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  • Defenses to DUI / DWI Cases: Drunk Driving, Drugs, and the Law

    · 00:55:40 · The Legal Seagull: Law | Litigation | Self-Help | Legal History

    Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is illegal in all 50 states. Some states refer to this as driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated (DWI). I interviewed Deputy Public Defender Omid Haghighat about the ins and outs of a DUI / DWI case, including potential defenses. Although we covered many common DUI / DWI issues (that may be applicable in your state), parts of this podcast pertain specifically to California law. Please read The Legal Seagull’s disclaimer before proceeding with this podcast.* Here is a transcript of the interview, slightly edited for reader comprehension and enjoyment: Types of DUI / DWI charges NL: Omid, welcome to the show. OH: Glad to be here. NL: What are the different types of DUIs? We all know about the 0.08% blood alcohol content level. A lot of people tend to think that’s pretty much the prime ingredient in most DUI convictions. What are the different types? OH: In any alcohol DUI charge basically you’re dealing with two charges. You’re dealing with one that says that you were driving and you had a blood alcohol level of over 0.08%. You have another charge that says you were driving and you were too impaired by either drugs, or alcohol, or a combination of both, to drive safely. It’s a little more complicated than that, but those are essentially the two types of charges. Let’s assume that we’re just talking about alcohol right now. Let’s say someone is driving, they get pulled over, they do a breath test ultimately, and they have a 0.14% blood alcohol level, according to the breath test machine. They can be charged with both driving with over a 0.08%, and being too impaired by alcohol to drive safely. If we’re talking about your blood alcohol level we’re talking about having tested it with either a breath test machine, or a blood test. So insofar as you’re using some scientific method to test your blood alcohol level, those are scientific. When it comes to being too impaired, or rather driving under the influence without the requirement of a blood alcohol level, there are a number of tests that officers use that are not testing your blood, or your breath, but in fact are testing your ability to do certain field sobriety tests, or otherwise. This is all regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of the tests that they have designed are said to be scientifically validated. So insofar as those tests are done correctly, and are scientifically validated, many prosecutors and officers will say that those are scientific tests as well.   Getting pulled over: the initial stop NL: So we’re going to get into this whole area of the field sobriety tests, which is one of the things that most people know about, the whole “touch your nose,” “recite the alphabet backwards,” “try and walk in a straight line,” we’ll get to that. But it sounds like there might be some dispute over whether these tests are all valid, or that they successfully measure impairment. Let’s walk through the entire process. Let’s start with the time when someone is driving a car, they’ve left a bar, or their home, wherever it is that they’ve been having a good time, and they get pulled over. Now, there’s one of two ways this could happen. One is that they get pulled over the way everyone is probably used to getting pulled over, and then there’s the DUI stop. So why don’t we start with that. Take us through it. What happens at that point? OH: Well I just want to add that sometimes it’s not that they’re pulled over, but sometimes they get into a car accident. Then, when the police officers arrive and do a little investigation they start to realize that maybe one of the individuals in the car was under the influence. So that’s another way that essentially someone can have an officer initiate a DUI investigation. NL: Let’s start first with the whole DUI stop. The type that many of us in L.A. are used to, where you’re driving and all of a sudden you see a sign that there’s a sobriety checkpoint. What are your rights essentially when you see a sobriety checkpoint ahead? Is it illegal to turn your vehicle around to try to avoid it? I’m not suggesting that anyone should do that, but only to see what are the rights that are available to you as of the time that happens. OH: Well as far as I know, a DUI checkpoint isn’t like a black hole. If you come within the vicinity you aren’t required to be sucked into its oblivion. If you do turn around, however, an officer can see that, and oftentimes they do have officers in the outskirts of those checkpoints looking for people who are turning around. If the officers do see you turning around, that can raise their suspicions, and they can attempt to pursue you, and see if you commit a Vehicle Code violation, and then pull you over and initiate a DUI investigation. Otherwise, if you drive into the DUI stop—you’re there—and you have to comply with the officer’s requirements.   Suspicion of alcohol / drugs: Police officer initiates DUI / DWI investigation NL: Now once you’re either pulled over, or you come to a DUI checkpoint, or it’s an accident, there comes a point when the police officer suspects you’ve been drinking, or at least claims to have suspected that you were drinking. What types of questions are they allowed to ask at that point in the investigation? OH: Well an officer can ask you anything. This is assuming that you’ve come into a legal checkpoint, or if you’ve legally been pulled over. An officer can ask you anything. The kind of questions they’ll ask is: “Where are you coming from?” “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” OH: The “Where are you coming from” is a question meant to see if you’re coming from a bar, and that will make them suspicious. But essentially they’ll ask these questions of anyone if they’re slightly suspicious of a DUI, but they don’t really begin to trigger their DUI investigation, I think, until they see what I consider the Holy Trinity of objective symptoms of drinking. NL: What’s the Holy Trinity? OH: I call it the Holy Trinity, they’ll put this in the report: They either smelled an alcoholic beverage on your breath; They’ll notice that you had bloodshot, red, watery eyes; or That you had slurred speech in responding to any of their questions. NL: I have read, without exaggerating, about 5,000 to 10,000 police reports in my career thus far. I strongly believe that there must be some bank that they draw these from, or that they’re copy-pasted, because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this described the exact same way. “I detected a strong odor of alcohol emanating from his person.” Do you have any idea how this happens, that all these police officers tend to describe this in the exact same way? OH: I have some opinions. I’ve seen this happen, and I think there are two reasons for it. You’re never going to see a police report without these three things, because no officer is going to do a DUI investigation over someone that doesn’t seem like they’ve been drinking alcohol, so you’ll never see that police report. But on the other token, officers need to justify the DUI investigation, otherwise the results of their DUI investigation can be suppressed in what is called a suppression motion. That’s a Fourth Amendment violation motion. Because they can be said to have no reasons to prolong what should have been a routine traffic stop, and initiate a DUI investigation. So it depends on how cynical you are, really. Reasonable suspicion to pull you over… Probable cause to arrest you NL: This gets us to one of the main points here. So a police officer needs probable cause, is it, or reasonable suspicion of alcoholic impairment before they resume with any type of investigation, or asking you to submit to testing? OH: If a police officer pulls you over, all he needs is some reasonable suspicion to pull you over, that you committed some Vehicle Code violation, or that you might be under the influence. Let’s just talk about that. What does it take to be pulled over? Some people get pulled over for very obvious “under the influence” reasons. They are straddling lanes, maybe they’re in between two lanes. Maybe they’re swerving within their own lane. Maybe they’re drifting into another lane. Some of them are speeding, or maybe some of them are just driving erratically. People can be stopped for other reasons. I’ve had many DUI cases where someone was stopped because they had no seatbelt, they had an expired registration, their tail light was out. I even had an individual pulled over because his trailer hitch covered a tiny portion of his license plate number. So once they get pulled over all that’s required is reasonable suspicion. If the officer approaches the vehicle, and he smells the alcoholic breath, sees red, watery eyes, and he hears slurred speech, that can be enough for him to have further reasonable suspicion that you may be under the influence, and he can initiate a DUI investigation. They have that right. Now they don’t necessarily need probable cause until they arrest you. You’re not technically arrested, according to the police, until the end of a DUI investigation. So while they do need probable cause to arrest you, and take you to the station, the entire process, including the field sobriety test, the questions that they ask you, and even the preliminary alcohol screening breath test that they give you on the field, that’s all part of them establishing whether or not they have probable cause to arrest you, and take you to the station. Exercising the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent vs. talking to the police NL: One of our past episodes of The Legal Seagull, Episode 2, You Have the Right to Remain Silent, was about Fifth Amendment rights, the right to avoid self incrimination by not speaking to the police under many circumstances. Do you have the right at the time you’re pulled over to refuse to talk to a police officer? OH: Absolutely. You obviously don’t want to be a jerk about it, because you’re not going to help your case. No one got out of a traffic stop, whether or not it’s a DUI, or just getting pulled over for a ticket, by being a jerk to the police officer, I can tell you that for sure. But you’re very much within your rights to say, “Excuse me officer, if you don’t mind, I’m going to decline to answer any of your questions.” If the officer thinks that you smell like alcohol, or that you’ve got slurred speech, then he can still initiate his investigation, despite you saying anything. You can remain silent, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t continue his DUI investigation. NL: Even if you don’t smell like alcohol though, and you were to say to the police officer when he or she asks where you’re coming from, “Officer, I’m exercising my Fifth Amendment rights not to incriminate myself.” Couldn’t the mere refusal to answer a simple question like that be the basis for an officer’s reasonable suspicion that you must have been drinking? OH: Not in court. If an officer puts in his police report that he pulled someone over because they weren’t wearing their seatbelt, it was late at night so he asked them, “Have you had any drinks?” Then the individual responded that, “You know, Officer, I’m not going to answer those questions, I don’t want to incriminate myself.” Without the other facts, the Holy Trinity, if you will; the breath, the slurred speech, the bloodshot eyes. If he was to initiate a DUI investigation, and take you back to the police station, and let’s say he takes your blood, and you have a 0.15% blood alcohol level, very likely in court that wouldn’t stand up. Because essentially he had no reason, he had no articulable facts to believe that you were under the influence of alcohol. He can’t use your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent as reason that you’re guilty. NL: The most popular question that’s asked is, “Have you been drinking tonight?” to which it seems like everyone always responds, “I had two beers with dinner, Officer.” At that point, what happens next? OH: Well, it really depends. Look, the officer has a great deal of authority in that moment. A lot of the better trained officers kind of look into your objective symptoms, just by standing right in front of you, and decide, you know what, I don’t think this person is under the influence of alcohol, and they can let you go. What we can assume for your hypothetical is that the officer is absolutely hell-bent on doing a DUI investigation on you, and whether or not he’s allowed to based on that. So if you do admit that you’ve had drinks, even absent the objective symptoms, that may be enough for him to initiate his DUI investigation. Field sobriety tests: scientifically reliable and valid? NL: Now let’s talk about these field sobriety tests, as we discussed earlier. What is the state of the legality of these types of tests, and their admissibility into court in California? I imagine that this might be similar in other states, but as you answer this I’m aware, and the audience should be aware, that you’re speaking about California law. OH: Well, they’re certainly legal. These are tools in the officer’s tool belt with which for them to decide whether or not you may be under the influence of either alcohol, or drugs, or both. It’s all for developing probable cause that you’re under the influence. They’re absolutely legal, and it really depends on who you ask whether or not they are useful. NL: Can they be refused? OH: That’s a good question. An officer will never tell you that these tests are voluntary. However, you may absolutely refuse them in California without any consequence. But just know that if you refuse those field sobriety tests, and the officer does believe that you might be under the influence, you’re pretty much asking for a trip to the police station. NL: Let’s assume, for purposes of this discussion, that in the first scenario, you agree to do these field sobriety tests. What are the different types of tests, and what is their reliability, or scientific basis if you will? Horizontal gaze nystagmus test OH: There is an entity called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They essentially are the ones who are behind a lot of the rules, and regulations, and a lot of the uniform field sobriety tests that happen around the nation, amongst other things. They have spent lots of money, and there has been lots of money poured into them, to scientifically validate certain studies. While there may be many field sobriety tests that people talk about, there’s actually only three scientifically valid field sobriety tests. The first one is a mouthful. It’s called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. It’s essentially a test, without getting into too great of detail, where the officer is testing to see if you’re under the influence by looking at the behavior of your eyes as they track a stimulus; sometimes a pen light, sometimes just a pen, that the officer is holding out in front of your face. What the officer will essentially do is he’ll instruct you to stand up straight, put your arms at your side. He’ll hold the stimulus about 12 to 15 inches from the bridge of your nose, and he’ll move it from left to right. He’ll essentially be looking for nystagmus, which is a jerking motion in your eyes. There are a couple of clues that the officers actually look for. In fact, there are six clues that they look for. The science has shown that this