As a pre-med student, you will be required to earn a decent score on your Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) to be considered for acceptance into medical school. The science portion of the MCAT is designed to test you on the various topics that you’ve studied at the undergrad level.
However, the testing style is quite different than your undergraduate tests, especially when it comes to physical sciences such as physics and chemistry. While you were allowed to use a calculator in class to perform detailed calculations, you will be required to do similar calculations on the MCAT without a calculator. Yes, you read right – the math will be just as hard, but you can’t use a calculator.
But instead of wasting time working through complex equations by hand, apply the following shortcuts to cut time while still coming up with the correct answers.
Learn How To Round
The MCAT is testing your ability to pull data from the question or passage and implement the correct formulas and equations. They are not testing your ability to do long math to five significant figures. Since the answer choices will be quite a few numbers apart, rounding to get an answer that is close enough is good enough.
Don’t be too easygoing, but let’s face it, 5.78 x 3.29 is close enough to 5.8 x 3.3 or even 6 x 9, depending on the provided MCAT answer choices.
Don’t Waste Time On Long Multiplication and Division
When it comes to multiplication and division, if you can turn your numbers into some factor of 10, you will be able to do the math in your head. First see if you can round your values to a factor of 10, then apply the following trick. When multiplying by 10, simply add a zero to the original number if there is no decimal, or move the decimal 1 space to the right if there is one. If multiplying by 100, add 2 zeros, or move the decimal 2 spaces. So for example, if you need to multiply 9 x 346, round 9 to 10. You are now multiplying 346 by 10, which is easy, since you only need to add a zero to equal 3,460.
The same trick applies for division, but in reverse. Move the decimal 1 space to the left for each factor of 10. For example, if you need to divide 456 by 8, round 8 to 10. You now need to divide 456 by 10, which just requires you to move the (assumed) decimal space one space to the left, giving you 45.6.
Another division trick is to cancel out zeros. If you have an equation such as 30/600, start by cancelling a zero from the numerator and denominator. This leaves you with 3/60. See the next trick for additional simplification.
A free copy of Leah’s new ebook MCAT Exam Strategy – A 6 Week Guide To Crushing The MCAT is available at http://leah4sci.com/premedlife.
The full version of this article was published in the July/August 2014 issue of PreMedLife magazine.