Category Archives: MCAT

A Summer to Better Your Medical Career

What will you do this summer to beef up your resumé?

I will have 2.5 months of “free” time this summer. I plan to find a research project to work on or perhaps teach in a lab for that time. I also need to study at least a couple hours per day for Step 1 of the boards, so I guess it won’t be complete freedom. As far as I know, this will be my last summer I’ll have off until I retire, as it’s the summer between my 1st and 2nd year of medical school.

If you’re in undergrad now, summer is the perfect time to better your resumé for medical school. It’s a good time to start looking for summer research or TAing, a volunteer missions trip abroad, and volunteering/shadowing in a hospital. Keep in mind you may want letters of recommendation from the professors, scientists, or physicians you’ll be working with, so make sure to impress them with your best behavior and knowledge.

If you’re taking the MCAT this summer, hopefully you’ve purchased your resources already and have your MCAT Study Schedule planned to fit your needs.

Summer is an exciting time for all of us! Best of luck with whatever you do, even if it’s just hitting the beach :).

MCAT Changes Starting in 2015

This is a pertinent blurb from the AMAWire, the online news journal of the American Medical Association:

Changes to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will ensure that medical school applicants receive a wide-ranging education that enables them to communicate well with patients and understand the many social and behavioral factors that affect health, according to the Association of Medical Colleges.

Starting in 2015, the MCAT will include two new sections: One will be knowledge of psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior; the other will cover critical analysis and reasoning skills. The writing portion will be eliminated, and the overall exam time will increase to more than six hours.

Visit the Association of Medical Colleges website for more about the revised MCAT. Also, view a story by American Medical News about the test’s changes. The story includes comments from Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of Medical Colleges.

This is especially important for those choosing their electives or deciding a major in undergrad now. Make sure you get those social sciences in!

MCAT Study Notes

Hey Community,

Today I have a special treat for anyone that is preparing for the MCAT:

MCAT Study Notes

These notes contain a lot of the most important concepts, formulas, terms, physiological systems, and approaches you need to know. All subjects, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Verbal Reasoning, Math, Biology, and Physiology, are included. If this doesn’t get you excited then I don’t know what would :).

mcat notes

They should be used as a study aid or checklist. In other words, make sure you know all of what is in here. They were written by Physics Junkie & TexasMDtobe from SDN. These notes are fantastic, so credit where credit is due!

 

Without much further ado, here they are!

 

 

MCAT Prep Experts | MCAT Reflection 36Q

mcat reflection My combined score was 36Q (10 physical sciences, 12 verbal reasoning, and 14 biological sciences).

How long in advance did you study for the MCAT and each day?

I began my studying for the MCAT in earnest approximately three months before my exam. I took the weekend off after my spring semester finals and then began studying for my test which was scheduled for the end of August. During the initial content review portion of my studying, I spent approximately 4 to 5 hours a night studying Monday through Friday. I would then spend the full day on Saturday (approximately 6-8 hours) and I would take Sundays off. Towards the end of my content review I began studying 5-6 hours a day seven days a weeks.

During the test prep portion of my studying I was taking a full length exam every three days. The other two days would be spent on review. I probably averaged 4 hours of studying a day during this portion of my studying. These hours only represent committed studying time and do not include reviewing during lunch, on the bus, or listening to audio osmosis.

Materials Used

I divided my studying into two distinct sections. I spent the first half of my summer on content review. During this time I primarily reviewed using the Examkrackers books and audio osmosis. I also referenced my college textbooks and Wikipedia.
The second half of my summer was spent on test preparation. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the practice tests offered from AAMC. These tests are absolutely essential if you want to do well on the exam. All together (including AAMC 3 which is free) I spent about $235 dollars on these tests and they were worth every penny! If you have to choose between review books and AAMC practice tests, there is no doubt in my mind that you should but the tests.


The plan I followed

I planned my study schedule based on the Examkrackers method as well as the large amount of data on studentdoctor.net. I initially struggled with what method I would use to study. Some information recommended beginning early with verbal reasoning, others recommended a content review for the science sections and a few others recommended taking practice tests and reviewing only the content which you missed. All of the plans I read about seemed to have pros and cons and after a while my head started to spin!

I decided to take AAMC 3 as a diagnostic test the first weekend of my summer of studying. This was really helpful in pinpointing my weaknesses specifically as they applied to the MCAT exam. This test had an added bonus: I did poorly! I scored about 10 points lower than I wanted to score on my real exam. While this was pretty unpleasant then, it was a great motivator when my friends were going to the beach.
I decided to begin my summer with content review and then ramp up my test prep the month before my exam. From my diagnostic test, I knew that verbal reasoning was my strong suit, while physics needed the most attention. I followed the Examkrackers method of reviewing their content books. On Monday night I would skim the chapters I would be covering that week and then on Tuesday I would read these chapters and take notes. Wednesday and Thursday I would spend on the problems from the 1001 problem books and on Friday I would listen to audio osmosis and review my notes from the week. On Saturdays I would take the 30 minute exams included in the Examkrackers materials and then review any concepts I was still having trouble with. Later in the summer this review would spill over into Sundays as well.

