Home | Links | Books | Send Comments
Web futuredoctor.net
Richardson Prep Center

MCAT Preparation: The Recipe for MCAT Success

The Important Ingredients The Proper Mix It's MCAT* Time!
MCAT* Courses
Grades Expected for Medical Schools

The Important Ingredients

Back to Top

The Proper Mix

1) Study regularly and start early. There is a lot of material to cover and you will need sufficient time to review it all adequately. Creating a study schedule is often effective. Starting early will reduce your stress level in the weeks leading up to the exam and may make your studying easier.

2) Keep focused and enjoy the material you are learning. Forget all past negative learning experiences so you can open your mind to the information with a positive attitude. Given an open mind and some time to consider what you are learning, you will find most of the information tremendously interesting. Motivation can be derived from a sincere interest in learning and by keeping in mind your long term goals.

3) Biological and Physical Sciences preparation: The Gold Standard is not associated with the AAMC in any way; however, contained within its covers is each and every topic that you are responsible for in the Biological and Physical Sciences, as iterated by the AAMC. Thus the most directed and efficient study plan is to begin by reviewing the science sections in The Gold Standard.

4) Verbal Reasoning and Writing Sample preparation: Begin by reading the advice given in Chapters 3 and 4 in The Gold Standard. Then take the Verbal Reasoning and Writing Sample Practice Items booklet, always time yourself, and practice, practice, practice.

For Verbal Reasoning, you should be sure to understand each and every mistake you make as to ensure there will be improvement. For the Writing Sample, you should have someone who has good writing skills read, correct, and comment on your essays. And finally, the MCAT* Student Manual, Practice Test III, this website and the latest edition of The Gold Standard contain corrected essays which give an indication as to the standard of writing that is expected of you.

5) Do practice exams. Ideally, you would finish your science review at least one month prior to the exam date. Then each week you can write 1 or 2 practice exams and thoroughly review each exam after completion. Start with The Gold Standard exams which will lead you into the AAMC Practice Tests.

You should write practice exams as you would the actual test: in one sitting within the expected time limits. Writing practice exams will increase your confidence and allow you to see what is expected of you. It will make you realize the constraints imposed by time limits in completing the entire test. It will also allow you to identify the areas in which you may be lacking.

6) Big on concepts, small on memorization: Remember that the new MCAT* will primarily test your understanding of concepts. The new MCAT* is not designed to measure your ability to memorize tons of scientific facts and trivia, but both your knowledge and understanding of concepts are critical. In fact, only 15% of the science sections on the MCAT* directly test your ability to memorize!

Evidently, some material in this manual must be memorized; for example, practically all the science equations, absorption spectra of major functional groups, rules of logarithms, trigonometric functions, the phases in mitosis and meiosis, and other basic facts. Nonetheless, for the most part, your objective should be to try to understand, rather than memorize the biology, physics and chemistry material you review. This may appear vague now, but as you write practice material, you will more clearly understand what is expected of you.

7) Review boo-boos! Scores in practice exams should improve over time. Success depends on what you do between the first and last exam. Rewriting tests without a systematic review of all mistakes and questionable answers leads to stagnant grades.

8) Relax once in a while! While the MCAT* requires a lot of preparation, you should not forsake all your other activities to study. Try to keep exercising, maintain a social life and do things you enjoy. If you balance work with things which relax you, you will work more effectively overall.

Back to Top

It's MCAT* Time

1) On the night before the exam, try to get a good night sleep. The MCAT* is physically draining and it is in your best interest to be well rested when you take it.

2) Avoid last minute cramming. On the morning of the exam, do not begin studying ad hoc. You will not learn anything effectively, and noticing something you do not know or will not remember might reduce your confidence and lower your score unnecessarily. Just get up, eat a good breakfast and go write the exam.

3) Eat breakfast! It will make it possible for you to have the food energy needed to go through the first two parts of the exam.

4) Pack a light lunch. Avoid greasy food that will make you drowsy. You do not want to feel sleepy for the afternoon sections. Avoid sugar-packed snacks as they will cause a "sugar low" eventually and will also make you drowsy. A chocolate bar or other sweet highly caloric food could, however, be very useful in the last section (Biological Sciences) when you may be tired. The `sugar low' will hit you only after you have completed the exam when you do not have to be awake!

