Monthly Archives: January 2017

MCAT Round 2 — resources review

Welcome back pre-med friends,

As I have promised, I will be writing today about how and what resources I am using to study for the MCAT a second time. The first time I took the MCAT was in August of 2015 and so it has definitely been a while since I have touched up on a few of the MCAT topics such as physics and chemistry. Studying for this big exam a second time has had moments of ups and downs, hopes and discouragements, as well as energy and fatigue. My purpose for writing this blog today is to help fellow pre-med friends in the same shoes as I am by reviewing what resources I’m utilizing as a self-studier. I hope that you will find this somewhat helpful and use it to fine-tune your studies!

Content Review Books

Princeton Review

For my first MCAT, I was enrolled in the Princeton Review prep course where I was provided their content review books. I still have them and have been using them as references when I need further clarification on certain topics. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

While they are an older version, I still find them to be very helpful with their detailed explanations, graphics, examples & solutions within the chapters, and practice questions and passages at the end of each chapter. I love that for the examples given for the topics, there is a solution right underneath so you don’t have to flip all the way to the back of the book every time. The examples and solutions walk you through every step while you’re still reading about that certain topic instead of waiting until the end of the chapter to give you practice. Then, all the way at the end of the chapters, there is a page with a summary of all the concepts/formulas followed by a few back-to-back practice questions and a practice passage. These are handy if you want to time yourself and see how you do!

Overall, I really enjoy the Princeton Review books and love referencing to them when I need more information in addition to the Exam Krackers. The details ensure that you are not missing out on any concepts and gives you all the information you need for the MCAT!

Exam Krackers

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Since I already wrote and highlighted all over my Princeton Review books, I wanted to start over with brand new books where I could write in again. Also, it’s because I love the smell of new books and perhaps I would’ve been fine with using the Princeton Review books again, but….why not? hehe. I’ve heard so many good things about Exam Krackers from peers so I decided to give it a try.

Moving on, these books are great because they are so short and concise! Everything you need to know and nothing more. This is great when you want to do a quick review without all the fluff that’s not relevant. All the important formulas and vocab are highlighted in red and Salty the Kracker gives lots of tips and tricks on understanding concepts and giving examples. There are also the MCAT Think paragraphs that helps with application of concepts. What I love about the Exam Krackers books is that there highlighted text on th margins of the book when a particular concept, say in physics, relates to another concept in biology! For example, I would be reading about pressure and the text on the side helps me to understand how pressure is related to blood circulation. It’s awesome!

As for practice questions, there are some after EVERY TOPIC. For example, in Physics, after learning about Projectile motion, there is a page of back-to-back practice questions and after learning about Newton’s laws of action, there is another page of practice questions — even thought they’re both in the same chapter. You don’t have to worry about learning something new before knowing you’re comfortable with the previous topic. The solutions can be found in the back of the book. Finally at the end of the book, there are practice sections for each chapter. I haven’t done one yet, but these are probably good for timed practice.

With the pros, there are also the cons. These books are not ideal when you need more explanation and details on particular topics that you’re struggling with. It’s nice that they’re short and concise, but sometimes you just need more examples, more practice, and more explanations. I would suggest seeking other resources for a particular topic if Exam Krackers don’t fully help you understand it.

Khan Academy

Seriously, check them out. They are like your virtual teachers if you are self-studying. If you go to http://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat you will find a TON of practice and lectures just for the MCAT. Each MCAT Section has tons of lectures and practice questions.  I didn’t even know they had a special page for the MCAT until I googled them. You can also make an account to track your progress, and they take donations since their purpose is to make education available to everyone! They are so great and I can’t emphasize that enough.

Practice books

Next Step

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So I just received these in the mail today right before I sat down and wrote this blog. After lots of research online and asking people what good resources to use for the MCAT, I heard about NextStep. Though I cannot afford their tutoring and prep course, I decided to try their practice books since they’re pretty popular.

I don’t have much to review yet, but at a glance I can see that I am in CARS heaven. This book is meant for TIMED PRACTICE. There are 11 sections with each containing 53 questions to practice in 90 minutes. This book is not meant for daily practice, but rather for when you want to sit down and see how well you can do on a full section of CARS. Ideally, I should be practicing CARS on the computer like it will be on test day, but sometimes I just find it easier to sit down with a book and pencil to practice and that’s what I’m going to do IN ADDITION to any online practice I can find. It looks like a great source, and will update this blog if I change my mind.

I’ve also ordered the MCAT Science Practice with NextStep and it should be arriving soon. That book is supposed to have a bunch of practice science questions that will help me with the other sections of the MCAT!

Princeton Review 

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These are pretty much the same as the NextStep books — one for CARS and one for science. They came with my prep course. The science workbook was incredibly helpful for my first MCAT as well as the CARS. Although I wanted brand new books since I’ve already written in these and circled the answers.

Practice tests

I am actually still in the process of finding sources to take full-length practice exams at an affordable cost. I will update this blog once I have found something! If you have any suggestions for where I might find these, please leave a comment and I would very much appreciate it!!!

