Undergraduate institution: Southern Arkansas University
Exam score: 515
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 129
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 130
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 129
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 127
Time spent preparing: A few weeks, 8 hours a day.
As of May 2019
Where are you now?
I am in my 2nd year of medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. I'm part of the MD-PhD program.
How's it going?
It's going all right! I'm about to enter my dedicated study period in preparation for Step 1.
How did studying for the MCAT exam prepare you for medical school?
I think studying for the MCAT exam prepared me by help me to think of different ways to study, which pays off for medical school exams and further standardized exams.
What else should people know about applying for and/or attending medical school?
I think one thing I would stress about making the decision on going to medical school is not to pursue it unless you are really passionate about it. You will get burned out during your time spent studying and it's important that this is something you really care about and enjoy.
Overall study approach
I created a study schedule to keep myself on track every day. I did take a Kaplan course, but it was over the summer, and I was doing summer research and a lot of other things, so I wasn’t as invested as I should have been. I used the AAMC’s What’s on the MCAT Exam? online tool extensively to look through all of the content categories on the exam. If there was something I wasn’t sure about, I would look it up in my Kaplan books or I would use Google to find the content. I took a lot of notes for things I wasn’t as familiar with. My overall approach was to do the MCAT Question of the Day at the beginning of each day and end with a set of practice questions provided by the Kaplan course. I used those practice questions to create mini-tests for myself.
Top tips for preparation
- Don’t wait until the last minute.
- Block off large chunks of time to study and prepare. Don’t study in little bits. Really dedicate time for the exam.
- Don’t freak out. I panicked after seeing my first full-length test result and I almost gave up. Take it in and keep pushing forward.
Traps to avoid
- Be careful what you read on the Internet. It is easy to become overwhelmed and begin to panic from seeing all the comments on Reddit and The Student Doctor Network [SDN]. Remember, you’re different and will have a different experience. So, keep that in mind as you prepare, and don’t take everything you read as the truth.
- Don’t worry if you don’t know all the content. Remember, you need to be able to think critically too.
- Slow down and don’t go too fast when answering questions. It’s easy to miss something that can change the whole meaning of the passage.
What types of exam prep were the most useful?
I liked having specific discipline books for the MCAT exam. I found those to be the most helpful for reviewing the content that is specific to the exam. Completing lots of practice questions was very helpful as well.
Did you encounter any challenges or obstacles, and how did you overcome them?
I did very well on the SAT and ACT, and it was hard for me to realize just how different the MCAT was from those exams. I really needed to focus on working harder and making the effort to prepare. It was easy to get overwhelmed by the information, and I even panicked and gave up for a while. But I realized that everyone’s situation is different. So, I needed to stop comparing myself with other students whose stories were in online forums and blogs. That really helped, when I stopped comparing. Then I was able to focus on being positive, and I was able to work harder and make the effort I needed to prepare.
Would you have done anything differently?
Yes, definitely. I would have started much earlier. After seeing the results of my first full-length test, I panicked and gave up. I should have made more of an effort and not let a full-length test score get to me like it did.
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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.