As a Next Step student, you have likely heard about the value of the carefully analyzing and reviewing your performance on each full-length practice test you take. But, how do you know if your Lessons Learned Journal (LLJ) is going to be helpful? There are a few tips and strategies you should employ to make sure you get the most of your LLJ.
1) Use a digital spreadsheet program (excel, numbers, open office) to build your LLJ. This will allow you to sort information quickly to search for patterns. For example, sorting by Question Type in CARS allows you to identify which MCAT Skill is most challenging for you. Now you can design your homework to address the identified problem.
2) Make a new LLJ for each full-length practice test you take. This way you can more easily compare you performance across time. Your last few practice tests in the 2-4 weeks leading to test day will be the most useful in making any predictions for your test day performance. This format also allows easy side by side comparison of 2 tests to look for changes and or improvements in MCAT performance. Make a separate tab for each section of the exam (4 total).
3) Take your time. The final 2 columns in your LLJ are the most important. This is where you are doing careful analysis and contemplation to determine a - why you got the Q wrong and/or what mistake you made and b - what you need to do to address the mistake and prevent it from happening again. These analyses should be well thought out and as specific as you can. Use your own words so that you are forced to engage with the explanations rather than just parroting them into the spreadsheet. It is normal for your LLJ building to take as long as taking the actual FL exam.
4) Make specific homework assignments based on your LLJ. Once the LLJ is done, the fun can begin. Once you have made the diagnosis and treatment plan, you have to apply the treatment by taking actionable steps for your homework. This may mean drilling Skill 7 questions in CARS, reviewing a NS electrostatics content review video, or even doing a 5-10 question quiz on personality disordered in your NS Qbook. The specificity mentioned in step 3 will pay off dividends her. Instead of an assignment like “review organic chem” you can assign yourself the task of “work on recognizing good nucleophiles,” which will point to tangible, useful practice in the NS MCAT library.
5) Do not limit this analysis to just full-length practice tests. While a formal LLJ is best suited for a practice MCAT, the critical reasoning and analytical skills it requires can be practiced from day 1 of your studies. Keep notebooks for each science discipline (e.g. Chem, Bio, Biochem, Psych, etc.) so that as you progress through your practice, you are honing these skills to be applied formally in your LLJ. This is a complicated process, so it takes time to master. The MCAT is a marathon, not a spring. Take it one step at a time, you will get there.
Attached to this post is a sample LLJ, done in excel. If you have any questions, feel free to post here or come to Office Hours. If you have good tips or addendums to the LLJ process you have found that work, share them here. There is no one best way to the MCAT, and the more tools we have for our prep, the better.
Good luck and keep studying!
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