A family member is planning on taking the MCAT this year, and I figured I would ask the board if they had any tips. I am looking for anything from best prep class to personal things that helped you, or things you would have done differently. Having gone the LSAT route, and later teaching it, it took me a while before I came up with solid advice. Thank you all in advance.
OT: MCAT prep advice
Understand the concepts, don't just memorize facts. They love to test you by giving you questions that seem really advanced and complex but can be answered based on applying the basic concepts from the material you should know. If you're calm and just focus on figuring out what applies to the question you should do well.
Seriously? MCAT? There are legit entire forums on where to look on other sites.
True, but these threads pop up all the time. And my personal advice would be to avoid student doc like the plague unless you have a very specific question about programs or specialties. I wish I could shoot Xanax through the interwebs to all those people.
but yeah studentdoctor.net is a very good resource
It's also full of a lot of garbage. It can be hard to sift through unless you have a legit advisor to ask specifics.
Are we reading the same site? Probably reading different parts of the site.
My specialty group, Pain/spine, one of the big internet boards (Painrounds) got eaten by studentdoctor. The Pain (especially the attending board) is actually very high yield, with lots of practical q &a regarding different clinical scenarios, etc (warnings about New England Compounding Center and the fungal meningitis outbreak after epidurals broke a couple of days before the CDC warning).
Can't really comment on the state of the premed boards....
As for the MCAT, I will cheerfully admit taking Princeton and would recommend it; primarily because of the # of simulated tests they made you take. There were a couple of full MCAT simulations (at the start, at the end), they proved invaluable in learning how to pace yourself and combat mental fatigue. All the practice tests you take though will be much easier than the real thing.
Use practice tests results to focus on weak areas (for me, Physics, spent most of my time relearning (or learning for the first time) Physics).
Studentdoctor.net is probably the worst site for advice. Everyone on that site scored a 44, lol. Take a Kaplan course, or at least get the books.
Honestly the best advice is just to not lose your shit and move on when you can't remember something you should know. It's inevitable. I got 3 tough questions to start right away and spent way too long on them. I was racing the clock the whole way. I always do that though so it might just be me and my test-taking OCD. Just study and take lots of practice tests. Like most tests, you'll look back one day and say why did I get so worked up about that. If you're still worked up about it later, I probably wouldn't want you as my doctor. (Which brings up a side-story... On one of my interviews a doc told me they rejected a kid because he got a 39 and told them he wasn't happy with it and was taking it again. Not the kind of attitude wanted.)
Took the MCAT last summer, here are my thoughts/recommendations:
- Classes: Princeton review is more information based, while Kaplan is more test taking strategies. If you're good at taking tests, princeton is probably best. If you really struggle with tests Kaplan might be the best choice. However, I should hedge that by saying the general feedback I've heard from pre-med friends is that Princeton review is better than kaplan, but again, it varies from person to person. (I took princeton review and would highly recommend it).
- How to study: It takes a lot of time, so don't short change yourself. The first big thing is to know the information. Know the equations, be familiar with the hormones, etc. Once you know that, then take as many practice tests and practice questions as you can.
- Take the test in an area where youre familiar/make sure you know where you're test taking facility is. You don't want to be lost the morning/day of your MCAT
- Bring some snacks, bring some drinks, bring some gum. Whatever you need to break up the drudgery of the test. It's a long one, and little pick me ups like that are helpful.
- The BIGGEST THING for the reading section: Pay attention to how difficult the passages are. Each test has a "Killer" reading passage. These are designed to be extremely difficult and are a trap passage. It's very easy to spend way to much time on these passages and still get only a couple questions right, making it so you have to skip a couple other ones that you could have scored highly on. It's best to scan the passages first, to find the "killer" passage, then avoid it until the very end.
- The week before the test: take a break. You've porbably studied for months now. you're exhuasted, you're fatigued, take some time off to get to 100% before the test.