5) Make sure you answer all the questions! You do not get penalized for incorrect answers, so always choose something even if you have to guess. If you run out of time, pick a letter and use it to answer all the remaining questions.

6) Pace yourself. Do not get bogged down trying to answer a difficult question. If the question is very difficult, make a mark beside it on your exam booklet and answer it later.

7) Remember that some of the questions will be thrown out as inappropriate or used solely to calibrate the test. If you find that you cannot answer some of the questions, do not despair. It is possible they could be questions used for these purposes.

8) Do not let others psyche you out! Some people will be saying between exam sections, "It went great. What a joke!" Ignore them. Often these types may just be trying to boost their own confidence or to make themselves look good in front of their friends. Just focus on what you have to do and tune out the other examinees.

9) Do not study at lunch. You need the time to recuperate and rest. Eat, avoid the people discussing the test sections and relax!

10) Before reading the text of the problem, some students find it more efficient to quickly read the questions first. In this way, as soon as you read something in the text which brings to mind a question you have read, you can answer immediately (this is especially helpful for Verbal Reasoning). Otherwise, if you read the text first and then the questions, you may end up wasting time searching through the text for answers. In fact, sometimes in the Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences sections you will be able to answer questions without having read the passage!

11) Read the text and questions carefully! Often students leave out a word or two while reading, which can completely change the sense of the problem. Pay special attention to words in italics, CAPS, bolded, or underlined. Circle or underline anything you believe might be important in the text or the questions.

12) Do independent questions first! Some students have difficulty finishing the MCAT* (esp. Physical Sciences). The worst scenario is getting bogged down in a passage when there were independent questions which you knew the answer to, but never had the time to answer.

13) Expel any relevant equation onto your paper! Even if the question is of a theoretical nature, often equations contain the answers and they are much more objective than the reasoning of a nervous pre-medical student! In physics, it is often helpful to draw a picture or diagram. Arrows are valuable in representing vectors.

14) Solving the problem may involve algebraic manipulation of equations and/or numerical calculations. Be sure that you know what all the variables in the equation stand for and that you are using the equation in the appropriate circumstance.

In chemistry and physics, the use of dimensional analysis will help you keep track of units and solve some problems where you might have forgotten the relevant equations. Dimensional analysis relies on the manipulation of units. For example, if you are asked for the energy involved in maintaining a 60 watt bulb lit for two minutes you can pull out the appropriate equations or : i) recognize that your objective (unknown = energy) is in joules; ii) recall that a watt is a joule per second; iii) convert minutes into seconds. {note that minutes and seconds cancel leaving joules as an answer}

60 joules/second x 2 minutes x 60 seconds/minute = 7200 joules or 7.2 kilojoules

15) The final step in problem solving is to ask yourself: is my answer reasonable? For example, if you would have done the preceding problem and your answer was 7200 kilojoules, intuitively this should strike you as an exorbitant amount of energy for an everyday light bulb to remain lit for two minutes! It would then be of value to recheck your calculations. {"intuition" in science is often learned through the experience of doing many problems}

16) Whenever doing calculations, the following will increase your speed: (i) manipulate variables but plug in values only when necessary; (ii) avoid decimals, use fractions wherever possible; (iii) square roots or cube roots can be converted to the power (exponent) of 1/2 or 1/3, respectively; (iv) before calculating, check to see if the possible answers are sufficiently far apart such that your values can be rounded off (i.e. 19.2 « 20, 185 » 200). In fact, occasionally the MCAT* will provide gravity as "given g = 9.8 m/s2" but the answers are calculated based on g = 10 m/s2!

Back to Top

MCAT* Courses

Clearly, taking an MCAT* course is not a prerequisite to ace the MCAT*. In other words, if you study and practice in a systematic way using the tools and techniques discussed, you should be able to achieve your goals. Should you decide to take a course remember the following: good courses generally cost about the same and have about the same quality in terms of materials; the biggest difference that most students notice is the quality of teaching. Sometimes the same company may have an MD teaching at one center and then a premed student at another location. The bottom line is that you want to know how experienced your teacher will be. Prep courses include Columbia Review (California), Berkeley Review (California), Richardson Prep (Canada), Kaplan, Princeton Review, and the online course with computer based exams - MCAT-prep.com.

*Medical College Admissions Test and MCAT are registered service marks of The Association
of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) which is not affiliated with this site

Sponsored by MCAT*-prep.com

FutureDoctor.net. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use.