The Power of 50/50

Posted in: MCAT

April 11, 2019 | by Luke

You wouldn’t want to hear your doctor say something was 50/50. But if you did have a 50% chance, you’d really would want your doctor to know that, and how to deal with it. Quickly! Luckily that’s an excellent strategy for the MCAT where 50/50 is a great way of saving time, conserving energy, and answering questions MORE accurately, not less!

The first and most important fact is that fifty percent isn’t less than a perfect hundred, it’s much more than an absolute zero, which is where everyone starts. That hundred was never yours. It was never anyone’s. 100% is a concept like perfect justice or negative entropy, a glorious ideal which can’t actually be achieved in our crude physical world. It’s far more positive to picture how you started this exam with nothing and are absolutely adding to your glittering hoard of marks with every question you answer.

50/50 is a fantastic improvement over your starting chances of one-in-four. Doubling your odds is always an amazing boost. Something about the human brain makes it easier to attack the negative than build the positive, and the 50/50 strategy turns that into a good thing by letting you cut away the obviously wrong answers. The MCAT’s multiple choice structure means you don’t have to conjure information out of empty space. You get to choose, and the first thing you do with any big choice is eliminate the things you don’t want.

Many MCAT problems have obviously wrong answers. Some students dismiss that as “not real work” because it’s not difficult, but there aren’t any extra marks for making things hard on yourself. If you’ve eliminated a couple of wrong answers, you’re halfway there! You’ve made a definite improvement, you’ve used your knowledge successfully, and that’s a great thing!

Finally, choosing between two answers is so much easier than writing one down from scratch. You need only find one reason, any reason, to prefer B to C, or A to D, and that’s this one done. This synergises with another exam strategy, “Good enough instead of perfect”. MCAT questions can be cunning, trying to sucker you into thinking about them for far too long, but even one reason to prefer one answer or dismiss the other is enough to finish the question.

Even a coin can get them right half the time.

50/50 choices are the easiest kind to make. Even a coin can get them right half the time. And you’ve got a whole trained brain building on top of that! So start with 50/50 and enjoy every mark you add on top.

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