Category Archives: MCAT

MCAT Prep Experts | How I conquered the MCAT 37Q

mcat prep experts

mcat prep experts

I will never forget how it felt to be over and done with this test.  For better or worse, I made a committed effort and came away more aware of my potential to be self-disciplined and ambitious.  I was mentally drained and apprehensive, but nonetheless on a cloud of relief.  The MCAT quickly fell from my everyday concerns until a month later – judgment day.  My score was 37Q (14P, 11V, 12B).  I hope my story may advise your own preparation with the understanding that everyone is different.  You will have to identify your own strengths and weaknesses as I have.   But I promise you this: the satisfaction of hard work paid off is worth every shred of agony along the way.

I studied for eight weeks in the summer after my second year of undergraduate study in the life sciences.  At first, I was anything but inclined to put down the beer and fishing rod for that tedious road of preparing for another exam.  But as I grew aware that the MCAT is as much a personal challenge as it is competitive, my early diligence became addictive.  I was working two jobs upward of 50 hours per week and had neither the time nor money for a prep course.  But with my own self-disciplined routine, I remained consistently focused, motivated, and ultimately successful.

I spent my first two weeks of preparation with a near-full content review, refreshing major concepts and dusting off old skills.  Initially, I studied two to four hours each day and wrote my first practice test after this period of review.  In retrospect, doing a practice exam before anything else would have allowed me more time to learn the MCAT language.  Over the next three to four weeks, I engaged in a detailed study of the entire content, gradually increasing my time commitment.  I was then in a position to do another brief content review and grind out my weaknesses.  I wrote practice exams after weeks four, five, and six, and then three more, for a total of seven, on alternating days during a far more relaxed final week.

Most of my time was spent on the biological and physical sciences, which can be neatly divided to conquer.  I relied on the Examkrackers review books as a primary resource for these subjects and kept a reserve of secondary resources borrowed from friends and the public library, mainly for extra practice questions and more difficult topics.  I strongly recommend the Examkrackers series for its efficient detail and concise, holistic presentation.

My main course of preparation included a thorough study of a new lecture each day, annotating and highlighting key points, followed by a lighter review and the Examkrackers chapter exam the next day.  Overlapping chapters in this fashion, I focused on one subject at a time.  I became absorbed in each and tailored my approach accordingly.  For instance, my physics block was focused on practicing until perfect, whereas biology was more detail and concept-oriented.  Understand that you will not succeed with a superficial understanding.  The MCAT is too broad in scope to require that you to recall many specific details.  If you are studying the cardiovascular system, keep going until you can close your eyes and imagine yourself giving a whole lecture about it, picture a disease that might afflict it, or consider it from a physicist’s point of view.  Then you can decide if you are finished.

Verbal reasoning is a real pain for some people and a snap for others.  Either way, this is a 60-minute section that will take you 60 minutes.  I did look through things like the Kaplan method, but I ended up following my own straightforward read-and-respond approach and studied solely by practicing.  My first and last scores were both 11.  My average score was probably 11 too.  I don’t know if I could have improved with a more strategic approach, but I was able to intersperse my practice and focus most of my time on the sciences.  That’s not to say it never caused me aggravation; occasionally, I would let my focus down and scramble short of a 10.  How do you prevent this from happening on test day?  My advice is to practice extensively, time yourself strictly, and condition whatever approach you choose with clockwork consistency.

I began my writing practice a few weeks before test day.  I chose a few strategies and wrote practice essays periodically, about eight in total. Another good exercise is to construct quick, five-minute essay plans for a series of prompts. There is no time for writer’s block on the MCAT.  Nobody expects you to be F. Scott Fitzgerald here, but it would be a shame to have the bulk of your effort pay off with high scores while bombing your essays out of neglect.  I have seen it happen.  I found my own essays rushed and wanting compared to many that I wrote in practice; fortunately, a correct format and clear response to the instructions are far more important than velvety-smooth prose.  Just make sure you will be able to handle the pressure and stress of test day.

What more I could offer you are the tricks I picked up along the way.  Instead, I will just as well tell you to keep your eyes peeled and inviting for them as you go along.  Learn to enjoy the long, concentrated study sessions as you would a good novel.  Medical schools want to know if you are capable – whether you have a strong enough foundation for the lessons ahead.  So go show them, and good luck.

Written by Justin Kozak

MCAT Study Guides:

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

Examkrackers Audio Osmosis

Two people have recently asked me how good of a product Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis really is. Listening to Jordan and Jon is another learning modality for the MCAT in order to really understand and internalize the different concepts that you need to know. The comprehensive and thorough audio lectures come on several CD’s. Studying with paper and pencil is of course more important, but listening to the CD’s while you are running or driving can help you stay productive and engage your brain differently. Thus, the lectures will help reinforcing materials. The concepts are presented very well, but be warned, they are compact and thorough. This is not a science course that you can take for fun, it’s preparation for the MCAT. Be prepared to take notes and write down any questions. The CD’s are divided into compact, conversational lectures; they easily fit into any already existing MCAT study schedule. If you do decide to get them, make sure you use them only as a supplement.

Some tips when listening:

  • Take notes the first time you listen to the lectures.
  • Write down remaining questions and seek answers online.
  • Come up with your own questions and answer them.
  • There are some errors (almost every extensive science publication has some). Here are the corrections.

