step Test Prep Check out what Next Step Test Prep is doing in the test prep world! They have a course with over 100 hours of videos, access to all 10 full-length practice tests, and all the AAMC testing material. Also get access to five live office hours every week. Get all this all for a price significantly less than what other test prep companies are offering. Go to and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money on their MCAT course. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.) Text BOOKGIVEAWAY to 44222 and get a chance to win one of 50 copies of The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.
May 24, 2017
42: Four Tips for Memorizing Science for the MCAT
Session 42 In today's episode, Bryan and I are going to dive into how you can better memorize the science facts for your MCAT test day considering the sheer volume of things you need to know. If you're still having trouble memorizing all these amino acids and mnemonics found online, Bryan spills out some secrets to help you finally remember science. [01:55] Apply What You Learn Bryan thinks We spend so much time studying psychology, including memory, and often forget to apply it to ourselves. We have to know how memory works for the MCAT and we have to remember that's how we remember our own stuff. Students make the mistake of trying to remember their MCAT science the way they would study for their mid-term for their immunology class like group forced repetition or somebody in the class gave them a mnemonic so they cram all that into their head and spew it back out the next day and promptly forget all of it. This doesn't work for the MCAT since you have to remember all of it all at once on test day. Therefore, you should be able to use the basic principles of good memorization for the MCAT itself.  Today, Bryan walks us through four simple yet incredibly important points. [03:00] #1: Try different learning modalities. Engage with the material using different modalities or approaches. Oftentimes, people get so hung up on the visual with those diagrams and tables or flashcards. MCAT books are certainly filled with images so everybody gets completely hung up on the visual. However, not all of us are visual learners. Instead, try to come up with something auditory such as mnemonics that rhyme or have a rhythm to them. Try to engage with it kinesthetically. Imagine the lever arm in your hand and twerking it by twisting your arm or remember the right hand rule. If you can engage the kinesthetic or the auditory in addition to the visual, you're much more likely to remember things. A classic auditory learner would approach things is writing song lyrics (just like what my wife, Allison, did while we were studying in medical school.) Even with Bryan the only reason he can name every nation in the world and every state and its capital is because of the song  about this in the cartoon show Animaniacs. And to further give you a basic example, we even sing our ABC's. [04:57] #2: Tell a story. Don't try to memorize isolated facts. Put those facts in context. Make connections between the facts. "Because" is one of the most important words in memorizing MCAT science. The human brain is terrible at remembering a random isolated fact. Whereas if you're able to make connections, you're suddenly better at remembering them. Plus the fact that as human beings, we are phenomenally good storytellers. If you could tell a story about the relevant science, you're much more likely to remember it. Then your repeat this through a process called “elaborative rehearsal” which means you rehearse it over and over again and elaborate each step along the way. For example, when memorizing electrochemical cells (for which every student hates electrochemistry and this is a universal law of MCAT students), start at one point like the classic mnemonics REDCAT which means "reduction takes place at the cathode." Repeat that. And then elaborate. Because a reduction reaction has to be paired with an oxidation reaction then oxidation takes place at the anode. So REDCAT (reduction takes place at the cathode). Reduction and oxidation are paired. So oxidation takes place at the anode. Then add another fact. Reduction is the gain of electrons so electrons have to be flowing to the cathode. Reduction takes place at the cathode. Because reduction is paired with oxidation, oxidation takes place at the anode. And because reductions requires electrons, electrons flow to the cathode. And so on and so forth until you've built out a whole little 5-10 minute lecture on electrochemistry. Now, it's no longer a single isolated fact but a story you're telling about how a galvanic cell is built. So now you're much more likely to remember it. [07:31] #3: Make it personal. Not only is our brain built to tell a story but they're also built to store information that has emotional content relating to the people we know. In terms of where we devote time, effort, and energy, number one is other people. We are tribal animals so if you could connect abstract MCAT science to other people, then you're much more likely to remember it. So instead of an abstract mnemonic, if you could make a mnemonic that relates to your best friend or your family member, or simply place all those personal connections, your likelihood of remembering them is definitely much greater. Personally create those flashcards and personally try to come up with your own mnemonics instead of taking stuff that's already created. Craft it yourself so it's based on your own family and your own story. In fact, the majority of learning with flashcards is actually creating them. [09:35] #4: Master the basics. Master the basics rather than learning halfway of everything. It can be intimidating how much is on the MCAT and literally just the AAMC's official science outline is 125 pages long. And because of that sheer volume of stuff you have to know, the temptation is to just quickly cover everything. However, you're better off just focusing on 20%-40% of real foundational stuff and make sure you have it mastered backwards, forwards, upside down and sideways than you would be trying to halfway everything. Otherwise you'd be "Jack of all trades, Master of bad MCAT score." Whereas if you mastered the basics, you can reason your way through much of the MCAT. Links: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview (Text PREORDER to 44222 to learn more about how to win a free copy by June 4, 2017 and how you can preorder the book and get up to almost $100 worth of giveaways.)
