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Any Advice to a Freshman about the MCAT before taking it?

Discussion in 'MCAT Discussions' started by jpdaman11, Aug 6, 2015.

  1. jpdaman11

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    Hello SDN,

    So I'll most likely be taking the MCAT between my sophomore and junior year (if things go as planned). I, for one, hate that feeling of stupidity when arriving at a certain time in a situation where knowing information beforehand would have been very beneficial. From that being said, is there any advice anyone can give me before I take it that would be useful to know? Maybe to save specific stuff from class, what classes will help more than bio, chem, orgo, biochem, psych, soc, physics and genetics, or just something general that could have helped had you known before you took it? Any advice would be very appreciated. Thank you!
     
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  3. StudyLater

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    Read the outline. Study all the topics in Kaplan. Supplement psych/soc with Khan and chem/phys/bio with EK (nice little alternative spin on things to help you with remembering). Make sure you've got everything in the outline down. Then do practice tests (Add 10 to TPR/Kaplan scores, the ones currently out, EK is more representative, add 10% to AAMC scores to get about where you'll be on your percentile). Make sure your practice scores reflect about where you want to be when you take it. Then take it.

    Oh, and don't study for two weeks.

    Read the 509+ sticky.

    And this
    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/compilation-of-april-may-and-june-final-scores-preliminary-percentiles-and-practice-exam-scores.1143965/

    And everything else you possibly can read.
     
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  4. Dr. Trenb

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    Download or print out the 2015 MCAT content PDF by the AAMC and use that as a reference for saving materials. When you go to class, let's say physics, and you are supposed to learn magnetism. In addition to saving the material from that subject, you need to pay attention to the teacher, understand the concepts well. That will be the foundation you will build on.

    Aside from the classes you mentioned (phy, chem, etc.), I suggest you take a class or two that falls under Humanities. Classes such as History, Anthropology, Linguistics, English Composition, Sociology, English Poetry, , English Literature, Law, Philosophy, Fine Arts, Performing Arts, Religion. Non-science majors (specifically general humanities/liberal, english, history) tend to do better on verbal. Taking a class or two will improve your reading comprehension. HOWEVER, do not take one if you're semester is cramped. These classes should be taken when you are able to, maybe during summer or to fill a schedule.
     
  5. BerkReviewTeach

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    As always, Dr Trenb has a well articulated and helpful post. If we ever bring back the member of the month (it was an informal recognition), you will be my first nominee.
     
  6. Neutrophil2016

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    Try to get involved in research as quickly as you can. The current exam is heavy on data interpretation, experimental design etc. If you cannot or are not interested in research then I suggest taking some elective courses that require reading scientific literature. These skills will help you more than you can imagine on test day.
     
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  7. doctorleospaceman

    doctorleospaceman Medical Student
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    I'm assuming you're transferring in a lot of intro science courses if you're planning on taking all prerequisites in 2 years?

    I'd recommend anatomy because it does a good job of tying things together and intro to bio barely scrapes the surface. But that's another year long course so I'm not really sure when you plan to fit this stuff in.

    I don't think there is much if any benefit in taking the MCAT 6 months to a year earlier.
     
    #6 doctorleospaceman, Aug 7, 2015
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  8. Neutrophil2016

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    Some people tried to rush so they could take the MCAT before the 2015 change. Other than that, I agree there is no good reason to take it too early. I'm not sure what your anatomy course was like, but I would caution most people that anatomy itself is not very useful for the MCAT. Physiology is greatly useful because you learn some anatomy and spend most of the time learning the whys and hows of the human body. If anatomy just means learning all the bones, organs, blood vessels etc. by name then this will not be of much help.
     
  9. md-2020

    md-2020 The Immaculate Catch
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    There is no reason to take the MCAT that early.

    In case you're attempting to matriculate after your junior year of college, do know that med schools don't like super-young applicants.
     
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  10. Glazedonutlove

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    Many people I know took it that summer. It's not ridiculously early or anything. Just make sure all prereqs including biochem are done, don't do much that summer, and you should be fine
     
  11. jpdaman11

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    When do you recommend I take it? I would need to dedicate an entire block of time just to study for the test. 3-4 months. Admissions takes an entire year. Shouldn't I take it during that summer time and apply early junior year summer, when the application is open? I know admissions is rolling, so I don't want to apply late and risk my chances of getting in.
     