is, actually, if done properly, one of the best field sobriety tests for predicting whether or not someone is under the influence. There are actually scientific studies which lawyers are often trying to keep out of court that say that if it’s done properly, you may even be able to assign a blood alcohol level to certain results of this Horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The problem arises, however, because a lot of officers don’t know how to do it correctly. It requires precision. It requires precision with how far the instrument is held from your face, how far to the side you hold the stimulus, and so on and so forth. One thing that is ripe for cross examination in trial is whether or not the officer conducted the test properly. The science is clear: If they do not conduct the test properly then the results are drawn into question. Walk-and-turn test OH: The next test is the walk-and-turn. The officer has no obligation to give you these tests in any order. But the walk-and-turn is probably the most commonly known field sobriety test. The walk-and-turn test, the officer instructs you to stand with your feet one in front of the other, touching heel to toe, keeping your arms at your side. Then they tell you to count nine steps, tell you to do a turn. They instruct you on how to do the turn, and then to walk nine steps back. They are also looking for a number of clues. Those clues include whether or not you actually were able to touch your heel to toe on every step, whether or not you actually kept your arms at your side. Whether or not you stumbled, or whether or not you were falling from side to side. How you performed the turn, and in general, whether or not you were able to listen to the instructions. The point of these field sobriety tests is that they are simulated, divided attention tasks. The idea is that driving is a divided attention task. You’re looking forward while you’re pressing the gas, while you’re also focusing on traffic around you, and trying to look at where you’re going . . . The idea is that mental impairment, when you’re under the influence, begins to manifest before physical impairment. These tests are divided attention tasks that measure both mental impairment, and physical impairment. In the case of the walk-and-turn, they are essentially seeing: can you follow instructions, and do as the officer told you? (mental impairment). But also, be able to maintain a straight line, and turn without falling over yourself? (physical impairment). One-leg stand test OH: The final scientifically validated test is the one-leg stand test. I think this test is really unfair . . . Depending on your physical fitness level, depending on whether or not you’ve had any injuries, this test could be very difficult to perform, even for a sober person. Essentially, one-leg stand is, you’re asked to stand with your feet together, your hands at your side, and you’re asked to lift your leg up at least six inches, and point your toe forward. Some officers will ask you to count to 10, some officers will ask you to count to 20. They instruct you if you put your foot down to just lift it back up and resume counting. Then, after that’s done, they’ll ask you to do it with your other foot. The idea is that they’re looking to see: Can you follow instructions, are you using your hands, despite the officer instructing you not to? Are you swaying from side to side? Are you able to count while holding your leg up, and pointing your toe forward, a divided attention task. There are a number of clues, and those clues have to be marked down, and noted properly, because that’s the only way this test has been scientifically validated. Those are the three scientifically validated tests. Again, there are many things that can make these tests unuseful in a court of law, or for the officer. For example, if the test is not done in the right circumstances. If it’s not done on level pavement. I had a case where the officer had my client do a field sobriety test on a hill. Of course, he didn’t write that in his police report, but when he wrote the location of where he did the test, I looked it up on Google Maps and I saw that it was a hill. I showed him the map on the stand and asked him, “Isn’t this a hill?” Needless to say, that officer was a little red in the face, because it was a hill, and that absolutely affects your ability to do these tests properly. In addition, whether or not you’ve had an injury can affect whether or not you do these tests properly, and whether or not the results are actually valid. Especially if you’ve had a head injury, like in the example of getting in a car accident. Obviously, if there’s a car accident, and there’s a suspicion of drunk driving the field sobriety tests are done, and that head injury can cause you to fail all the tests even if you are sober. If the officer does these tests correctly, and in the correct circumstances, then what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says is that these three tests are scientifically validated to show if someone is too impaired by either a drug or alcohol. These are tools that the officer uses to form an opinion. Now if the officer can say, or an expert can say, that they are scientifically validated, that just helps the jury consider the officer’s opinion with respect to those tests. It doesn’t change whether or not they’re allowed to be heard in court. With that said, it doesn’t need to be a scientific test to inform an officer’s opinion. But if it’s not a scientific test, then defense attorneys oftentimes will use that to say, “Well, if this test isn’t scientific, why are we using it to convict a man of a crime?” The “recite the alphabet backwards” test NL: So where does this leave the other tests? What about the recite the alphabet backwards test? Any scientific validity for that? OH: Absolutely not. I think that’s one of the most unfair tests that you can have, because some people don’t even know the alphabet. No, but seriously, it’s a difficult test for a sober person to do. Try it right now. Try to recite the alphabet backwards. You’ll probably do it slowly, and the officer will probably be able to write things that make you look like you’re doing it slowly, and then say in court that you were probably under the influence of a drug or alcohol. Romberg test OH: There’s another test that’s commonly used called the Romberg test. You stand with your feet together, hands at your side. You close your eyes, and you tilt your head back, and count to 30. What the officer will tell you is that you want to estimate 30, and then tell the officer when you believe you’ve reached 30. The officer has a stopwatch right there, and he’s also finding out what 30 seconds actually is. The idea is, depending on what your jurisdiction is, or what the officer is using in his consideration, if you complete the test at plus or minus five seconds of 30 seconds. Sometimes, some officers believe 10 seconds of 30 seconds, then you’re within an acceptable range. But if you, for example, tell the officer 45 seconds have gone by, but really you think it’s 30, probably you’re under the influence of some depressant. However, if you’re on, for example, a stimulant, like if you’ve done lots of cocaine, and then you get pulled over, you’ll probably count 5 seconds, and then you’ll be like that was 30 seconds. Then the officer will just look at you funny and be like, “This guy is probably under the influence of a stimulant.” So, the test, while it’s not scientifically validated, can help inform them of the type of drug that they’re on, even if it doesn’t mean that they’re scientifically validated. Finger-to-nose test NL: What about the “touch your nose and stick your tongue out,” or whatever it is? OH: The “touch your nose” is commonly used . . . it’s another divided attention task, because you’re switching arm to arm, and attempting to touch your nose with your eyes closed, and your head tilted back. Again, if it’s not scientifically validated it doesn’t mean the officer can’t use it to form his opinion, and it’s doesn’t mean the officer can’t testify to it in trial, it’s just a matter of what weight the jury gives it at the end of its determination. Breathalyzer (preliminary alcohol screening test) OH: In California, unless you’re on DUI probation, you don’t have to do the preliminary alcohol screening device breath test at the scene of the incident, whether it’s being pulled over, or a car accident. The officer in fact has to admonish you that the test is voluntary, whereas, as I said before, they don’t admonish this for the field sobriety test. Now understanding that, if you don’t do the preliminary alcohol screening device the officer is likely going to take you to the police station, and ask you to do one of the required by law, at least in California, breath or blood tests. It’s completely up to you whether or not you want to do it. Some people make that choice, some people choose otherwise. Now, the preliminary alcohol screening device is probably the size, depending on the actual device, a little bigger than your fist, maybe a little bigger with its battery pack than that. The officer has it in his vehicle. It’s considered a field sobriety test by officers, meaning that it’s not considered a chemical test. However, the technology that it employs to determine your blood alcohol level is the same as the machine at the station, which is much bigger, much heavier, and a little more technical. The idea behind a breath test is actually interesting. Because the idea is you’re breathing into a machine, and it’s determining how much alcohol you have in your blood. Without getting too detailed into the science of it, essentially these little alveolar sacs in your lungs can emit some level of alcohol from your bloodstream. There’s a partition ratio, essentially a ratio of the amount of alcohol that’s emitted into your lungs, compared to how much alcohol . . . in your blood . . . . . . When you breathe into the machine, that tiny amount of alcohol that’s in your deep lung air gets multiplied by, sometimes the number is 2,100, and that’s how they determine how much alcohol is in your blood. That’s essentially the idea of the machines. . . . Breathalyzers for marijuana NL: Can [these breathalyzers] also detect marijuana, other drugs, or just alcohol? OH: Those devices are essentially designed to test ethyl alcohol. That’s a chemical in alcohol. What happens is when you breathe into these machines there’s a fuel cell inside of the machine, and it responds to a number of chemicals, one of which is ethyl alcohol. It creates a charge, and the strength of that charge then indicates through a complicated algorithm, what your blood alcohol level is. NL: I’ve been hearing about field tests now that are done to detect marijuana. Do you have any idea how those work? OH: Yes. Essentially, what they do is they have a bag of Funyuns, and they hold it in front of you. If you cannot resist the Funyuns then they have determined that you are under the influence of marijuana. Actually, it’s not like that at all. This is a brand new approach—certain law enforcement agencies are testing it out. There has been to date no way to test whether or not someone has marijuana in their system. In the field, they’re applying this swab . . . they swab your cheek, and they test the cheek cells, and they determine whether or not you may have marijuana in your system. Not a lot of law enforcement agencies use this, and as of now it’s nothing more than a tool for determining probable cause, whether or not you might be under the influence of marijuana. The ultimate tool is the blood test, sometimes the urine test. NL: Before today you had told me some really interesting things about the marijuana test, how it might be a little bit less than scientific in determining impairment. OH: Yes. Absolutely. The marijuana test is a very frustrating test for me as a criminal defense attorney. It essentially can’t show a lot depending on the test results, other than this is a chronic smoker who may or may not be high at the time of being tested. When your blood is tested for marijuana, it’s tested for two things . . . an active THC ingredient, and an inactive THC ingredient. [The inactive THC ingredient is] called carboxy-THC, it’s a metabolite. The metabolite is like ashes to the fire. It can show that you have smoked maybe as recently as that same day, or two or three weeks prior. It’s a number that’s measured in nanograms per milliliter. Certain law enforcement agencies will look at that in determining whether or not someone might have been under the influence of marijuana. Then there’s the active ingredient . . . most laboratories will only test the number of that active ingredient from 2 to 25 nanograms per milliliter. That active ingredient can show particularly if you have marijuana in your system, but not that you’re under the influence of marijuana. I want to make that distinction clear. Because just like alcohol, you can have alcohol in your system, but not be too impaired to drive, which is essentially the legal standard in California. What that means is there is no way to look right now, according to the scientific evidence, at the amount of active THC in your blood, and determine that you’re too high to drive essentially. What means, again, for people who are chronic smokers can be pretty bad. Let me give you some scenarios. Let’s say you’re a medical marijuana patient, which is legal in California, and you smoke marijuana every day. Let’s say you smoke on Wednesday night to go to sleep because you need it to go to sleep. You wake up the next day, you feel fine, and you drive to the store, and for some reason you’re pulled over. Maybe because you’ve had marijuana in your car, from purchasing it from the dispensary, your car smells like marijuana. The officer says: “Have you had anything to smoke,” and you say, “No.” Let’s say the officer sees some other things that he thinks might be indicative of you being under the influence of marijuana. Understand that in this hypothetical, you’re not under the influence of marijuana—the last time you smoked was the night before. He can take you to the station, he can do a blood test. Essentially what can happen for a chronic smoker is a very high result of the marijuana metabolite, the inactive ingredient, and a tiny, yet measurable active THC in your system. The reason for that is that if you’re a chronic smoker the scientific studies have shown that chronic smokers can have a tiny amount of active THC in their blood constantly, because it kind of hides in their little fat cells, and is constantly being released. You may be charged with driving under the influence, and you may have to go to trial in order to prove your innocence because you’re a chronic smoker. That’s just the state of marijuana science right now when it comes to driving under the influence. There is no per se limit in California; however, other states do have a per se limit. I know Colorado does, I know Nevada does. In fact, Nevada has one of the scariest per se limits, and I’ll explain why. Because they have a per se limit for the active THC, but they also have a per se limit for the inactive THC. What that means is if you are a chronic smoker, and you smoke on Wednesday night, and then on Thursday you don’t smoke, and then on Friday you drive from California, where you were legally allowed to smoke, to Las Vegas. If you are pulled over and the officer suspects that you may be under the influence of marijuana, even though you are not, he can make you do a blood test, and you can be charged and convicted with a marijuana DUI