I followed a three day schedule when I was doing my test prep for the last month of my studying. On day one, I would take an AAMC exam under real conditions. I would pack a lunch, and I would go to a desktop computer where I would take the exam at the same time of day as my scheduled exam. I pretended that each exam was the real test. On day two, I would review the notes I took during the content review portion of the summer. Instead of trying to memorize facts at this point, I was trying to connect the material I had learned into a more cohesive network of information. Whenever I would review biology for example, I would attempt to draw connects to the chemistry and physics behind whatever I was studying. Since the exam mixes topics together, it seemed important for me to do this as well. Finally on day 3 I would review the exam I took on day 1. This would normally take about the same amount of time that it took to take the exam. It was important for me to review concepts which I had cleared not known and also I would read each question and try to look for the distractions and red herrings. I repeated this cycle for all seven of the remaining AAMC practice exams. I took my final practice exam 4 days before my real exam. This allowed me to have the day before my exam to myself. On this day I didn’t study at all. I literally woke up at 11am, worked out for a bit and then watched movies while lying on the couch. This was a huge help to my mood going into the exam. I knew I had prepared as well as I could prepare and this day really helped me clear my head.


On the day of my actual test, I prepared just as I had for the seven practice tests I took over the prior month. I packed the same food I ate during all of my tests, I wore the same clothes, and I drank the same amount of coffee. I was so nervous when I got to the exam that I was shaking, but when I started to read the tutorial the whole process felt just like a practice test. By the time physical sciences began, I was as calm as I had been during all of my practice tests. Immediately following my exam I went out to a grassy area by the river and I sat in the sun for about 20 minutes. I then spent the next month trying not to worry about how I had performed :).

What would I have done differently?

Overall I am pretty happy with how I studied, and I am certainly very happy with my score. If I could go back and do it all again, I think I would have spent more time early on drawing connections between the fields and more time not thinking about the MCAT. Towards the end of my studying I was pretty burnt out, and I even ended up gaining a couple pounds while studying. The stress certainly didn’t help me do my best, and I think a few extra hours of relaxation here and there would not have negative effected my test.

What I wish someone had told me before I began?

Don’t worry too much about the exam. It is big and scary, and really important, but as soon as you have finished taking it you realize that it really is just on the introductory material from your courses. I also wish someone was there to tell me that even when you are stressed out to keep studying and that once you finish the exam you will feel like the world has been lifted off of your shoulders. Do your best, work hard, and remember that this test won’t define you.

Written by Bobby D.

Mentioned Resources:

Examkrackers MCAT Materials
Examkrackers 1001 Series
AAMC Practice Tests

MCAT Study Guides:

MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
MCAT Study Schedule | 75 Days
How to study for the MCAT | Condensed Version

 

MCAT Prep Experts | A Simple Plan, Motivation, & Passion 35Q

My first encounter with the torturous monster that is the MCAT was during the summer of my second year of college. I decided to attempt it before having taken Organic II and Physics II, and I did alright with a 32 (BS 13, PS 10, VR 9). This first attempt was a practice run, as it provided me with an opportunity to devise a personalized strategy for the retake which ended up being a 35Q (BS 14, PS 11, VR 10).

I recommend beginning verbal practice months in advance because it requires the honing of a skill less quickly learned than the science sections. Biochemistry is also a very useful class if it is possible to take it before the MCAT. The review materials I used were the The Princeton Review MCAT Materials for general review, the Examkrackers test books for practice, and the AAMC practice tests for the most realistic simulation of the exam. Studying for the sciences began 6 weeks before the test date. I had many friends who had study schedules spread out over several months leading up to the test day, but I saw a fundamental flaw: It only matters what you know on the day and time of your actual exam. I knew that equations I reviewed four months ago would not still be in the forefront of my memory making them of little use to me.

 

My study schedule was extremely simple:
week one: general chemistry
week two: biology
week three: organic chemistry
week four: physics
weeks five and six: AAMC practice exams and focus on weak spots.

In order to maintain optimum focus during this 6 week study period, it was imperative that I maintain my sanity. My preferred method of stress relief and use of breaks was physical activity. Physical activity and taking frequent breaks helps maintain the focus required to get through the tremendous amount of material and aids in retention. The reason I decided on the subject order was that organic chemistry and physics require far more memorization than general chemistry and biology. The entire time going through the subjects and taking practice tests, I made note of areas of weakness which were strengthened during the last two weeks. All practice questions and practice exams should be done with a time constraint. None of the questions on the MCAT are hard. Most people would get nearly all of them correct if given enough time. The difficulty comes in the time constraint of the test, something which can be overcome through practice.

As for strategy on the actual test day, this is again simple. Though none of the questions are particularly hard, many are tricky. It is immensely helpful to approach each question with the mindset that it is a trick question. Scrutinize very carefully the information you are given and what the question is actually asking. As previously mentioned, keep in mind that good management of the time factor is imperative for a good score. I completely ignored the time remaining on each section of the exam and gauged the length of each question and complexity of each passage before answering it. If it required deliberation or long calculations, it was skipped. If it had a short quick answer or short passage, it was answered on the spot. In the BS section of my retake, I actually ended up running out of time because the second passage was incredibly long and contained a complex feedback loop. I initially skipped the passage and came back to it with 12 minutes remaining. I was forced to make educated guesses on the last three questions just as time was running out and still got a 14 on the section – likely because many other people got tripped up by the passage early on and were unable to finish the quick and easy questions toward the end. I also have a problem with hypoglycemia, so I made sure to eat something during each of the breaks in order to avoid low blood sugar from interfering with my mental processes.

If you want my personal advice, give yourself personal incentive to do well and get through the exam. The day after mine, I went straight from the exam to an ice cream shop. Chunky monkey does wonders for a mind battered by the MCAT. From the ice cream shop, I went straight home and took a 4 hour nap. From there I went out for a night on the town with friends. Give yourself every opportunity to succeed, prepare yourself adequately, and you will be fine. Find the fire of a motivation to pursue your passion deep within your chest fueled by every time someone told you that you would never make it, and you will do far more than just ‘be fine’.

Good luck.

MCAT Study Guides:

MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
MCAT Study Schedule | 75 Days
How to study for the MCAT | Condensed Version