Undergraduate institution: Xavier University of Louisiana
Major: Biology Pre-med
Exam score: 506
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 129
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 128
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 124
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 125
Time spent preparing: 3 weeks, 12+ hours a day.
As of June 2019
Where are you now (school, year)?
I have currently finished my second year in medical school at LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans.
How’s it going?
Things are going pretty well for me. I just completed taking the USMLE Step 1 exam. Medical school is definitely more challenging than undergrad. In fact, I don't think I have ever had to study so hard in my life, but it is definitely doable. I've learned a lot about myself during these past two years especially with regards to how I learn best.
How did studying for the MCAT prepare you for medical school?
Looking back, I think studying for the MCAT exam gave me a small taste of what studying for classes in medical school is like. Having to cover a copious amount of information in a finite amount of time is something that the two share, and I had to develop the discipline to conquer such feats. Also taking the exam showed me that I do have the ability and stamina to take a lengthy test that covers a variety of subjects. Thinking about this gave me hope when I started to get discouraged about the thought of the many board tests in my future (like the USMLE Step 1).
What else should people know about applying for and/or attending medical school?
I would tell people not to doubt yourself and your abilities. Still try to apply even if you are concerned that you might not be the best applicant. I know that was one of my biggest fears at the time, but my mother encouraged me to still apply and see what happened! I am so glad I listened to her and believed in myself enough to apply because I ended up getting accepted on my first try.
I would also tell people to work on developing a strong support system if they don't have one already. The process of applying to and attending medical school can take its toll on you. So, knowing you have those good people in your corner can really keep you going, especially during the times you don't want to or feel like you can't.
Additionally, I would advise people to look at the first- and second-year curriculum of the medical schools they are applying to and see if their college offers those classes at the undergraduate level. If so, I would strongly encourage them to consider taking them if their schedule will allow it. Getting exposed to the basic foundation for some of those classes when I was an undergrad proved to be invaluable when going through the classes at the medical school level. I was already vaguely familiar with some of the concepts, so that made learning them much easier than if I had never been exposed to them at all.
Lastly, I would tell people that even though medical school is hard work, there is time to enjoy yourself (you just have to learn where to fit it in). One’s mental health is a key component that can affect not only success in a personal sense, but professionally as well. Therefore, in my opinion I believe that there must always be time available for taking care of yourself.
Overall study approach
I started by reviewing the AAMC’s What's on the MCAT? online tool and familiarizing myself with the topics on the exam. I also searched for online videos, watched Khan Academy videos and took notes, used the Premed HQ website, reviewed class notes, and used the AAMC Practice Exam 1. I listened to online materials on my way to the gym and used hard copy materials and wrote notes to highlight, reinforce, and retain information.
I didn’t spend as much time on the sciences because those were my favorite subjects, and I didn’t have to. But, I had to really pay attention to the social sciences because I hadn’t taken any psychology and sociology classes. I paid attention to those Khan Academy videos and asked my sister, who was taking sociology, about what she was studying. I would also talk about whatever I learned with my family. I had some very interesting discussions. Both my parents are pharmacists so it was helpful. I also tutored classmates on some of the subject areas to get in extra review.
Top tips for preparation
- Make a schedule for yourself no matter what the time span is. I set a schedule of things I wanted to accomplish each day. I would keep going until I’d finish that topic. I’d try to stay on schedule.
- Go to class. Don’t blow it off. If you’re in college and you’re taking the courses on stuff that’s going to be on the MCAT, go to the course and pay attention to the stuff that might be on the MCAT. Make sure you understand what you’re learning.
- Have fun while you’re studying. Make it interesting to you: When I did that, it made things more fascinating and made me want to study and pay attention more. For example, with sociology, it made me think about how people work. I made the content more applicable to myself. I could say to myself, “I’m not reading this because it’s on the exam and I have to, but because I’m trying to gain knowledge as a whole.”
Traps to avoid
- Don’t cram. It’s not going to work.
- Don’t try to do too much in one day. Don’t overwork your brain. There were certain days when I couldn’t do any more. I’d tell myself that I’d have to stop. Know your limits. When your brain is full, you need a break.
What types of exam prep were the most useful?
In my classes sometimes my teachers would emphasize that this stuff could pop up on the MCAT. So number one is definitely going to those classes. As far as refreshing my memory and updating, Khan Academy was the best. Khan Academy was my best friend. I probably watched all those videos.
Did you encounter any challenges or obstacles, and how did you overcome them?
I guess my biggest obstacle was not wanting to study. It was summertime and it was beautiful and I didn’t want to study. I had to tell myself that my end goal was to be a doctor, something I’ve been passionate about since I was a child. My mother used to tell me, “You do what you have to do, so that one day you can do what you want to do.”
Would you have done anything differently?
I wish I had started studying earlier. I was telling myself, “I’m going to start studying,” but with classes, I never had a chance to set that schedule up. I could’ve studied further in advance, so that it wouldn’t have been a 12-hour-a-day kind of thing. I also wish I could’ve taken more full-length tests. The AAMC Practice Exam 1 gave me a feel for how the questions would be presented. I was glad to see that—how the questions were—before test day, because I would’ve been completely surprised otherwise.
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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.