The biggest thing is to understand how important this one test is. For a lot of schools the MCAT is more influential than just about any other part of your app. So this one test is worth just as much as every other test you have taken in your life. I know, it's terrifying. But you have to motivate yourself to study somehow. But at the same point you don't want to burn yourself out by stressing too much.
and then you take Step 1. Now THAT is a test! Good luck, and keep on knocking 'em down!!!
"The biggest thing is to understand how important this one test is."
Seconded, big time. It's crazy, really -- your MCAT will be right next to your GPA even though the total time devoted to it will be just a small fraction of your undergrad years. Make it your top priority (sacrificing near-term grades as necessary) and try hard to smoke it. If you're at UMich, that's within your reach.
i am not sure how it is in the states, but the verbal reasoning component alone leaves people out of med school in Ontario...get that down.
Calling WolverSwede. Dude took the MCAT out for a nice lobster dinner and never called her again (I think he got a 40). He also taught at Kaplan for a while. Take his advice.
Took MCAT twice, 5 years apart. Started Coffee Shop and ran Wine Bar in between... not really the equivalent of academia. Studied all summer long the first time - big fat prep-book. 34... this while deep in a Science double-major. Studied one week the second time - almost exclusively practice tests. 35... this while steeped in the fine aromas of the soul. You will read the MCAT examines how a person thinks, and is not an evaluation of what they know. My experience, with a sample size of 1, validates such a theory.
Three nuggets of advice:
1. Practice Tests.
2. 'Verbal' section Qs.
3. Master chemistry and physics equations ( know their meaning, not just how to plug in variables.)
4. Enjoy the summer.
Credentials: 36+ on the real deal.
1) Take ONLY the AAMC official practice exams; the other ones were nothing like the real deal (in my opinion).
2) Study lots, give yourself breaks though. I devoted an entire semester to studying for the MCAT (only took 3 credits + some research at UM).
3) Find what works best; if you learn best from a class go to class, but otherwise don't waste the 2k dollars, just study on your own.
4) Books: I used The Princeton Review, I'm not sure how good it is. USE EXAMKRACKERS 101 VERBAL PASSAGES. They are the only ones to replicate the MCAT verbal, which WILL screw you, no matter how good of a reader you think you are.
5) Don't get bummed about bad practice scores, my first practice test was (I think literally) 20 points lower than my real score.
Since we're talking medicine...Anyone taking Step 1 in the near future or anyone that has taken it already and would like to share suggestions is more than welcome to do so :)
stay off the internet unless it is for a practice test or questions. become a hermit. don't freak out. breathe.
Subscribe to USMLE World. Lock self in closet. Emerge in 4 months as the smartest version of 'you' ever to take a test.
3 q-banks -
1. USMLE World - level of difficulty is excellent representation of real exam. Practice tests excellent as well.
2. First Aid Q&A book - easier Qs, but increased efficiency of working through UWorld. Also, 1000 questions for low cost.
3. Used Kaplan QBook for Step 2 CK; another source of cheap questions of moderate difficulty. I'm sure there's a Step 1 version.
Best of luck!
Best advice I ever received: Questions, Questions, Questions!!!
Would you do UWorld twice or Uworld + some other Qbank?
You're not studying to master UWorld.
Had a buddy in med-school who worked through UWorld 3 times. He was stoked (read 'braggadocious') about hitting 90s consistently the third time through... He then barely passed the real thing... and changed his specialty choice.
Mastering a single Q bank will give you false confidence. Make it hard for yourself, and watch your scores rise slowly as you work through multiple Q banks. 5000 unique questions is far better than repeating the same 2000 a couple of times.
This wins for best Step 1 advice. Get someone to block mgoblog from your comp. I could probably blame all you f*ers for about 10-20 points on that guy.
Wow. It's been 15 years but I still remember that step one might have been the toughest damn sob of a test....
But you already know that. The best part is that you only need to pass. No one cares what your score is as long as you pass. And I say that as someone who is on a selection committee for a highly competitive fellowship. Not one of us on the committee has a clue as to what a good step one score is!
