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Make the Most of Untimed LSAT Practice

I sometimes equate aspects of LSAT preparation with learning a musical instrument. Each requires deliberate practice – learning an often foreign and unintuitive way of thinking – and patience, especially when improvement appears slow or even nonexistent.
Those who have studied a musical instrument will remember spending a lot of time practicing slowly, often at less than half the speed that the piece or exercise would ultimately be played. Playing a fast piece only at its actual speed leads only to frustration, while practicing slowly and deliberately allows you to think consciously about every step while slowly building up to the point where it becomes second nature.
The LSAT is no different: You must learn to move quickly to complete each section, but it is near impossible to do so without slowing things down first. In this week’s post, we’ll examine why this approach is important on the LSAT and how to make best use of it to maximize your score.
Why Practice Untimed?
I sometimes get pushback from students who have been taught that timing is key on the LSAT. Indeed, regular readers of this blog know I believe that lots of timed work is essential to maximizing your score.
But to do things quickly, you must first do them slowly. This increases accuracy – and subsequently speed – by allowing you to better understand why you’re answering a question wrong. If you only practice under timed conditions, it will be much more difficult for you to analyze and understand where you went astray.
Even worse, without untimed work, you’ll likely reinforce the mistakes that are causing you to answer incorrectly by repeating them. Moving slowly through a question, passage or logic game enables you to think through every step in your analysis and identify errors.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, practicing untimed will also increase your speed. Just as slowly playing scales on a musical instrument builds muscle memory and makes the physical movements automatic, slowly going through each LSAT question will make the steps in your analysis come more quickly and eventually feel natural and automatic.
How to Practice Untimed
The first step to practicing untimed is getting comfortable with the fact that you may spend a long time with a single question. Spend as much time as necessary, even five minutes or more, on a problem to make sure you understand every step you took in the path to the correct answer.
Note tht this doesn’t mean that you should do anything extra or different from what you would do under timed conditions – if you deviate from that process, then you’re not preparing for the real test and may be creating additional work that will slow you down on test day.
Instead, as you follow each step you would normally take to answer a question, ask yourself why you are doing this, what the next step is and why that is the next step. Answering these questions will reinforce the correct process, which will ultimately lead to greater speed and accuracy on test day.
When to Practice Untimed
In general, focus almost all of your initial preparation on untimed practice. As you get more and more comfortable with the methods and processes you’re learning, gently increase the amount of timed work you do until you’re comfortable with most of what you encounter under timed conditions.
As the test date approaches, spend most of your study time doing timed work and examine the questions you got wrong in a slower, more deliberate fashion.source


5 Medical School Personal Statement Writing Pitfalls

When gearing up to write a personal statement for your medical school application, your first inclination may be to sit down and begin describing all the reasons you want to be a doctor, why you should be accepted to medical school or the strengths that set you apart from the vast pool of applicants.
While these are good approaches to working on a personal statement, you’ll also want to make sure you avoid these five writing pitfalls.
• Writing before thinking: Applicants often fall into the trap of beginning the writing process before having a clear idea of what they are going to say or how they are going to structure their essay. It’s easy to whip out your computer and begin writing – but if you take this approach, you may find yourself stuck in the writing process shortly after you begin.
Creating a personal statement is primarily a thinking exercise and secondarily a writing exercise. Before you begin writing, spend some quality time thinking about what you want to cover in your essay and how you plan to organize the different issues.
As you embark on this process, create a written outline as an extension of the thinking process; this will help you navigate the writing element.
Some topics to cover may include your upbringing and how it shaped your interest in medicine and science; a careful reflection on how your clinical experiences drew you to the medical profession; or a description of how your extracurricular activities or personal life challenges make you well-suited for the medical profession.
• Omitting the desire to be a physician: This is one of the most common mistakes that medical school applicants make. They often leave this important point out of their essay or tangentially talk about it without explicitly stating what specific elements of the medical profession draw them to becoming a doctor.
This is arguably the most important question any personal statement should answer. State this clearly early in your essay and back up your reasons with strong examples.
• Trying too hard not to sound generic: At the expense of not sounding generic, applicants often fail to answer key questions in their personal statements that are important to admissions committees. These may include why they are interested in medicine, how this interest developed and what they have acquired through their clinical experiences.
Remember your essay should not be a repeat of your resume, but it should be a thoughtful reflection of your resume that also incorporates elements about your personal life to add color to your story. If you reflect thoughtfully on your experiences, you won’t sound generic.
• Listing positive attributes without examples: You may have heard “Don’t tell, show” when it comes to medical school personal statements. It is critical to describe your positive characteristics in the context of the experiences in which you acquired them.
Just listing a series of positive attributes will not impress any one on an admissions committee. Instead they want to know if you have strong interpersonal skills and that you can thoughtfully demonstrate how you acquired those interpersonal skills through interactions with patients or teamwork with a diverse group of peers.
Admissions committees are more impressed by positive characteristics that you have acquired over time than those you claim to have inherently been born with. Avoid sentences like, “Ever since I was a young boy, I had a penchant for understanding the human body.” Your essay will sound stronger if instead you describe how your curiosity for understanding human biology developed over time through various experiences.
• Writing too poetically or philosophically: In an effort to set themselves apart, some applicants write a poetic or philosophical essay that can be overly emotional but lack the necessary substance to help admissions committees gauge the applicants’ aptitude for medicine.
Remember, you are not applying for a graduate program in creative writing or philosophy. You are applying for medical school. Focus on what you need to say to convince medical schools of your commitment to this profession.
It’s also easy to miss the big picture by getting too emotional about a single patient encounter or excessively highlighting your desire to help others without also demonstrating a passion for medical science. After all, an important part of being a physician is a commitment to medical science.
Instead of keeping your essay narrow and emotional, make sure you cover the key topics to create a strong, balanced essay.source

