…okay maybe not “conquered,” but I definitely survived it! Excuse my dramatization 😉
Hello and welcome back!
This week I’d like to talk to you about how I prepared for the MCAT. I hope that if you are thinking about taking the MCAT or already preparing for it, that I will be able to provide you with some helpful tips or ideas to improve your own studying. I understand that the MCAT process is very long, difficult, and tiresome to which I absolutely relate to!
So here’s to us pre-meds beginning this arduous journey for the most rewarding career of all…and all it takes are months of preparation, gallons of sweat and tears (mostly tears), sacrifice of any social life, and copious downing of coffee for an ~8 hour test in which we sit in a cubicle and stare at a computer which may or may not determine our fate. WE GOT THIS!
1. Thinking about the MCAT
Start thinking about the MCAT as soon as you are certain you want to be pre-med! The MCAT takes lots and lots of planning so it’s important to plan every step of the way carefully. First, I made sure to complete most of medical school pre-requisite courses before taking the test. The reason being is that biology, chemistry, biochem, genetics, etc. courses will give you a foundation for the topics given on the MCAT. You’ll simply have to review instead of teaching yourself the concepts while you’re preparing for the test. Make sure to use the first two years of college as preparation for this big exam (if you entered college as a pre-med). You want to gain as much knowledge and experience as you can before you begin sitting down and preparing for the MCAT. With that said, the classes I took before I started studying for the MCAT included:
- Introduction to Chemistry I and II
- Introduction to Biology I and II
- Introduction to Biochemistry
- Introduction to Psychology
- Organic Chemistry I and II
- Physics I and II
- Chemistry lab
- Organic Chemistry lab
- “Biology” lab (I actually took a freshman research course and lab that counted as credit for biology lab)
- Physics lab
In addition to carefully planning your courses, it’s important to start thinking about whether or not you will be taking a prep course. Let me tell you first thing that these prep courses are NOT CHEAP. You should definitely try to get a few scholarships to help pay for these prep courses. The two test prep companies that I know of are Kaplan and Princeton Review. I joined a pre-med honor society my freshman year and applied for a scholarship they offered that would cover half of the cost for a prep course. Instead of paying about 2K, I only had to pay rougly 1K, which saved so much money. I encourage all pre-meds to have a plan entering college if you are absolutely sure that medicine is the career you want to pursue.
2. Why the prep course?
I enrolled in Princeton Review’s MCAT Ultimate prep course the summer after sophomore year. It was roughly a 2.5 month program where we attended class from 10 am-1 pm Mondays-Thursday. This program kicked my butt! Not because of the rigor, but because of the straight up 3 hour lectures 4 days a week bombarding my brain with so much information. I would go to the courses in the morning, and then study at the library afterwards. We had homework, online modules, and Princeton provided us with so many resources from textbooks, practice tests, and instructor office hours! Each day was spent going over a particular subject: CARS, Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry or Physics. Psychology was covered via online conference.They provided us with a lot of information review, tips and tricks, as well as It was a very productive summer and taking the prep course kept me on track and helped me know what and when to study.
With that said, prep courses are not for everyone. I have friends who are very self-disciplined and prepared for the MCAT by studying on their own. There is absolutely no problem with this and will save you a good chunk of money. I chose to take a prep course because I did not know where to even begin studying, and found the resources extremely helpful. The prep course provided you with basically a study schedule of which topics to spend time on. It was also beneficial for me to actually sit in a classroom with an instructor going over all the information I needed to know. I found this to reinforce my memory of all the chemistry and biology topics I learned freshman year that I’ve forgotten. The prep course definitely saved my butt throughout the MCAT process and provided me with all the resources I needed to be successful for this test.
3. How did you study?
For the most part, I would study the topic that was covered in the prep course that day. I saved practice tests for Fridays and weekends since it is 8 hours long — practically my whole day. The prep class that day would cover all the information I needed to know. Afterwards, I would go home/Starbucks/library to review that section in my textbook and go over my notes. I would proceed to work on the online modules which asked a series of practice questions. A soon as I completed that, I would head over and do as many practice passages as I could. Whether I completed only 3 passages or 6, I would be sure to go over the passage after I was done to see what I did wrong and learn from there. Once I felt like my brain was going to melt, or I was tired of working on kinematics, I would switch to another topic. Usually that topic would be from the previous lecture the day before and finish up anything I didn’t complete for that topic. Otherwise, I would begin my preview and readings for the next day’s topic.
I begin my day of studying at 10 AM and would usually end around 9 PM with various breaks in between. I remember trying to stay up late to study, but my brain would shut down or I would get too distracted and found it better to just do something relaxing or sleep. Sometimes I would watch an episode on Netflix…or two…or 4, but hey! I needed a break.
4. Days leading up to the MCAT
A good rule of thumb I learned is DO NOT TAKE PRACTICE TESTS 3 DAYS BEFORE THE EXAM. Your brain needs a break, so take this time to start decreasing your study time and increasing enjoyable activities. You need to be rejuvenated before you can dive into that 8 hour exam. What did I do? The week before my exam, I probably took 1 practice test, and studied a few hours a day.The day before the exam, I went around town with my mom and tried to not think about the MCAT at all. Remember to eat well and sleep plenty. 🙂
5. THE BIG DAY…
…was super duper long. Wear comfy clothes. Bring a good lunch. Drink water. Take breaks. Inhale and exhale. Don’t die.
If you are freaking out right now, here’s a picture of my puppy to calm you down 🙂
Or if you’re a cat person hehe
That’s all I’ve got for you today my friends! I hope that you can take away something useful from my schpill. If you’re still feeling down or unmotivated, here’s a good thought to reflect on as you pick yourself up and study even harder: DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GO THROUGH ALL THIS AND SIT FOR ANOTHER 8 HOURS FOR THIS EXAM AGAIN NEXT YEAR?
Thank you, good luck, and come back again next time!!
**Disclaimer: I am simply writing based on my experiences and why I personally chose to take a prep course. I am not promoting any companies or suggesting anyone do exactly what I did. 🙂 **