May 17, 2017
41: MCAT Logistics if You Have to Travel to Take Your Test
Session 41 If you're interested in learning how to best prepare for your medical school interview, text PREORDER to 44222 and I will send you the information on how you can preorder my Amazon bestselling book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. Learn how you can get $100 worth of free stuff from me including a month of our medical school mock interview platform and access to our video course all about the medical school interview if you preorder the book before June 6, 2017 (when the book releases). Hopefully, you registered for the MCAT early enough that you got a seat and you don’t have to travel. But if you do have to travel because there were no longer seats available except for a couple of states over, here are a few things you need to know to best come prepared for the MCAT test day. [02:20] The Extreme Case: In Case You Need to Fly The raw physical movement associated with test day may sound silly but this can really impact your performance. Let's say you have to fly somewhere to take your MCAT. (Oh and by the way, in the last exam for the old MCAT, people had to fly to Guam to take it.) But even a two or three-hour regional flight can knock you for a loop. Any time you sleep somewhere new like a hotel room which is not where you're used to, you're not going to sleep as well as you do at home. You're not really going to get that really good, regenerative, Stage 3 deep sleep and REM sleep, not as much as you're used to anyway. If you can, don't fly the night before but try to fly an extra day or even an extra two days before test day so that you are in the same place for two or three days in a row. This is going to get real expensive but since you're already putting yourself in extreme circumstances, you might as well do it in a way that's going to give yourself the least penalty possible. But what's more expensive, an extra night at a hotel or retaking the MCAT because you slept so poorly the night before? You spend an extra few hundred dollars to retake the MCAT plus another three months of your life restudying for it. [05:06] The Average Case You don't want to be doing extensive traveling the morning of test day. If it takes you 30 minutes to 1 hour the most to get there, that's reasonable. But there are stories of people getting up at four in the morning to drive four hours to the MCAT. This is not a good scene and you don't want to be doing this. Instead, drive the night before and stay in a hotel. [05:40] What to Do the Day Before Bryan recommends that you go visit the testing location the day before the MCAT. A lot of students laugh at this but this can actually make a huge life or death difference. Bryan further says that you find the building, find the suite where the prometric center is. Make sure where you're going to park or how you're going to get there so you can avoid any problems that may arise. There isn't going to be a problem 97% of the time, but what if you're in that 3%? It can really be a life-altering precaution so this is just like putting your seatbelt on. As simple as not being able to find your testing center could literally screw up your test day if you're not able to figure that out the day before. So find the building the day before and make sure you know exactly where you're going. [07:15] Open Your Email from AAMC Someone posted in the MSHQ Facebook Hangout Group that they received an email from AAMC.  They didn't think about it and didn't open it until a couple of days later only to find out that the AAMC changed their test center. The AAMC may give you at least a couple of weeks notice and the other location may not be something radical but this is something to be aware of. In any email you get that's from the AAMC, please open it. [08:15] How to Get There If you're lucky enough to be close to your testing location to walk, then walk as it's a good way to get your brain pumping and blood moving that morning. In most locations, try to avoid mass transit unless you're in an area where there is very good mass transit and it's better than you driving. [08:45] Final Thoughts Hopefully, you don't have to travel for your MCAT test day. That means you have registered early. But if you made a mistake or had to reschedule the last minute and you need to travel somewhere to take the MCAT, please take all the advice we've shared here. Lastly, check out Next Step Test Prep and everything they have to offer to help you on your MCAT journey. Next Step offers one-on-one tutoring as well as their brand new MCAT course, over 100 hours of videos, five live office hours per week, and access to all of their books, MCAT practice exams, and all AAMC practice materials. Better quality, less price. Check it out and use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money. Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money from their offerings.) AAMC The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview (Text PREORDER to 44222 to get the information on how you can preorder the book.) MSHQ Facebook Hangout Group
May 10, 2017
40: Last Minute MCAT Tips Leading Up to Test Day
