3 Ways to Stop Passively Learning and Start Actively Learning!

I can’t tell you how many students say something like this during our first tutoring session together, “I have been studying for months and months, and I haven’t seen any improvement. I’ve studied every single MCAT resource out there and am simply not improving.” As the session goes on, and I have the chance to quiz them on a few key MCAT concepts, I quickly come to realize that the student has learned a lot of stuff, but they don’t truly, deeply understand it. I have found that these students, despite all their hard work and effort, are not making progress because they are stuck in habits of passive learning. Passive learning is when you simply skim over information without actually engaging with it. When these students start actively learning, engaging with the material in a way that is meaningful and leads to true understanding, their scores start to steadily improving. In this MCAT Study Tip, I want to share with you three ways that you can start engaging in true active learning:

  1. Have a goal in mind as you study content. While watching videos or reading content review books, your goal is not to simply hear or see the information. Your goal is to search through all the information that they are throwing at you for key concepts that you think you will forget before test day. And when you find a key concept, you need to STOP! Seriously, pause the video or put down the book! Don’t just think to yourself, “Oh yah, that makes sense,” and then continue on. That would be like finding gold and then leaving it right where you found it! You need to pick up that precious content and put it where it belongs — in your brain!
  2. Translate what you learned into everyday language. Now, that you’ve found that precious concept, you need to engage with it in some way, and the very best way to engage with it is to put it into your own words. When writing notes, too many students simply copy down what they heard or read word for word. This is a very bad idea because you are not engaging with the material in a way that’s meaningful. So, how do you put it into your own words? Here’s my favorite exercise — pretend like you are teaching that concept to a 6-year-old. For instance, if you had to teach the photoelectric effect to a 6-year-old, you would not be able to use fancy lingo like “kinetic energy” or “photon.” You’d have to use simple words like “energy” and “light.” By translating these high-level terms into simple, understandable ones, you are engaging with the material in the most meaningful way possible.
  3. Hold on to what you learned by converting it into a testable format. If you simply write down what you are learning in a notebook, you are setting yourself up for failure when it comes time to thoroughly review your notes. Why? Because skimming notes is a passive learning activity! During your final month of MCAT studying (what I call “MCAT Bootcamp”), you should thoroughly review every single concept that you studied during the content review phase of your studying. If you waste your final month on passive learning via the skimming of notes, you are setting yourself up for sure and definite disaster when test day comes. To take full advantage of this final (and most important) period of studying, you need to have notes in a format that allows you to quiz yourself. My preferred format for this is high-quality flashcards with a question on the front, and your simple “6-year-old-worthy” explanation on the back. When MCAT Bootcamp arrives, you won’t have any regrets about the time you spent making flashcards.

Following these tips sounds easy, but it can be terribly tempting to simply continue watching or reading, when you really need to stop and take the time to truly learn. Why waste hours and hours learning passively when you can make every minute count by engaging in active learning? Your MCAT score will thank you.

I hope you enjoyed this MCAT Study Tip, and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. I am here to help!

Warm regards,

Andrew  George

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How we Matched up the Khan Academy Passages with the eCourse Lessons

Each lesson of the eCourse contains links to 1 to 5 Khan Academy science passages for the purpose of providing you with non-AAMC material to practice your science passage reading skills on. By completing all the linked passages within every lesson, you will have finished all the freely available Khan Academy science passages.

To match up the Khan Academy Science Passages with the eCourse lessons, we carefully examined the passage and question content of each one. Then we decided which lesson of the eCourse best correlated with that content. You may notice that some passages don’t match up perfectly with the current lesson. If they don’t match up with the current lesson, they should match up with one of the previous lessons in the module. We did this carefully so that you could practice your science passage reading skills on passages that contain the content you’ve already learned.

Why we don’t recommend non-AAMC CARS practice questions

We recommend practicing CARS by reading non-AAMC CARS passages but not doing the associated practice problems. The reason we don’t recommend doing the practice problems is because the MCAT is written by the AAMC. They have a very unique style in which they write CARS practice questions that third-party companies (try as they might) are unable to replicate. When students spend time on non-AAMC CARS practice problems, they get familiar with the wrong style of questioning, leading them to overthink and incorrectly respond to the questions written by the AAMC. Thus, it is in your best interest to solely practice on AAMC CARS practice questions.

That said, we highly recommend practicing your reading skills on non-AAMC CARS passages. In our Ultimate CARS Strategy Course, we provide you with 1,000 free CARS passages and 100+ homework assignments, giving you ample material to practice on. Reading countless passages while practicing the proper reading habits and strategies will prepare you well to conquer the CARS section as it was written by the AAMC.

Which books do the lessons match up with?

The books we use in each lesson are linked below. We plan to stick with these older editions of the books since very little has changed and the older editions are much more affordable:

First Edition of the Kaplan 7-book Series
First Edition of the Princeton 7-book Series

Do the chapters match up perfectly?

The Kaplan Books, Princeton Books, and Khan Academy Videos were all produced by different authors. For this reason, there are some chapters in the Kaplan Book or Princeton Book that are not even found in the Khan Academy Videos and vice versa. For instance, the Kaplan and Princeton Books have chapters that cover certain experimental procedures that the Khan Academy Videos do not cover.

Our goal in matching up the books with the videos was to correlate the content as best as possible while also covering ALL the content from every resource. For this reason, when nothing in the Kaplan Books matched up with one of the video playlists, instead of leaving the reading assignment for Kaplan blank, we inserted material that did not fit in anywhere else (i.e. one of those chapters on an experimental procedure that was not covered by Khan Academy). So, when the assignment doesn’t appear to match up right, please know that this was intentional.

*If you follow the reading assignments outlined, you will finish the entire Kaplan 7-book series and/or Princeton 7-book series by the time you finish all 10 content modules.

Do the sections match up perfectly?

If the sections assigned in our eCourse do not match up with the sections contained in your content review book, you may have a different edition. The sections should still match up the large majority of the time, but in the rare instance that they don’t, I’d recommend simply reading sections that do match up and saving the ones that do not for a future lesson.

MCAT Launchpad Required!

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