  12. doctorleospaceman

    doctorleospaceman Medical Student
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    Sorry, I meant an anatomy and physiology course. The dual one definitely came in helpful.

    At OP, I feel like a June MCAT before your senior year is ideal, but that's just my opinion.
     
  13. StudyLater

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    The benefit is having the whole summer to study without having to simultaneously worry about classes.

    Doesn't OP have to take a semester of anatomy for prereqs? I thought some schools require that. Well anyway, I did. Not super helpful. AP/muscle contraction/visceral membranes are about all I've retained as helpful info for this test. Maybe I'm just an idiot who didn't pay attention (despite receiving an A) though.
     
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  14. StudyLater

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    Also basically a junior by age. But in my senior year. One year younger is "super-young?"
     
  15. md-2020

    md-2020 The Immaculate Catch
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    I've been told (by parents and family friends that have served on adcoms) that if you're 19 during app season (matriculating @ 20) there is a negative, as you may be perceived as less mature.
     
  16. BerkReviewTeach

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    Plenty of people take the MCAT following their sophomore year. The mindset is often that if they get it out of the way that summer, then they will be able to focus on clinical experiences and research during their junior year and have a completed AMCAS application by the day it opens. If you are ready following your sophomore year, then there is no reason to wait. If you are not ready by that time, then you have to wait. Take it when you are ready (based on your coursework); that really is the only rule to follow.

    As far as applying at 19, that can go both ways. Some schools will definitely see the potential for immaturity, and more so uncertainty in knowing if medicine really is for you. You will not have the seasoning and experiences under your belt to be able to give believable answers to some secondary questions and you could struggle with certain interview questions. On the other hand, other schools will see youth as a huge plus and conclude that such an applicant is more apt to take part in projects during their medical school years, possibly extending their medical school experience to five years. Schools such as Stanford and Duke come to mind. If they can get a year of inexpensive labor out of an uber-talented kid, then they see his or her youth as a big plus. So applying at a young age may be a hindrance or a boon, depending on the school.
     
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  17. StudyLater

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    Oh, well then that's matriculation after sophomore year, right? Even still, it would probably depend on the person and how qualified they are, combined with the variability in judgment seen across different schools of medicine.

    I've not really understood the perceived difference in "maturity" that has apparently been seen between students two years apart in a university. Seems to be unfounded. We simply need a paper showing a graph with grad rates on the y axis and age on the x axis. Problem solved. But if this is just conjecture....that's very antithetical to the whole mission of medicine - making decisions on a factual basis without involving prejudice (in this case, ageism).
     
  18. jpdaman11

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    I would be 21 when I applied. I've heard the average age of most medical school freshman is 24-26?
     
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  19. md-2020

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    Yes, indeed it is.

    @StudyLater a fair number of people are 19 during sophomore year, graduate college @ 21. Thus, if you intended on applying post-soph and matriculating as a 20 year old after graduating college a year early, some adcoms find that cutting it too quick.
     
  20. StudyLater

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    Exactly, you weren't even planning on applying early. Not sure how that even came up.

    The mean is high because only a few older people applying can have a strong effect on the mean age. There are a lot straight out of college, with a decent number of nontrads in late 20s/mid-late 30s bumping the age up considerably.
     
  21. StudyLater

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    Depends on the situation. Some people were busy getting their resume solid back in HS. Maybe they were going for BS/MD and just didn't land it, and then went for a retry after finishing 2 out of a 3-year UG supplemented with APs.

    My point is, the apps are unique. Adcoms always talking about looking at the "whole thing." Well...age is such a teeny tiny little miniscule nothing of a characteristic compared to actual academic and career-related accomplishments. Especially when it's a difference of a couple years. Call me crazy, but I'm thinking a qualified 18 year old (as qualified as any one of us) is getting into med school, despite the fact that maybe 5-10 out of the >100 schools will have adcoms that'd give them an automatic no due to age.

    Don't disagree that some schools would nail someone for age. I'm simply saying it's not automatically impossible to get in as a younger person. Therefore, depending on credentials, it may be worth a shot.
     
