4 Steps To Remember Complex MCAT Concepts Within 30 Minutes

Use the 4 step technique outlined in this article, to deeply understand any MCAT concept you choose, often within 30 minutes.

Learning is not about remembering something difficult. It’s about making things easier for yourself. When you force yourself to make something easier to understand, you remember it much better.

Today, we’re going to introduce you to a strategy leveraged by many MCAT Masters, which will enable you to deeply understand, recall, and explain a concept within 30 minutes. And it will remain with you for years to come.

Before we begin, get out a blank piece of paper. You’re going to use this to take action right away on a concept you’re currently studying for.

The Feynman Technique

 “I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” – Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman (Noble prize winner and physicist) once went into the mathematics department and challenged anyone there to describe to him, any idea, regardless of how difficult or complicated it was, and he told them that he would be able to arrive at the same conclusions that they did. The only catch was that they couldn’t use complex terms and only use simple terms that he could understand.

He would startle people all the time by doing this and prove his “genius”. But in reality, the technique he used to do this, is applicable by anyone – including you, as you study for the MCAT.

The Feynman Technique involves 4 steps.

Step One: Choose the concept you want to better understand.

You’re not limited here – you can choose any concept, even if it contains multiple parts. Write the name of this concept on the top of the blank piece of paper.

Step Two: Explain the concept to your imaginary (or real) 8 year old sibling or niece/nephew.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”
― Phil Collin

Write out the explanation – and do it as if you were teaching it to someone who won’t understand complex words. This forces you to keep things simple. Very simple.

The quality of how you explain it, will show you how well you really know it. We have a tendency to think that if we just “get” the concept, when it shows up in a multiple choice question, we’ll just recognize the right answer. More often than not, that’s not the case.

If you have the ability to teach a concept well, you truly understand it. And when you truly understand it, only then do multiple choice questions become a breeze.

Step Three: Hit a roadblock in your explanation? Review time.

If you’re not able to continue explaining it in simple terms on the paper, that means it’s time to review again because you clearly don’t know it completely. Which is fine – this is why you’re doing this, to see where you stumble.

Go back to the appropriate lecture or reference until you understand it enough that you can explain it on paper. Once you go back to explaining, you might get stuck again in your explanation. Great, you found your other weakness. Re-learn it. Keep going until all your weaknesses are out of the way.

When all your weaknesses are gone, you’ve mastered that concept. If you use this technique to master most concepts on the MCAT, you’re going to master the MCAT.

The goal is to go through this technique and explain the concept without looking at your material. It’s a great way to self-test and see if you understand the concept thoroughly.

It’ll feel like you’re going slow in the beginning because you’ll be spending more time than normal, on a lot of concepts. However, if you go slow this one time and truly understand each concept, when you come back to review, you’ll be breezing through your books. Invest the time now and reap the joy and confidence during practice tests later – when you feel like you know everything!

Step Four: Use analogies and simplify more.

You’re definitely going to come across concepts (perhaps abstract ones), where your explanation will still be a little difficult for your 8 year old sibling or niece/nephew to understand.

You’ll recognize that it’s a little confusing or too wordy. This is where you need to simplify the language you’re using even further AND use analogies so they can understand it better.

Using analogies will help you in connecting previous and new knowledge in your mind to better remember the new concept.

If your goal is to remember more and better, this step is your best friend – the better the analogies you make or further simplify the words, the more you’ll enable yourself to understand the concept even more deeply.

The Key is Finding Your Learning Gap

The best part about using the Feynman Technique is that you can slowly identify exactly what you don’t understand and figure out where your gap in learning is.

The problem is that we often read something completely, maybe we read it several times, and maybe some of us take it a step further and try to kind of explain it in our minds, and if we can do that, we become satisfied and move on to the next page or next concept.

But with this technique; the act of writing it down, explaining it in layman terms, and using analogies, forces you to make sure you get it ENTIRELY and recognize the GAPS in your learning.

Identifying the gaps is the most crucial thing when studying for the MCAT because it’s those things gaps that screw you over on the actual exam. In fact, the MCAT is actually designed to draw out those gaps from you! Think about it, this exam has been optimized over and over for over 20 years to identify top performers.

Sure, you might discover those gaps when you do a lot of practice tests and see where you keep making mistakes, but imagine if you just spent a little more time to make sure you understand the concept, and therefore, make your practice tests even MORE valuable to show you weaknesses you have that you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.

It might take a little more time to do this technique with a lot of concepts, but it’s SO worth it. Eventually, it’ll become easier to do it with practice. If you’re short on time, only do this technique on the most important concepts that you know are going to show up on the MCAT, or those that you know you’re most weakest in.

The Real Benefit of This Technique

If you succeed at doing this now, you’ll succeed at doing it in med-school and when learning anything in life – because you’ll automatically start explaining things properly, and you’ll more easily start creating analogies to articulate yourself better in arguments, in discussions, etc.

If you truly want to get in the “MCAT success” mindset, start viewing the MCAT as an opportunity, not an obstacle. An opportunity to get this “way of thinking” down now and watch how you excel to success in all aspects of your life.

Lastly, remember to keep aiming for MCAT Mastery. Good luck.