because of the inactive THC that has been in your system from the marijuana you had been smoking even up to weeks prior. It’s a scary thought. Prescription medications NL: What is the deal with people who are chronic pain patients, either cancer, or any other disease, and they have a prescription for narcotic pain medications like oxycodone, Norco, Dilaudid—very powerful narcotics that in some ways impair your ability to drive . . . ? OH: Well, California is clear, and I imagine this would be the case in the rest of the nation. Just because you have a prescription to take a certain medication . . . doesn’t mean you have an absolute defense to driving under the influence of that drug. In fact, many of these medications are very clear: “Do not operate heavy machinery or drive.” Chemical sample at the police station: blood vs. saliva test NL: Let’s assume that all this has happened already. You’ve been pulled over, talked with the police officer, done the field sobriety test, the breath test, and the officer has decided not to let you go, he has decided it’s time to take you to the police station. What happens when you get there? What else can they do to you there, and what are your rights in the police station? OH: If the officer determines there is probable cause to believe you are under the influence of a drug or alcohol, he can take you to the police station . . . You need to provide a chemical sample. That could be in the form of a breath test, or if you like, you can do a blood test. If they suspect you of drugs and alcohol, or just drugs, they very likely will require you to do a blood test. Blood test NL: Is there a difference one way or the other over the accuracy, or how quickly it will show up in your blood, versus your saliva or urine? OH: No. The idea behind the breath test is it is measuring the current blood alcohol content. One of the main real advantages of taking a blood test is that you can retest that blood at a later date if the law enforcement agency saves a sample of that blood. In California, they are required to do so at your request, and oftentimes many police stations will do so automatically. This matters, because . . . [t]hey are taking your blood, and oftentimes what they’ll do is they’ll put a preservative in your blood to make sure that the blood alcohol level doesn’t diminish. They’ll put the preservative in your blood, and then they’ll test it at a laboratory. In fact, in Orange County, a lot of DUI convictions had to be overturned because they found that the laboratory that was testing blood for alcohol was doing so incorrectly, and with incorrect measurements by mistake. You’re really trusting this law enforcement laboratory to tell you if you’re under the influence of alcohol. So, it’s great to be able to have an independent laboratory test your blood, and test if there’s any irregularities that may show that this blood alcohol level is, for example, an anomaly. The flip side is if you take the blood test, you’re spending the night at the station, because they can’t determine whether or not you are too impaired, or your blood alcohol level in general right away, so you have to stay the night, if that’s okay with you. I’m sure it’s not. Breath test OH: The breath test is a really simple test. You essentially blow into it twice. The reason you have to blow into it twice—I might have explained it before—is they need to ensure that the result is not an anomaly. Actually, in California, there are special regulations as to how the breath test needs to be administered, and how the machine needs to be maintained and calibrated. The reason it’s required for them to give you two tests is: Let’s say there’s some spit, or maybe you have a cavity that has been holding some of that alcohol you drank an hour before. The reason there can be an anomaly in a chemical breath test is because you may have some alcohol in your spit. You may in fact have some reflux disorder that causes alcohol from your stomach to come up through your throat, and then enter the machine, and essentially give too high of a reading, a falsely high reading. You have to blow twice, and you have to wait two minutes in between each blow. In California, if the results are more than 0.02 points away from each other, then that test is said to be essentially invalid. Refusing a chemical test NL: Do you have the right to refuse a chemical test, or a blood test, at least in California? OH: This is the point where you start to have no choice. Before you didn’t have to answer the officer’s questions, you didn’t have to do the field sobriety test, and you didn’t even have to do the preliminary alcohol screening device. But once you’re at the station, the officer asks you, “Do you want to give a blood or breath test?” In California, and I’m sure many other jurisdictions, if you refuse to give that test that results in an automatic one-year suspension of your driver’s license. So, you essentially don’t have a choice. In fact, in California if you’re charged with a DUI, and they found that you did willfully . . . you can have a mandatory jail enhancement as well. In order to refuse—it’s actually quite interesting. They have to fully advise you of your rights before you can be said to have refused. They have to tell you that you have choice between a blood or a breath test. Unless they suspect drugs, then you only have a choice of a blood test. They have to tell you that you don’t have the right to an attorney at this point, and that if you don’t submit to the test if can be used against you in court. They have to tell you that not submitting yourself to the test can result in a mandatory fine, or imprisonment. They have to tell you that not submitting to a test can result in a one-year license suspension. This is just in California. But the idea of fully advising someone of their rights to refuse is, I think, nationwide. If you are not advised of all these things, then you can’t be said to have willfully refused . . . Potential defenses to a DUI charge NL: Let’s assume you’ve had your breathalyzer test, spoken with the police officer, maybe even had some field sobriety tests, and the police officer has determined there is a good reason to bring you down to the police station to do further testing. What is the evidence that can be used against you in court? OH: In court if you truly believe that either you’re not too impaired to drive, or that you don’t think the state of the evidence should be able to convict you of such a crime, and you decide to take this to trial, essentially you have two hurdles in California to overcome. Like I said before, there are two charges for every DUI that includes a blood alcohol level. There is: Were you driving under the influence? Or Were you driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher? Defining the term “under the influence” OH: For the purposes of the jury, “under the influence” doesn’t mean “I could feel the effects of the alcohol,” it actually has a very specific legal definition. In California, the definition [according to California Criminal Jury Instruction 2110] is that: “A person is under the influence if, as a result of drinking an alcoholic beverage . . . and/or taking a drug . . . his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.” Essentially, that’s the standard that the jury has to decide whether or not you’re too impaired. At court, all the evidence we talked about today is going to be used against you. Every single piece from the reason you were pulled over, to the smell of an alcoholic beverage on your breath, slurred speech, and the bloodshot eyes, to the results of the field sobriety test, the preliminary alcohol screening test, and finally, the results of your breath and/or blood test. Per se limit: 0.08% BAC It’s important to note, and this has happened to me and my colleagues often. You only need to be convicted at a jury trial of one of those to be convicted of a DUI. What that means is: You can give a blood test, and it could come back with your blood alcohol level being 0.15%, but for some reason your tolerance is such that you’re able to be 0.15% and not be a danger to society, or to the community because you’re able to drive so safely, and your brain is able to operate so well. If that’s the case, you can still be convicted of the DUI because your blood alcohol level was over 0.08%, even though the jury finds that you’re innocent of driving under the influence. It’s wild, and it does happen. Jurors do come back with that verdict, and unfortunately you still get convicted. The reason for that is because I think that the scientific evidence is important. The blood alcohol level is important because a lot of what is being used to prove that you’re driving under the influence, as opposed to driving with 0.08% or over, is subjective to the officer doing the tests. While the officers will never admit on the stand that they are being subjective, they really are. Every officer performs these tests differently; every officer has a different idea of what these tests are showing. It can be quite abstract for a juror to wrap their head around when they’re listening to an officer spout off all the different clues that were exhibited in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Throughout many of my trials the moment the word horizontal gaze nystagmus test is uttered at least one person starts to fall asleep, if not more. So it’s not only difficult for them to grasp, it’s also very boring stuff, so that’s why a lot of jurors will hang their hats on the 0.08% or higher. Challenging DUI / DWI test results at trial With that said, at every stage there is a way to discuss potential weaknesses of these objective symptoms, or the field sobriety test. But specifically, there’s also a way to show that the machines themselves are not operating correctly. Were machines properly calibrated and used? As for the preliminary alcohol screening device, and the same for the breath test at the station, there’s a number of ways that defense attorneys bring up in court to challenge these devices. One of them is that they’re simply not accurate. The idea is let’s say you are a 0.05% blood alcohol level, that is your actual blood alcohol level, and you blow into a machine that is not properly calibrated, it can give an incorrect result. It may report 0.09% blood alcohol level. In California, and I’m sure many other places, under Title 17 there’s a requirement that they calibrate these machines either, I think, every ten days, or 150 uses, something along those lines. So they are required to calibrate them quite often or rather accuracy-check them quite often. If they’ve gone for more than ten days at a time, or 150 uses without being accuracy-checked or calibrated, that could be something attorneys use in court to discuss why the results may be unreliable. In general, there’s a jury instruction that if the machine, its maintenance, or its operation are not compliant with the California Title 17 requirements then you can question the results of that machine. Non-compliant testing procedures OH: . . . [A]nother way these tests can be challenged is if there’s no 15-minute observation period from the time the officer sees you to the time you give a breath sample, then they are not being compliant with Title 17 . . . as we discussed before, you may have acid reflux, you may have just vomited, you may have had an alcoholic drink in the middle, in the interim 15 minutes. If that’s the case, then you can’t be sure that mouth alcohol isn’t providing a false reading in that breath test. That’s another requirement that California has, and I think other places follow suit. In addition to that, each test has to be done two minutes apart. There needs to be a certain volume of air that is blown into the machine. There are many, many things that criminal defense lawyers will try to look for to see if the tests are being done properly, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the breath test. The rising alcohol defense OH: Another defense that a lot of attorneys will use in court, and it’s quite interesting, is the rising blood alcohol defense. [Let’s say] you go to a bar, you haven’t had anything to drink. Let’s say you just down two shots of whiskey. Then your friend is like, “We’ve got to go to this next bar across town.” You’re thinking, “Well, I just had two drinks, but I feel absolutely fine.” Then you get in the car, and you get pulled over. The officer smells alcohol, looks at your eyes, maybe hears something in your speech, and decides to begin a DUI investigation. You give a preliminary breath test, and the results are something like, let’s say 0.08%. Then, you go to the station, and you give another breath tests, and the results are 0.10%. . . . [T]he criminal defense attorney will likely hire an expert . . . in how your body metabolizes alcohol. What an expert can oftentimes effectively argue is that from the moment you took those drinks, to the time of driving, your body was metabolizing the alcohol, and so your blood alcohol content was rising. When you got pulled over, you may have been somewhere at 0.07% or 0.06%. But the from the time you began the DUI investigation, which could sometimes take 20 to 30 minutes, to when you gave the preliminary alcohol screening device, you were no longer driving, but your body was metabolizing that alcohol. When you gave the breath test at the field, it became 0.08%. Then your body was still metabolizing that alcohol on the way to the station, which is shown by the fact that when you go to the station—without having any drinks in the meantime—your blood alcohol level is now 0.10%. There is a blood alcohol curve that even the People and the prosecutor’s experts will draw, that shows the way that you somehow metabolized that alcohol. Sometimes criminal defense attorneys can secure acquittals by drawing doubt as to whether or not you ever had a 0.08% blood alcohol level while driving, or if that level was only achieved while you were outside the car being investigated. Now, of course, a lot of people don’t like this defense because the person is still drinking and driving. But the law is clear: Were you driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher? Despite all the challenges attorneys make, despite all the defenses they have, and how charming (not myself obviously) but other criminal defense attorneys can be in the courtroom, if the evidence is there—the jury will convict. Jurors for the most part, after being properly selected, really are able to sift through all of that and just see if there’s enough evidence. That’s what it’s all about. If someone is acquitted at a DUI trial, it’s generally because the state of the evidence is just not good enough to convict a man of a crime. That’s really what we’re dealing with. There needs to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that’s one of the great things about America is that we require this great amount of proof before we take away someone’s liberty. . . . NL: Omid, thank you very much for taking the time to come on the show. It was great having you. A lot of very valuable information. OH: Absolutely. I was happy to be here. I love your show, I’m an avid listener. –END OF INTERVIEW— Did you enjoy this podcast transcript?  Don’t forget to subscribe to The Legal Seagull Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or Soundcloud! *  This is not legal advice, is not a substitute for the services of an attorney, and may or may not apply to the laws and procedures in your jurisdiction. We do not recommend that you represent yourself for a DUI / DWI or any other criminal charge.

