mcatjelly

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Serious question.

I started studying about a month ago and already feel like I've gleaned more knowledge and intuition from 4 weeks of MCAT studying than I did from 4 years of undergrad and prereqs. Part of it is I now have time to actually appreciate what I'm studying, but I'm also finding that I really like the way the MCAT makes me think: critically, efficiently, etc. I mean, I know that's the point, it just seems like most premeds view it as a monster.

Obviously the length and cost of the exam sucks big time.

Anyway, I'm rambling now, but I was just wondering if anyone else feels the same.
 
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Jack Westin

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This exam is brutal if you don't know how to prepare for it or if you don't know what to expect. But it's even more brutal if you didn't take your premed courses seriously. If you actually learned the basic principles in your premed courses and have a good level of reading comprehension, it's a very straightforward exam.
 
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DrHart

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I disagree about gaining more knowledge. I did pretty well (As and Bs) in the prereqs but I feel like my 2-3 month content review was a massive waste of time. At least in my experience, the test seems to be more logic and reasoning - and very concentrated on your ability to pick information out of a 4 paragraph passage, regardless of what you've learned or haven't learned in undergrad. Learn the test to get a good score. At the end of the day there are 4 possible answer choices, whether you actually know the right answer (from knowledge) or not is irrelevant. All that matters for your score is choosing the right one.
 

NeuroMaster316

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I agree, I learned way more from my MCAT than my courses even though I had pretty good grades. Studying on your own with your own method allows you to better learn in my opinion.
 

Promethean

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I had never taken physics or org chem, not ever, when I first sat for the MCAT and got a score in the low 30s. I hadn't even ever taken trig, and had to teach myself enough of it to handle the physics questions. I used resources that were intended to be content review to teach myself the material for the first time. When I later sat in the classes, I found them relatively easy, as the in depth study filled in the holes in my knowledge. Although my first score would likely have been adequate, once I had taken those courses, I took the test again for my own pleasure, both in the taking of the exam and in the pride of achievement. My second score was in the high 30s, though I lost a couple points in verbal the second time, so all of my gains were in the sciences.

With so many people struggling and anxious about that exam, I think it a bit rude to express how much I like taking tests and how I found the entire MCAT process to be really quite enjoyable. I think of it as a kind of puzzle game. I know that it has high stakes, and that I could easily dwell on those and let myself become freaked out by it. But being relaxed about it and allowing myself to find the pleasure in it probably contributed to my score. It is easy to do something you like to do, after all.
 

Promethean

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I also think that it is easiest to learn BY taking tests. Getting questions wrong makes that information stick better when you do learn it upon review. For me, the best form of study is to drill on exam questions, taking time to research what I get wrong. It is basically the same idea behind drilling with index cards. You figure out where you need more study, you go acquire the knowledge you need, then test again to see what didn't stick. Lather, rinse, repeat. I probably took 30 full MCATs worth of pretests and mock exams in preparation for the real deal.
 

Abraxas305

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I think the mistake I see is people focusing only on content review. I mean, if you are using TBR or TPR content review, you SHOULD be supplementing with practice passages after you finish the chapter. You should also be post-gaming those passages hard while developing your MCAT test taking skills. Content review is not a waste at all if you supplement with practice passages and I'm sure a bunch of 35+ scorers can attest to that.
Now what does matter, is how well you know your content off the bat. Some need that long refresher with calls for a TBR or Kaplan review. Some may just need a review and EK can suffice for them.
 
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Abraxas305

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I also think that it is easiest to learn BY taking tests. Getting questions wrong makes that information stick better when you do learn it upon review. For me, the best form of study is to drill on exam questions, taking time to research what I get wrong. It is basically the same idea behind drilling with index cards. You figure out where you need more study, you go acquire the knowledge you need, then test again to see what didn't stick. Lather, rinse, repeat. I probably took 30 full MCATs worth of pretests and mock exams in preparation for the real deal.
How did you review content though? Were you doing practice tests, seeing the concepts you got wrong or were weak at, and supplemented with review/more practice? Or did you just start off drilling practice passages with no content review at all?
 

Cawolf

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I agree that the passages were the most important part of my preparation.

Skim content (unless it's new to you) and then focus on answering passage based questions.
 

