Good Morning! In this post, I will be sharing all my MCAT study tips!
As I’m sure you can tell, this blog focuses on health, fitness, and food, with my silly science tidbits thrown in (plus my random embarrassing life) but I also want to write a few posts about my experience in medical school!
For the Medical School Series, I will be writing posts on MCAT, Applying to Med School, Stuff You Can Do In College, First Year of Med School, Second Year, Studying for Step 1 of the USMLE, Third Year, Choosing a Specialty, and hopefully I still have the blog next year to write about 4th year!
In these posts, I will be writing only my opinion and my experience -which may not apply to everyone. I would love to have a discussion in the comment section, so if you find you have a different opinion, please speak up!! When it comes to school, I’m of a pretty average intelligence but I study super hard to keep myself above average. But- I’m not normally WAYYYY above average- my MCAT score and Step 1 board score were well above the national average, but I didn’t get a 40+ on the MCAT and I didn’t get a 260+ on boards- so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m not it!
Also, if you are a crazy genius and don’t like to study very much, I’m probably not the girl you want advice from either. So if anything I write sounds like something you don’t see yourself doing, please click on the food section of this blog and just look at my pretty pictures! 😉
Lastly, on days I post medical school series posts, I will try to post something else in the fitness or food section for those of you who made the bright decision to go into something else besides medicine and not waste your youth in the library.
And with that being said… let’s get started! Check out This Page for a Burpee Workout you can do at home!
Medical School Series #1: MCAT Study Tips
What is the MCAT? According to the AAMC website, “The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee’s problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.”
Who Takes the MCAT? Anyone who wants to go to medical school takes the MCAT- it is required for entry into medical school.
What’s On the MCAT? When I took the exam in 2008 (I took it after my sophomore year in college) there were 4 sections: Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Writing. In 2013, the writing section is being removed from the exam and I think a few new sections are being added… According to this website
How is the MCAT scored? The 3 main section on the MCAT are scored from 1-15 and those 3 scores are added to make a total of 45 possible points. Anything above a 38 is considered the 99th percentile. The national average in 2011 was a 25.
How do you Study for the MCAT? OK, this is the part of the post that is my opinion only- so please don’t follow this if it doesn’t sound like something you want to do! First, you MUST take the required classes in college to take the MCAT- those are General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biology, and Physics- 2 semesters of each. If you’ve only taken one semester of physics, that isn’t enough. Also, almost all medical schools require a year of these classes- so you will have to take them anyways. Once you’ve taken those 4 classes, any other classes in the science you take will probably help your MCAT score- but they aren’t needed. I took the MCAT early and so I had very few science classes under my belt and I did fine.
MCAT study tips: Picking A Plan
Once you’re ready to take the exam, pick a study plan! Kaplan and Princeton Review offer classes at most colleges and there are tons of review books that I’m sure work very well. If you want to read about how other students studied I always check out www.studentdoctor.net. The MCAT section is here.
I decided to take a class with Kaplan. I knew lots of people who had taken a class there with success. The class met 3 nights a week over the summer and lasts a million hours each time. It was painfully long and boring and I hated every minute of it. BUT… the resources you get from Kaplan are amazing. You get great online tools, in class you can ask questions if you can stay awake, and you get lots of practice tests.
I wouldn’t say that the actual class at Kaplan helped me the most. What helped me was the structure. MCAT studying is very overwhelming because you don’t know where to begin. If you just pull out your old textbooks from college, you will get lost in all those books and may never return! The benefit of having an actual class is that you are held accountable for going to class, preparing the material for that day, and it keeps you on a study track. If you are disciplined enough to study on your own, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND purchasing the online materials from Kaplan but not necessarily the class. If you know you won’t study unless you have to go somewhere 3 times a week, do the class.
After I took my MCAT I actually taught an MCAT class for Kaplan and I really enjoyed that part of it! I met one of my good friends who is in medical school now! Plus, it’s fun and they pay you well! So another bonus about Kaplan is that if you score within the 90th percentile in each section, you can teach for them! I would also HIGHLY RECOMMEND that!
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to study, GO STUDY!
A lot of students decide to study during 2nd semester junior year and take it right after finals. If this is what you plan to do, please please please don’t take more than 12-14 credits that semester. Studying for MCAT can be a full time job and you will be stressed with school and put it on the back burner and then you will only have 2 weeks to study after finals and then you will get a 25 and be sad. So don’t do that.
Onto studying tips and techniques:
- Verbal is a hard section to study for- get up every morning and do 1 60 minute VR test. Review it later that day. Do this every single morning until you’ve done a million gazillion VR tests. It will help you feel more comfortable with the timing, etc.
- Pick what you suck at one day and stop sucking at it: What I mean by this is, pick one area you are bad at (for me, I HATED circuits with a passion) and then spend all day, or 2 or 3 days, getting better at that subject. Just decide you are going to stop sucking at that. Tell yourself, “Today is the day I become awesome at acid/base stuff. And if I get a passage about acid/base on the real test I am going to be SO HAPPY because I am going to KILL IT!!” Then go study acid/base until you completely dominate it, and then check if off your list.
- Pretend your test will be full of all the stuff you suck at. All tests are different- some passages are easy for some people and hard for others. If you know you are weak with certain passage types, pretend your entire exam on test day will be full of those- prepare for the worst! Don’t go around thinking, “I hope I don’t get a passage like that because if I do, I’m screwed”. Embrace your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
- STUDY EVERYTHING!!! Don’t just study the stuff you’re bad at. I was really strong in biological sciences and rarely scored below an 11 on practice tests so I neglected this area. On my real test, it was my lowest section. Don’t forget to study what you’re good at!
- Don’t let your practice scores scare you- Starting with my diagnostic test, this is how my practice scores went: 21, 24, 27, 30, 30, 30, 30, 31, 30, 33, 35… I took TONS of practice tests and I plateaued at a 30. It took me weeks to break past a 30 and start consistently scoring at 35+. I know it is frustrating to not see your score increase, but just keep telling yourself, “it’s better to get a question wrong rather than getting it right because when you get it wrong you are more likely to remember it and you won’t miss it again”.
- DON’T TAKE THE TEST UNTIL YOU ARE CONSISTENTLY SCORING WELL ABOVE WHAT YOUR GOAL IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t say this one more. I know way too many people who wanted a 30-33 and took the test when the highest practice score they had gotten was a 27-29. If you go into the MCAT hoping to do better than you normally do on the practice tests, you will be very disappointed. Go into the test thinking you will do 3 points worse than your consistent practice score. In the rare case you do better than your normal score- way to go! You’re going to Harvard! But don’t risk it please, ok?
- Have a plan for test day! Go in knowing exactly what you will write down on your scrap paper (for me, it was last minute formulas I didn’t want to forget, sin, cos, and tangent values I didn’t want to blank out on, etc.
- Bring snacks!
- Take a break after EVERY section! Go to the bathroom, grab some water and a snack- keep your energy up. Don’t plow through all of it.
- Relax! You are awesome!
You did it!
I hope these MCAT study tips can help someone out there. If you have any differing opinions, experiences, or tips you want to add, put them below in the comments!
P.S. I tried so hard to find pictures of me studying, but apparently no one takes picture while they are surrounded by books, crying over alkanes and alkines (I remember those words but honestly couldn’t tell you a thing about them… except that there are all kinds of alkines… ha ha ha) SO here are the only semi-studying-assocaited pictures I’ve got. Enjoy!