How to Read a Science Passage
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The Integrated MCAT Course has posted an in-depth presentation on the nature of MCAT science passages over at the Student Doctor Network. To introduce the structure of our learning program, we dug deep to make something worthwhile for MCAT preparation.

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Small Group Workshops - Interpreting Science Passages
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What does an MCAT passage look like when it is completely transparent, both in its scientific ideas and as an example of the craft of test-writing? Seeing a few selected AAMC passages "all the way to the bottom of the well" teaches you strategies and approaches you can take to any science passage. Group office hours, questions and advising follow each two hour workshop for three hours total length. In addition to accelerating your progress in the science sections, workshop participation provides a venue for in-person support during MCAT prep.

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I think it speaks to your ability to get inside the head of the exam writers and track the trajectory of the new test that you highlighted precisely what I needed to hear in the home stretch. - A.P.
I think about my experience with your program often. Tutoring with you has honestly been one of the best decisions I made my entire college career. - S.L.
My time working with John set a good basis for studying medicine. - K.T.
John Wetzel

A paradigm shift

I was a Stanford graduate in the 1990's with a good score on the old exam, so I put up flyers and tried my luck as a free-lance MCAT tutor. I had the opportunity for plenty of work and became the "all-around MCAT tutor" in Atlanta. The MCAT was a paper exam back then. I was teaching seven days a week, month after month, going into the second year of MCAT tutoring, when I awoke one morning in possession of a completely new teaching art. Through the constant day-to-day struggle alongside my students, working to help them master scientific ideas, I had learned how to prefigure physics ideas in a specific way to build the foundation for a common-sense understanding of chemistry. A method developed for unfolding the physical and biological sciences within a unified curriculum. It was created to help my students. This was the first spiraling, interdisciplinary MCAT course. These breakthroughs were only possible because I had the opportunity to teach general science as a whole for an extended period those years ago. What occurred depended on happenstance and accidents in my own background and disposition. I understood this teaching art to be a significant innovation for science education. I became committed to this work and embarked on developing these ideas further.

Revolutionizing the old exam

I began teaching groups of students and eventually recruited a team to join me. We became Wisebridge Learning Systems under our owl banner and built a successful course for the old exam, WikiPremed, which helped many thousands of students online. WikiPremed was well-regarded as the interdisciplinary approach to the old exam. We built a successful teaching service and publishing company. When the new MCAT was finally introduced in 2015, it felt like a reply to our own teaching ideas. A scientific revolution has occurred over the last fifty years. There is now systems level unity in the understanding of the physical and biological sciences at the molecular level. AAMC made interdisciplinary understanding explicit in the new exam to help future doctors understand the knowledge-base they must build for medical school in the age of molecular biology revolution. We were uniquely poised in 2015 to begin helping students prepare for the new MCAT after it was released. Our students received the most effective MCAT course in the country these past five years as we have been building our course for eventual release to a wider audience.

Going back to the well-springs

An MCAT tutor becomes devoted to their student like a guide becomes devoted to a traveler on a long journey. After the guide has seen the traveler through the journey to the destination, they bid them farewell and turn back again to help another along the way. There is no better development incubator for teaching ideas than one-on-one tutoring because your personal attachment leads you to exceed yourself. You find the way to get the student through each stage and help them bring everything into the harbor. Although it has only recently become available to a wider audience, the Integrated MCAT Course has proven itself through years of teaching, and it has helped many students. It is a complete course for the CARS, psychology, and science sections of the new MCAT. Science content review in the course builds on itself. We began development of our new course in 2015 with unmatched expertise and resources for interdisciplinary MCAT review. Complete immersion in teaching is how we know how to make MCAT courses, and we have worked for five years in teaching to create what we believe is the first properly structured content review for the new MCAT, a featured component within a learning program to prepare you in every dimension for the exam. We are proud of the Integrated MCAT Course! One thing about this learning program is that a person will likely need to get to the third or fourth module to fully appreciate how the course works. Subscription to the course video library is $14.95/month, so the cost of a pizza will get you far enough to see Gibbs free energy in the light of a clear understanding of its underpinnings. When you join this course, you will receive learning management, diagnostics, communication and support. We are a teaching service, and we will do our best for you. We will help you succeed in all dimensions of preparedness for the MCAT. Please reach out to us any time you are stuck or have a question. Please write to us with comments.

"Aha! moments" in MCAT review

We have just received a memo from our marketing department. They are unhappy we have written that students won't really understand the course until the fourth module! That's not exactly what we said, but the figure below might help a person understand our course better. The figure is a memory palace of science. Building a memory palace is a mnemonic technique using spatial environments to enhance the recall of information. We use this figure for a kind of review exercise for rehearsal and retrieval of scientific concepts occasionally in the course. It is a fun kind of exercise for attending to the completeness and integrative complexity of the knowledge, visiting the concepts while on an imaginary tour of this memory palace. You can zoom in and try different paths and points of view with the figure as a kind a play. You can fly above it. The figure is something to play with. Symbolism can be defined as the practice or art of using an object to represent an idea. In this memory palace, buildings from the history of architecture symbolize the scientific ideas. The design relationships between the buildings convey the relationships among the scientific concepts. Within this introduction, this provides us with a figurative way to communicate how content review is structured within the spiraling curriculum of this course.

