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MCAT Mnemonics: What You Need to Know for the MCAT

Written by Keenan on Jun 13, 2022

Studying for the MCAT is incredibly difficult.

From learning detailed science material to putting complex equations into everyday practice, studying for the MCAT provides no shortage of cognitive overload.

However, despite the ample amounts of material the MCAT covers, there are key ways to memorize high-yield topics without feeling the brute force of every major topic weighing you down.

That is through MCAT Mnemonics.

What Is A Mnemonic?

A mnemonic technique is one of many memory aids that is used to create correlations among facts that make it easier to remember these facts.

“Mnemonic” is a memory tool and is also referred to it as the ‘Method of Loci’ or ‘Cicero Method’ which was developed in Ancient Greece. This learning technique provides your brain with important information in a particular way that helps you learn it.

Mnemonic is a simple shortcut that creates an association between the information that you’re trying to remember with a visual picture, a unique sentence, or a single word.

The basis of its usage is that the human mind can quickly recall relatable information, such as personal or educational material, rather than abstract or impersonal bits of information.

Do Mnemonics Even Work?

Are you struggling to remember key bits of information? Have you studied for hours on end only to seamlessly forget the material you just studied? Research confirm that these challenges might effectively be solved by the use of mnemonic techniques.

It has been shown that the support in organizing the to-be-remembered material in the learning phase enhances learning, has a long-term effect on retention of material, and leads to better performance in the recall phase by providing hierarchical organization of the learned material.

It’s important to note that mnemonic strategies are only one piece of the overall learning picture. Not only should you spend time memorizing and learning new material, but also contextualizing what you learn for greater recall. Overall, however, students who utilize mnemonic strategies perform better on comprehension exams.

The True Power Of Mnemonics On The MCAT

The MCAT is one of the most comprehensive and difficult exams. The MCAT features everything from general and organic chemistry, to physics, to psychology. With the incredible amount of material the MCAT covers, it’s essential to understand chemical laws, reactions, biological mechanisms, pathways, and developmental theories.

There’s no shortage of information to memorize. Thus the need for powerful learning techniques to carry the burden of cognitive load.

Mnemonic strategies are specific so that they are used to enhance the recall. Mnemonic devices allow you to significantly boost all aspects of your short-term memory including limited capacity, limited duration, and encoding.

Short-term memory is a necessary step toward the next stage of retention, long-term memory, thus, you can treat short-term memory as a bottleneck of your learning. On the other hand, inventing your own mnemonics for the MCAT can be a comprehensive way to engage with the content in a more meaningful way.

If you’re struggling to come up with your own acronyms, acrostics or rhymes, take heart; using somebody else’s can be just as adequate.

Different types of Mnemonics

Imagery Mnemonics

Think about how much simpler it is to remember an image than it is to remember words. In fact, researches show that our memories are activated by seeing images much more easily than by hearing words. While memorizing items that are somehow related to each other by visualizing a specific picture, you can easily recall information that you previously associated with that image. No matter what your profession is, there are evidently facts that you need to remember on a regular basis. Typically, the more ridiculous the image is, the easier it will be for you to remember.

Acronyms and Acrostics

The acronym is an abbreviation made out of the first letters of the words of a sequence and Acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable, or word of each line, paragraph, or other recurring feature in the text demonstrates a word or a message.

Rhymes

Rhyming is another common way to memorize information. Rhymes are easily recalled because they’re stored in your brain through acoustic encoding, which means you’ve learned the information through your auditory senses. This illustrates why song lyrics are so much easier to memorize than a paragraph out of a book or some other form of prose.

Chunking

The process of “chunking” information is explained in the name. If you are given multiple components of information to memorize, chunk it into groups. It involves grouping individual pieces of information in a manner that makes them easier to remember (i.e., relation, hierarchical importance, function, and so on). One simple example of chunking is the way that we memorize phone numbers.

How To Create Mnemonics

1. Take the first letter or a keyword of the item to remember and write it down.

2. Repeat for all items.

3. Create a sentence. Pick the first words that pop into your head. It doesn’t have to make sense!

4. Write the sentence out a few times while saying the words that the acronym refers to.

5. Practice reciting the items and the created sentence together until you’ve got it memorized!

Mnemonics To Use For The MCAT

These are just some mnemonics to get you started:

Biology

Autonomic Nervous System Sympathetic: fight or flight / Parasympathetic: rest and digest

“FLAT PEG” For anterior pituitary hormones FSH/LH/ACTH/TSH/Prolactin/Endorphins/Growth hormones

“Go Sally Go! Make Children!” / “G1, S, G2, M, C” For cell cycle Growth phase 1, DNA Synthesis (replication), Growth phase 2, Mitosis, Cytokinesis.

“ADEK” for Gastrointestinal Hormones Vitamins A, D, E, and K

Chemistry

“HONC” for bonding H needs 1 more electron in its outer shell to become stable. O needs 2. N needs 3. C needs 4.

“FON” for Hydrogen bonding When a hydrogen atom is attached to either fluorine, oxygen, or nitrogen atom, it can form a hydrogen bond between it and another fluorine, oxygen, or nitrogen atom.

“Sensual People Do Foreplay” for Quantum Numbers  s, p, d, f. Then it follows the alphabet: g, h, i, j, k, etc.

Organic Chemistry

“SE PI” for the addition of Amine to Carbonyl group Secondary amine? Enamine/Primary amine? Imine

“SS – ED – CC” for isomers Structural/Stereoisomers/Enantiomer/Diasteriomer

“Queen Elizabeth Second’s Navy Commands, Controls, Communicates” for Meta-Directing groups on a Benzene ring

Q Quaternary amino -NR3+/E Ester–COOR/S Sulfonic acid-SO3H/N Nitro-NO2/C Carbonyl–CHO/C Carboxyl–COOH/C Cyano -CN

Physics

“Can Every Vampire Pierce In Cold Tissue? Every Pierce Is Resistant” for C=Coulomb (Q)/E=Energy (Joules/Work)/V= Volts P= Power (Watts)/I=Current (Amps)/T=Time (seconds)/R=Resistance (Ohms)

“Lots of Work makes me Mad!” for work formula work = Mad/M=Mass/a=acceleration/d=distance

“We guarantee certainty, clearly referring to this light mnemonic.” For speed of light 299,792,458

What Mnemonics Don’t Do

Mnemonics inflate your short-term memory for some time. They are essential to wrap up undergraduate studies, and they are  useful on the MCAT as well.

Remember that the most challenging aspect of the MCAT is not that it requires you to memorize the fine details of content, but that it requires you to apply your basic scientific knowledge to unfamiliar situations, and mnemonics alone will not help you there.

Take Your Mnemonics One Step Further

While mnemonic devices are amazing for memory recall, the MCAT is so much more than understanding content. Which is why we at Jack Westin want to help you. Because of the exhaustive amount of MCAT material, we offer a variety of free resources. Need to begin the study process? Test your knowledge with our MCAT Diagnostic Test. Want daily practice? Our free Question Bank has thousands of questions.

Additionally, we provide the most streamlined, easy-to-use, and exhaustive MCAT courses, including our Complete MCAT Course, MCAT CARS Strategy Course, CASPer Strategy Course, and our MCAT Science Strategy Content Course.

Regardless of where you are in your MCAT journey, we provide you with the key resources to help you improve. 



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