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  • 40: Last Minute MCAT Tips Leading Up to Test Day

    · 00:15:11 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    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

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  • 259: How Can I Improve My CARS Section Score on the MCAT?

    · 00:43:08 · The Premed Years | Medical School Headquarters | MCAT | AMCAS | Interviews

    Session 259 CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning) on the MCAT seems to give students the most trouble. Jack from JackWestin.com is here to help you crush your CARS and score higher! Check out our new podcast, Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A. The episodes have actually been recorded on Facebook Live, which I do when I'm home in the studio at 3 o'clock Eastern. Join me on Facebook Live. I'll answer your questions and hang out there usually for 20-30 minutes. And few of those minutes are set side for the actual recording of the podcast. Also, don't forget to subscribe to Ask Dr. Gray Premed Q&A. [01:25] The AMSA PremedFest Experience Last weekend, I was at AMSA PremedFest in Tampa, Florida. I gave a talk at the event on the medical school interview to an audience of about 120 students. It was a room full of people with tons of great questions. After my talk, I stayed for another 45 minutes to hang out more and answer more questions. I also gave 60 books and had a great dinner meetup with fifteen people. I wish to thank those who met me there. We had people coming from California and Indiana. I would love to meet you at the next conference I'm going to the MAPSS Conference of California State University in San Bernardino on January 27, 2018. Hope to meet you there! If not, here's a list of other conferences that I will be attending: AMSA PremedFest UC Davis Conference in October 2018 AMSA Convention in Washington, D.C. in March 2018 [03:20] Crush Your CARS Section on the MCAT Jack Westin is helping students of all shapes and sizes as well as all skill levels to improve their CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning) Section on the MCAT. It's the new version of verbal reasoning, which used to kill people on the MCAT. CARS still kills people on the MCAT, especially if you are an ESL student. Today, he's going to share with us his thoughts about ESL students and the CARS section. He shares with us how to best prepare for CARS, the biggest mistake students make with CARS, and so much more! Stay up to date with any future deals or specials for his CARS training on www.medicalschoolhq.net/jackwestin. [05:16] Who Is Jack Westin? Jack describes himself as someone who seeks to help students get to the next level and get into their dream medical school. He helps you get there whether it's through CARS or the MCAT or just advice in general. He want to be looked upon as the older brother or the mentor that you may not have had. Jack says he has never liked memorizing even as a premed. And he thinks that CARS is one of those sections where you don't have to memorize a thing. You don't have a know a thing from the outside other than common sense. It's all logic and based on critical thinking. It's very intellectually stimulating. Jack admits the reason he has done this for so long is because it challenges him to explain very difficult concepts to very smart students. And he finds a lot of joy from that. "CARS is one of those sections where you don't have to memorize a thing. You don't have a know a thing from the outside other than common sense." [08:08] What Is CARS? Why Is It Important? CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills) is basically another way of saying, read the passage and answer questions based on the passage. It's only one of the four sections on the current MCAT. You have 90 minutes to complete a total of nine passages with about 53 questions. Jack lays out a couple of reasons why this particular test matters. First, it's a test to see how committed you are to medicine. If you're simply interested, this entire test will eat you alive, as Jack puts it. You're not going to want to study for it. You're going to stress out and give up eventually. So they're putting this test out there to test if you can really study for four months and endure a struggling exam. It's a very difficult time in your life. But this can result in a lot of good outcomes. You're going to become stronger, wiser, and smarter. So it's a good way to test whether or not you really want this. "It's a test to see how committed you are to medicine. Are you committed or are you interested?" Another reason CARS is important is that it's based on thinking on your feet. And as physicians must do, they must be able to think on their feet. You're given new information you've never seen before. And you're supposed to use that information to help your patient or solve the problem. So that's another component of the exam. [10:40] How Soon Do You Need to Study for CARS? Jack says you can start studying for CARS immediately primarily because it doesn't require any science knowledge at all. As long as you can pass 12th grade English, basically a senior in high school can start studying for CARS. Jack recommends students to look into this sooner rather than later as it doesn't hurt to start reading everyday. It doesn't hurt to getting accustomed to reading text. Just reading everyday can drastically improve your score two years down the road. This being said, Jack explains you don't have to read three hours a day for two years. But it means picking up, say The Economist or The Atlantic or any of those journals. Or even simply reading on things you may not be interested in can help you. "It's something students should look into sooner rather than later. It doesn't hurt to start reading everyday." [11:56] Understanding the Author Jack says it's an innate thing that you require through practice. You may not know what is going on as you're reading those journals, but over time, you're going to get a sense of the author. "You're going to start understanding what the author is trying to convey and that's a great starting point." When you want to actually start practicing, Jack mentions a few things to look for. First, what is the author trying to tell me? Every single passage or article you've ever read in your life, there is a message. And you need to find that message. Understand why the author wrote it. Find out what they're trying to convince you. The CARS section is designed to test whether you understand the arguments of the author. As a physician, your job is to understand your patients. You may not understand them all. Some may not know English or maybe they know English better than you. So it's your duty as a physician to understand your patient. And that's what they're trying to get you to with this section. Can you understand the author? [13:34] Prepping for CARS = Prepping for the Rest of the Test Comparing both tests, Jack considers the SAT to be a lot easier since it focuses more on vocabulary and not as much as ideas and thinking ability. Still, there is a component to that. For him. MCAT is the harder version of the SAT in terms of reading. The passages are denser. The questions are a lot more difficult. But it's not based on vocabulary. If you're worried that English is your second or third language and that you don't read a lot or your parents didn't force you to read or don't like reading, you don't need to. Jack stresses it's about being how sharp you are. If you are sharp then you're going to do well. You're going to understand the pattern of the test, especially for CARS since the whole test is reading-based. "It's how sharp you are. If you're sharp then you're going to do well. You're going to pick up things." Jack adds that even though CARS is all-reading, the other sections involve reading too. You're going to be reading passages for the other sections. And that's the name of the game. Can you read and understand things on the spot? [15:00] How Can an ESL Student Prepare for CARS? Historically, the MCAT destroys ESL students. As an ESL student, you may struggle with this section the most. But Jack says it's not because of the reason most people think, which is because of their reading ability. Rather, it's more about their confidence. "If you're not confident, you're not going to do well." So what Jack tells his students is you don't need to know these words. You don't need to know what the sentence means. If you can understand the gist or the tone, then you can answer all the questions. If you're an ESL student and doesn't like the CARS section, that's okay. But that doesn't mean you can't do well. Jack has students from various countries that barely speak English and they ended up doing very well. They got 127 or higher with consistent effort and practice. They may need a bit more time to get used to things like an extra month of study time. Jacks adds that if you can read someone's Facebook new feeds or comments or just basic English, you won't have an issue with reading. It's more of a confidence issue. "Overall, I don't think your reading ability is going to stop you from doing well on this entire test especially for CARS." To start building that confidence, Jack recommends daily practicing. Because when you're doing this everyday, you won't be thinking that you wished you practiced more. It's like taking an exam. If you practice and tried your best, then you're not going to sit there during the exam and ask yourself why you didn't try harder. So try everyday. Work on reading. Work on understanding what the paragraph is saying. [17:44] What to Read and Why Students Blank Out on the CARS Section Your textbooks don't count. You have to read argumentative articles and dense, boring things. Read about things you may not be interested in because those are the kinds of things they'll put on the test. So it's about being accustomed to reading boring stuff. Also, pick up things you may not necessarily read often and try to understand it. "Your textbooks don't count... You've got to read things you normally don't want to read about." What you see on the CARS section are boring passages. The reason students blank out halfway through the passage or at the end of passage is because they don't like what they're reading. Second, they're uncomfortable reading it since they're being timed. So there's too much pressure on you. But if you prep yourself with what you're going to see on test day or how you're going to feel on test day, then you're ahead of the game because you know what to expect. And if you know what to expect, you'll probably do well. [20:00] Being a Slow Reader: Is it Good or Bad? Way back in the days when the MCAT was still on paper, we had the verbal reasoning instead of CARS. And there were only three sections instead of four. I got 10 in the sciences (old scoring system) and a 7 in verbal reasoning. My excuse to myself is that because I'm a slow reader. Interestingly, Jack points out that being a slow reader is actually a good thing. You want to be a slow reader. He clarifies that reading slow is not a bad thing. Half the battle is understanding what the author is saying. If you're reading too fast because you're worried about the timer, you're not going to understand the author. You're not going to pay attention. You're disrespecting the author. It's like having a patient come into your room and you're looking at the clock. You're not paying attention to them. You're not giving them the time they deserve. So you need to slow down and actually understand the author. Understand what's going on.Jack adds that half the battle is training the students to think the right way about this test and changing bad habits. "It's like having a patient come into your room and you're looking at the clock. You're not paying attention to them." Moreover, when you read a sentence, read it like you normally would. If you read it at that pace and you don't get it, that's not your fault. That's the MCAT trying to scare you. They're trying to intimidate you so just move on until you understand. So no slower nor faster can dramatically improve your score. For instance, when you don't understand a sentence you're reading, re-reading it is a mistake. Jack explains doing this would be wasting your time. You're doing what they want you to do. When it comes to answering the questions, there's only five to seven questions per passage. So you don't need to understand each sentence, but only 25% of a passage to get everything right. The key is to know what to look for, how to look for it, and how to use that information to answer the questions. Being a scaled test, all you really need to get into medical school is 129. [24:26] Breaking Down the Anatomy First, Jack wants you to understand what you think the MCAT or the AAMC wants you to do. Why would they put the passage on the left side if they want you to read the questions first. This said, Jack recommends to be normal when reading it. Just approach it how you normally would. Don't do any tricks - first paragraph and last paragraph. Don't read the questions first. Jack sees these as mistakes because that's not what the test wants you to do. If you literally read the direction, they say read the passage and answer the questions. So just read the passage. Understand the author. Then use that information to answer the questions. [25:44] The Most Common Mistakes Jack says the most common mistake students do when prepping for CARS is using the wrong material to practice. Non-AAMC material is decent practice if you're two years ahead. He further says that nothing comes close to reading and answering the questions the AAMC provides. They have a bank of questions you can buy on their website. Another big problem is students love to save material for the end. That's your lecture material, the stuff you need to use to learn. If you're saving that stuff till the last week or two, you're, in effect, cramming. No one does well when they cram for this test. So you need to start looking at the AAMC material. [28:03] Getting Started with Your Prep Journey First, Jack advises students to read often. Read boring stuff. Buy the AAMC materials and start looking at those passages. Start reviewing them. There's a pattern that the AAMC follows. They're a very logical, unique pattern on'y developed by the AAMC. So start to find those patterns early on, even a year in advance. It's something you can do everyday for 30 minutes which can dramatically improve your confidence and your score. Another tip Jack has shared is to time yourself when you're reading. Then you'd have an idea to read it in that time. But don't rush yourself. Don't try to finish in that time. The reason for timing yourself is simply to get used to that timer. Time yourself so that you don't get nervous when test day comes around. Have a warrior mentality. Jack admits you have to do so many practice passages and timed passages so that over time, your brain gets accustomed to it. You don't necessarily need to write that data down. But the act itself is actually changing your habit and the way you're adapting to this test. "It's more about adapting to the style of the exam that's why you're timing yourself." A good thing to do after each paragraph is to write what the paragraph is about. What is the author trying to convey in this paragraph? In the very general way, write it in a way you explain it to your best friend or family. Make it very informal. Write down two to four words that describe that paragraph. Figure out the main idea. Jack says this is a great strategy you can use both during prep and on prep day. "Don't write down the details. The MCAT doesn't test the details. They test for big ideas, big picture." [33:03] The Power of Visualization Jack mentions one thing most students don't do is they don't visualize what they read. When you read a sentence or word, what comes to mind? Does it register? If he said the word "elephant," what's the first thing you imagine when you see an elephant? Now what do you see when Jack says the elephant is flying? What's that picture in your head? So what you should see is an elephant with wings flying in the air. What you shouldn't see is an airplane. You're essentially morphing your visualization based on the next word. Not only is this helpful for the CARS, but also for the sciences because you're given a lot of experimental passages. You need to visualize pathways. And getting used to thinking that way is essential and critical to your success. Moreover, I know somebody who's a wizard in memorizing long digits. And he says that people that can memorize a deck of cards or long digits visualize every piece of data. That said, visualization is huge for keeping things in memory a little bit longer. Jack likens this to reading a book wherein your turning the page because you're so immersed in it. You see the character. You see the plot. You understand what's going on. You visualize it. And when you see the movie, normally, students don't like the movie as much as the book if they've read the book first. That's because the director's vision is different than what they pictured. "Not only is this helpful for the CARS, but also for the sciences because you're given a lot of experimental passages." [36:15] What to Expect from JackWestin.com The course is designed to not only help you in CARS but also to help you understand the MCAT. It helps you understand the logic of the test and what you need to do in order to do well. The course helps you understand your job as a student and what the MCAT expects from you. Through this course, you get to understand questions you're not accustomed to. As a result, you become smarter, less biased, more logical, and an objective thinker. This can even help you in your Step 1 or board exams. In any case, this can help you with any test you're taking in your life. You're essentially learning how to look at things in a very objective manner. Jack's course is a very self-paced oriented course. He recommends that students take it around five to six months in advance before they even start studying for the MCAT. Give yourself more time so that you're not pressured or stressed. The last thing you want to do is rush so signing up sooner will allow you to gain the skills you need to tackle the entire test. Other services Jack offers are CARS practice exams. That said, he still doesn't think anything comes close to the AAMC. So again, use the AAMC practice exam as your primary resource. But having been in this business for ten years, he has been teaching a long time and has so much experience with students. So he thinks he really understands what they're trying to get at. So he believes his questions are very similar, if not identical, to the logic they use. In the coming weeks, it's free for students to use. Jack also offers CARS Passage of the Day emails where you get an email featuring a CARS passage of the day that looks like what you're going to see on your test. Subscribe to that free email list if you want to practice reading passages everyday. One a day for two years is going to be insanely helpful. [40:05] Jack's Final Words of Wisdom The CARS sections is not the be all and end all. If you don't well in this section, it doesn't mean you can't get into medical school. So if you feel you really can't do well on CARS, shoot Jack an email as he can show you the way to get into medical school. There are other ways to get in other than having a high CARS score. With that being said, he still believes everyone can do well on CARS. Whether or not you sign up for the course, speak up if you're having problems. Get the help you need. Don't avoid your weaknesses. Don't go into the test unprepared. But if you can devote yourself for three months and try your best, you're going to be okay. As long as put in the effort, did the practice exams, and you tried your best to understand your weaknesses, you're probably going to do well. "No one will be fully prepared. That's another thing you have to realize. Everyone is stressed out equally." Lastly, please share this podcast to your friends. Do them a favor of subscribing so they get this episode every week on their phone. Links: www.JackWestin.com www.medicalschoolhq.net/jackwestin AAMC Practice Materials AAMC CARS Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A MSHQ Facebook Live AMSA PremedFest in Tampa, Florida MAPSS Conference of California State University in San Bernardino AMSA PremedFest UC Davis Conference AMSA Convention in Washington, D.C.

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  • 58: How Do I Know if I Should Void the MCAT?

    · 00:14:55 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    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)

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  • Threshold confusion: aerobic, anaerobic, lactate, functional - help! | EP#71

    · 00:31:06 · That Triathlon Show

    How the thresholds relate to your training Why it is important to understand the thresholds to train optimally for your event-specific limiters Interpreting Lactate Curves for Ironman Athletes Does the aerobic threshold correlate with the maximal fat oxidation rate in short stage treadmill tests? RATE AND REVIEW: If you enjoy the show, please help me out by subscribing, rating and reviewing: www.scientifictriathlon.com/rate/  Send feedback, questions or just wanna chat? CONTACT me at mikael@scientifictriathlon.com or connect on Twitter - my handle is @SciTriat.