Whoa, this is the exact opposite of everything i've heard about Step 1/residency/fellowship from recent interviewers/interviewees. I've heard that Step 1 will often make or break your app, especially now that there is noticeable Step 1 score creep.
You've been perusing studentdoc haven't you... In all seriousness though I've heard it's only reaaally important for the 2 or 3 ultra competitive things. If you look at the curves you can see that the averages are right around 220s 230s for most things, which means roughly half the accepted people did worse than that. When I realized this my stress level came down significantly.
Yes, but I'm an MD/PhDer, so I'm not sure if they weight Step 1 more for MD/PhD? I know one Program Director for MD/PhD that I've met definitely "believes" in Step 1 creep, and how it's getting more and more competitive to get a top residency with your Step 1 score.
I would agree with the caveat that it really depends on what specialty you are interested in. Keep in mind that an average in a field like Internal Medicine doesn't represent the very wide range of applicant scores. Top programs in bigger specialties will require much higher than the average. For smaller fields the averages are much more representative of the pool that programs select from. I do think that your Step 1 score is a very large criteria that many programs use to establish which candidates receive interview invitations. If you meet their benchmark (unless you far exceed it), a lot of how they rank you is based upon how your personality "fits" with their program. Having just gone through the interview process/application process/rank list I would be happy to answer any questions about it!
If you are planning to enter a non-competitive specialty then passing is good enough, especially if you a a US-trained graduate. If you are planning to enter a more competitive field then a great score is necessary. I am an associate residency advisor for a competitive field and interview 40-50 candidates; about 300-350 applications are filtered. What is a great score? 250-255. The score can be lower if you are applying in the Midwest, or smaller community-based programs, or if you have ties with the program. Doing an away rotation helps tremendously, especially if you are active and help with a paper or poster. We elicit resident assessments of the visiting med student to help rank them, and most rotating students will at least get an interview unless they are underwhelming. Once interviewed the scores are mostly tiebreakers, as interviewing well is the most important factor.
Keep in mind that this is probably more true now then ever, with the ACGME merging with the AOA match both MD students and DO students will be competing for the same residency programs. Although this was true previously, DO students would have to take both the USMLE and COMLEX if they wanted to apply for a MD residency spot. Now with the merge, students can take their specific licensing exam and apply for either residency (this is supposed to go into effect during the 2016 match [my match year])
However, I have also heard that passing and doing an elective rotation during your 3rd and 4th year at the program you would like to match into is most important. Certainly rocking step one will do you wonders, but passing and then showing your possible directors that you are competant and able to work with and under them is most important.
Currently, not every MD residency requires DO students to take the USMLE. So do, some don't. It varies by program director's preference, and it can be completely random at any given hospital. Although the merger will likely go through, I doubt it will change residencies spots for a while. True, MDs will finally be allowed to apply to DO residencies, but certain DO program directors will only accept DO applicants (just as certain MD program directors will only select MD applicants). DOs will possibly be permitted to apply to any MD residency, but that doesn't mean that residencies will be any less selective than they are now.
Steps are becoming increasingly important mostly because the number of students applying for residency spots has surpassed the number of available slots in the US (this is only true if you combine the allopathic, osteopathic, and international applicants). Schools are not held accountable in regards to assuring that they have at least the number of residency spots that they have in each graduating class. New schools are opening up without securing any or few residency spots (i.e. Oakland, CMU) and established schools are expanding their enrollment without adding necessary residency spots. All medical students alike will be affected, my best guess that it will primarily be international students first and then it will trickle down.
2. First Aid book is really good (I'm not referring to the q book, never did it)
3. Goljian lectures/book: amazing lectures, especially when he says, "this will be on the test", it will be
4. pathoma lectures/book: great lecture series and short book that gives the quick hitting info
take about 5-7 weeks and study all day everyday outside of meals and sleep and maybe some excercise. Maybe have a day or half a day off a week.