Session 40 Your MCAT day is approaching – how should you maximize your last couple of weeks leading up to the MCAT to make sure you get the best score possible? Here are some last minute tips to help you rock it! [01:43] Cramming and Measured Approach Students can go berserk with science content in those last few weeks and this is really counterproductive. There are things you can do to shore up your score but the biggest impact you could have would be negative if you went completely off the chain, drove yourself into frenzy, and collapse on test day. So the last few weeks should be a measured approach to the extent that you could be cramming but doing it as real official AAMC practice. [02:21] Three Weeks Before Test Day The typical arrangement is that three weeks before test date, take the AAMC Scored Practice Exam 1. As of this recording, there are only two scored exams but you can spin this back, working backwards from test day as more scored exams come out. These are basically the best practice tests you can get. However, there's a belief out there in the premed land that the AAMC tests are infamously bad with their explanations as they don't actually help you analyze the question at all. And sadly, this is true. AAMC obviously produces the only source of test and they are phenomenally good except that the explanations leave a lot to be desired. What Bryan does with his tutoring students in the last few weeks leading up to the exam is to let them take it and spend 2-4 days of full-time work pretending that the AAMC hired them to write the explanations for all 230 questions on the test, that level of analysis where you really dive deep into the thought process for the AAMC exam. Now, this can easily eat up almost an entire week's worth of work. If you have extra time, stick to doing timed practice on full time sections from books or any resource material. [04:23] Two Week Before Test Day Do the same thing again with Official AAMC Scored Practice Exam 2 and really do a deep-dive into the reasoning and a really thorough analysis, pretending the AAMC has paid you to write complete explanations for the test. You can find explanations elsewhere. These are actually baked into the Next Step Online MCAT Course where they've got a whole video series of Dr. Anthony explaining the test to you. So if you don't have the time, you could use that resource. But there is tremendous value in doing it yourself so that you can completely get your head in the game for how the AAMC thinks about how they write questions, passages, etc. [05:05] Study Groups This doesn't mean writing the explanation while you're doing the test. First, take the test as a student and then you get a score again. Once you have the time afterwards, go on Wikipedia to look the fact up. You're not pressured to do the whole passage in eight minutes. Start reading what little the AAMC has written by way of explanation. Once the pressure is off, after the fact, it's really not as so much hard as you might think to really carefully digest what you're reviewing. And if you're still stuck, go back to one of the number one points that has been said here on this podcast over and over again -  to get your study group together. This would be an excellent use of study group time where you each kind of parcel out a portion of the test and write explanations for each other and then teach each other that AAMC exam. [06:55] The Home Stretch - One Week to Test Day Take the unscored sample test (which obviously means there is no score for this test). A lot of people claim they can tell you how to convert your percent correct on the sample test into a scaled score but Bryan strongly recommends against doing this. The sample test was never normed. The AAMC never administered it to a statistically significant group of test takers. So any supposed estimation of your score based on the sample test is voodoo more than anything else. Again, just take the unscored sample test and review it thoroughly during that last week. But don't go berserk trying to review every single thing under the sun nor try to guess what your score would be right at the very end. The reason we save the sample test as the very last test is to just take the score off the table and to take the anxiety out of it since it's unscored anyway. So there's no need to freak out one week before the exam because you got xyz on some sort of practice test. [08:18] Tips for Reviewing Content In reviewing content, just pick three things where if you clicked that little "next" button on the screen and the passage popped up and then you saw a passage on that particular topic, your stomach would drop out from under you or you're all sweating and palpitating. Saying to yourself in these last two weeks before the MCAT that you're going to review everything means you're going to be reviewing nothing. If you're casually skimming all of the MCAT, you're going to get nothing out of it. But if in these last two or three weeks you're going to hammer the heck out of electrochemistry and your amino acids, your enzymes, and enzyme inhibitors, that's very doable. You can really review electrochemistry again and again and again so that if it shows up on test day, you don't have that “freak out/meltdown” moment. [09:23] One Day Before Test Day Do nothing. You probably have developed an unhealthy relationship to test prep and you start shuffling around and scratching your forearm, but if you absolutely have to do something, don't answer any question. Just put your feet up and casually flip through your flash cards. But no passages, no questions, no calculations. As much as possible, do nothing, But if that would freak you out, then really low-stress review your notes. [10:14] It’s Like Running a Marathon! If you were relate this to running a marathon, it's like doing a taper which is normally done before any competition. As Bryan puts it, human performance is performance, be it cognitive like the MCAT or physical and emotional like an actor, or physical like in athletics. Performance is the same in all those cases. Tapering