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  • 15: What is the Best Way to Use the Official Practice MCAT Exam?

    · 00:10:21 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    Session 15 In today's episode, Ryan and Bryan talk about how to utilize the AAMC Practice Exams. As of this recording, the AAMC has just released their official practice test number 2 for the "new" MCAT. In this episode, you will learn about the key things about the official practice test and some differences in the practice tests made by Next Step Test Prep or other test prep companies. Here are the highlights of the conversation between Ryan and Bryan: Two things you must have: You have to get ALL the AAMC full length tests You have to get them as part of the program or buy them yourself. The Section Bank The full length exam's section bank is a set of online science passages for and administered as a part of the new MCAT. Other AAMC resources you can use: AAMC Flashcards - just think of it as a Q book of discrete questions Q-Pack - this is composed of repurposed old passages from the old MCAT (not a eally topline resource) The Official Guide aamc - this contains 20 passages (quite good and valuable) You don't have to spend $30 on the official guide. Just $10 for the online access is good enough. How to get the most value out of them: Full length tests should be taken as full exams. You have to take them like you do in the actual test. You have to simulate test day. Get out of bed early at 7:30 am. Get to the library by 8 am. Sit down to start the test at 8:30 am. Get used to the idea that you're taking the MCAT first thing in the morning. Stick very strictly to the timing. Give yourself the exact length of break normally permitted. Do this near the end of your prep, preferably once a week, leading up to test day. The idea is to get the most test-like practice you can one week before the exam. One week before the exam, take the unscored AAMC sample test (you can't freak out about your score one week before the test so take the unscored test one week before test day) One week before that, take AAMC scored practice exam 2. One week before that, take AAMC scored practice test 1. (If at this point, the AAMC has released more scored exams, simply go back to space it out once a week working your way backwards from test day.) Why take the AAMC tests last versus practices from Next Step: You want to get the best possible simulation and the best possible look and feel and estimate of how you're doing Next Step practice tests are very precise. But Bryan admits that no test prep company or any of the national chains is as accurate as the real AAMC test. Using off the official exams too early in your prep and relying on test prep companies right near the end, won't give you an accurate assessment of your current skill level. The benefits of taking the AAMC practice exam near the end: You get in the zone. You get the exact editorial style of the real test. You get a really good prediction of how you're going to do on test day. Can you take the AAMC practice tests multiple times to stretch out your test-taking if you're on a budget? Sign up for a free account with Next Step. (They offer free full length diagnostics) Then use Next Step full length one as your mid-point check. Other companies offer free exams but they're usually only half-length or 1/3-length but it can still be good practice. Should you retake the AAMC practice tests? In roughly four months since the last time you did something, you can do it again without having the results be skewed as a result of the "practice effect" (when you assess over and over again using the same assessment, performance goes up even if the underlined skill level hasn't changed) So you want your practice test to be an accurate assessment of your skill level and not just floating upwards due to the practice effect. Links and Other Resources: As of this recording, AAMC has three practice exams (2 scored and 1 unscored). Next Step offers a lot of practice exams. Visit www.nextsteptestprep.com and use the promo code: MCATPOD to save some money off their products and services. AAMC full length tests The Section Bank www.mededmedia.com Next Step Test Prep AAMC Official Guide AAMC Flashcards

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  • 217: How are Med Schools Looking At Your New MCAT Score?

    · 00:46:46 · The Premed Years | Medical School Headquarters | MCAT | AMCAS | Interviews

    Session 217 In this episode, Ryan talks with Eric Chiu, Executive Director of the Pre-Health Programs for Kaplan Test Prep and he is in charge of the MCAT prep at Kaplan. Listen in as Ryan and Eric discuss the MCAT 2015, Kaplan's survey of how medical schools are using the test, whether or not a prep course is necessary, and more. Here are the highlights of the conversation with Eric: Eric's background: Finishing his undergrad degree in electrical engineering Teaching for Kaplan and getting inspired to take education as a career path Enjoying teaching and interacting with students Eric's thoughts on the impetus behind the MCAT 2015: The MCAT is an evolving exam. Medical schools want an exam that can help them make good, informed decisions about which students are most likely to succeed in their programs. AAMC surveyed interviewed med school deans, admissions officers, faculty, and advisors who are part of the application pipeline so they could look for ways to improve the effectiveness of MCAT in predicting the student's success in medical school. As a result, the changes in the exam are allowing medical schools to make better informed decisions. The MCAT's ability to predict who's going to perform in medical school: According to a survey conducted by Kaplan, the most frequent application killer among admissions officers is a low MCAT score. High GPA scores are good but they are not standardized because it depends on factors like the program you're in and the teachers you choose. The MCAT is the only number that is on a standard scale for every student. What if you're not just a good test taker? Unfortunately, you have to take the MCAT. The MCAT is not that last test you'll have to take. Schools want to make sure that students are well-prepared to do well on the USMLE or COMPLEX exams so they can be placed into the right residency program. There is no such thing as "not a good test taker." There is only "bad test preparers." So you need to figure out whether it's worth the investment to become a better preparer for all of the tests you have to take beyond the MCAT. Think about how you can build on building a capability set that will help you become more successful. How to become better test preparers: Become a voracious reader. Be able to read critically. Read your text books for the long concepts and memorize the right facts and formulas that are going to benefit you on test day. Most MCAT passages are not going to be found in your text books but in other journals and publications. Results from the survey Kaplan has conducted on admissions officers: 68% of medical schools felt the new test would be an improvement (2015) 52% of medical schools say they weren't sure whether the new MCAT would better prepare students for their programs Scoring trends and challenges in the new test: The MCAT is a scaled score. Your performance is relative to the rest of the test taking population. So as long as the testing population is the same, it's not necessarily about the test getting easier or harder, but you're competing with the rest of the pool. However, the test could be easier or harder for each student in terms of the content they're more familiar with. The broader scope of content covered on the new exam represents both a challenge and opportunity. The challenge is how to focus one's preparation, especially now that the exam blueprint covers 11 semesters of prerequisite coursework. There is much greater integration of science content within all three of the science-based sections. Therefore, you have to have a more holistic approach into the sections focusing on the highest yield concepts across all of the subject areas rather than just focusing on certain sections. The biggest mistake students make in preparing for the MCAT: Starting to wait. Premeds are type A personalities and are very busy so it's easy to procrastinate. So you're either intimidated by it or just not excited about it. Eric's advice to students planning to take the MCAT: Start thinking about what their prep plans are a year out from when they're planning to test. Start acclimating yourself to the types of content and the practice you can start to do early on. Kaplan courses average between 2-4 months or an option to extend their preparation for up to a full year. Students planning to test in September 2017 can start preparing now in January 2017. The sooner you begin, the more benefit you will accrue from the prep resources you invest in. Realistic practice makes perfect. Practice doesn't make perfect. Realistic practice makes perfect. Practice in an environment that mimics the conditions of the actual examination day. Hold on to the two scored AAMC practice tests available on the last two weeks before test date. How Kaplan is helping students prepare for the MCAT: 30,000 hours of MCAT expertise into their books and courses for the new exam. Kaplan recently launched their 3rd edition of MCAT books and course where they've rewritten their curriculum and sections of their books in response to feedback from students who took the actual exam. Kaplan's The MCAT channel A customized study plan feature for students so they can pick and choose where to focus their time on based on their strengths and weaknesses Approximately 20 hours of live MCAT instruction every week that students can join in and pick the right episodes for them Kaplan is now able to help students engage in test preparations that really fit their individual needs The Starting Line: Kaplan's Tuition Assistance Program Fill up their online application form and they get back to you in three days. They offer up to 60% tuition assistance based on financial need. How to decide on the right prep course for you: Do you want to become part of a community and learn from those who have come before you or are you willing to try it on your own and find your way through? Choose a structure and study plan that gives you a clear path to success. For DIY test takers, try to find ways to build not only the content review but also the test taking strategies. Start with really good books. Kaplan MCAT books come with three full-length practice tests. Some pieces of advice for students struggling with their MCAT journey: Change your mindset towards the MCAT from being an obstacle to an opportunity. The MCAT is not an obstacle but an opportunity for you to show medical schools that you have what it takes to perform well in their programs, that you can do the hard work of reviewing content and learning how to take the test. This is an opportunity for you to really commit to that dream and build a set of skills that are going to serve you throughout that way. Links and Other Resources: www.kaptest.com Kaplan's The MCAT Channel The Starting Line: Kaplan's Tuition Assistance Program Check out the Specialty Stories podcast at www.specialtystories.com AAMC MCAT practice tests

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  • 87: 5 Things You Need to Do to Start Preparing for MCAT 2015

    · 00:46:41 · The Premed Years | Medical School Headquarters | MCAT | AMCAS | Interviews

    Session 87 In today's episode, Ryan talks with Bryan from Next Step Test Prep. He previously joined us in Session 59 as he talked about about retaking the MCAT. Bryan is the Academic Director at Next Step Test Prep where he also serves as an MCAT tutor. Having been in the MCAT game for about 15 years now, Bryan switched over to Next Step to focus on one-on-one private tutoring. Today, this episode will focus on the MCAT 2015, what to expect, how to prepare for it, and the resources you will be needing. As times are changing, the MCAT is also changing. Medical schools have recognized the need for aligning their expectations to incoming medical students and so they have driven such changes. Here are the highlights of the conversation with Bryan: Why does MCAT stress people out so much? It's outside the normal realm of what they're doing. Can you take the old MCAT (until January 2015)? Yes, there is a much more established baseline for it but always check with the medical school you're applying to first. Can you take the MCAT with only half a semester of physics? Self-study a single semester's worth of content. What's added to the new MCAT? 8-9 hour day Unsettled landscape 5 Things You Need to Do to Start Preparing for the MCAT 2015: Buy and read the official guide from cover to cover. Go to the AAMC website and buy a copy of the official guide. Find out what's on this thing, how it's scored, the duration of the test, what the practice passages look like. Read it from cover to cover. Bryan shares a dirty, little secret: 99.9% of what webinars offer come straight out of the official guides. So read the guide yourself and you will know as much about MCAT as most MCAT tutors. Plan out your course work. Bryan suggests taking 3 semesters of biology or 2 years of biology since the whole test now has a flavor of biology to it (and even chemistry and physics). All concepts now have a biological systems feel to it. The more well-versed you are with bio, the better for you. Take one semester of each of the following: biochemistry, psychology, and sociology. Make sure to have at least one semester of class specifically devoted to experimental design or statistics course. Although AAMC does not require this, it would definitely help. Know when is the best time to take the test. For April test dates, scores will be released after two months. For April test dates, scores will be released after 1 1/2 month. Do not take the test in April and May so as not to make yourself a guinea pig. since AAMC will only provide an estimated percentile score in 2-3 weeks. Bryan recommends taking the test in June, July, or maybe August. Ryan recommends taking the test when you are most psyched and ready to take the test. Use other resources such as prep books and practice test materials. Prep books are a popular choice such as Kaplan and Princeton. Consider picking a bigger set of prep books. For practice test materials, the content is always straightforward. The key is to go to multiple prep companies. Do the one official test from the AAMC and at least 3 or 4 tests from 2 or 3 different prep companies. Join a good study group. Get support from other people who are also going through it since they can provide you academic, emotional, and social support. Run the study group like you're the teacher. Give each other homework and cross-teach each other to help see how other people think. This gives you cognitive flexibility. Your study group serves as your accountability group, not your competition. "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." - Jim Rohn Best ways to prepare for the new humanities and social science subjects: Verbal reasoning changed to critical analysis and reasoning skills but none is actually changing except for public health Read everyday. Pick up the philosophy textbook, Reason and Responsibility Take a semester of Psych 101 and Socio 101 Buy a good set of prep books You have to be comfortable with the language of the different psych and sociology terms. About Next Step Test Prep: Focuses solely on one-on-one private tutoring High quality tutors They offer tutoring services online and in-person. Links and Other Resources: The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam (MCAT2015) Get MCAT 2015 Books One-On-One Test Preparation Tutoring | Next Step Test Prep 2015 for Students - Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out oldpremeds.org. For more great content, check out www.mededmedia.com for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future! Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score and which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well. Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website. Hang out with us over at medicalschoolhq.net/group. Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us. Check out our partner magazine, www.premedlife.com to learn more about awesome premed information. Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: medicalschoolhq.net/itunes and leave us a review there! Email Ryan at ryan@medicalschoolhq.net or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq Connect with Next Step Test Prep on Twitter @nextstepprep.

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  • 67: The AAMC Has Released Another Scored MCAT Full-Length!