If you're an M1 or rising M2 then start studying after winter break as you take pathophys classes. You could start earlier but you won't remember as much.
Locking oneself in the closet, disconnecting your phone and internet, doing every single question you can get your hands on, and then do some more.
Step1 maybe the most painful test you will ever take in your life, unless you become an Orthopaedic Surgeon, and then your oral case review portion of the boards will be the most painful test of your life (or so my partners say).
Advice: stay away from medicine before it is too late.
Everyone so far has given sound advice regarding the test and since some of them actually taught the class, I'll refrain from giving advice on the test itself. Something that is crucial that is often missed is to be almost completely sure that he/she wants to be a physician. Studying for the MCAT can be incredibly stressful, especially if one is studying concurrently taking classes (taking a year off is a different story). Not worth the effort to take the test if it's coming at the cost of your grades. Take the exam during the summer, and take a year off after graduation. I frequently regret not taking a year off so that I could save up some cash and travel for a few months. Traveling isn't everybody's thing, but I'm sure that many people who transitioned straight from undergrad to med school can think of something that they would have done with a year off that they can't do now. Good luck--apps are getting insanely competitive not only for med school but for residencies as well.
That's me, took the MCAT, got a good score then realized I didn't actually want to be a doctor. Fortunately I only spent half a summer studying and even then I wasnt as dedicated as I should have been(hard to focus in AA in May/June). Just wish I could have sold my score.
I took mine in mid june and started studying at the end of April when I finished jr yr. Still got my apps out on time.
took mine in mid may after junior year. My second semester junior year was very, very busy so I started studying in January. Definitely was a slow study pace, but it was about as much as I could handle at the time. I think I took the test at the correct time, but I would have liked to taken a year off after senior year.
Share the love and your LSAT suggestions?
-Block off 3-4 months prior to the test where you can study 3-4 hours a day
-Order every official preptest that can be found on amazon.com
-Master games before focusing hard on the other sections. Games seem hard at first, but can easily be learned. I practice the games on the early prep test (1-40). Don't freak, you will learn them in time. When the test comes, you should be relieved to see the games section come up. Once you start getting -0, -1, or -2 consistently, move on to LR. Once you learn how to correctly diagram a game, it's over. You win. Next section.
-Best tip for Logical reasoning, and it sounds simple: I always said choose the RIGHT answer, not the BEST answer. If you think something is a little off in your answer, it is probably wrong. There is a 100% correct answer. period. Some answers may look tempting at times, but don't settle for a "good" answer. I have disagreed with maybe 1 LR question out of 3000+. Understand what the question is asking-- sufficient and necessary conditions.
-There isnt a great way to study for reading comp besides finding out what works for you. Some people read the New Yorker and things like that, but just do a ton of RC passages. I hated teaching this section. I honestly don't have good advice.
-Stay away from taking full length tests the first month. Get a good feel for each section before taking the plunge. When you start taking PT's, do them honestly. Don't give yourself extra time, don't take breaks between sections. If you are taking a practice test, do 3 sections, 1 section. Save the recent PT's for close to the test. 2 weeks out take 2 PT's together with a 3/3/2 schedule.
-Timing: Don't jump around the test. If you need to skip a question, fine, but don't try to find the easy questions first. LR 1-10 should take 8-10 minutes. 11-15 should be 1-1.5/questions. Aim to give yourself 20 minutes for the last 10 questions. You shouldn't have a huge time issue with games if you study them thoroughly. Reading comp? plow through...
The classes are geared towards getting people into law school, not necessarily helping people score at their max. Testmasters.NET, powerscore, and bluebook are the good teaching companies. They are great for a hands on introduction, but after a few weeks of teaching I feel it is important to learn the test on your own. If you are looking for a 170+ the classes won't be of great use later on in your learning. Kaplan/ princeton review suck. I hated people who had taken a kaplan course previously. The massive companies devise the best way to teach thousands of people how to score a 150.
