TEST DAY: February 28th, 2018 @ 8 AM.
The biggest exam of my undergraduate career is quickly approaching. These past couple of weeks, the MCAT has found its way out from under the bed and into my dreams, slipped through my favorite playlist, trickled down with the hot water in my shower, and has even wedged itself into the spaces between the fork I use when I eat. I handled the MCAT like any normal person would handle grief – in 5 stages.
- Denial. I told myself that the MCAT is not real. That it’s this mythical monster in a far away, made up land on another planet. That it cannot touch me.
- Anger. Oh, I was angry. Angry at myself for wanting to pursue one of the toughest and mentally draining professions, angry at everyone else who has already started studying for the MCAT, angry at whoever invented the MCAT. Call me dramatic, but if you had to pay $310 to take an eight and a half- hour exam that you spend $2000 and at least 6 months-1 year preparing and studying for, which won’t even guarantee you a great score, and if you do get a great score, still won’t guarantee you a spot at a medical school, you would be pretty mad, too.
- Bargaining. I told myself over and over again, I had more time. I had more time to relax just a little bit more to recharge from the exhaustion that was my second year of college. I had more time before I had to worry about the MCAT, and I believed myself, until I couldn’t anymore.
- Depression. Here- came the night terrors and the cold sweats and the random panic attacks and the tears by the side of the local Best Buy building while I call my best friend in the attempt to calm myself down. It sucked for awhile, but then..
- Acceptance. Talking to my loved ones and hearing them say it was going to be okay and that I was going to be okay helped me accept the fact that this is just something every pre-medical student has to go through and every doctor had to go through and proved that it is possible to survive it. I also realized that this is nothing compared to USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 and the boards and any other big test down the road. So, if you haven’t noticed already that I am very fond of making plans, I devised one, specifically to tackle the MCAT.
What is the MCAT exactly?
***All information below regarding information about the MCAT was directly from AAMC’s official website:
The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.
In April 2015, the AAMC launched a new version of the MCAT exam. Scores are reported in four sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Almost all U.S. medical schools and many Canadian schools require you to submit MCAT exam scores. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old.
How is it scored?
You will receive five scores from your MCAT exam: one for each of the four sections and one combined total score.
Section Scores: Each of the four sections–Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills–is scored from a low of 118 to a high of 132, with a midpoint of 125. Test takers will receive scores for each of the four sections.
Total Score: Scores for the four sections are combined to create a total score. The total score ranges from 472 to 528. The midpoint is 500.
Example: If an examinee scored 128 on the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section; 125 on the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section; 129 on the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section; and 127 on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section, the total score would be 509.
MY GAME PLAN
Disclaimer: If you are a pre-medical student reading this, I just want to say that everyone has a different way of studying. My way might not be the way to go for you, or maybe it just might. Some students feel better about giving themselves a year in advance to study, and some might think they’ll forget everything they’ve learned if they study too early and grasp things better under pressure when there’s not too much time left before Test Day. The point is, do not get intimated or feel pressured by how the next person studies because everyone has a different way of studying in the way that works for them.
TEST DAY: January 28th, 2018 @ 8:00 AM
Study Timeline: July 3rd, 2017 – January 26th, 2018
*This goes for everyone: Don’t study the day before the exam. Don’t even go near anything that looks, smells, or sounds like the MCAT.
- SELF-STUDYING: Thanks to my dear friend, Carolyn Nguyen, who by the way just got into medical school (SO PSYCHED AND PROUD OF YOU), for lending me her Kaplan 3rd edition set and 2 Exam Krackers MCAT books to study. On the calendar down below, the individual subjects you’ll see from July-September are from the Kaplan books that Carolyn gave me. I will be strictly studying two chapters every day so that I am able to meet every deadline I gave myself, which can clearly be seen on the calendars down below.
- The Princeton Review MCAT Course Prep: If you are a UT Dallas student interested in taking this prep course, call (914) 529-6085 and ask for Steven. The biggest discount of the year, which is $1000 off of the original $2900 price, has limited seating. You’re welcome. #NotAnAd This prep course for this fall of 2017 is from September 8th, 2017 – December 4th, 2017. The package includes a free $400 additional class for CARS, two hours of tutoring, all the newest edition of TPR MCAT books, a weekly online Psychology/Sociology class in which you pick your own schedule, and class that meets three times a week on UT Dallas campus: Mondays 7-10PM, Fridays 3-6PM, Saturdays 2-5PM. During the length of the course, I will be studying all of the books included in the package, in the order in which they go over it in class.
- PRACTICE: Honestly, the material is not what’s hard. The hardest part about the exam is how they ask the questions, and of course, the lengthy time span. My biggest goal is to build my stamina of taking an 8.5 hour exam and figuring out how to answer the MCAT questions.
This is a rough calendar that I made of what I’m going to be studying and when I am going to be studying:
I’m self-studying in the order of the subjects that is most to least familiar to me. That way, I don’t spend too much time reviewing and touching up on the things I already know or just learned this previous year: Organic Chemistry and Biology and spend more time on my weak points: Physics and Critical Reading. I will be taking Biochemistry this upcoming fall semester, so even though I haven’t learned Biochem at all, I want to look over Biochem and have a feel for the subject, which will give me a headstart on the class.
This is not a cheat sheet. This is by no means the shortcut to success. Honestly, I made this for myself, and I don’t know if it’s gonna work for me. I am on the same boat as everyone else preparing for the MCAT, but I am going to try like hell to earn my competitive score. I am going to sacrifice a couple of things here and there for this. The social outings, dancing, volunteering, my obsession with the OR, going home every month to see my family – I am going to put it on pause for a whole semester. But, it’s okay. I know it’s going to be worth it. At the end of the day, either you will reap what you sow, or you will realize the true path you are meant to be on. Always remember, however, you are not defined by your MCAT score. Your health comes first, and in reality, the MCAT is but a number. You are so much more than that. I wish every pre-med out there the best of luck . Study hard, give it all you got, and kick some MCAT ass!
If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.