A paradigm shift
I was a Stanford graduate in the 1990's with a good score on the old exam, so I put up flyers and tried my luck as a free-lance MCAT tutor. I had the opportunity for plenty of work and became the "all-around MCAT tutor" in Atlanta. The MCAT was a paper exam back then. I was teaching seven days a week, month after month, going into the second year of MCAT tutoring, when I awoke one morning in possession of a completely new teaching art. Through the constant day-to-day struggle alongside my students, working to help them master scientific ideas, I learned how to prefigure physics ideas in a specific way to lay the underpinnings of a common-sense understanding of chemistry. A method developed for unfolding the physical and biological sciences within a unified curriculum. It was created to help my students. This was the first spiraling, interdisciplinary MCAT course. These breakthroughs were only possible because I taught general science as a whole for an extended period those years ago. What occurred depended on happenstance and accidents in my own background and disposition. I understood this teaching art to be a significant innovation for science education. I became committed to this work and embarked on developing these teaching ideas further.
Revolutionizing the old exam
I was teaching groups of students, eventually, and I recruited a team. My company and I built a successful course for the old exam, WikiPremed, which helped many thousands of students online. WikiPremed was well-regarded as the interdisciplinary approach to the old exam. We built a successful teaching service and publishing company. When the new MCAT was finally introduced in 2015, it felt like a reply to our own teaching ideas. A scientific revolution has occurred over the last fifty years. There is now systems level unity in the understanding of the physical and biological sciences at the molecular level. AAMC made interdisciplinary understanding the explicit key to success in MCAT science on the new exam to help future doctors understand the knowledge-base they must build for medical school in the age of molecular biology revolution. We began helping students prepare for the new MCAT immediately after it was released.
Going back to the mountain to return to the well-springs
An MCAT tutor becomes devoted to their student like a guide becomes devoted to a traveler on a long journey. After the guide has seen the traveler through the journey to the destination, he bids them farewell and turns back again to help another along the way. There is no better development incubator of teaching ideas than one-on-one tutoring because your personal attachment leads you to exceed yourself. You find the way to get the student through each stage of the incredible journey to the halcyon shores of a good MCAT. Although it has only recently become available to a wider audience, the Integrated MCAT Course has proven itself through years of teaching, and it has helped many students. It is a complete course for the CARS, psychology, and science sections of the new MCAT. Science content review in the course builds on itself. This is the first proper content review for the new MCAT. We have built it into an online learning program. We are proud of the Integrated MCAT Course! One thing about this learning program is that a person will likely need to get to the third or fourth module to fully appreciate how the course works. Subscription to the course video library is $14.95/month, so the cost of a pizza will get you far enough to see Gibbs free energy in the light of a clear understanding of its underpinnings. When you join this course, you will receive learning management, diagnostics, communication and support. We are a teaching service, and we will do our best for you. We will help you succeed in all dimensions of preparedness for the MCAT. Please reach out to us any time you are stuck or have a question. Please write to us with comments. Send us a pep talk!
"Aha moments" in MCAT review
We have just received a memo from our marketing department. They are unhappy we have written that students won't really understand the course until the fourth module! That's not exactly what we said, but the figure below might help a person understand our course better. The figure is a memory palace of science. Building a memory palace is a mnemonic technique using spatial environments to enhance the recall of information. We use this figure for a kind of review exercise for rehearsal and retrieval of scientific concepts occasionally in the course. It is a fun kind of exercise for attending to the completeness and integrative complexity of the knowledge, visiting the concepts while on an imaginary tour of this memory palace. You can zoom in and try different paths and points of view with the figure as a kind a play. You can fly above it. The figure is something to play with. Symbolism can be defined as the practice or art of using an object to represent an idea. In this memory palace, buildings from the history of architecture symbolize the scientific ideas. The design relationships between the buildings convey the relationships among the scientific concepts. Within this introduction, this provides us with a figurative way to communicate how content review is structured within the spiraling curriculum of this course.