So-- I attended law school for half a semester, hated it, and moved out west to make wine. Make sure this is what you want:
-You work your ass off to get into a top school: HYSCCN or get money at virginia, cal, michigan, penn, duke, or get near a full ride at NU, GULC, or Cornell. Everywhere else it wouldn't make a ton of sense to attend and spend money because....
-The law market seems to be bouncing back, but let me make NYU an example-- the cost of attendence there is probably around 250k. It is a great school, 5-6 in the ranking, but I would guess that about half their class won't get a big law offer. The top 1-3% may get offers from Wachtell, but those people will work 110 hours a week, and have a horrible life. You are constantly weeded out in this profession. Make sure you want it. Bad.
Feel free to email me any questions you may have [email protected]. I really enjoy this test so anyone that has questions along the way won't be a bother. That being said, it's not too late to move out to Yountville, jump on a harvest this fall, and make wine the rest of your life.
I thought this was the one place I could go to hide from that acronym. Lol good luck to you.
-Berkeley Review course books (snail mail orders or sometimes on Ebay/Amazon). Absolute best passage samples you'll get to practice with.
- Examkrackers for brief, succinct content review (let's say some subjects you're great at and/or are fresh in your mind). These review books are bare bones. You must know all content in these, but they're pretty short. Decent questions in the 1001 series (separate from review book package), but the 101 VERBAL is a MUST BUY regardless of what you're studying with or what class you're taking.
I hear Princeton is much better WRT study materials that you can buy w the course. I heard Kaplan sucks ass. I couldn't afford either but borrowing my friends Princeton stuff was useful.
Like posters below get all AAMC exams. If you can't afford all of them, buy half and share w a buddy. If you absolutely must, just buy test #9 and up. If you take a course, I think all 11 (12?) AAMC tests are included. Don't waste these before you've gotten good study in already, but don't save them for the last week either. Pace yourself :)
Makes me feel old that that test was 10 years ago. The quick advice for mcat/step 1/2/3 is questions, questions, questions.
Study hard and know your stuff. Scores will be reflected by what you put into it. MCAT, GPA, community service, extracurriculars like research and volunteer work are all important. So is who you are and your story. MCAT and GPA are what will weed you out from your peers, get you an interview, and reflect your abiity to sacrifice, work hard, and study. It is all about time invested. It is very competitive for a reason. Work harder than your smartest and hardest working peers and you should do well. Anything less than this and you may find disappointment.
I hate to be a brag, but I'm going to brag. I got a 38 when I took the MCAT after my freshman year at UofM. The way I did this, aside from knowing my shit, was by taking the Kaplan MCAT course. I recommend highly as I was also an MCAT teacher for a while for Kaplan. They are the best by some margin.
My main piece of advice other than using Kaplan is that you should always look at the answers. By that I mean that whenever you get something wrong (and ideally for every question), you should look at the reasoning blurb they give for the question. You need to learn to think like the test writers. Focus on taking practice tests...short and full length. Then focus on reading the answer blurbs.
Advice and brag over.
WolvinLA can vouch for all of this.
would someone take the MCAT after freshman year? That's crazy impressive, but I just don't understand why you did it.
Well I was planning on graduating in 3 years. At the time they only offered 2 MCAT's a year, and the scores casm slowly. Doing that allowed me to have my scores in plenty of time to start looking for schools in the winter of what was essentially my junior year. It gave me an advantage. Also I had just taken Orgo, and AP Bio and AP Chem as a senior in high school. I took the first half of physics that spring and taught myself the second half over the summer. All the topics were fresh. Another year wasn't really going to give me a lot.
I can vouch as well, he dominated the mcat.
