The MCAT

(Written before the 2015 change to the MCAT, so some information may be out of date/no longer relevant)

I’ve written far less than I expected to when this blog was started.  Moving to a new province, starting a family, setting up a new home and more has left me with very little time to write.

I had outlined a series of posts on the test and will write them up.  Due to the timing of this post and the final MCAT write dates for this year approaching, I’m not sure they will be useful for anyone applying this fall…

Anyone reading this already knows what the MCAT is, it’s a 4.5 hour-long test that you require to apply to most medical schools in this country (until 2015, now longer).  If you’re interested in applying to Ottawa or McGill you don’t have to worry about it, however, most other schools want it and many have minimums for applying.  Will the MCAT get you in?  No, but it can help your rank, help get interviews and give you a slight buffer.  It is said that the average accepted student’s MCAT is ~30, also from hearsay, that if you average out your scores on the full length AAMC practice tests you will likely score a couple points lower on the real one.

I wrote the test once, so anything I mention is simply what worked for me, so take it with a grain of salt.

If you have a full-time job or are taking a heavy course load or other significant responsibilities it is going to be difficult to find the time to study.  Going over all the subjects takes time, especially if it has been a while since you covered them in class or if they are new to you.  Try to give yourself enough time to learn the material and complete practice tests.

This post I will just go over some general thoughts:

  • First of all, book your test early.  Spots fill up very quickly and you don’t want to have to drive to another province or to the US just to write the test.  Also, switching costs $60, so try to book a date that will work with your schedule and give you enough time to study.  If you know people that have written before, ask them about the test centers.  The city I wrote in had multiple centers and it turns out by luck I chose the nice one, had I asked I would have known which to avoid and not roll the dice.
  • One great resource that is often ignored is the actually e-MCAT site.  They have lists of all topics covered on the MCAT as well as a list of essays prompts that may appear on the test (or ones very similar) and example essays and their corresponding scores.  I found taking some time to go over the site very useful, especially the essay prompts.
  • When I was studying for the MCAT I was lucky enough to be able to listen to music at work.  Instead I put Examkrakers (EK) Audioosmosis on my player and listened to it while conducting experiments.  Although a bit outdated, I found it very useful for reviewing many subjects and their techniques to help you remember important information worked reasonably well.
  • If you have trouble with certain topics I recommend searching YouTube for videos explaining them.  Two resources I found useful were MCAT Strategy http://www.youtube.com/user/MCATStrategy, which has great videos on constructing a writing sample (WS) and other topics and Kahn Academy http://www.youtube.com/user/khanacademy with videos on many science topics covered on the MCAT.  Other than these Internet resources, premed101 is very popular and has sections covering the MCAT and where you can get feedback on essays and many other things.  There are also a number of blogs one can find of people going through MCAT WS prompts as wells as forums where one can read people’s essays and see instructors feedback on those essays.
  • In terms of books I thought EK and Princeton Review both had good resources as well as some of the review sections from Kaplan. Books I don’t recommend: Barron’s.   Lots of typos, improper references, very poor physics and organic sections
  • Courses, I don’t know, didn’t take one.  I’ve had friends do well with Kaplan and other courses; also people do very well without them.
  • Practice tests.  Do them.  Do them timed and as if they were the real thing, especially the official ones from AAMC.  These are the most similar to what you will see on the real one.  I personally recommend doing all that are available and saving the more recent ones for last.  I didn’t write a full-length test until 3 weeks before I wrote the MCAT, I felt that if I did well on one too early I would lose motivation to keep studying.  After writing the first one I did all that remained spaced out every 2-3 days, reviewing my right and wrong answers and reviewing any topics I found difficult.  May want to do them earlier or packed more tightly together, but do all of them.  Another advantage of doing the practice tests, especially the only ones from AAMC is that you get a feel for reading off a screen rather than paper and for the tools you have at your disposal during the real test (flagging questions, striking our answers, reviewing flagged/unanswered questions, etc.).

Next a few more focused comments about each MCAT section.

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