Breathe between questions

Posted in: MCAT

by Luke

Breathing is autonomic. It’s unconsciously controlled, which is good, because we wouldn’t want to suffocate while concentrating on multiple choice questions. But sparing a second for the in and out of your own pulmonary system can help you score better on the test. And not just because the biological section revises respiration.

Computers can slow to crawl, or even crash, if you keep opening new programs without closing the old ones. And your brain is nowhere near as good at multi-tasking. The conscious mind is actively terrible at taking on multiple tasks, but it’s the best computational system ever made as long as you concentrate on one thing at a time. It’s important to remember that. It’s even more important to practice that. And in this case practice means learning to forget the problems you’ve already solved.

“Are you breathing” is always the most important medical test.

Take a breath between sections of the MCAT. Take a breath between passages. Nothing but a breath, fully stopping your thoughts, maybe even closing your eyes, one deep breath in, a long relaxing breath out. Not thinking about what’s coming next, not worrying about past questions, and certainly not staring at the clock. Because that’s what most people do between every question and it stresses them out.

Your first step when starting a new passage should be stopping, sucking in that big breath, and letting everything flow out. All the breath, all the questions you’ve already completed, all your scheduling for the rest of the day, everything. Reset your focus and clear your mind so that you can commit your entire ability to the next question. Then you can fill your brain with bits of the passage and answer the following questions much more easily.

Focusing entirely on one thing is the best way to approach the MCAT. Because it’s the best way to approach patients. When you’re working in a surgery or hospital you’ll be bombarded by countless cases, files, lab results, and people. You can’t be confusing them with each other! Learning to reset your RAM and temporarily fill your mind with all the relevant information for right now, and only right now, isn’t just an exam strategy, it’s an outright life skill for anyone working in medicine.

So stop. Sink into yourself for a second. Breathe everything out, freeing up your full focus for what you’re doing right NOW. Do it. Then throw it all away as you clear your mind for the next question.