Back in my day we took this test on dead trees.
ive taken the test twice, most recently scored abover the 99th percentile.
ive taught at princeton review. ive taken a kaplan course. i am currently an mcat instructor at an independent agency in ann arbor with a decade of experience.
kaplan courses are complete garbage. most of the instructors are terribly underqualified. the materials are poorly constructed in that they are not representitive of the type and feel of the actual aamc material. princeton review is slightly better in that their materials are more comprehensive, but ultimately is also a waste of money. similar to kaplan, the feel and design of the question material misses the mark. best metaphor i can use is would be the equivalent of watching game film for indiana when you are actually playing wisconsin. its still football -- but not your actual oponent. worst of all, princeton believes that their methods are so good that they apply to all students taking all standardized tests. hate to break it to you, but what works on the ACT wont fly on the MCAT.
both of these courses are great if youre an all A student who only needs a basic review and only wants a low 30s score. obvious flaw is most students dont have a 4.0 and so need a bit more than a brief review in different subjects, and those students who have achieved that level of excellence in their courses need more that a cursory review because they want to score higher than a 32.
(assuming your in aa) i dont have a lot of familiarity with institue of higher learning. they employ some smart people and dont limit themselves to one agencys style over another. their rates are astronomical and while better than kaplan and princeton, i dont think they are worth triple.
sad but true: many of my clients have come to me after having dumped tutors from all three agencies after not feeling as though they were receiving high-quality instruction.
if you opt to take a run at it on your own:
1) use textbooks to study. its really not that hard nor takes that much longer. the depth and detail gives you the necessary foundation you require when weak in an area.
2) make your own outlines/study materials/notecards. make sure these materials are high yield and not too long. then rep them DAILY.
3) practice reading science journal articles. the biological and physical is almost entirely passage based and this definitely helps get you ready.
4) only use AAMC tests to practice on. always check your answers, going through every question whether you got it right or wrong.
my company is developing something unique for verbal prep but it wont be ready til fall so cant help you there. if you want to talk, im not going to advertise here but suffice it to say im in ann arbor and not too hard to find if you ask colleagues/current umich students.
best of luck!
Kaplan has way better practice tests. Princeton focuses way too much on content and way too little on actual test prep. If you don't know the material well at all, I'd go Princetone. If you're fairly good to start with, go Kaplan.
from an educational/pedagogical they both suck. unfortunately the test has only become harder with time, and while the actual aamc tests are the most true representation of the actual mcat, even they are a half step too easy.
by the way, wasnt take a shot at your teaching skills there wolverswede. i know there are a few quality people at kaptest, just woudnt say most are not.
I know you weren't taking a shot at me. I just know that Kaplan spends more money on research than the other big brands of test prep. That's why I really like their practice tests. When I took the MCAT, I felt like I had seen all the questions already. I actually never went to med school when all was said and done. I just did really well on that test and I liked Kaplan's style. It worked for me.
MCAT: Princeton review and I read the New Yorker and Economist. 13 on Verbal and T on written. Know who you are writing to. I made my written slightly humorous.
Step 1: Q-bank until your eyes bleed. Read First Aid 3 times and annotated the hell out of it. My dad is also a physician and he still talks about Step 1 being a pain. I view it as the first right of passage into the rigors of medicine.
Step 2: USMLE world
Step 2CS: speak english, wash your hands and dont have a shitty mustache. I had a friend who failed CS who was smart as hell but we were doing mustache match and he failed.
Best advice I was given was do well in everything. Do well M1, M2, Step 1 and M3. Get AOA, do research and learn to be a good physician. Even if you dont want to go into a comptetive specialty, it will not hurt you to do well. If you dont do well and decide your M3 year, then it is a tough road to get into a tough specialty.
Make sure you know why you're taking the MCAT. If you can't honestly answer that question find a different standardized test. The point is simple - understand everything you can about the field of medicine. If you're passionate about medicine then you'll be fine. Medicine, today, is much different than it was five years ago and no one knows where it will be in five years. The only saving grace is passion. Good luck
I just wanted to thank everyone who participated in the thread. Without getting goofy, it's cool to be a part of a community this knowledgable, with people who will take time to help out for a few mgopoints. Stepping back, I asked a simple question, and got some amazing answers. Dare I say the experience was humbling? Thank you all again for your time, insight, concern, and wishes, it is.