What should I memorize for the MCAT?
The AAMC acknowledges that not every concept is created equal, and has released a website that outlines their content in a hierarchical nature. However, thoroughly reading through this entire website would take up hours and hours of your precious study time. The question of memorizing vs. truly understanding is tricky because the AAMC doesn’t explicitly state what content should be memorized and what content should simply be understood. For this reason, the best resource we have in knowing what to memorize comes from students who have already done well on the MCAT. Some things that they recommend memorizing include:
- Every amino acid, its shorthand, and its characteristics. These should be your best friend by the time your test date rolls around. Try our Amino Acid course if you want to crush this critical concept!
- The major metabolic pathways. From glycolysis to beta-oxidation, you should know these pathways forward and backward. Try our Metabolic Pathways if you want to crush this critical concept!
- The major hormones and enzymes. When it comes to these important biomolecules, you should at least have a general idea of the structure and function.
- Most psychological terms including—stages of development according to Freud, Erickson, and Piaget, brain regions and their function, etc. Use our FREE Psychology and Sociology notes to help with this difficult aspect of the test.
What about equations? Do I need to memorize all of them?
One of the major regrets of many top scorers is that they spent too much time trying to memorize a large number of detailed equations. Almost every prep resource out there (Khan Academy, Kaplan, etc) teaches hundreds upon hundreds of equations, which can be extremely overwhelming for a busy pre-med like yourself. However, students want to know how much they should be learning about these equations and whether or not they should spend their time memorizing them. Here are some helpful tips for sorting through equations:
1. Memorize Simple Equations: On the actual MCAT, the AAMC will provide you with many of the equations needed to solve the problems they throw at you. However, sometimes they simply expect you to have the equation perfectly memorized. For this reason, you should spend your time memorizing some equations, but not all. Put simply, I recommend memorizing simple equations such as F = ma and not worrying about complex equations such as dF = dq v(B sin α) = I dl(B sin α). The AAMC is unlikely to test you on such long-winded equations.
2. Understand Complex Equations: Because there is no resource out there that lists every equation you absolutely must know for the MCAT, I created my 100 Most Essential Equations Mastery Course. It will teach you every single equation that you should memorize in preparation for test day. It even comes with a single-paged, printable PDF with all 100 equations listed. I recommend keeping this Equations Sheet by your side while you are studying. If you run into an equation that is on the sheet, highlight it and memorize it the very best you can. If you run into an equation that is not on the sheet, spend your time simply understanding the purpose of the equation and how you should use it if it is provided for you on test day.
3. Think about Relationships: Keeping all the variables of an equation straight in your mind is often the hardest part about memorizing an equation. For example, think about Poiseuille’s Law: Q = π⋅r⁴⋅P / 8⋅η⋅l. At first glance, this equation can feel extremely overwhelming. But, if you take a moment to examine the relationships that it represents one at a time, you will start to feel at ease. For instance, Q (flow rate) is directly related to P (pressure). This makes sense because increasing the pressure on a garden hose will increase the amount of water coming out of it per unit time. Also, Q (flow rate) is inversely related to η (viscosity). This also makes sense as the thicker a liquid is (think honey), the slower it will flow. By taking the time to think through the relationships in an equation like this, you will start to feel more comfortable about memorizing it.
How can I get more detailed help in knowing what is important and what is not?
One of the most difficult things about the MCAT is that the AAMC has released very little information about what details will be covered on the MCAT. For this reason, it is important to learn from those who have already conquered the exam. We only hire 97th percentile tutors and offer the lowest price. Schedule your first tutoring session to get started today!
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