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How to Write the MCAT without Reading Textbooks?


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I haven't read textbooks in years. I used to read textbooks in high school and first year in university, and my grades were in the 60-70% range. After I stopped reading textbooks and started listening to lectures and focusing on important information, I have been getting 90-100% on all of my courses in university. I just know that I won't do well on the MCAT if reading textbooks is the way to go, as that is not my way of studying at all. Does anyone have any other recommendations? If there are lectures or something available online, that would be great. Not only do textbooks take forever to read, they have details that are not important, and I can never get engaged in the material and often get bored while reading textbooks. I genuinely hope there is a way to study for the MCAT instead of reading 7 textbooks every single day.

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it's been a while since I wrote the MCAT but the key to MCAT studying is not memorizing or reading textbooks. Doing well has to do with doing practice AAMC passages and getting used to their way of asking questions. It's more about reading comprehension and critical thinking than memorization. Of course there are some things that you'll have to memorize, like amino acid structures or formulas, but you don't need a textbook for those. In terms of online resources, I used Khan Academy MCAT which was pretty useful.

I'd recommend doing a few of the AAMC passages first to get a feel for the test. 90% of the time I did not know the topic the passages were alluding to, and the other 10% while I was familiar with the topic it did not at all help in answering the passage questions.

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57 minutes ago, fun said:

I haven't read textbooks in years. I used to read textbooks in high school and first year in university, and my grades were in the 60-70% range. After I stopped reading textbooks and just listening to lectures and focusing on important information, I have been getting 90-100% on all of my courses in university. I just know that I won't do well on the MCAT if reading textbooks is the way to go, as that is not my way of studying at all. Does anyone have any other recommendations? If there are lectures or something available online, that would be great. Not only do textbooks take forever to read, they have details that are not important, and I can never get engaged in the material and often get bored while reading textbooks. I genuinely hope there is a way to study for the MCAT instead of reading 7 textbooks every single day.

Hey I am the same way as you, I have a learning disability so textbooks aren't the way to go for myself. 

I found this small prep company that had awesome videos and audio that taught you all the content.  Their whole thing was learning not memorizing. 

I got a good MCAT score because of them and had three interviews this year. 

Feel free to PM me if you have questions about the company or how I studied. 

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Hi there,

I'm not sure what you meant by textbook... Are you referring to the 7 Kaplan or Princeton Review MCAT books or just university science textbooks in general?

I'm not a big fan of reading textbooks either and I personally went through my entire undergrad not reading any textbooks for any of my science courses (humanities is a different story of course) and I mostly studied based on lecture notes and such, given that most profs would ONLY test you on stuff that are delivered during lectures.

But with my MCAT prep, it's a slightly different thing because the MCAT does not test everything you learn in school but very very specific topics. Not only that, it's only about 20-30% knowledge-based (i.e. information retention from reading prep books) and the rest comes from application of that knowledge (which honestly doesn't require perfect memorisation of the scientific knowledge but the foundational ideas underlying these subjects). So if you feel like you have had a solid background in the topics tested (one way to know is to look up the MCAT contents on the AAMC website https://aamc-orange.global.ssl.fastly.net/production/media/filer_public/95/36/953625eb-6e5d-4521-80e0-054eb511e18f/combined_mcat-content_new_61419.pdf; if you feel that you are at least 90% familiar with all the points mentioned), you can confidently go into doing practice exams to develop your application skill.

For me, however, I was quite shaky on biochem (the metabolic pathways in particular), optics/electricals (in physics), reactions in organic chem (I'd only done 1 chem course by the time I took the test), and just psych and siology in general. So I dedicated some time to learning and memorising as much as I could on these topics using the Kaplan books. If this sounds scary to you, Khan Academy is also a good free resource of videos on these same topics, but I did find that the Kaplan books align much more with the MCAT content (above) than Khan videos do. Once you have brushed up on all the topics, you can start doing AAMC practice questions. You'll find that even though most of the questions don't even require you to have perfect recollection of the books' content (except for some one-off questions like where does vitamin D get produced in your body e.g.) because most are passage-based, having the foundational knowledge helps you read through and digest the passage so much quicker and hence, answer the questions faster.

I did exactly those things for my MCAT and I got a 520+ score. And I can assure you, by the time of the test, I did not have every step of lipid metabolism, every physics equations, or every orgo reaction mechanism known by heart. But I had a very good general idea of what they involve and how to interpret info and answer questions (from doing AAMC practice tests, I don't even bother buying practice Qs from anywhere else, except for CARS) and that's all you'll need! 100% memorisation of content is most definitely not the point of the MCAT.

Hope this helps!

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