MCAT STUDY PLANS

For those of you that don’t know, I’m currently finishing a one year post-baccalaureate premedical program at UVA. That means that I made a career change, and along with the other 27 people in my program, am finishing all of the undergraduate premedical requirements so that I can take the MCAT and apply to medical school.  Most of us had not taken a science course since high school, so this past year was a big kick in the pants filled with chemistry, biology and physics. But it’s almost over!

I’ve gotten a few questions about what happens now so here’s the dealio:

I cannot being medical school this coming fall because the application process for this year has already finished, and I am not even taking the MCAT until June! Instead, I will take a year off and work (called a “glide year”) while applying and hopefully interviewing for medical schools so that I can start school in August 2015, fingers crossed.

The medical school applications open on May 1, and can be submitted starting June 3. This is all new to me, but it’s a WHOLE huge organized process run by AMCAS (American Medical College Application Services). There are deadlines and secondaries and fees (ohhh the fees) and lots of strategy. Main strategy: APPLY EARLY! So I’ll be working throughout May to make my application perfect and submit it the first day. I am so lucky to have a great advisor in this program with TONS of med school admissions experience helping me.

I will finish exams the first week of May, and I am scheduled to take the MCAT on June 5th. That gives me about a month to study and work on my application. After I take the MCAT I will be packing up my apartment and getting ready to start work! (More on those two things later.)

MCAT STUDY PLANS:

  • As part of my post-bac program, we are given the Exam Krackers books as well as Audio Osmosis. I will be using those primarily to review and study! We are also given the 8 (I think 8?) official practice tests. These are great because they are actual old MCAT tests.
  • We have 12 optional group sessions with an MCAT tutor. These are great for practice problems, going over strategy, and asking questions.
  • Overall, my strategy is PRACTICE PROBLEMS! I’m going to try to take a practice tests every 3 days in May, and then work on problems and reviewing material on the in between days. I’ll need to get myself on a good schedule, making sure to treat this like work and not just a “oh I can wake up whenever and get some studying in” month. That’ll be my biggest challenge!

From what I’ve heard (and you people that have taken the MCAT already can correct me and please offer advice!) the test is LARGELY a reasoning tests and only tests very basic science knowledge. While you definitely need to know the science, much of it can be figured out through the passages if you can reason well.

That being said, it’s a different style test than I’m used to! Most of the science problems aren’t just straight forward questions like I’m used to, but rather given as a passage with questions after it. Learning to answer those kinds of questions is a big part of studying.

I’m nervous, but also kind of excited to study, take practice tests, and hopefully see improvement!! It’s hard to apply to schools without knowing what score I’ll even have. There is a large difference between applying to schools with a 30 vs a 38 on the MCAT! (It’s out of 45 and generally a 30 is what you want to get to at least get accepted to a medical school. A 40 is freaking amazing and will give you access to many of the top tier school so long as the rest of your application is strong.) I am hoping that my last few practice tests will give me a good idea of the score I can expect.

So that’s that! 6 more regular school tests, then a teensy relaxation break to celebrate finishing my program, then hardcore MCAT for a month! THEN FREEDOM!!!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Good luck with your studying! My husband took the MCAT Before he went to medical school and it is a tough test! IT is great that you have some time off to really study before hand! You will do great!

  2. The MCAT wasn’t fun to take but certainly will be worth it! I took it once and did well (thank God). The best advice is to trust that you know the information! You got this!
    Medical school is hard but also exciting. Good luck girl!

  3. Hey Clare!
    I remember the pain of studying for the MCAT all too well; I am almost done with my 3rd year of med school. Exam Krackers were a great help and definitely do as many practice tests as you can. I think I did 10? The physics questions were probably the toughest for me. The MCAT is a good intro to what I’m discovering is a lifetime of standardized test- taking Step 2 soon. Good luck you’ll do great!

  4. Plan sounds great. Best of luck! You seem to be very motivated and passionate so I am sure you’ll do amazing!

  5. I think it’s so awesome that you took a huge step to pursue the career you really wanted. That is a brave thing to do! I know you will do awesome though, and it sounds like you have a good plan!

  6. Unsolicited advice, so feel free to ignore if you’re already comfortable and set in your study ways: Examkrackers is kind of the “cliff notes” version of mcat review books. Since you’ve taken all of your sciences this past year, that’s probably fine, but if you find yourself weak in any particular area, I would highly recommend you get the Berkeley Review or Princeton Review Hyperlearning content book for that subject. There were a few things that Examkrackers said, “Don’t worry – this won’t be on your exam!” that most certainly came up on my exam! Also, make sure you look up the Audio Osmosis errata list if you haven’t already.

    Even if you stick with Examkrackers for content review, I would recommend you find an additional source of practice problems. If I recall correctly, Examkrackers only has a few passages per book (those 30 minute exams), which is not nearly enough practice, IMO. I used a copy of the TPRH science workbook – it’s just a giant book of practice passages that I found to be pretty representative of the real test (the “advanced” passages were especially helpful).