Promethean

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I started by reading about the test and printing out a copy of the topics that are tested from the AAMC website. I carefully examined those topics, taking one color (orange) of highlighter to the ones that I was pretty sure that I understood thoroughly. (Basically all the general biology and general chemistry.) I used a different color (yellow) for the ones that I had never studied. That way, as I mastered a topic, I could mark it through with pink and turn it orange like the others that I already knew well.

This became my master list that I consulted throughout my study.

I then took the free test # 3, cold. After I was done, I used my list of topics and assessed each question that I had gotten wrong. What principle or concept was I missing? I also looked at the ones that I had gotten right, to understand if my rationale had been correct. For some, I was right, but for the wrong reasons.

Then I turned to free review materials available online to teach myself about each topic that I had missed. I worked through practice problems and read explanations for a week or two, and then tried the test again. Not surprisingly, given that I had just seen the right answers a couple weeks before, my score the second time was a lot better, unrealistically high. In some cases, I was just remembering the right answer. But given that it is a long test, I couldn't just have memorized all the right answers, and some of the improvement was from real learning. I was more interested in what I got wrong. Those became my topics to really focus on aggressively for a couple more weeks of study before buying the next test.

That was essentially the pattern that I followed for a few months, with practice tests becoming more frequent until I was taking 3-4 per week, sometimes recycling exams I'd taken before, sometimes adding in a new one for a better gauge of how I would perform on the real thing. Taking the tests didn't take nearly as long as pouring over them afterward, evaluating my answers and whether the reason for getting an item wrong had been a knowledge deficit or a failure to identify the real question or just a silly mistake.

In the last week leading up to the test, I watched all of the videos from jcoreview.com at least once each. It was like my full time job that week, watching MCAT review videos 10 hours per day, every day. *EDIT: I think I did actually take a week of vacation time from work to make that happen. It is hard to recall the details of that period of my life, because I had SO much going on at once. Looking back, I just kind of know that it all happened, and I can recall the broad strokes, but it is hard to put them in strict chronological order.

I could see how for most people, that kind of intense schedule of testing and review and testing and review would be really grueling and unpleasant. I think seeing it as a game really helps. I know lots of people who would put in the same amount of time and intense focus in getting Valkorek the Destroyer up to level 43, by finally slaying the Wildebeest of Darkness. And no disrespect to gamers. I'm not dissing on them for their choice of recreation... rather I'm saying that when you make something fun for you, even if it is brutally challenging, it becomes easy and enjoyable to do. For me, slaying the MCAT was like a really intense grinding dungeon crawl. I was in it for the high score, and the stakes didn't matter... not until after it was over and the dust settled.
 

mcatjelly

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I could see how for most people, that kind of intense schedule of testing and review and testing and review would be really grueling and unpleasant. I think seeing it as a game really helps. I know lots of people who would put in the same amount of time and intense focus in getting Valkorek the Destroyer up to level 43, by finally slaying the Wildebeest of Darkness. And no disrespect to gamers. I'm not dissing on them for their choice of recreation... rather I'm saying that when you make something fun for you, even if it is brutally challenging, it becomes easy and enjoyable to do. For me, slaying the MCAT was like a really intense grinding dungeon crawl. I was in it for the high score, and the stakes didn't matter... not until after it was over and the dust settled.
^ Yup, this right here. The MCAT is a puzzle with extremely high-stakes, but once you figure it out its personality... it's *fun*.
 
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I feel pity for all these students that claim they "enjoy" studying for the mcat or a section when they haven't even taken the real thing... wait until you get your score and realize your dreams are all shattered.
 
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mcatjelly

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Did you read through the thread? A number of respondents have already taken the MCAT.

I don't "claim" to enjoy studying for the MCAT. I do enjoy studying for the MCAT, and that's not going to change regardless of the score I receive. We are not all created the same, but I, for one, think that perceiving the exam as this Big Terrible Thing is counterproductive to a good score and a waste of mental energy. Of my friends who took the MCAT, the ones who went in with a positive mindset scored the highest. That's purely anecdotal evidence and what I'm about to say is too, but as someone who works in a psychiatric hospital, I can tell you that mindset is everything.

I like being challenged intellectually--this is no cause for pity.
 