off and easing your way into test day or game day would be the same. [11:25] A Few More Tips A lot of people tend to miss these things but you have to maintain good sleeping habits, maintain good diet, and always hydrate yourself because this may affect your cognition. Your brain is just another organ in your body so you've got to take care of your body if you want your brain to work correctly. Get that aerobic exercise. It doesn't mean training for a half marathon but get up and take a walk everyday. So get sleep, water, and exercise. Find that healthy homeostasis. Lastly, don't do anything crazy in the days or weeks before test day. A common piece of advice people get about the MCAT is to get off caffeine. That's fine if you can do it about three months ahead of time but three days ahead of time do not change your caffeine consumption at all. Or taking Adderall at the day of the test day which is not normal for you can give you a heart attack. Do not do anything that would disrupt your body's normal homeostasis in the days and weeks before the test. [13:00] Last Thoughts As time is winding down, your stress level skyrockets. Hopefully, you read and heed to this advice today. One other thing, Bryan mentioned the explanations for the AAMC exams but I've heard a couple of times from students going through Next Step Test Prep's course and they've given me feedback that the explanations provided by Next Step are way above and beyond the explanations AAMC gives for their exams. Check out the Next Step online course. The MCAT class is something Next Step took a long time to develop with a hundred plus hours of videos laid out and centered around different topics and content. Get access to ten of Next Step Test Prep's full-length exams and the AAMC material as well as access to instructors through five different office hours every week. To save some money, use the promo code MCATPOD.Your MCAT day is approaching - how should you maximize your last week leading up to the MCAT to make sure you get the best score possible? Links: Next Step Test Prep (Use the promo code MCATPOD to save some money.) Next Step online course Next Step Test Prep's full-length exams and AAMC material MedEd Media Network The Premed Years Podcast OldPreMeds Podcast Specialty Stories Podcast Official AAMC Scored Practice Exams 1 & 2
May 03, 2017
39: Let's Talk MCAT Physics Discrete Questions
Session 39 This week, we're going to talk Physics! We're diving into several Next Step Test Prep physics questions to help you understand how to answer physics questions on the new MCAT. The MCAT will expect you to cross disciplinary lines when trying to answer a lot of problems you see which makes sense because that's what happens in the real world. Bryan believes the worst would be organic chemistry and biochem - where is the line? Well, who knows! [02:15] Question: A 12-volt battery is used to charge a 20 microfarad capacitor and defibrillator. How much charge is stored on the plates of the capacitor? (A) 0.24 microcoulombs (B) 0.6 millicoloumbs (C) 24 coulombs (D) 60 coulombs Bryan's Insights: Looking at the answer choices, chances are, the micro is going to give us an answer that ends up being millicoloumbs instead of regular coloumbs. This alone would narrow us down to answer choices A and B. What if you can't do calculations quickly? Or you're really just uncomfortable doing calculations with paper and pencil without a calculator? Well, get as far as you can. There is always almost one or two you can eliminate and then don't actually do the calculation. Just do your best process of elimination you can. Make your best guess and move on. In this case, hopefully, you remember your units. It is very much more important to remember units than it is to remember equations for the MCAT. Here, the unit of farad is a coloumb per volt. So, f = c/v. Then you can set up the equation by multiplying volt up to the other side to solve for coloumb. So, c = f x v. In this case that's 12 x 20. Forget where the exponent or decimal goes. Just look at 12 x 20, that's 12 x 2 so your answer has to be 24 x 10 to the something. As soon as you know your answer is 24, you know the right answer is choice A. [04:40] Trusting Your Gut Instinct The equations you see on the MCAT definitely have coefficients in them where you have to do this relationship between the variables but then multiply it by some other number (ex. the gas law, the energy and the gases, mrt, so there's that three-halves out front, or the kinetic energy equation 1/2mv2 so there's that times 1/2 out front.) But if you have microfarads, micro is 10 to the minus 6. It's unlikely that you're going to have an equation on the MCAT that is, take the farads, multiply it by a million and then work int he volts. And that's what you have to do, to cancel out micro, you've had to multiply it by a million in order to get answer C or D. So it's a little bit of a gut instinct. You've studied these equations, you don't remember all of them, but none of them have times a million at the beginning of the equation. [06:12] Question #55: An artificial leg designed for use by runners is spring-based to mimic the compression required of a muscle during hard running. For safety reasons, it was determined that the leg should be able to absorb as much as 125J of kinetic energy without compressing more than 10cms or the runner would be likely to stumble. Which should the spring constant be? (A) 250 (B) 2500 (C) 12500 (D) 25000 Bryan's Insights: Think about an artificial leg here pounding over the ground over and over again and it only compresses 10cms or 0.1m. So it's