You could take an imaginary walking tour beginning in the mechanics neighborhood of physics through the first four modules of the course, from kinematics to solutions, as a way to visualize something that otherwise becomes apparent within the emergent flow of a month or so of video tutorial, discussion, and practice items, the content and assignments of the first four modules. What I will attempt to describe here will be your point of view after this work towards one of a number of themes we are building. There are twenty modules in the course. Each module has about fifteen hours of work in components called Science Focus, Conceptual Integration and Biology Cycle and about ten hours of work for CARS, Psychology, Test Strategy and other types of activity. Thinking about the beginning of the science course in terms of our walking tour, there would be a moment walking in the direction of electricity on the way from mechanics, where you would see the oxidation-reduction building up on the hill above the city. This is a figurative representation of a leit motif or theme of the first four modules. Oxidation-reduction is not a topic in these early modules, but it reaches out to electricity in the course just like it does figuratively in our memory palace. If you look up from electricity towards oxidation-reduction in the figure, a line of sight runs through periodic properties and chemical bonding. This represents a conceptual bridge we build from the beginning of the course. Electricity, chemical bonding, oxidation-reduction and metabolism all share the same vanishing point in the figure. The structure to build in your knowledge-base involves those ideas inter-operating in your tacit understanding of energy flow in living systems. Electrochemistry, thermodynamics, and chemical kinetics reveal themselves in energy metabolism and the biology of living systems. AAMC is bent on these connections forming in your mind through MCAT review. Understanding dawns and MCAT passages become intelligible. You are naturally wired for integrative complexity, which is why in lieu of good content review, dedicated full-length and question-bank practice have been the way to the aha! moments that can prepare you for the hard side of this test. Keep doing those things! They are not a course. The Integrated MCAT Course will make everything else you do in MCAT review more effective.

The figure is for a study exercise, but it can help us understand how a spiraling curriculum works. As an exercise, we take a bird's eye view and rehearse the structure of topics. That's memory palace. You outline what's inside a building as you retrace the path of prior learning. We brought the figure out for this introduction to illustrate something about the video tutorials as a structured whole, how a spiraling curriculum works that builds on itself, which the figure can help us articulate. The bridge from work & energy and electricity to electrochemistry is an important leit motif, among a number of leit motifs we prime and bring into distributed repetition within the first four modules. Through priming and distributed repetition, a spiraling curriculum conveys knowledge in a natural, conversational, common-sense way because it builds on itself. We teach oxidation-reduction through its underpinnings beginning in the very first modules. Even though oxidation-reduction is not a topic of focus until module 11, we become strong in its ideas early in this course. This is spiraling method to build a unified knowledge-base having both completeness in the required topics and integrative complexity.

How connections develop within a spiraling curriculum

A leit motif is a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition. One of the recurring leit motifs throughout the early modules of the course are moments to place underpinnings for more advanced ideas through priming and distributed repetition. In the case of something like electrochemistry, students graduate from college chemistry with a grab-bag of empty signifiers where there should be oxidation-reduction and electrochemistry ideas. This is a nearly universal situation for premedical students, although it is not widely acknowledged and may even be the secret knowledge of MCAT tutors. The problem happens because physics ideas were not present in chemistry lecture when the electrochemistry ideas were first learned. To fix the structural problems in the knowledge-base left behind by the disconnected undergraduate curriculum, this course works like language acquisition. When the scientific ideas underlying a supervening topic are present at the moment of learning, your sense of the supervening idea becomes clearer. Chemistry ideas rest on a foundation of basic physics ideas, not advanced physics. There is a meticulous aspect to this MCAT course from the very beginning which will become more apparent the further you progress. We are building underpinnings to energy flow in metabolism. Why is electrochemistry important to AAMC? It is not because of batteries. Oxidation-reduction reaches across the city to metabolism, and they appear together in main content review in module 11. Oxidation-reduction is discussed often within the first four modules, however, even though it is not a topic of those modules, and so is metabolism often discussed. The course videos in the Integrated MCAT Course are not topical review videos. Our course builds on itself in content review to achieve sophisticated interdisciplinary learning goals directly relevant to great MCAT performance.

The unity-of-sciences approach exemplified by the MCAT reflects how the biochemistry and molecular biology revolutions have transformed scientific understanding. The undergraduate premedical curriculum teaches the general sciences within disconnected, modular lecture courses, but the individual sciences aren't separate. They are integrative levels within a broader unity. The sciences are unified in living systems, and they're unified on the MCAT.

The specific elements within an MCAT passage become intelligible when you bring them to light as ideas through recognition and synthesis. The brain doesn’t remember isolated facts. It remembers connections. A unified knowledge base makes the MCAT more manageable. Content review that leads to integrated conceptual understanding, together with extensive practice (and even more practice after that) represents the surest path to a great score on the MCAT.

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The Integrated MCAT Course is a trademark of Wisebridge Learning Systems. Unless otherwise specified, the works of the Integrated Course are published under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike License. MCAT is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which does not endorse the Integrated MCAT Course. The Integrated MCAT Course offers our customers no guarantees regarding eventual performance on the MCAT.