    · 00:09:51 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    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 nextsteptestprep.com/freemcat 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: nextsteptestprep.com/freemcat 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

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  • How "Machine Learning" Can Predict Your Blood, Urine, Stool, Saliva & More!

    · 00:52:37 · Ben Greenfield Fitness: Diet, Fat Loss and Performance

    https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/machinelearning I recently took a test that uses machine learning to predict biochemical test results (like blood, urine and stool) - a test called the "Elite Performance Analysis (EPA) tool". Over the last three years, the folks at Nourish Balance Thrive (Dr. Tommy Wood and Chris Kelly, both former podcast guests) who designed this test have worked with over 1,000 athletes, averaging over 100 biochemical markers collected per athlete, including: -Blood biochemistry -Urine tests (DUTCH and organic acids) -Stool tests (PCR and culture) -Subjective quality of life questions (a Health Assessment Questionnaire, or HAQ), scored on an analog scale (1-5) As well as working to optimize the performance of athletes at every level, another goal of Nourish Balance Thrive is to give more people access to the type of work they do by increasing speed of access and reducing cost. Machine learning provides for a very good way to do this. By training an algorithm based on historical HAQ and biochemical test data, they can predict five common patterns of performance killers that they regularly see in their clients, including: 1. Blood sugar dysregulation (high/low fasting blood sugar and HbA1c, or high fasting insulin) 2. Low sex hormones (testosterone in men and oestrogen in women) 3. Suboptimal hemoglobin (“low oxygen deliverability”

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  • APL 089: Persönlichkeitstest Biber-Adler-Bär online

    · 00:20:17 · Abenteuer Problemlösen - Wo liegt das Problem?

    Es ist inzwischen schon eine Weile her, aber vielleicht erinnerst Du Dich noch an die Episode 57 „Der Biber, der Adler und der Bär“ und an die Episode 60 „Biber, Bären und Adler machen ein Projekt“.In der ersten Episode ist es darum gegangen, wie die drei Tiere in einer fabelartigen – man könnte auch sagen fabelhaften – Geschichte gemeinsam ein Problem lösen. Sie tun das, indem sie ihre doch sehr unterschiedlichen Neigungen und Kompetenzen einbringen. Biber, Adler und Bär sind für mich daher Platzhalter oder Prototypen für die Menschentypen und Kompetenzfelder, die wir brauchen um bei der Lösung von Problemen im Rahmen von Projekten erfolgreich zu sein.In der zweiten Episode bin ich darauf eingegangen, welche Teams Projekte konkret erfolgreich machen, und wie sich Projekte anfühlen, denen die Biber, die Adler oder die Bären fehlen. Einen Ausschnitt dieser Episode habe ich im Anschluss eingefügt.So, und jetzt kommt der spannende Teil: es gibt jetzt auch den Online-Persönlichkeitstest dazu. Und zwar kostenlos. Den Test findest Du unterwww.georgjocham.com/testUnd ja, er ist wirklich kostenlos, wenigstens für ein paar Wochen. Später wird der Test 49 EUR pro Person kosten, und dass er jetzt für meine Hörer kostenfrei zur Verfügung steht ist mein persönlicher Dank an alle treuen Hörer für viele, viele Zugriffe, Mails und Bewertungen. Vielen Dank!Was aber bringt Dir dieser Test?Zum einen kannst Du damit ein Gefühl dafür entwickeln, wie Du selber gestrickt bist, wie Du tickst. Viele von uns gehen ja mit der Meinung durch die Welt, man müsste so oder so sein, um irgendwie gut zu sein. Die Wahrheit aber ist, jede Ausprägung ist grundsätzlich gut, und jede Ausprägung ist in unterschiedlichen Zusammenhängen nützlich. Der Test kann Dir also helfen zu erkennen, wo Deine Stärken liegen, wie Du diese am besten einsetzt, und mit welchen Menschen Du zusammenarbeiten solltest, welche Menschen also das können und gerne tun, was Du nicht so gut kannst und nicht so gerne tust.Wenn Du beispielsweise ein Biber bist, dann bedeutet das, dass Du sehr genau bist und hohe Standards setzt und auch erwartest. Das ist gut, und das braucht man in Projekten dringend. Es braucht Menschen, die ins Detail gehen und die Dinge zu Ende denken. Das ist die eine Seite. Die andere Seite ist, dass Du als Biber Menschen an Deiner Seite haben solltest, die initiativ sind und bei Bedarf rasch Entscheidungen treffen, weil Du das eben nicht so gerne tust.Oder nehmen wir an Du bist ein Adler. Dann bist zwar gut darin die Dinge ins Laufen zu bringen, und triffst gerne schnell Entscheidungen. Und auch das ist gut. Allerdings solltest Du Menschen an Deiner Seite haben, die kein Problem mit Routinetätigkeiten – die magst Du nämlich gar nicht – und die sich um Details kümmern. Du brauchst Biber. Der Adler ist auch kein Mensch für die Zwischentöne. Schwarz und Weiß, Ja und Nein genügen völlig. Mit dieser Sicht kann es passieren, dass der Adler andere Menschen verschreckt oder sogar überfährt. Und das ist nicht gut. Daher solltest Du, wenn Du ein Adler bist, Menschen an Deiner Seite haben, die sozial kompetent sind, und die Deine manchmal etwas schroffe Art ausgleichen. Ich weiß übrigens wovon ich spreche, ich habe eine sehr hohe Adler-Ausprägung... Oder aber Du bist ein Bär. Dann sorgst Du für gute Stimmung und schaffst eine positive Atmosphäre. Du knüpfst Kontakte und bringst andere Menschen zusammen. Auch das ist enorm wertvoll. Jedes funktionierende Team braucht einen Bären. Gleichzeitig lässt der Bär seiner Begeisterung oft freien Lauf und fängt viele Dinge gleichzeitig an. Wenn Du ein Bär bist, dann solltest Du darauf achten Menschen in seiner Umgebung zu haben, die sich an Zahlen, Daten und Fakten orientieren, und die sich an Prozesse und Vorgaben halten, also Biber. Während der Bär die Menschen liebt, darf es in seinem Umfeld gerne auch ein paar Mitstreiter geben, die eher die Sache im Blick haben und bei Bedarf auch mal Klartext reden, also Adler.Du siehst also, jeder Typ, auch jeder Mischtyp ist sehr wertvoll, wenn er seinen Stärken gemäß eingesetzt wird. Wenn er aber Dinge tut oder tun muss, die ihm nicht entsprechen, dann wird er diese Dinge nicht besonders gut tun, vor allem aber werden sie ihm keinen Spaß machen. Der Test unterstützt Dich also dabei ein wenig besser zu verstehen, welcher Typ Du bist.Du kannst mit dem Test aber noch mehr machen. So richtig spannend ist es sich das für ein Team anzusehen. Wenn Du also in einem Team arbeitest, das für ein solches Thema offen ist, dann empfehle ich Euch den Test als Team zu machen. Dabei ist es übrigens ganz egal, ob ihr ein Projektteam seid oder in der Linie arbeitet. Die Ausprägung der einzelnen Persönlichkeiten kann sich unterscheiden, es ändert aber nichts daran, dass ihr Biber, Adler und Bären braucht. Je nach Aufgabe halt mehr vom einen und weniger vom anderen.Wenn Ihr den Test als Team macht, dann habe ich noch eine wichtige Empfehlung und eine kleine Warnung. Es ist durchaus möglich hohe Ausprägungen in allen drei Kompetenzdimensionen zu haben. Der Test ist NICHT so aufgebaut, dass ich automatisch entweder das eine oder das andere bin. Vielmehr kann es durchaus sein, dass Du hohe Fachkompetenz, hohe soziale Kompetenz und hohe Problemlösungskompetenz miteinander verbindest. Allerdings kommt es nicht besonders häufig vor.Aber klar, es ist möglich den Test so auszufüllen, dass ich überall gut oder sehr gut bin. Darum geht es aber nicht. Es geht nicht darum beim Test möglichst gut abzuschneiden, sondern darum ein möglichst klares Bild zu bekommen. Gerade im Team kann es aber zu einer Wettbewerbssituation kommen, in der jeder versucht so gut wie möglich abzuschneiden. Wenn das geschieht, dann bekommt man nutzlose Ergebnisse. Daher schlage ich immer dann, wenn der Test von einem ganzen Team gemacht wird, die Ergebnisse anonymisiert zusammenzutragen und das auch klar vorab zu kommunizieren. Wie gesagt, sonst ist das Ergebnis oft nicht zu gebrauchen.Ich wünsche Dir viel Spaß mit dem Test. Über Feedback freue ich mich wie immer. Und hier nochmal der Link:www.georgjocham.com/test

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  • Is a Colonoscopy the Only Type of Colo Rectal Preventative Exam Available? MN070

    · 00:33:36 · Medicare Nation

    Hey Medicare Nation! March is colon cancer awareness month! Medicare offers different types of "preventative" tests and exams, which aid in diagnosing illnesses and diseases, such as colon cancer. Always speak with your primary care physician or specialist doctor, to discuss your medical history, family history regarding illness and diseases, as well as any signs & symptoms you may have. This will assist your physician in determining which type of "preventative" test or exam, is best for you. A special "Thank You," goes out to Phillip, from Kenosha, Wisconsin, who asks the question: "I don't like going through a colonoscopy. Are other options available and how often do I need one?" Let's look at Medicare's official website, to find out more about "preventative" Colo rectal cancer screenings. www.medicare.gov   How often is it covered? Medicare Part B covers several types of colo rectal cancer screening tests to help find precancerous growths or find cancer early, when treatment is most effective. One or more of these tests may be covered:   Screening barium enema:When this test is used instead of a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, Medicare covers it once every 48 months if you're 50 or over and once every 24 months if you're at high risk for colorectal cancer. Screening colonoscopy: Medicare covers this test once every 24 months if you're at high risk for colorectal cancer. If you aren't at high risk for colorectal cancer, Medicare covers this test once every 120 months (ten years), or… 48 months after a previous flexible sigmoidoscopy. Screening fecal occult blood test: Medicare covers this lab test once every 12 months if you're 50 or older. Multi-target stool DNA test: Medicare covers this at-home test once every 3 years for people who meet allof these conditions:   The Medicare Beneficiary is between 50–85. show no signs or symptoms of colorectal disease including, but not limited to, lower gastrointestinal pain, blood in stool, positive guaiac fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test. They’re at average risk for developing colorectal cancer, meaning: They have no personal history of adenomatous polyps, colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. They have no family history of colorectal cancers or adenomatous polyps, familial adenomatous polyposis, or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer. Screening flexible sigmoidoscopy: Medicare covers this test once every 48 months for most people 50 or older. If you aren't at high risk, Medicare covers this test 120 months (ten years) after a previous screening colonoscopy.   Who's eligible? All people age 50 or older with Part B are covered. People of any age are eligible for a colonoscopy.   Your costs in Original Medicare For barium enemas, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor's services. In a hospital outpatient setting, you also pay a co-payment or co-insurance You pay nothing for a multi-target stool DNA test. You pay nothing for the screening colonoscopy or screening flexible sigmoidoscopy, if your doctor accepts assignment (contracted with Medicare or is an out-of-network physician who accepts assignment). If a screening colonoscopy or screening flexible sigmoidoscopy results in the biopsy or removal of a lesion or growth during the same visit, the procedure is considered diagnostic and you may have to pay co-insurance and/or a co-payment, but the Part B deductible doesn't apply. You pay nothing for the screening fecal occult blood test. This screening test is covered if you get a referral from your doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or clinical nurse specialist.    Early detection of cancer is critical to successful treatment and may prove to be life-saving! Get your preventative colorectal screening done as soon as your physician recommends it!   Thank you for listening to Medicare Nation! If you are part of my “Sandwich Generation,” Share this show with your parents and/or grandparents. They have many questions about Medicare and this show will answer them! Buy them a “Smart Phone,” and introduce them to Medicare Nation! If you are a Baby Boomer, share Medicare Nation with other “Baby Boomers.” I want to educate as many of you as I can about Medicare! I certainly can use  your help in putting the word out! If you have any questions, send them to Support@TheMedicareNation.com If I can answer it in one email - I will personally answer you! If your question requires research or additional contact with you, I do offer consulting if you would like me to assist you in that manner. Want to hear a topic on Medicare Nation? A special guest? Let me know and I'll do my best to get them on the show! Thanks again for listening!  