You could take an imaginary walking tour beginning in the mechanics neighborhood of physics through the first four modules of the course, from kinematics to solutions, as a way to visualize something that otherwise becomes apparent within the emergent flow of a month or so of video tutorial, discussion, and practice items, the content and assignments of the first four modules. Each module has about fifteen hours of work in components called Science Focus, Conceptual Integration and Biology Cycle and about ten hours of work for CARS, Psychology, Test Strategy and other types of activity. Thinking about the beginning of the science course in terms of our walking tour, there would be a moment walking in the direction of electricity on the way from mechanics, when you could see the oxidation-reduction building up on the hill above the city. This is a figurative representation of a leit motif or theme of the first four modules. Oxidation-reduction is not a topic in these early modules, but it reaches out to electricity in the course just like it does figuratively in our memory palace. If you look up from electricity towards oxidation-reduction in the figure, a line of sight runs through periodic properties and chemical bonding. This represents a conceptual bridge we build from the beginning of the course. Electricity, chemical bonding, oxidation-reduction and metabolism all share the same vanishing point in the figure. This connection is one of the deepest, interdisciplinary goals of the learning program to convey because electrochemical along with thermodynamic and kinetic understanding shows you the plot in biochemistry. The figure has puzzles and meanings built into it. It is kind of a fun puzzle. Even though it's not in the videos, we brought it out to illustrate something that is in the videos, a spiraling curriculum that builds on itself. The bridge from work & energy and electricity to electrochemistry is an important leit motif, among a number of leit motifs we prime and bring into distributed repetition within the first four modules. Through priming and distributed repetition a spiraling curriculum conveys understanding in a natural, conversational, common-sense way because it builds on itself. We teach oxidation-reduction through its underpinnings beginning in the very first modules. Even though oxidation-reduction is not a topic of focus until module 11, we become strong in its ideas early in this course. Why is electrochemistry a favorite of AAMC? It is not because of batteries. This is spiraling method to build a unified knowledge-base having both completeness and integrative complexity.
Development within a spiraling curriculum
A leit motif is a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition. One of the recurring leit motifs throughout the early modules of the course are moments to place underpinnings for more advanced ideas through priming and distributed repetition. In the case of something like electrochemistry, students graduate from college chemistry with a grab-bag of empty signifiers where there should be oxidation-reduction and electrochemistry ideas. This is a nearly universal situation for premedical students, although it is not widely acknowledged and may even be the secret knowledge of MCAT tutors. The problem happens because physics ideas were not present in chemistry lecture when the electrochemistry ideas were first learned. To fix the structural problems in the knowledge-base left behind by the disconnected undergraduate curriculum, this course works like language acquisition. When the scientific ideas underlying a supervening topic are present at the moment of learning, your sense of the supervening idea becomes clearer. Chemistry ideas rest on a foundation of basic physics ideas, not advanced physics. There is a meticulous aspect to this MCAT course from the very beginning which will become more apparent the further you progress. We are building underpinnings to energy flow in metabolism. Oxidation-reduction reaches across the city to metabolism, and they appear together in main topic review in module 11. Oxidation-reduction is discussed often within the first four modules, however, even though its not a topic of those modules, and so is metabolism discussed often in the first four modules. The course videos in the Integrated MCAT Course are not topical review videos. The Integrated MCAT Course is a structured learning program that builds on itself in a meticulous way to achieve extremely ambitious learning goals directly relevant to outstanding MCAT performance.
The unity-of-sciences approach exemplified by the MCAT reflects how the biochemistry and molecular biology revolutions have transformed scientific understanding. The undergraduate premedical curriculum teaches the general sciences within disconnected, modular lecture courses, but the individual sciences aren't separate. They are integrative levels within a broader unity. The sciences are unified in living systems, and they're unified on the MCAT.
The specific elements within an MCAT passage become intelligible when you bring them to light as ideas through recognition and synthesis. The brain doesn’t remember isolated facts. It remembers connections. A unified knowledge base makes the MCAT more manageable. Content review that leads to integrated conceptual understanding, together with extensive practice (and then more practice after that) represents the surest path to a great score on the MCAT.