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  22. md-2020

    md-2020 The Immaculate Catch
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    100% agree, not what I meant at all :)
     
  23. BerkReviewTeach

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    It's not perceived; it's very real. Keep in mind that in medicine you are dealing with a diverse group of patients, many of whom are scared and in need of not only sound medical advice but also reassurance. Someone who has taken the right classes and done their requisite year of clinical work folding towels in a hospital and year in a lab making dirty glassware may not be equipped to handle the second part. Medical schools are looking for people who will be an asset all four years. College correlates well during the first two years, but life correlates better for the last two years.

    You mentioned a possible graph in your post, so perhaps this graph could help too. Let's graph (# of significant life events where the person impacted the outcome) on one axis and (age) on the other. A year out of undergraduate life where the student must keep up their clinical exposure while making a living will better simulate life as a MSIII, MSIV, and resident than undergraduate life. There is a reason some adcoms have an age bias. They are trying to balance maturity with longevity in the field. Now there are some very mature 19 year olds and immature 27 year olds, but those are typically anomalies. And by immature, I don't mean that they act in a juvenile fashion, but that they have a naiveté about life that will hinder their ability to gain a patient's trust.
     
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  24. StudyLater

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    Generalizations, generalizations everywhere. :heckyeah:

    I see your point and the point of most of the adcoms who propagate this idea. I do. I'm just also saying it isn't going to make sense to apply this dogma for a lot of cases. But maybe they do, nevertheless? Obviously they don't have to necessarily invest any attention in whether or not they made the perfect choice, provided the individual ends up graduating all the same. That's just the reality, and frankly I don't care. I was merely just mentioning in passing I don't buy the idea they're using to make these decisions. But man, the same thing applies to a lot of different decision-making processes, so at that point I'm just whining. The fact is, it's going to be pretty hard for them to pick someone completely unqualified from this kind of an applicant pool. Therefore, I've got no way of confirming they're right about this little hypothesis.
     
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  25. BerkReviewTeach

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    Ironic that you like statistical plots (most of us do), which are designed to help make generalizations. But if the generalization doesn't work in your favor, it is bad. This is human nature. So I get this may not make you happy, but maturity correlating with age is quite common in all aspects of life. As you get older, you learn to roll with the punches and adapt when things don't work perfectly in your favor. Medicine is going to require that skill. The adcoms have been doing this a long time and they pick great classes for the most part. I tend to think they know their stuff. No matter what though, you'll be fine when you apply, because there is a place for everyone in terms of personality.
     
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  26. bee17

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    The classes you listed certainly cover the requirements, but if you are looking for others that are helpful, I would suggest physiology, cell bio, micro, and stats. If you can, get involved with a research lab or take a class that involves interpreting scientific literature. The MCAT passages read like journal articles, so it helps to be familiar with that sort of reading. I also second the advice about taking humanities courses. I felt like my anthropology courses helped me succeed in the psych/soc section.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with taking the MCAT after sophomore year, but with the addition of biochem as a requirement, it is now more difficult. Your chem sequence will probably take 2.5-3 years: general chemistry I and II freshman year, organic chemistry I and II sophomore year, and then biochemistry junior year. Unless you are taking some of these courses over the summer or concurrently, you will not complete the sequence in time for a sophomore MCAT. I highly suggest taking a biochem class before the MCAT.

    Good luck!
     
  27. StudyLater

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    But you didn't provide any statistical plot, or any other experimental data for that matter, to support your reasoning. It was entirely personal opinion based on your experience. A lot of people are of the same opinion. However, the problem with even requesting experimental data on this sort of thing is....with maturity as the independent variable, what would be the measure of medical student success (the dependent variable)? Graduation rates, grades, or USMLE scores, no? Well then, we've already unfortunately got sampling bias involved, since we're talking about people here who are highly academically skilled to begin with. Per conventional wisdom, this whole medical application process is a mertiocracy, so if that 19 year old gets in, he's going to be well-qualified. One would hypothesize the dependent variables we could use to measure how successful these people are in school would be largely identical, as we are only measuring them in terms of academic success. The ability to be "reassuring," as you've put it, is not easily measurable in an accurate way because it is too subject to a number of biases in the event of, for example, a study being done on patients rating their emotional satisfaction with the doctor on a scale of 1-10. Nevertheless, I do concede that any adept data masseuse can make otherwise ill-sounding data sing beautifully.

