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MCAT Sample Questions : Writing Sample

Education comes not from books but from practical experience.


Both books and practical experience have important roles to play in the educational process of an individual. Books serve as a foundation of knowledge. Books are also helpful in situations where experiential learning is impractical or impossible. On the other hand, experiential learning is more personal and absolutely necessary in the development of certain skills.

Practical experience is critical in order to learn skills that involve physical abilities and require dexterity. For example, carpenters learn on the job. One can read books about how to construct a house, but no one becomes a master carpenter unless he or she has mastered the use of a hammer, power saw, and measuring tape. Similarly, a medical student can read about anatomy, but surgery is performed in operating rooms, not libraries. In this case, hands-on experience-literally “hands on,” in fact-is the best way to learn. Competence is attained through practice, and experience is required if one is to master the surgeon's trade.

It is true, however, that certain subjects are best learned through books. Math is a subject that requires the understanding of abstract concepts and formulae. Most students are introduced to mathematical principles in math textbooks. These books also provide problems for the student to work so that he or she can apply the rules that have been taught. History is another subject that is best taught through books. We can read about past events, like wars and peace treaties, without having directly participated in the event. A book about Vietnam by a veteran who served in that conflict would be one way to learn some of the important facts about that war.

What determines which is the better way to learn depends on several criteria. Obviously, it depends on the material, subject matter, or skill to be learned. It also depends on the student, or person, doing the learning. Some people like to read books and can absorb vast quantities of information and apply it immediately to relevant tasks. Others learn by doing, by making mistakes or having success. In most cases, however, a combination of the two approaches works best.


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