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Is practicing MCAT questions useful for non-Medical intended major?

sahsayivar

New Member
Jul 1, 2020
2
0
1
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hi!

I am currently a junior (rising senior) in high school. My intended major is Biomedical Engineering and Bioinformatics, so I don't plan on actually taking the MCAT and doing pre-med. However, I have been trying to get proficient at Biology (basically my intended major) by doing competitions (Science Olympiad, USABO, etc), although I realize that I am not too skilled at doing application/analysis questions - like those present in the MCAT and USABO exams. My main problem is the time limit, but I don't think that my slow reading/analysis skills will be a huge hindrance to my future studies since Science itself is based on being meticulous and careful instead of skimming and trying to analyze data in the time restrictions representative of a test-taking environment (I would appreciate if anyone could give feedback regarding the validity/invalidity of the above statement :) ).

I was wondering if practicing the MCAT Bio/Biochem and Chem/Phys passage questions (which are application/analysis based) on Khan Academy (and from AAMC) without the time limit would be useful to get better at my major. The questions seems to be very analysis based, so I was wondering if this would help me in my studies and possible research during undergrad and grad. I don't see myself going into an Ivy League college (my stats are too low :( ) so I don't expect the college finals to be very application/analysis based like the MCAT is, but I would like to know if practicing such questions helps when doing research at a university.

Speaking of research, is developing a habit of reading research papers weekly a good habit for college? Even with a good knowledge base of Bio, Chem, and Physics from the competitions that I do, it still seems like a great undertaking. I would like to know if getting into the habit of reading academic papers (related to Science) would be useful in college when I (hopefully) do research myself.

Thanks a lot!!!
 
Last edited:

JimKimSlim

Full Member
Feb 5, 2020
669
497
66
  1. Medical Student
I'll respond in a chronological order, since I had a similar discussion with my mentees in real life. First, if you're strictly talking about time limit during exams, you won't like see a passage about a recent research paper and ask you to analyze it to solve problems. When you take more upper level classes, you might be asked to read a lot of papers and write your summary or respond weekly question sets about them. In my case, I had to read 5-6 papers for a graduate-level class every week, analyze them, and memorize key contents for midterms. The ability to read them fast was very helpful, since the papers were very dense.

Second, doing MCAT problems will likely not help you with your major. In my school, the exam problems were very different from mcat problems. None of my test taking strategies during college could not be applied to the mcat. Perhaps your university might be different, but this was the case with my Alma mater. Also, even if you go to ivy schools, they're not going to assign their freshman biology majors to do exams about difficult research papers. If you want to get better at research, you should join a good lab with a good PI. A quick and dirty way to find a good lab is to search the PI and the number of citations for his publications. According to my PI, Anyone above 10,000 citations is considered a "star" in science field.

Third, reading research paper when you haven't started college will be challenging to you. When you join a research lab, most labs hold a weekly journal club, where they discuss new research papers, critize a manuscript/grant, or do other activities that teach you how to interpret research papers. One thing I recommend to pre-research students is work in multiple research labs, if your PI's are okay with that. The more exposure you have to various research fields, the better it is.

Finally, what makes you good at research isn't knowing how to perform as many research techniques as possible. It's your ability to think outside the box and bring up good, creative research hypothesis. In my experience, students who wrote multiple first authorships while in college all had very original ideas that their PI's were willing to support. You don't have to have publications to be a good researcher, but what matters the most is your ability to think like a researcher.
 
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sahsayivar

New Member
Jul 1, 2020
2
0
1
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I'll respond in a chronological order, since I had a similar discussion with my mentees in real life. First, if you're strictly talking about time limit during exams, you won't like see a passage about a recent research paper and ask you to analyze it to solve problems. When you take more upper level classes, you might be asked to read a lot of papers and write your summary or respond weekly question sets about them. In my case, I had to read 5-6 papers for a graduate-level class every week, analyze them, and memorize key contents for midterms. The ability to read them fast was very helpful, since the papers were very dense.

Second, doing MCAT problems will likely not help you with your major. In my school, the exam problems were very different from mcat problems. None of my test taking strategies during college could not be applied to the mcat. Perhaps your university might be different, but this was the case with my Alma mater. Also, even if you go to ivy schools, they're not going to assign their freshman biology majors to do exams about difficult research papers. If you want to get better at research, you should join a good lab with a good PI. A quick and dirty way to find a good lab is to search the PI and the number of citations for his publications. According to my PI, Anyone above 10,000 citations is considered a "star" in science field.

Third, reading research paper when you haven't started college will be challenging to you. When you join a research lab, most labs hold a weekly journal club, where they discuss new research papers, critize a manuscript/grant, or do other activities that teach you how to interpret research papers. One thing I recommend to pre-research students is work in multiple research labs, if your PI's are okay with that. The more exposure you have to various research fields, the better it is.

Finally, what makes you good at research isn't knowing how to perform as many research techniques as possible. It's your ability to think outside the box and bring up good, creative research hypothesis. In my experience, students who wrote multiple first authorships while in college all had very original ideas that their PI's were willing to support. You don't have to have publications to be a good researcher, but what matters the most is your ability to think like a researcher.
Thanks SO MUCH for your answer!! It really helps :) :) :)
 
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