"Don’t study alone. People can be active networks to help you study better."
Undergraduate institution: Spelman College
Major: Computer Science
Exam score: 516
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 130
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 129
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 130
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 127
Time spent preparing: Eight months. Fifteen hours a week for the first 5 months, a 6-week commercial prep course while studying 5 days a week for 4–5 hours a day, and self-study again for the final 6 weeks, for 8 hours a day.
As of June 2019
Where are you now (school, year)?
Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, 2nd year
How’s it going?
It has been a thrilling roller coaster ride thus far. I look back at myself two years ago starting as a newly minted, first-year student with my engraved stethoscope in hand, having no clue how to operate said stethoscope. Then I look at myself now two years later... occasionally still questioning whether I used the right end of said stethoscope for that last simulated patient exam. I know that I have come quite far from where I started, yet I acknowledge that I haven't even begun to scrape the surface of the knowledge yet to be gained. I am preparing to start my clinicals in a few weeks with a strange mix of excitement and trepidation. Honestly, that's how all my experiences have been thus far, so I welcome that extra surge of adrenaline as I prepare to face the next phase of my training.
How did studying for the MCAT® exam prepare you for medical school?
Having been out of school for so long prior to taking the MCAT exam, studying for it definitely put me back into the full-time student mindset, which was invaluable to me as it made me that much more prepared to buckle down and face the workload and challenges of medical school head on.
What else should people know about applying for and/or attending medical school?
This message is especially true for anyone who, like me, has had a "non-traditional" background and has been out of the school system for a while—You Can Do It. Life can get very busy and we as human beings do not like to rock the boat when things are comfortable, but you owe it to yourself to stop and listen. Listen to that small voice inside your head that comes on every time you find yourself sitting up and paying extra attention to an article touting a new breakthrough drug or watching "House" reruns and paying more attention to the diagnostic dilemma than the interpersonal drama between the characters. Once you decide this is the path for you, make a plan, come up with a realistic schedule, and go for it. Ensure that your loved ones are on the same page with you because this is not an easy path, and you can use all the help and support you can get. They are the ones that will be there to prop you up and keep you going when the going gets tough. There will be euphoric ups and cataclysmic downs, but it will all be worth it, and you should take every stumble along the way as a learning experience.
Overall study approach
I started with books from Examkrackers, reviewing each chapter in order. After taking two full-length practice tests, I wasn’t happy with the results so I signed up for a test prep course from Kaplan and started using my incorrect answers from quizzes and practice questions to determine what material to review. The class helped me with test-taking strategies, and I used AAMC resources for content help. I learned how to maximize the time to get as many points as quickly as possible. After that course ended, I went back to self-study but incorporated many AAMC resources in my study plan, including the Practice Exam 1, which I took in the weeks before the actual test. It was awesome—it gave me the high-stakes environment.
Top tips for preparation
- The MCAT is a lesson in endurance. You have to build up your stamina, and the more full-length tests you take, the less daunting it will be on test day.
- Some test-taking tricks save time and help you get the answer quicker. Practice these strategies.
- Know the content so that the latter part of the preparation is about testing well and getting through the exam. Get a solid content foundation before you start.
Traps to avoid
- Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get into your head and get depressed by low scores. Take a breath, step away, and relax and recharge when things get overwhelming.
- Don’t study alone. People can be active networks to help you study better.
- Don’t cancel your score. Sometimes you will be surprised that you scored well.
What types of exam prep were the most useful?
Kaplan offered quite a few products that helped me prepare for the exam: quizzes, question packs, and practice exams. I also used AAMC materials, including the Practice Exam 1 and the Section Bank.
What challenges or obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them?
Trying to juggle a busy work schedule with a busy home life (three kids) was a struggle. My mom came to stay with me for five months so that I could dedicate the time to studying.
Is there anything that you would’ve done differently to prepare?
If I could have, I would not have worked and studied at the same time, but that wasn’t an option for me, so I did everything I could to prepare in the right way.
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These students’ testimonials were selected because they represent interesting stories. The views expressed herein are those of the students and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the AAMC. Any reference in these testimonials to a specific third-party product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the AAMC of the product, process, or service or its supplier.