Monthly Archives: July 2011

Top 10 MCAT Myths

mcat myths



Previously, we’ve laid out two very important study aids, the 75-Day MCAT Schedule and the MCAT Study Guide (109 Tips & Strategies). These give you an up-to-date and effective approach to taking the MCAT, the best ways to study for the MCAT, and important facts about the MCAT itself. Now we’d like to touch on misconceptions about the MCAT that many people, including ourselves, have at some point believed. Here are what rank as the most commonly believed myths about the MCAT, each myth followed by the truth that debunks it.

Myth #1
The MCAT can be taken cold (without practice) if you have excelled in your pre-requisites in college.
Fact: The MCAT should NEVER be taken without practice. It requires much more than memorizing random facts, and your approach to studying for the MCAT is much more important than how you did in your classes. Although the correlation is not perfect, those who study hardest score best.

Myth #2
You should only ever take the MCAT one time.
Fact: Medical schools do not look down on those who retake the MCAT, as long as your score improves significantly (about 3 points) and you don’t take it more than 3 times. Keep in mind that you may be asked about it at your interview, but that’s not a bad thing.

Myth #3
Only two weeks are necessary to study for the MCAT.
Fact: Although some people claim to have hardly studied yet got that 35+ score, those people are rare and far in-between. To properly study for the MCAT, one needs 2 to 4 months of rigorous practice and discipline. Any less is unwise due to cramming or lack of proper preparation, and any more could cause you to forget what you’ve learned earlier.

Myth #4
You don’t need do study or practice for the written section of the MCAT.
Fact: If you don’t practice for the written section or neglect the written part during tests, you will be worn out much quicker on the day of the MCAT because you didn’t build your stamina accordingly. In addition, if you get a significantly low letter score for your writing samples, that will hurt your chances for a medical school interview.

[adsense] Myth #5
The verbal section is the easiest and requires little preparation because there is no content knowledge involved.
Fact: The verbal section can be one of the hardest on the MCAT, not only for international or ESL students. It requires critical thinking and often draws from subjects science majors have barely or never encountered. Preparing well for the VS section requires practice EVERY day in order to score well.

Myth #6
All of the information you need to answer questions in verbal reasoning can be found in the passage.
Fact: Many answers in the VS sections come from your reasoning skills and ability to infer from limited information. Even if there was no time limit, there would still be questions that are only answered based on how well you can think through something, not on your ability to search and find an answer in the passage. The MCAT makers are masters of trickery as well; facts in the passage are sometimes pulled out and distorted to look like the correct answer when they’re not.

Myth #7
Large concepts and important theories will be proportionally addressed by multiple and many questions on the MCAT.
Fact: Every MCAT taken is different. Sometimes big topics are addressed multiple times, but the MCAT is most often described as ”weird” or ”evil”. Many MCATs end up delving deep into subjects that seem trivial or small. Your approach to answering questions can often be more important than what you know about the subject. Keep in mind that you do not have complete control over the outcome, but do try to control as many variables as diligently you can. Serenity is a virtue.

Myth #8
You must intensify your studying and practicing as you approach the day of the exam.
Fact: You can actually hurt yourself and your MCAT score outcome if you don’t wind down and take at least one day off before the MCAT. Make sure you are well rested. Ideally you will be done with all of your studies one week before the exam so you can just review some materials for a a couple hours per day during that last week.

Myth #9
Investing in an expensive course is great.
Fact: Not necessarily. It depends on how you learn, but investing in the right materials and managing your time effectively is simply the best way to prepare for the MCAT. Some prep-courses are very interactive, which is good for someone who can’t learn on their own, but most people learn quicker and in larger quantities on their own if done the right way. If you want to excel, you need to buy the right prep books, make a schedule, and spend about 75 days preparing the right way.

Myth #10
You must take the MCAT the summer before your senior year of undergraduate.
Fact: Taking time off before medical school is not a bad thing, as long as you use that time wisely. Getting a Master’s in something related or working for a year or more shows medical schools you value time to mature. The average age for matriculating medical students is about 26, so don’t rush.

Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis

Almost 27 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (AD); although the exact number is unknown. My grandmother is one of them, and it is likely you know one or more persons affected. Much research has been done and billions of dollars invested in trying to discover which gene(s) are associated with AD and what medicine or natural remedies exist to damper or even reverse its effects.

Different hypotheses exist to try and explain this highly prevalent disease. The cholingeric hypothesis says it is caused by a lack of actylcholine, a neurotransmitter. The amyloid hypothesis says that deposits of a protein called amyloid beta causes AD. Yet another hypothesis says that hyperphosphorylated tau proteins tangle together to block communication of neurons. Whatever the reason biochemically, my consistently confused grandmother was washing dishes with Windex and bleach, combing her hair with toothpaste-filled toothbrushes, and putting shoes away in the refrigator when she got the chance. Yet she insisted on independence, because as a mother of 10 children, she has had years of experience. She would slip out the front door in the middle of the night under my supervision or start sweeping the leaves of the road in front of the house at 2am, almost giving me cardiac arrest!

Alzheimer's Disease Progression

Alzheimer's Disease Progression, Courtesy of American Health Assistance Foundation

As a caregiver of someone with AD, a lot of weight was placed on me. Some may call it a burden, considering that the caregiver manages medications that have only proven little, if any, progress in helping cure Alzheimer’s. Caring for someone with AD means 24/7 babysitting, as the victim is usually incapable of tending to his or her own needs and daily tasks. The home of an Alzheimer’s victim needs to be locked down, completely harm-free, and food needs to be minced before served.

Many proposals have been given, saying to eat cumin and turmeric to help prevent AD, or drink 3 cups of coffee daily (but no more than 5)! First scientists suggested practicing word-cross puzzles to keep a susceptible mind active, but then they discovered learning an instrument and playing suduko were better. A glass of red wine each night and learning a second language supposedly help keep the plaque away! There is certainly a higher correlation of AD in those who smoke and/or have diabetes, the latter of which one cannot usually prevent anyway.

Considering the poor medical management available for those with AD, I don’t think I would want to know whether I will get it or not. Even if I took genetic tests to check for mutations in my amyloid precursor protein or presenilins 1 and 2, the results aren’t conclusive. Would I even want to live my life knowing that at age 65 I might not remember my children, or I could wake up next to the unfamiliar face of a husband I’ve forgotten? Picking up another language doesn’t sounds like such a bad idea, but, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo Buscaglia