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I'm looking forward to the review. As a Nontrad in a medical/science field, I've developed a much better appreciation for some of the stuff that didn't interest me and that I didn't invest as much time in as I should have in undergrad.

That said, I'm not sure I'm looking forward to the exam itself...
 

TheShowGoesOn

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I have yet to finish up some pre-reqs, currently a 3rd year nursing student in Canada. I love a challenge and find my current program lacks difficulty, but I absolutely love the clinical work and the patho/pharm courses. Although I am not close to writing the MCAT anytime soon, I feel like it will be rewarding to study and push myself to learn the content. I agree with the above statements, mindset is everything. If you take on the MCAT with a positive attitude you'll most likely do better than if you were to perceive the journey as a negative, horrible experience.
 
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See that's how I keep myself going. I somehow convince myself that this is "fun". I also have an overly competitive personally, which helps.
 
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All my life I've excelled academically, and this is the first time that I am truly truly struggling with something academic. But it is very humbling. I just keep reminding myself how amazing it will feel when I can finally achieve a good score.
 
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TheShowGoesOn

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All my life I've excelled academically, and this is the first time that I am truly truly struggling with something academic. But it is very humbling. I just keep reminding myself how amazing it will feel when I can finally achieve a good score.
I am in a very similar situation, never really had to study at all. I feel like the MCAT will finally challenge me and this will be a GOOD thing.
 

allantois

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I can relate with the two posters above me, except that I prefer to learn things when I don't have to take tests on my learning, because I get too focused on what is on the test rather than what I want to learn.

Btw, are you still liking the experience @mcatjelly ? :p
 
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ElectricNoogie

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Like it, love it, hate it, whatever. The MCAT is a necessary part of your path to being a physician. I won't say I enjoyed it, much like I didn't love all of med school or my USMLE studying, but I think part of what drives us (at least me) into medicine is the desire to do something challenging. Studying so hard for 4 years may not be "fun" but you can enjoy what you do.

Finding a way to get your brain engaged IS crucial for MCAT and med school success. I didn't love memorizing pathways during first year but I had to get my mind to a state of comfort and reliability if I expected to do well.

Plenty of other tests aim to get at critical thinking and reasoning. However, the new MCAT (like the old MCAT) exam is unique in its approach to the sciences, especially when compared to how we learn science in undergrad. I had students all the time tell me that I teach certain topics better than their professors ever did, or that they finally get topic Y. Flattering, but my job is not the same as their undergrad professors. Coming into the MCAT with a solid or semi-solid content base will make things a lot easier. The sooner you can jump into practice MCAT questions, the better. These Qs are what will eventually allow you to master a topic from an MCAT perspective.

Being active with the science is one of the best ways to get it to stick. In med school that meant me doing hours of USMLE & BRS questions to learn anatomy, biochem, etc.... For the MCAT that means once you think you have a handle on a topic content wise, try out a MCAT style passage on that topic. It doesn't have to be AAMC material, there are lots of companies that come close enough to the MCAT style. The "fun" part comes when you have done so many MCAT style problems that you finally begin to anticipate the MCAT and think like the AAMC wants you to. Being rewarded for your hard work is fun. Good luck!
 
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mcatjelly

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I can relate with the two posters above me, except that I prefer to learn things when I don't have to take tests on my learning, because I get too focused on what is on the test rather than what I want to learn.

Btw, are you still liking the experience @mcatjelly ? :p
Yes, although I wish I had more time. :p
 
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wonko

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I really enjoyed condensing my previous studies into a single day test. It was fun and showed how much I actually learned the last couple of years. If I make it into a program I am so looking forward to USMLE/COMLEX or whatever they throw at me :)
 

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I mean it's not an easy journey, but it's a journey nonetheless.

I find myself overjoyed with small victories and critical of minuscule setbacks. When I try to reflect objectively, it appears to be oscillating moods, expectations, and fears, while it all shapes you into a better person. Even though most of the knowledge won't carry over, the skills and discipline you learn along the journey definitely will. I feel like it will be a fond memory to look back on.

This is how I feel, of course, when I'm not toiling away at unrepresentative, soul-crushing practice tests.
 