Cons
Inevitably, there are some cons. For $70 – $150, Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis isn’t among the cheapest MCAT materials. Nonetheless, if you decide to go the home-study route (highly recommended) vs taking an expensive course, you’ll still save a couple thousand dollars. Plus, you can resell them on ebay or Amazon for 60-90% of what you bought them for. Some of the sound effects are slightly annoying. If you don’t dig a Long Island accent, stay away. Personally, I think Southern accents can be way more distracting (no offense), but people’s preferences are of course different.

Conclusion:
This is a great extra source to thoroughly integrate the important concepts for the MCAT. If you are easily thrown off by sound-effects, you might not want to buy this. Otherwise, it’s a great tool to broaden your foundational knowledge of the MCAT, especially if you are a visual or active learner. (ADD anyone?) If you have a long commute or you work out a lot, definitely get them – they are worth the money. As all good MCAT materials, they don’t lessen in value, so pick the right materials :). Start with Audio Osmosis, for example.
Amazon Link: Examkrackers MCAT Audio Osmosis.

Related Topics:
MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
How to Study for the MCAT | Light Version
MCAT Study Schedule | a 75 Day Schedule

MCAT Studying

You?

MCAT Season – it’s October 3rd, so a lot of you have either just finished interviewing or are getting ready to prepare for the MCAT. If you’ve browsed this site, you’ve seen my two basic guides, but I recently made a short version for people who don’t want to read through a long, detailed guide on how to study for the mcat.

It’s the state-of-the-art approach, featuring the three best publishers: Examkrackers, The Berkeley Review, and The Princeton Review. My MCAT experience was intense but good. The MCAT can make or break you, which is why it’s wise to plan carefully and invest in the best materials. What I hope the most, however, is that you will have fun studying for the MCAT. You can make it a fun experience by working in advance, taking breaks, staying creative, and by keeping your goal in mind.

If you wait until you only have two months left, you will certainly be stressed out, and studying for the MCAT could end up being a miserable experience. The difference between distress and eustress lies within our perception of the demands that we face. While distress is unhealthy and crippling, eustress is a process of exploring potential gains, growing personally, and adapting positive coping mechanisms.

Here are the three different guides that I came up with, through fundamental research and my own experiences:

 

MCAT Study Guide | 109 Tips & Strategies
How to Study for the MCAT | Light Version
MCAT Study Schedule | a 75 Day Schedule

Traditional Marinara Sauce

Some of you might be smiling at my attempt of sharing a recipe with you, but what you eat on the day of the MCAT, or while studying for the MCAT, actually does matter. I have heard really bad advice and witnessed terrible eating habits of physicians. One of my interviewers even told me to eat a lot of Ramen Noodle’s during medical school to save money. Talking about irresponsibility!

Here is a simple recipe that can serve as an ideal lunch during MCAT studying. You could also eat it cold (which I have done numerous times :D). To make all of this even more attractive, it’s really cheap! And it tastes much better than the canned pasta sauces in the grocery store.

Traditional Marinara Pasta (spaghetti alla marinara)

Ingredients:
1,5-2 (12 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
1 clove of garlic (if you’re Italian, you didn’t cringe)
fresh basil (if possible)
pasta/spaghetti of choice
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt for taste


You are probably familiar with Spaghetti and Marinara sauce that is loaded with ground beef, onions, oregano, cheese, etc. Let me assure you, this is not traditional! Most Italian foods are made of a few simple ingredients, but you have to get the proportions and the cooking right. This is the best way to prepare Marinara Sauce!

[adsense]Instructions:

Cut/crush the garlic. Pour the olive oil into a hot pan and let it heat up for about a minute. Add the garlic and saute it briefly. This means that you simmer it until it gets a light-brownish, tan color – not brown! If you overdo this step, the garlic will turn bitter, so keep stirring on a low to medium flame. Once you sauteed the garlic for about 3 minutes, which releases all the precious juices, insert the crushed tomatoes. Once the sauce boils you can stir in the basil & salt (I’d say about 1-2 tbsp), and you are done. I hope you know how to cook spaghetti’s, if not your mom really didn’t teach you any cooking! There are also easy instructions on the package.

Two cans of tomatoes will actually give you a lot of sauce, which I like. This way I can use it for several meals or on pizza, etc. If you tried it, let me know how it turned out :).

Food for the MCAT

Some people say it doesn’t matter what you eat on the day of the MCAT, or that you should just treat it like any other test. These people are naive and haven’t grasped the concept of total MCAT warfare.

Well, some people might not obsess on every single aspect of the MCAT, but keep in mind that the MCAT is the highest hurdle to jump on your way to medical school admissions. In addition, few academic tests are 8 hours long and require fingerprinting.

Recommended Food for the MCAT

Nuts: peanuts, cashews, almonds, trailmix, etc.
Fruit: bananas, grapes, apples, etc. (dried or fresh)
Sandwiches: cheese, honey, PB&J (I would stay away from meat, even turkey because tryptophan makes you sleepy)
Other: oatmeal, smoothies, larabars, cereal (low-sugar), etc.

Here is why food on the day of the MCAT matters. Whenever we eat, digestion and absorption of nutrients begins. Some food is considered to be energy-rich, while other food is considered to be rather light. Energy-rich, greasy, heavy foods take longer to digest, and it takes the body much longer to absorb it’s nutrients. Carbohydrates for example are easily digestible.

[adsense] This is why you shouldn’t bring a London-Broil steak to the MCAT with you. By the time your body can make use of the steak’s energy, you will already be done with the MCAT. In addition, just think about how much energy your body will tax you in order to break down the steak in the first place! You will most likely end up feeling full, sluggish, and will consequently struggle to focus.