By: Sergio Santolo
This summer I will be rewriting the MCAT for my second time. For those of you who may not be too familiar with it, the MCAT is a seven and a half hour long Medical College Admissions Test. Made up of four testing blocks, the MCAT will test your knowledge and comprehension on a variety of topics within the domains of biology and biochemistry, chemistry and physics, psychology and sociology, and critical analysis and reasoning skills. With every medical school in Canada requiring the student to achieve a competitive score to even be considered, the MCAT is nothing short of stressful and every aspiring doctor’s worst nightmare.
If you read online, most people will tell you that you have to treat the MCAT like a full-time job if you want to score in the top ten percent. Well, if that were possible, then that would be great. Being able to dedicate a full day every day if necessary is ideal, but nothing close to reality. For those of you interested in medical school as well, it’s likely that you are volunteering or working for a professor doing research, or maybe you just have a regular summer job. Nonetheless, we are constantly trying to strengthen our applications through work/volunteer experience and score great on the MCAT, all while trying to spend time with our friends and families. This journey is nothing short of a hustle, but well worth it in the long-run!
By this time last summer, I was deep into my prep materials all while working a full-time warehouse job. This time around, however, I’ve really struggled to get started. I knew I would probably end up having to rewrite it (like nearly everyone does), but it was still a bit of a bummer and demotivating factor.
The thing is, rewriting the MCAT is not that big of a deal. Some of the most successful medical students and doctors I know today had to rewrite as well and for some, more than twice. If you are in my position and need to rewrite this summer (or maybe writing for the first time), don’t fret!
Having taken the test already, I have a few personal tips that I am using this time around in order to improve my score:
- Learn the MCAT. Learning the tactics in MCAT test-taking and learning how it tests an individual is particularly important. A lot of us come from a science background and tend to focus on knowing every single detail; however, the MCAT will use your knowledge to test your comprehension and application of the macro rather than the micro.
- Create a study schedule and stick to it. Whether you want to create your own or find one online, having a study schedule and sticking to it is super important. There is a TON of information in the prep books that is very relevant to the actual MCAT. Being organized and keeping a schedule is essential in covering all the content by your test date.
- Test yourself frequently. My single biggest mistake last summer was not practicing enough and not simulating test day enough. Any website or MCAT survivor will tell you that practicing as often as you read is necessary.
- Learn from your mistakes and identify your weaknesses. With lots of practice come lots of mistakes. Don’t get discouraged. Use these to your advantage and learn why you got a question wrong and where you slipped in your thought process.
- Exercise frequently and eat right. One of the most important prep tactics is to stay healthy. Your brain needs exercise and nutritious foods in order to operate at an optimal level. Don’t neglect your body!
- Focus on the end-game and relax! This one is extremely important. We aren’t paying the several hundred dollars and investing all this time for nothing. The MCAT can be very demotivating and stressful, and at times, make you want to quit altogether. We have a vision and a goal we’d like to achieve and therefore we need to focus on the end goal. Ask yourself what your reasons for doing this are and never forget them.
A lot of the times we can get discouraged, but personally speaking, reading tips sometimes kicks me back into gear. If you are retaking the MCAT, writing it for the first time, or maybe want to share your MCAT experience, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.
Good luck in your studies!
Sergio Santolo blogged for the Student Success Centre from 2017 to 2018.