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velodork

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"Like" is a pretty strong word!! ;) For me its about appreciating the fact that the test embraces EVERYTHING I loved about undergrad. That is, those topics that I knew I would one day be able to use to improve the lives of others. Studying for the MCAT has offered me an opportunity to really start thinking like a medical scientist, rather than just a student of the sciences.
 
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mcatjelly

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"Like" is a pretty strong word!! ;) For me its about appreciating the fact that the test embraces EVERYTHING I loved about undergrad. That is, those topics that I knew I would one day be able to use to improve the lives of others. Studying for the MCAT has offered me an opportunity to really start thinking like a medical scientist, rather than just a student of the sciences.
Haha okay, I do agree with you there. :)
 
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kingtal0n

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My problem is simply that I have nothing to really study. I see everyone buying their study books... buying guides and materials. I can't buy these things... why should I have to pay to study and then pay again to take the test?

I enjoy reading about the body and physics so this is naturally propelling me towards mcat material regardless. I feel as though I am just going to take the test without any real preparation.
 
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My problem is simply that I have nothing to really study. I see everyone buying their study books... buying guides and materials. I can't buy these things... why should I have to pay to study and then pay again to take the test?

I enjoy reading about the body and physics so this is naturally propelling me towards mcat material regardless. I feel as though I am just going to take the test without any real preparation.
You do want to go to med school don't you? You're going to be paying orders of magnitude more to study there....

And don't take the MCAT "without any real preparation". It will crush you. Find some way to get prep materials. If you don't have cash on hand to buy new, buy used or try your school/public library. Or check out khan academy.
 
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Glazedonutlove

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My problem is simply that I have nothing to really study. I see everyone buying their study books... buying guides and materials. I can't buy these things... why should I have to pay to study and then pay again to take the test?

I enjoy reading about the body and physics so this is naturally propelling me towards mcat material regardless. I feel as though I am just going to take the test without any real preparation.
lol don't do that
 
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kingtal0n

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What I mean is that as the topic of the thread states, what is the mcat good for, or what did it do for you (that was enjoyable in benefit some way as you feel fit) is seemingly random engineering/biological related problem solving ability on tap, at your fingertips. This is something innate that is built upon from birth, involves limited 5 senses, not just from the moment you start studying for any random test in the environment.
 

Glazedonutlove

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What I mean is that as the topic of the thread states, what is the mcat good for, or what did it do for you (that was enjoyable in benefit some way as you feel fit) is seemingly random engineering/biological related problem solving ability on tap, at your fingertips. This is something innate that is built upon from birth, involves limited 5 senses, not just from the moment you start studying for any random test in the environment.
no
 

kingtal0n

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so that would be no, the mcat did not give you improved biological / engineering related problem solving skills, then. Each individual could say yes or no I guess.

I feel like taking the 3 practice exams, and seeing my score go up each time, was evidence of that for myself. Which is why I took the real test and it would go up the 4th attempt as well.

I think I like the mcat.
 

Engeniero89

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Love it, thinking critically is my Jam having a strong engineering background & what not, though this thing is quite the beast...
 
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There were times during my studying, especially after getting kinda destroyed by Kaplan FLs, when I would be very unenthusiastic about studying for the test. But having taken the real thing, I now get nostalgic feelings when I think about my time spent studying. I feel like I've learned a lot and I appreciate that.
 

Cotterpin

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I just took it on Friday and I feel bad because so many people on the July MCAT thread are traumatized by it, but.... I actually kinda liked it. I felt really calm and focused when I was taking it and there were no panic moments or anything. I wouldn't say I had fun, exactly, but it was a good experience. It was probably down to relaxing and trusting myself. After months of training and years of coursework, there's nothing else to do but just sit down and do your thing.

Of course, I might get my score back in a month and realize that I bombed it! :laugh: But it certainly didn't feel that way in the moment.
 
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LakridsA

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I think "The most fun I never want to have again" sums it up well
 

Dreamstoo

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I'm looking forward to chuckling when I hear future pre meds talk about the MCAT when I hopefully am a physician overhearing volunteers or interns talking about this oh so "fun" test (hopefully some day :xf:).

I only say this because this actually happened to me. I remember a chief resident letting out a good chuckle when he overheard one of the other people shadowing another doctor with me talk about the MCAT. He told us something along the lines, "It's crazy how I honestly don't remember my score... I think I saw it was good enough and immediately applied."
 
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