Munir Buhaya

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Practice, practice, practice. Train your mind and body to be ready for a seven-hour exam.

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Undergraduate institution: University of Texas at El Paso
Major: Microbiology
Exam score: 513
    Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 129
    Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 129
    Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 131
    Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 124
Time spent preparing: 24 weeks, about 20–30 hours a week.

As of May, 2019

Where are you now (school, year)?

McGovern Medical School, 2nd. year.

How’s it going?

I'm loving it. Medical school has been hard but very fun. I'm currently studying for Step 1, which marks the end of my pre-clinical years. I cannot wait to start my clinical experience and use my knowledge to help patients regain their health. I have much more to learn and I look forward to continuing my medical education. Honestly, I'm enjoying the ride.

How did studying for the MCAT prepare you for medical school?

Studying for the MCAT exam provided me with a better understanding of my preferred study methods. Medical school is fast-paced, and it is hard to keep up with the amount of information provided unless you develop efficient study habits. From studying for the MCAT exam, I learned that practicing questions helped me understand and retain the information better. It also helped me be more disciplined about studying, allowing me to develop time-management skills and a work-life balance.

What else should people know about applying for and/or attending medical school?

Be confident that you have the skills to get into medical school and become a doctor. It takes commitment and hard work, but it is possible. Develop a plan to achieve your goals and commit to it. And when feeling stressed or in doubt, do not be afraid of reaching out for support from friends and family. Becoming a physician is challenging but very rewarding.

Overall study approach

My strength was in biology, so I started by focusing on other areas, such as psychology and sociology, because I had no undergraduate background in these areas, and then physics and chemistry. Once I felt comfortable with all of the material, I started doing practice questions and full-length tests. I used the practice questions and tests in the Kaplan® text prep books and The Princeton Review's® MCAT review book as well as four full-length tests from Next Step®. I also downloaded an MCAT Mastery app on my phone to use during commutes. Starting about two months before I took the MCAT, I started using AAMC materials, including the full-length tests, which I took once a week at first, and eventually twice a week.

Top tips for preparation

  1. Start early and plan your study schedule. Be disciplined about your studying. Pace yourself, don’t rush, and give yourself more than three months.
  2. Master the material and diversify your resources when studying.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. Train your mind and body to be ready for a seven-hour exam.

Traps to avoid

  1. Don’t set yourself up for failure or anticipate not doing well. Understand the importance of the exam, but aim to take the exam only once. Give yourself enough time to prepare so that you are confident on test day.
  2. Full-length tests are the best predictors. They can be harder than the actual exam, so try to get your scores to where you would like them to be for the actual exam.
  3. Take time for you. Remember to relax, exercise, and spend time with family—whatever makes you happy.

What types of exam prep were the most useful?

I didn’t use a prep course, but created a self-study plan. A blend of online and print resources worked best for me: print resources for content review, online resources for practice questions, and full-length tests to simulate the testing environment. I qualified for fee assistance from the AAMC, so I was able to get a lot of MCAT materials, from the Practice Exams to the Question Packs.

What challenges or obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge was that English is my second language; I moved to Texas from Mexico in high school and I’ve had a hard time with that. Also, I didn’t have a lot of history with that kind of test taking because standardized tests aren’t emphasized in Mexico. I didn’t know what to expect on the exam.

Is there anything that you would’ve done differently to prepare?

I would have given myself more time. One more month and I think my score would have improved.

Third-party test preparatory company names, products, and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are endorsed by or affiliated with the AAMC.

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.

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