MCAT is a four letter word

So yeah, the MCAT.  The standardized test that bullies all other standardized acronym tests with how long and horrible it is.

And that was before the 2015 changes.

But yeah, the MCAT.  When I wrote the MCAT in 2011, it was roughly 5 hours long and it featured four sections: Written (two 30 minute essays), Verbal (7 passages), Physical Science (50% inorganic chem, 50% physics) and Biological Science (30% ochem, 70% bio). The written section was removed the year after I wrote it (fun times), but each section was an hour or 1.5 hours long and yeah, it was kind of terrible.  I’ve come to a place where I can actually enjoy the MMI (the Multiple Mini Interview) – it has some fun aspects to it, if you get passed the whole “my entire future rests on this moment” thing.

I have never looked back on the MCAT with anything that could be called ‘fondness.’

That said, I was lucky enough to only have to write it once.  I took a prep course – it cost nearly 2000 dollars, but I judged that was worth not having to write the test again – a judgement that you have to make on your own.  I will say that the prep course helped me in two ways: it gave me a structured schedule to study, and it helped me study for the test.  I’m a crammer – I study best when I block off 12 hours before a regular uni exam and barricade myself in my room.  Given that doing that for the MCAT is impossible, the schedule was a good thing.  Second, when I say it helped me study for the test, I mean just that.  As a tutor for students, I used to tell them that the best way to do well on a test was to study for that test.  Find out as much information as you can about the test – question type, number of questions, teacher’s favored topics – and study those things.  The prep course helped me streamline the things that needed to be studied in detail away from the topics that rarely show up, or the lesser value topics, something that saved me some serious time.

I obviously can’t offer any tips on how to deal with the new revisions to the MCAT, as I didn’t and won’t ever take that test.  However, some general tips that I think might be helpful are as follows.  Take some serious time to study for the test.  As mentioned, it isn’t fun, and there’s no point in wasting three months of your life because you need to rewrite.  Book your time slot months in advance and try as hard as you can to get an afternoon slot.  My time was 8am. We started early at 7:45, and I’d woken up at 6am, after a pretty shitty night’s sleep to write it.  It was, needless to say, terrible.  Do practice exams as if you were really taking the test.  Set aside those 5-7 hours, and take the appropriate rest periods.  It’s great that you can do four verbal sections in a row, but that’s not the test you’re taking.

And also, keep the importance of the test in perspective.  My MCAT score wasn’t ‘killer.’ It was good, it was competitive and it was well distributed, and it let me apply to almost all the schools in Canada (I had a 10 in Verbal – this is the most common verbal score, and some schools have moved the out of province score up to 11 to reduce applicant volume).  But it wasn’t the thing that kept getting me rejected.  At Dalhousie, the feedback told me that my score gave me a 9/10 in their application – the interview and EC’s were bringing me down.  When I got accepted off the wait-list (not at Dal), I checked the pre-med 101 forum and realized that someone who got in after me (and thus was at least one place lower on the wait-list) had a score 2 points higher than mine and a slightly higher GPA.  Thus my interview or EC’s must have notched me up that one place (note, I am using this example not to brag, but to make a point – I actually know that person, and they’re going to be a great doctor).

But yeah, the MCAT is one of those lower steps you have to walk up to finally reach the accepted to med school summit, so study smart, know when you need to write it to meet application deadlines, and in the end, just do your best.

Or, as my mother says, put your big girl panties on and deal with it.

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