    We'd need to better define maturity and its characteristic composition. Then run statistically significant studies measuring those characteristics and how they correlate with age, if at all. Of course I'm misinformed, so I don't know if this has been done or not.

    That's another point, separate from the example of the ability to provide reassurance that you gave. Nearly all people pursuing medicine will require the skill of adaptation. However, I don't see how one could definitively argue for the theoretical exclusivity of age in determining one's ability to adapt. In fact, number, quality, and intensity of experiences may be a better theoretical determinant. It is possible many younger individuals have had intense experiences throughout their childhood and into adulthood that have required them to consistently adapt to various difficulties, more so than many others who are much older than them. And even putting that aside, we've also got to consider that the application process for getting into medical school in the first place can be quite strenuous in an of itself, particularly the process of studying for the MCAT, and as such those who aren't able to adapt to fairly significant mental stresses may get weeded out right then and there. A younger person who is able to pass through all of that without losing his/her motivation may prove quite capable when put in a medical setting. The whole process may have been instituted, in part, as a test of the applicant's ability to adapt.

    I sort of addressed that. I've seen no data indicating that certain decisions an adcom makes on the basis of age have affected the relative graduation rates, mean USMLE scores or mean clinical grades of the class as a whole. Therefore, I can't know that deferring to an adcom's expertise is the correct decision for this particular matter - that is, making predictions about the individual's performance solely on the basis of age. And barring any intellectual/moral/whatever dicussion on this matter, if we only look at DO schools, to deny an individual admission on the basis of age would be in direct contradiction with accreditation standards.

    That doesn't matter, though, for the simple reason that accreditation standards don't determine what an adcom can and will do in a practical setting. The simple fact is this: They are the deciders. They will decide. I'm fine with that. This is just an innocent theoretical discussion.

    Unless you're a sadist, of course.
     
  28. jpdaman11

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  29. BerkReviewTeach

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    You owe me wetnap for that, because I used one to clean up my computer area after inadvertently launching a food nodule because I laughed so hard.
     
    #28 BerkReviewTeach, Aug 11, 2015
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  30. StudyLater

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    Welcome to SDN. :welcome:
     
  31. jpdaman11

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    Which humanities course would better assist me, Biological or Cultural?
     
  32. jpdaman11

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    Looks like Anthro and English aren't available, but Linguistics is, and the professor has an amazing rating. Students who took it say it was easy with minimal course load. I just want to make sure it actually assists me for the MCAT.
     
  33. El-Rami

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    You guys mentioned that a lot of people take the MCAT between their sophomore and junior years or the summer before starting their senior year. I literally don't know anyone that has done this and actually gotten in. All of my classmates who applied did so after their senior year. I understand the whole idea of taking the pre-requisite courses for the MCAT and then taking it, but I believe it's always better to take the MCAT after taking upper-level courses and doing research. That kind of background will better prepare you than the basic pre-reqs ever will because it'll enable you to think more in terms of research.
     
  34. jpdaman11

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    However, if I apply after senior year, don't I have to wait an entire year before I can go to medical school? If that's the case, aren't med schools going to see if I did anything productive during that gap year?
     
  35. bee17

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    Are you talking about biological anthropology vs. cultural anthropology? For the MCAT, cultural would help more; you will learn biology in your bio classes.

    I don't see how linguistics will help you much for the MCAT, but if the prof is good and it interests you, go ahead and take it. Most of your MCAT prep will be done outside of your classes, anyway.

    You would have to wait a year, but as long as you are doing something other than sitting on your couch for that year, it's totally fine. You could use that year to work, volunteer, or do research (or all three). It is very common for med school applicants to take gap years for a variety of reasons. That being said, if you feel ready to take your MCAT after junior year and are not interested in a gap year, go right ahead. Do whatever works best for your situation.
     
  36. El-Rami

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    They will. As long as you keep yourself busy, they don't mind. People take gap years for lots of reasons (internships, work, volunteerism, etc.) so it should be understandable if someone wants to earn extra money that can be saved up for medical school-related expenses or just to see more of the world and mature as an individual.
     

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