Study Schedule

At first I wanted to follow the NextStep example study schedule, but work and life happened so I haven’t been able to keep up with it religiously. It is a great guide though to make sure I am spacing my studying well and not spending to much time on a particular topic and keeping myself accountable. I don’t have all the resources that the guide suggests you use, but I am using it as a guide for the order of what topics I am studying. The schedule I’m looking at is for a 3 month plan and is only an example to help you build your own study schedule. The link is found here: https://nextsteptestprep.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MCAT2015-Study-Plan-24hr-12-week-Next-Step.pdf

So far I am limiting myself to a maximum of 5 hours a day since I have a little over 4 months until my exam. I will gradually increase my study hours as the exam approaches, but I really want to avoid any kind of burn-out this early in the game. I suggest you start slow and build stamina while continuing to enjoy life and doing the things you love! It’s so easy to get stressed and overwhelmed with the MCAT, but always remember to breathe and do what is best for your mind and body.

So there you go! These are all the books I will be using to study for my second MCAT! Studying a second time is easy and hard at the same time. It’s easy to know where my weaknesses lie and what to work on, but it’s hard to get that motivation and relearn a lot of things you’ve forgotten. It can also be discouraging to think about sitting through an 8 hour long exam and the grueling practice it takes in the months ahead. However, with lots of perseverance and patience, you can get through anything! Keep your chin up and take it one day at a time. Don’t think about the next few months ahead, but rather focus on what you can learn in this one day. Don’t get too stressed, but when you do please take a break and go do something you enjoy. Have lots of discipline, but also give yourself lots of breaks. It will all be worth it, I promise!

 

Much love,

Anne

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5 Goals for 2017

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I can’t believe 2016 has come and gone. It was by far my favorite year full of traveling, excitement, and memories! From turning 21 and finally being able to drink a margarita to traveling all around Italy WITHOUT parents for the first time, and then graduating from the best university after 3.5 years. I’ve been so blessed that sometimes I think I forget to step back and give thanks. With 2017 coming and having no big plans, I hope to take more time to reflect on who I want to be and what is my true purpose in life. I don’t think there’s a better way to accomplish that than making a plan on the first day of this new year, and keeping myself accountable by sharing it with all of you!

1) More self-love

More often than not, I used to neglect self-love to prioritize academics or extracurricular activities. Sometimes I forget to sit down and spend time doing things I enjoy such as painting or reading a book because I was so obsessed with using every minute of my day to get ahead in my studies, catch up on lectures, or brainstorm for a paper. I used to think that if I spent my time doing anything but studying, that there is someone out there who is studying twice as hard as I am. Looking back, I now think that was a straight path to burn out which is definitely not good for someone seeking to pursue a career in medicine. This year, I want to nurture other passions I have and actually enjoy doing them rather than feeling guilty about not studying. As someone with eczema, I’m determined to finally go out there and try new products that will actually help my dry and red skin! I’ll try face masks, new face creams, and even new make up! I want to paint a picture for all of my friends! I want to read a really good book! I want to share more on this blog and encourage my creative outlet! So in a nutshell, I want to break out of this cocoon I’ve been living in during undergrad, and spread my wings to new interests that will help me grow mentally and physically as a confident and happy individual.

2) Study smart

One plan I have for 2017 is to retake the MCAT a second time. I am currently signed up for May 13th which gives me a good 5 months to study — 2 extra months than what I had for my first round at the MCAT. Because I am self-studying this time around (because prep courses are pricey!), I am going to try my best to study smarter rather than harder. I will be trying to practice the material more than read and absorb information. I hope to get into a routine and set study schedule that works around my job while allowing me time to enjoy life, and find study habits that will help me be more focused and energized.  **Will make a blog post about MCAT studying in a few weeks**

3) Spend more time with family

Knowing that I am trying to get into medical school, I know that if accepted, I will be moving away from home. During undergrad I was also busy studying all the time, I took spending time with my parents for granted. Even though I lived at home, I was always in my room and rarely spent time just hanging out with my parents on the weekend. I am thankful for graduating early and getting this free semester (perhaps even a gap year) to turn that around and try to  take them places and just talk to them more. Even with my MCAT studying, I hope to leave my evenings free to enjoy time at home before I have to give that up for medical school. Family is very important to me so I want to soak up every minute of it I have left while I’m at home!

4) Work hard

Working during undergrad was challenging because I had to balance it with classes and clubs. I didn’t really need the money because I lived at home and had very few expenses, so I would work the bare minimum to get home and focus on my studies. Since I’ve been doing that for the past 2 years or so, it has kind of become a habit that I’m not proud of! Now as a college grad, I am hoping to work harder by staying longer at my job even though I could leave before my shift ends. I want to begin helping my parents with expenses, starting with paying off my car, and building up a good savings for when I have to move out for school. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really need to start this whole “adulting” thing and take it seriously!

5) Be spontaneous

Now that I am free from undergrad, with the exception of MCAT studying, I hope to be more spontaneous and outgoing. I feel like since I have earned my degree, obtained a good job, and am dedicated towards a goal, I can finally breathe and relax a little. I’m always so hard on myself (as many premeds can understand), and I feel that now is the perfect time to let loose and live a little. With 2016 planned by the minute, I hope to adopt a more casual and relaxed attitude in 2017. So far the only plans I am aware of are going to Disney World and taking the MCAT while the rest is unpredictable, but I’m going to be okay with that. I’m starting to learn that life is unpredictable and when lemons are thrown at you, you just have to make some super delicious lemonade! Although I am most likely not going to start medical school in fall 2017 as I expected, I’m definitely going to make sure to make good of my time from now til when I am accepted!

I hope you all have goals you will be working to achieve in the year of 2017. A new year brings 365 opportunities to change and grow! I’m so thankful for each of my followers and I hope you’ll continue to follow me in this tumultuous pre-med journey!

 

Much love,

Anne