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  • 【文稿】 万人嫌的职称英语考试//荔枝字数有限,全部文稿在微博

    · Round Table 圆桌议事

    XH: In China, almost every profession has ranks for different skill level workers, for example, there are five ranks for radio host and auditor; four ranks for translators and lawyers. Workers can be promoted to higher level when they pass professional exams, have certain years of experience or get published in a professional publication. Besides, workers also must pass a national foreign language test to get higher rank. This year, the test of English language took place on last Saturday and once again it was criticized by millions of examinees who that it’s a waste of time and social resources. Why is it that people are complaining? Do you think the test itself is problematic? LY: Well, I think if you are not actually someone who does use English quite often. For example, if you’re just a teacher who teaches history, why bother? I do understand why people are frustrated because after all this is China and English is fairly… Well, to be fair it’s not that often used. JA: Yeah, I mean, I would say for most people, and most jobs, English is basically completely unimportant. So, I think that if we look at the test itself, it was introduced in 1998 and actually examinees can choose from a basket of different languages, one of which is English. There’s Japanese, Russian, German, French, and Spanish although, I think most people are still going to choose the English exam, mostly because if you’ve graduated from university that means you’ve had 12 years of English education already. But, really, I think that Liuyan hit the nail on the head here, where for most professions, it’s just not necessary. I mean, like, look if you’re a radio host for an English radio station that’s, obviously that should be part of any kind of professional certification that you’re getting. But if you’re, you know, an engineer or some kind of mechanic or something like that, unless you’re doing business globally, there’s really no reason to be tested on English whatsoever. XH: Yeah, it does seem that a lot of our daily lives doesn’t have a lot to do with English, but even for those who, for whom English may be a plus or maybe a necessary skill, there’s still, I think, a lot of complaints as to why this test within, you know, among all tests should be the required one. LY: Yeah, I think they do not like this test even if English is part of their job. One of the major reasons is that it’s just not very accurate in terms of reflecting your true English abilities, because a lot of the current test is basically just if you can gather previous test examples, then you can recite all the answers and then you can do fairly well, whereas if you don’t do that, you don’t get a very good score. But, in reality, the person who doesn’t get a good score may actually speak very good English and it just doesn’t reflect that in the test. JA: Yeah, that’s a problem of most language testing in China in general. If we look, just purely at the English curriculum, all the way from primary to university level education, it is not based around, you know, teaching you how to actually communicate in that language. Rather, it has more to do with just memorizing whatever the correct answer is. If we look at people who get the best scores on gaokao in English or get the best scores on their English exams in middle or high school, you’ll find that they’re not necessarily actually good at communicating. And, so, I think if we look at this test, it’s just really kind of a continuation of that. It is actually interesting, why is it…, it’s been around since 1998 and pretty much since 1998, it’s gotten a lot of flak, I mean, everyone who takes it is like “This is stupid.” Now, the next question is, why is it still there? And it really does look like, part of the reason could be it’s a huge money maker. If you think about it, the fee to take the exam is 40-50 RMB depending on where you are. Then, the textbook for the exam costs about 35 RMB. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money per person, but if you extrapolate that out and we’re looking at millions across the country taking this exam and preparing for it, that’s a lot of money to be made by the publishers and by the people, the organizations administering the test. LY: I think that’s exactly right, because in 2013 about 70,000 people took part in the test in Sichuan province alone and this year, almost 25,000 people in Qingdao alone. So, if one city alone can have that many people who have to take this test just imagine nationwide. This is a huge amount of money. And, of course, they’re not willing to let it go. XH: Exactly, I think the main thing is not because the fee itself is expensive; it’s because that it’s so compulsory for anyone who want to get promoted or who want to advance in their careers, because if you talk about, for example, another test, the Public English Test system, that’s also national and you can take that at whatever level and anyone take it. But, then it’s not compulsory for, say, getting a job, or entering a multinational. But, this one, as long as you’re in the sort of government, public system and you want to go up the career ladder, then you have got to take it. JA: Well, no, I also think it’s funny because you mentioned multinationals and I think that, you know, many multinational firms, as part of their recruitment process, they might look at your IELTS score or your TOEFL or any other English based score, but bottom line when they call you in for an interview, they’re automatically going to be able to tell how good your English is, how well you can actually speak. In the end, when you’re applying for a multinational, these kinds of tests, again, in terms of a baseline, yeah, okay get a good score, but really, I mean, it’s not necessarily going to really help you with, when you’re, you know, the final 10 candidates or whatever.

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  • 59: MCAT Retakes - Change and Improve to Get the Score You Want

    · 00:47:46 · The Premed Years | Medical School Headquarters | MCAT | AMCAS | Interviews

    Session 59 In this episode, Ryan talks with Bryan Schnedeker, the Academic Director at Next Step Test Prep and the National Director for their MCAT Programs. Today, we talk about MCAT retakes, what that exactly means to retake the MCAT, things to consider, assessing what went wrong with the first MCAT you took. MCAT should only be taken once. The test is such a beast that it has to be taken once, ideally. However, there could be times when you may need to take it again (hopefully not in your case) so this episode seeks to hell provide with you with the much-needed information on retaking MCAT so you get the score that you want. Here are the highlights of the conversation with Bryan: Retaking the MCAT Anxiety is the biggest thing you have to deal with when it comes to retaking the test. You're not alone - up to 15% of folks who retake the test the 2nd time (that means around 6,000 out of 50,000-70,000 MCAT takers) Should you retake the MCAT? Get a little bit of distance from your past score Don't make a decision right away Talk to your parents, friends, premed advisors Approach it in the most rational way possible The most common mistake when preparing to take the MCAT: Not taking enough real AAMC MCAT practice tests Simulating the AAMC practice test: Go to the www.e-MCAT.com, the official website for AAMC practice tests Click on the radio button saying "Simulate the Real Exam" 3 sections will be delivered in order 10-minute break between sessions Take each section in order under timed conditions Don't use a calculator for the physical sciences and chemistry section Try to mimic the real experience as much as possible “Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” Taking a course correction: Lessons Learned Taking a practice test itself will give you a sense of where you are right now but it doesn't raise your score. You don't cure the disease. The actual treatment is learning from the test. Take anywhere from 3-4 days to as much as 2 weeks in between practice tests to analyze the test question by question and extract from the test the "lessons learned" Keep track of Lessons Learned journal Factors to consider when deciding whether to retake the MCAT: Look at the reality and the risks. High risk: Getting roughly the same score or a lower score Rule of thumb: Your next MCAT must be 3 or more points higher. AAMC published data that students who start: Below a 26 - A little more than half of them will get the same or lower score. 27-32 - 2/3 of students will do worse or the same Determine your options. What is your score versus your goals? Going to a Caribbean school DO vs. MD school Schools where your MCAT score is more in line Why do you want to be a doctor? What is your goal? If it's simply to get into healthcare, there are several other options out there other than being an MD. MD vs. DO schools (DO schools are now harder and harder to get into versus allopathic schools) Caribbean schools and the Caribbean take lesser MCAT score MCAT score does not dictate how well you're going to do in medical school, in your boards, or how good of a doctor you're going to be in the future. When you're deciding to retake the MCAT: Call the medical schools. Get information straight from the horse's mouth. Ask to speak with someone from the admissions office and get a recommendation from them. Go to the premed/prehealth advisor or committee of your undergrad school Warning: Not all schools will want to talk to you or give you advice but many of them will. Factors to consider when retaking the MCAT: Time and resources Retaking the MCAT means going back from scratch and earning your points again. It can even be more work. Overcoming the bad habits You may have developed some bad habits while preparing for the MCAT the first time so you have to keep your eyes open and understand that it's a big, daunting task to re-prepare for the MCAT. Two biggest factors for success in the MCAT: Attitude Study groups Gather a group of 3 to get the social support you need to really stick to it and overcome the challenge. The benefits of having a study group: Applying the adage of "See one. Do one. Teach one." Lets you teach each other. Teaching helps you learn. Working with someone with a different skill set than you since actively teaching will solidify your knowledge better than anything else can. Your dream team for a study group: One person strongest in physical sciences One person strongest in verbal One person strongest in biological sciences *Don't be limited by geography. Utilize the power of technology (Facebook, Skype, etc.) Tips to get the score you want: Doing the same thing is going to get you the same results. Figure out what you did and what you need to do differently. Don't make the mistake of not taking enough practice tests or not learning from them Figure out what you're doing with your practice tests. Are you using them correctly? The Practice Effect: Reassess with the same assessment and performance goes up even though the underlined skill hasn't changed May fade after 4 months or so Other MCAT prep resources: Practice tests from test prep companies Books Should you buy more books? Use the books you have correctly and it will get you where you need to go. Know your MCAT book perfectly from front to back How to study your MCAT book: Take a multi-pass approach Skim through the book. Read again and study the diagrams. Read again slowly and take notes. Read again and answer the questions. Put it away for two days for information to be encoded in your long term memory. Read well the questions again. Repeat the process for mastery. What kind of outside help do you need? Take a look at your available resources and take advantage of them. If you took a course and the teacher wasn't so good, shop around and sit in on a number of classes until you find a teacher you like. About Next Step Test Prep: Provides boutique tutoring style "For you" mentality as the driving force of their existence One-on-one tutoring as the best learning environment 40% of their business consists of MCAT re-takers Re-takers need one-on-one guidance Majority of takers and re-takers who come to them have taken MCAT lecture classes from other companies What to consider when making your initial prep decision: Go e-MCAT.com Take AAMC Test 3 under real simulation conditions AAMC will give you an outline  of all the science topics that will be on the test Read through the outlines to see your comfort level with the material Make an assessment based on where you are now versus where you want to go “Taking a diagnostic test after you've signed up for a course is already too late.” Some pieces of advice for premed students: Stay positive. Your attitude shapes your reality.  Do a positive review of your MCAT material. At least once a week, only review the questions you got right. Change your focus to change your reality and the MCAT goes from a negative to a positive experience. 'Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." - Henry Ford Links and Other Resources: e-MCAT.com Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website. Session 17: Step Up Your MCAT Prep with the Princeton Review Session 35: What to Do to Fix Your Application with Dr. Polites Check out Bryan's blog www.nextstepmcat.com Save $225 on the Princeton Review's MCAT Ultimate or MCAT Self-Paced Prep Course through March 30th 2016 by going to www.princetonreview.com/podcast If you need any help with the medical school interview, go to medschoolinterviewbook.com. Sign up and you will receive parts of the book so you can help shape the future of the book. This book will include over 500 questions that may be asked during interview day as well as real-life questions, answers, and feedback from all of the mock interviews Ryan has been doing with students. Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out oldpremeds.org. For more great content, check out www.mededmedia.com for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future! Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score and which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well. Hang out with us over at medicalschoolhq.net/group. Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us. Check out our partner magazine, www.premedlife.com to learn more about awesome premed information. Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: medicalschoolhq.net/itunes and leave us a review there! Email Ryan at ryan@medicalschoolhq.net or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

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  • 2: The MCAT Basics plus MCAT Prep and MCAT Resources

    · 00:22:01 · The Premed Years | Medical School Headquarters | MCAT | AMCAS | Interviews

    Session 2 In today's episode, Ryan covers some MCAT basics including MCAT prep, the new changes in the MCAT 2015, and a ton of good resources that will help you on your journey. Here are the highlights of this episode: About the MCAT Not a test on knowledge but a test to see how well you take tests It tests a student's aptitude in medical school Started back in 1928 as a way to filter students due to a huge dropout rate in medical school Used to be a paper-based test until switching to a computer-based Runs for several hours long A 2008 journal article showed that the MCAT compared to other courses has the lowest percentage of questions that are strictly knowledge-based. Majority of it is comprehension. Planning when to take the MCAT Most students take their MCAT in their junior year (August as the busiest time) Plan to start your MCAT prep 4-6 months in advance of the MCAT test date A lot of people take some time off now to gain some life experiences and decrease burnout If you plan to take a time off between undergrad and medical school, plan on holding off in taking the MCAT otherwise your MCAT test result will expire (3 years for most medical schools) Changes in the 2013 and 2014 MCAT in preparation for 2015 MCAT: Dropping the written portion of the test Addition of a trial section of Psychology, Sociology, and Biochemistry (45-min. block of 32 questions) The trial section is not score. It is a voluntary test and if you decide to take it, the AAMC pays you $30 Amazon gift card. Other parts of the test: Physical sciences - 52 questions in 70 mins Biological sciences - 52 questions in 70 mins Verbal reasoning - 40 questions in 60 mins Total time: A little over 5 hours Changes in the 2015 MCAT: Biological and biochemical foundations of living systems (65 questions in 95 mins) Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems (65 questions in 95 mins) Psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior (65 questions in 95 mins) Critical analysis and reasoning skills (60 questions in 90 mins) Best ways to prepare for the MCAT Take practice tests. AAMC offers loads of practice tests as well as MCAT test prep companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review. Start with the official MCAT Guide from the AAMC. First, see what it's like. Don't worry about studying for it. Sign up for MCAT Question of the Day sites. Questions will be emailed to your inbox. Examples: http://www.mcatquestion.com/ - Company has their own MCAT prep course. Random questions and calendar to pick questions. iOS and Android apps http://www.freequestionaday.com/ - Kaplan product. Keeps track of right/wrong and streak. No “random” questions. Emailed to your inbox - takes you to website to pick answer. http://mcatquestionoftheday.com/ - Web Tutoring available. Premium model for $17 “lifetime” access. Traditional classroom or web-based tutoring Kaplan Princeton Review - Save $100 on any MCAT® Course BenchPrep Books Check out our MCAT Prep page that has links to some some highly reviewed books and other materials. Flash cards Flash cards are so handy, they're lighter than a book and you can take them anywhere and read through them during some free time or while you're standing on the line waiting for your coffee. Extra coursework Consider taking Psychology (1 semester) and Sociology (1 semester) in preparation of the 2015 MCAT. What MCAT score do you need to get? Based on AACOM and AAMC data: DO schools: 26.48 MD schools: 31.1 Blog Spotlight http://www.mdjourney.com/ - Steven Krager,  a second year medical student at Creighton University according do his ‘about’ page, has been blogging at mdjourney since 2008! Full of great insight into the world of medicine, Steven has a great writing style which should keep you reading for a while. Some pieces of advice for premed students: The big take home thought I talk about is the fact that the MCAT is a test more about reasoning, understanding and analysis, and not so much pure knowledge. Read! Read news articles, physical papers and online newspapers. This helps you hone your reading skills thus increasing your speed of reading and honing your skills to think while you read. Links and Other Resources 2008 Science Article about MCAT Test Format AAMC MCAT MCAT Registration MCAT Test Dates Prometric Test Centers Free MCAT Practice Tests If you need any help with the medical school interview, go to medschoolinterviewbook.com. Sign up and you will receive parts of the book so you can help shape the future of the book. This book will include over 500 questions that may be asked during interview day as well as real-life questions, answers, and feedback from all of the mock interviews Ryan has been doing with students. Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out oldpremeds.org. For more great content, check out www.mededmedia.com for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future! Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score and which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well. Hang out with us over at medicalschoolhq.net/group. Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us. Check out our partner magazine, www.premedlife.com to learn more about awesome premed information. Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website. C heck out their 10-full length MCAT practice tests and save 10% using the code "MSHQ". Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: medicalschoolhq.net/itunes and leave us a review there! Email Ryan at ryan@medicalschoolhq.net or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