    The single most important thing you can do is take those AAMC practice exams. It’s awesome that your program provides them for you! Try your best to simulate “exam conditions”…start them at the same time as your actual exam, no social media/texting in between sections, don’t take more than your allotted 10 minute breaks, etc.

    One thing that I found particularly helpful for my weakest subject (physics) was this: about two months before my test date, I went through and wrote down every physics equation that I possibly needed to know, organized by chapter. Examkrackers is pretty helpful with this, because they print the equations in bold red font. For reference, my equation sheet took up the front and back of one sheet of paper, and the front side of a second. And then…I copied it. Every morning at the beginning of my studying, I wrote the equations out with the same labels in exactly the same way. At first, I did it 5 times in a row. Once I could do it from memory, I did it 3 times, and by the end of my study period, I scribbled it down once a day to make sure I could still do it. When I sat down to take my test, it gave me extreme peace of mind to know that I could quickly recall any possible equation I could need! It might have been a tad overkill, but It only takes a few minutes a day. I feel like it made a huge difference for me, especially since I was aiming for mid-30’s and at that point, every single question counts.

    I was in your shoes just last year (though it feels like forever ago!) and I remember how stressful it was to have all of these important application things happen at once. But it definitely pays off when you have that first acceptance in your hands! Best of luck!

  7. Good luck!! I’ve heard that the test is hard but know a lot of people who have successfully come out the other side. You’ll so great!

  8. another med student checking in here with more advice (to take or leave of course!)

    listen to advice from everyone, and basically ignore everyone. this doesn’t exactly make sense, but it was the best advice i got when i was preparing for step 1. it was great to hear about what worked for all of the people i knew…but we’re all different, so what worked for person a, might not work for you. that being said, it could also be an awesome idea. attempting to stay out of the “what are you studying” rat race definitely can keep anxiety down towards appropriate levels .

    second, know thy self. no one gets to the point of taking the MCAT without having done well of lots of tests in the past. know what study methods work for you and stick to them!

    also, this falls more in the category of things i would have done differently, but study the things you are worst at the most. this advice is always hard for me to actually follow through on, but i find i needed much less “face time” with topics i enjoyed, and could have used more focused review on things i found boring/difficult.

    • And to piggy back off of your last point: if you are struggling with a particular topic, read about it from several different sources! There were a few topics in physics I just could NOT wrap my head around until I found a source that explained it in a way that made sense to me.

  9. How many schools do you plan on applying to? I applied to 30 which was really expensive and major overkill, haha! And, omg, writing all those secondaries was so painful. But I just wanted to give myself the best shot because the idea of reapplying sounded miserable! My best advice is to apply broadly. I have a few friends with amazing stats and EC’s who will be reapplying because they only applied to highly ranked programs.

    Also, I agree with the person that said to find more practice problems. I think Exam Krackers problems were too few and too easy. I did all of The Berkely Review problems and it made the actual test feel pretty easy. Also do not wear anything with pockets on test day! And go pee at every break even if you don’t think you have to! And have a big bottle of champagne waiting for you at home, haha!

  10. I took the MCAT twice before deciding I did not want to be a doctor. Hard lesson learned right? I’m not going to tell you how to study, because, as everyone has said, everyone studies/learns differently. I’m going to offer you some different advice regarding the actual test taking itself. Take the few days before the test OFF (besides maybe just basic review). Anything you’re going to know or remember, you will already know or remember. Use the time to relax and calm yourself, because nerves can really get the best of you! Wear something comfortable The MCAT is a LONG test and the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable. Dress in layers because you never know what the temperature will be like, and you can only wear what you go into the test wearing. Take all of your breaks. Even if you don’t think you need them, it’s important to clear your head between subjects and just give yourself a moment to prepare for the next section. Also, pack drinks and snacks and fuel yourself at each break. Good luck! It’s a hard test, but at long as you’ve properly prepared and you don’t panic, you will do fine! The worst part is waiting for your results…

  11. Hey!! First of all– good luck with studying! A bunch of my friends have recently taken the MCATs and i’ve heard about how tough it is so power to you!! next, i asked this question a while ago on one of your posts but i’m not sure if you saw it: what made you want to pursue medical school after doing business? i’m currently in my 5th year of pharmacy school… and if i must be honest, med school is a thought dancing in the back of my head. next year i go on rotations all year so i’ll see how i like that, but how do you feel about going back to med school later in life?

  12. I took the MCAT twice. For me, taking a physiology course really helped, and SO MANY PRACTICE TESTS. You can buy them straight from AAMC and the questions are basically exactly the same as the real MCAT questions. Also make sure you do timed tests. I’m a pretty fast reader, and I still struggled to get through every section.

    I’m finishing my first year of med school, so let me know if you have any questions.

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