Teacher and student using laptop in meeting

3 Considerations for Humanities Majors Applying to Medical School

As an English major, I’m often asked how my undergraduate major contributes to my chosen professional field. The link between the humanities and medicine isn’t explicit, and as a premedical student, I was daunted by the sheer number of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – majors in the medical school admissions pool each year.
How would a course in Renaissance poetry stand against one in physical chemistry? How would medical school admissions committees know that I could handle intense science classes when my transcript was dotted with writing-intensive courses.
What became apparent throughout the medical school admissions process, however, was that Renaissance poetry did not have to stand against physical chemistry. Instead, Renaissance poetry and other humanities classes could serve as supplementary evidence of my readiness for medical school.
If you are worried that your humanities major might hinder your medical school admissions chances, review these tips as you begin to craft your application.
1. Emphasize crossover between your major and medicine: The medical field consists of more than science. It fundamentally relies on human communication, as well as on physicians’ ability to empathize.
The relevance of softer subjects – like literature, philosophy and psychology – are sometimes lost beneath the data of lab values or among the intricate complexities of anatomy. The culmination of this information, however, is a human with thoughts, feelings and opinions. And as a doctor, it is your responsibility to care for these aspects of your patients too.
On your medical school application, you might stress how your experience analyzing literary characters offered fantastic insight into the contradictions of the human mind and how that insight might inform your understanding of why a patient will not comply with medication.
You might discuss how your degree in art history has honed your attention to detail and how your physical examination skills might thus be strengthened by your propensity toward keen observation.
As a philosophy major, you could speak to your ability to unpack dense, technical text – text like what you might encounter as you read scientific documents in medical school. In short, highlight any skills that are transferable to medicine as you write your application and interview with programs.
2. Augment your science coursework: Applying to medical school with only the basic science prerequisites can be risky, especially if you did not do well in one of these key courses.
If you feel that your performance in science classes does not adequately represent your ability to manage a heavy course load while in medical school, you might consider bolstering your undergraduate transcript with additional science classes.
If taking an additional in-person science course does not work with your major, you could enroll in an online class at a reputable college or university. Though transferring credit for this external course may or may not be possible at your school, remember that American Medical College Application Service and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine will combine transcripts from every institution at which you have taken classes.
Your credits will be listed on your medical school application, and the grades you earned in your science courses at other institutions – online or otherwise – will count toward your GPA.
3. Seek out mentorship: Certain colleges and universities have strict rules about who can access premedical advisers, and other schools have too few premedical advisers to adequately serve all students’ needs.
Occasionally, you may even encounter a premedical adviser who is not well-versed in issues that may arise for nontraditional premedical students. For any or all of these reasons, you might decide to seek out additional or alternative mentorship as you apply to medical school.
Your mentor should be familiar with the medical school application process and willing to help you explore how your major will supplement both your premed coursework and future medical practice. If you are in contact with any medical students who hold nontraditional majors, you might turn to them as mentors or as people who may be able to help you find a great mentor for the application process..source

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