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  • Airspeed - Test Pilot: You

    · 00:15:14 · Airspeed

    Many of us think of test pilots as leather-faced guys in Nomex flight suits with eyes permanently reduced to slits by squinting into the sun across Rogers Dry Lake Bed at Edwards Air Force Base. And there are some of those.But today we're going to talk about some test pilots who look a lot more like you and me. In fact, they are you and me.Now I'm not suggesting that you go strap some JATO rockets to your RV-4 and push the big red button. What I'm talking about is systematically exploring the operating characteristics of the aircraft you fly and yourself as the pilot.Here's an example. I've always wondered just how much altitude I would need to have before I'd consider trying to turn around and land on the departure runway if I lost the engine shortly after takeoff. There's even a great article about that very subject in AOPA pilot from four or five years ago. But I wanted to know what the numbers would be for the aircraft that I regularly fly and especially for me personally as the pilot in command.So I decided to go play test pilot.I set up a profile for the test in advance of the flight. I briefed it on the ground with the instructor and then briefed it again in the air right before the maneuvers. This isn't something you want to pull out of your ear while in flight. You won't have the test fully thought-out and you'll be distracted to boot.So here's the test:1. Establish a full-power climb at 79 knots (which is Vy - or best rate of climb - for this aircraft).2. At a known altitude, pull the throttle to idle.3. Wait for five seconds. This pause is to simulate the amount of time that it would likely take for a pilot to realize that he had an engine-out, evacuate his bowels, and initiate action.4. Initiate a turn at 65 knots (which is the best glide speed for this aircraft) and up to 45 degrees of bank.5. After 210 degrees of turn (180 degrees to reverse direction and another 30 degrees to point back at the runway), level out and note the altitude loss.Because I'm already recording this for the podcast using an MP3 recorder plugged into the intercom, I don't have to worry about capturing data on paper or remembering it. I can just call out the data as it happens. Everything I'm calling out is something that I'd have to monitor anyway as a part of flying the airplane, so I'm not worried about being distracted. The only additional workload beyond that required to fly the plane in the first place is saying the instrument readings out loud so I can record them. Being that I'm preparing for my instrument checkride concurrently, Iâ??m already doing my John King call-outs, so this isn't much of a departure from normal procedure.After putting together this rough outline of the test, I thought about what, if anything, might approach the operating envelope of either the aircraft or the pilot.As far as the aircraft is concerned, the only thing I could think of that would approach the edge of the envelope would be being banked over pretty far and flying pretty slow. Any slow-speed maneuver necessarily makes one think about possible stalls and spins. So I looked at the pilot's operating handbook to verify that I'd have enough of a margin above a stall during the turn. The POH says that, in the clean configuration and with the weight and balance we had for that flight, the stall speed with 45 degrees of bank is 53 knots indicated. Plenty of room.How about the pilot? I'm pretty good at slow flight and my steep turns are great. But I can't say that I'm good â?? or current â?? at doing both simultaneously. So I'll practice both separately before we do the test and I'll have a high-time CFII in the right seat and close to the controls as a safety measure.There is perhaps some benefit to not being very current with slow steep turns. It might be a good proxy for being surprised or stressed. Additionally, low-speed, steeply-banked turns are not something that itâ??s likely that Iâ??ll end up practicing that often anyway, so not being current is a great proxy for not being current, too!So, all that said, ace flight instructor Jamie Willis and I got into the plane on a beautiful severe-clear Thursday morning and went up to see what we could find out.I hadnâ??t been up in months, so we went through some VFR basics to warm up. The steep turns were like the airplane was on rails. A nice little burble at the end of each one to tell me that I had flown through my own wake turbulence from the start of the turn. Slow flight and stalls were also all fine.So we set up to do the test. Three iterations with the same procedure each time.Hereâ??s the first one.[Audio 1]The airspeed was all over the map. As expected, I had a lot of trouble nailing the airspeed while rolling into the turn and then getting her around those 210 degrees. So we tried it again. This time, I asked Jamie to really ride me about the airspeed and he obliged.[Audio 2]Guys, this podcast is the real deal. Who else would let more than a thousand people sit in the back seat while he got dope-slapped by his instructor for chasing the airspeed needle up and down the dial? Iâ??m learning stuff here. But Iâ??m also not going to let it go at that. This needs another try, so here we go.[Audio 3]Much better. Iâ??m a little happier with that one.So thatâ??s the test run. We proceeded to knock off the rest of the VFR rust on that flight and Iâ??m pleased to say that I greased all four landings after not having flown since September. I didnâ??t hurt that the wind was dead calm, but Iâ??ll take at least some credit for pilot skill.Like any good test pilot, my debriefing included a frank discussion of the shortcomings of the test. Here's what I identified.· The five-count may or may not be a good proxy for the amount of time that I might need to identify an engine-out and make the decision to turn back. I've never had an engine out, so I really don't know how I'd react.· Accomplishing a 210-degree turn is not the same as getting back to a runway. Depending on the wind and any number of other factors, even a 210-degree turn might leave you a long way laterally off the runway and needing to glide back to the centerline â?? and then turn back that 30 degrees to align the aircraft with the centerline. If you're at, say, Willow Run airport with lots and lots of flat real estate even if not all of it is paved, that's less of a problem. Grass is okay by me in a pinch and I'll even take out a marker if I have to. But if you're at Troy Executive Airport with shopping centers, industrial buildings, and power lines hemming in the runway, that's an issue. Shopping centers are harder to land on than grass. I took a handheld GPS up on the flight with the intention of analyzing the vertical and horizontal track so that I could correct for winds at altitude (the preflight briefing called for winds at 320 at 33 at that altitude), but it turned out to be too complicated to work out in time for this episode. Maybe again on a day where the winds at altitude are closer to what you'd expect on the surface.· The data I got would all go out the window if I don't pre-brief the procedure on every takeoff. That includes wind and turn direction. It also includes situational awareness of what's going on other runways, especially if the wind is such that your best turn direction is toward a parallel runway. The offset is good because you have less lateral distance to travel back to a runway (assuming that you're going to land on the parallel), but, if you're not sure that the parallel is clear, you could risk eating Learjet. Learjets are sometimes worse to land on than shopping centers. And they usually cost more.· I need to work on my ability to establish and maintain pitch for a given airspeed when in steeply-banked turns. I was all over the map on two of the three trials and even the last trial had me behind the airplane a little. I think Iâ??ll make this maneuver a consistent part of my periodic VFR training.Long story short, I now know that, if Iâ??ve pre-briefed the procedure before taking off and Iâ??m a little better than I have been at maintaining the best-glide speed of 65 knots while banked over 45 degrees, I could get probably get the plane turned 210 degrees within four hundred feet. What I donâ??t know is what kind of lateral position Iâ??d be in after the turn and whether Iâ??d be in a position to make it to the runway from there. Before I turn this into an actual operating procedure, Iâ??m going to have to figure out how to get event data out of the GPS and figure out the lateral part â?? and the remaining horizontal part â?? of the situation.But thatâ??s whatâ??s good about going out and â?? within reason â?? being a test pilot. You add to what you know and you figure out what you donâ??t know. Done well within the flight envelope of the airplane and the pilot in command, and with appropriate safety precautions (and seasoned flight instructors who have had upset training tend to be good safety precautions), youâ??ll be a better, safer, and more thoughtful pilot.Long-time listeners wonâ??t be surprised by the following disclaimers. I am by no means suggesting that you go out and do risky stuff. All of the maneuvers that I'm talking about are well within the normal operating envelope of the aircraft involved.I have well over 100 hours in C-172s and probably 20 hours in this particular airplane. I went up with a 900-hour CFII who has hundreds of hours more than I do in C-172s and who has had training in unusual attitude and upset recoveries. The CFII had the seat forward and was close to the controls the whole time. It was a severe clear day over known territory. And we had flight following from Flint Approach the whole time for traffic advisories and in case we needed to talk to someone immediately in an emergency.Nothing in what you've heard here is flight instruction or a recommendation about aircraft operations. Consult a qualified flight instructor before attempting anything you hear about on Airspeed.Different aircraft do different things at different airspeeds and in different configurations and even the characteristics of the same model of aircraft will vary from specific aircraft to specific aircraft.Donâ??t integrate anything you heard on this episode into your operating procedures. As you can tell from my commentary, Iâ??ve only figured out about half of what I need to know before even thinking about making any firm decisions about what Iâ??d do at any particular altitude or situation. And bear in mind that my personal flight skills and biases are inseparable from the results that I got. None of this is transferable to your particular situation because youâ??re probably not flying the same aircraft and youâ??re definitely not me (the latter of which will probably come as a relief to many of you).Remember your training, observe the limitations in the pilot's operating handbook, and - above all - fly the airplane. But you knew that.See also:ASF Safety Advisor â?? Would You Make It? http://www.aopa.org/asf/publications/inst_reports2.cfm?article=5317

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  • 65: Breaking Down Biology Discrete Questions for the MCAT

    · 00:13:36 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    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)

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  • 62: MCAT Prep On Any Budget (Should I Spend $3000??)

    · 00:13:36 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    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

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  • 61: Is the MCAT Getting Harder?

    · 00:13:15 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    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

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  • 3: Do I Need to Take a Diagnostic MCAT Test?

    · 00:09:53 · The MCAT Podcast | Medical School Headquarters | Premed

    Session 3 In today's episode, Ryan and Bryan talk about the next steps when you want to dip your toes and start preparing for the MCAT test, particularly starting with the diagnostic test - why you need to take it, when you have to take it, and more information you need to know about taking the diagnostic test. Here are the highlights of the conversation between Ryan and Bryan: Everyone has to take the diagnostic test. You have to take something that is very similar to the MCAT. It doesn't have to be a full 8-hour day but with the following conditions: In the format of the exam Simulates the difficulty Has to give you approximate score at the end so you know where you're starting out The diagnostic test at Next Step: Free one is half-length (20 passages long and 3 and 1/2-hour day) The initial diagnostic test at Next Step has a high statistical validity and it is of a difficulty that closely approximates the real AAMC. They have tweaked their scoring scale to make those adjustments so the diagnostic score would highly predict how you would do in the official AAMC practice exam. When to take the diagnostic test: You shouldn't even be taking the MCAT until you've done the prerequisite coursework The diagnostic test falls at the very beginning of the prep process (Anywhere from 3 or 4 to 5 or 6 months before when you plan to take the MCAT so you would know the amount of work you have to do) The amount of time you have to put into the MCAT varies by orders of magnitude for some students. Links and Other Resources: www.mededmedia.com Next Step Test Prep Next Step Test Prep Coupon Code: MCATPOD and get $50 off any of the tutoring packages and 10% any of their MCAT exam products Next Step Test Prep diagnostic test AAMC Official Guide

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