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Non-Trad MCAT Success

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by OldManDoc, May 17, 2008.

  1. OldManDoc

    OldManDoc New Member

    Apr 13, 2006

    I am 35 and was a biochem major as an undergrad so I took all the MCAT pre-reqs but as you can imagine they are quite old so I have a couple of questions for you. This is my last hurdle (I think) and I have started preparing for the MCAT with hopes of applying this year and have a couple of questions for those who received approx. 30 on the MCAT:

    How recently had you taken the pre-reqs?

    How much time do you think you studied for the exam?

    Is late Aug./early Sept. to late to take the exam?

    Any advice would be much appreciated. I am starting to really worry and it is paralyzing me. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.


    P.S. I read the 30+ MCAT Study Habits thread already.
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  3. njbmd

    njbmd Guest Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2001
    Gone Walkabout!
    There is no difference in strategy for strong performance on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) for non-traditional students versus traditional pre-med students. As a taker of the MCAT, you need to have a strong knowledge base. If you coursework is old and you feel that you do not remember much of the material from your pre-med coursework, then get you knowledge base up to par before you take this exam. The best way to figure this out is to purchase some of the retired MCAT exams, take them under test conditions and carefully analyze your performance. (This works for traditional students too).

    The second item that you need to consider before taking the MCAT is that you must be thoroughly familiar with able to excel in the questioning manner in which the MCAT tests. This means that you need to do plenty of practice questions. Again, the retired MCAT tests are a good measure of and good practice for the actual exam.

    The amount of time that it will take you to prepare for this test depends on how where you stand in terms of both knowledge base and test-taking ability right now. These things in general, have very little to do with your previous grades in the pre-med courses. Are you a good critical reader? Are you a good writer? Are you a good problem-solver in general? These are the skills that the MCAT thoroughly tests.

    The one thing that you need to keep in mind is that you DO NOT want to take the MCAT if you are not thoroughly prepared. Multiple attempts with poor results can end your chances of getting into medical school. Preparation for this very important component of your application needs to be thorough and measured (again, you can use progressive improvement in scores on the retired MCAT exams as a criterion of your progress).

    It had been over 15 years between the time that I took my pre-req coursework and the time that I took the MCAT but I was definitely prepared. I took one of the retired MCAT exams under testing conditions and carefully (and objectively) analyzed my performance. I also analyzed the method in which the MCAT writes test questions and made sure that I was prepared and practiced for those types of questions.

    The one thing for sure, is that you need to be proactive and very focused when you begin to prep for this exam. You also need to be adaptable and analytical in terms of how you approach each question. This means figuring out what knowledge you need to answer the question and what type of problem needs to be solved with than knowledge. Acquiring these abilities takes practice and more practice in addition to a strong knowledge base. The MCAT is not cram and regurgitate (which is how many universities test in regular coursework).

    Bottom line: Figure out where you are in the process and shore up any deficiencies just as the traditional applicants would. You are the best analyst of your particular needs. There are no "short-cuts" here.
  4. OldManDoc

    OldManDoc New Member

    Apr 13, 2006

    Thanks for your insight. I have started reviewing and while the info is not fresh in my head, it is coming back to me with a little effort, especially the bio and chem. Orgo and physics will require more effort on my part as I already know.

    Anyway, thanks again for the advice. I should start plugging away now, the MCAT will be here before I know it.

    Congrats on your success and good luck.
  5. DeAlighieri

    DeAlighieri That wasn't medicine! 2+ Year Member

    Oct 13, 2007
    Consider getting the Examkrackers MCAT Complete set. They're superb reviews of material you may be a bit rusty on, and will serve to fill in whatever gaps you may have in your knowledge. The Audio Osmosis materials, while delightfully cheesy, are also good to listen to as complement to the set.

    With respect to taking your MCAT in August, you should understand you're putting yourself at a disadvantage by doing so. It's possible to apply earlier (i.e. June) and simply have a pending MCAT, but you won't gain "complete" status until September. Of course, this doesn't mean that you're sunk if you take in August, but it does detract from what is perhaps an otherwise great application. Thus, my thoughts are these: consider studying until you're certain you can rock the MCAT (even if that means missing this year's cycle) and then apply right away in June of next year. One more year won't make a difference in your app. Alternatively, apply as soon as possible for this year's cycle and make sure you're on the ball with everything, so you go "complete" as soon as your MCAT scores come back. I'd only advise this course if you're feeling confident about your MCAT scores. As njbmd notes, practice/retired MCATs are invaluable to gauge your progress.

    Good luck.
  6. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    I took them 10-11 years earlier, but I had also been teaching gen chem and organic courses for several years. So I didn't have to start from scratch on everything.

    10 weeks, about 30-40 hours per week while also working full-time.

    To apply this summer for next year? In my opinion, yes. Most med schools have rolling interview invites and rolling acceptances. Other people will already be getting acceptances in October by the time that you just get around to completing your primary. Either take the MCAT earlier (I think late June/early July at the latest), or else take the MCAT in the fall, sit out a year and apply the following June.
  7. Chuck's Right Foot

    Chuck's Right Foot Class of 2013 10+ Year Member

    Nov 28, 2004
    My last pre-req was taken in 98 or 99. I took the exam in 06 and in 07.

    First time, I half-assed a Kaplan course and received a 32. I taught for Kaplan for a year and jumped to a 37. My increased familiarity with the information helped jump my PS 2 pts (10-->12). Focusing on the Kaplan method jumped my VS from 11 to 14.

    You can do it. Is it the best approach? No. See other posts for why.

    Best of luck!
  8. nontrdgsbuiucmd

    nontrdgsbuiucmd 2+ Year Member

    Mar 28, 2008
    my own little world
    Hello, not quite at 30 on my MCAT after 1st attempt but pretty close; similar in age to you and wanted to offer some thoughts:

    1) completed all prerequisites within the past 1 1/2 year, finishing up the final 4 prerequisites after sitting for the MCAT (not recommended)

    2) studying 5 weeks fulltime was sufficient for review, it was insufficient to also learn physics 2 & physiology/human anatomy topics covered on the MCAT but not covered in my bio coursework. (fyi there's a list of mcat subjects covered on, click on the "mcat" section, then "prepare for the mcat".) This sitting (after completing coursework in areas above) I'll study fulltime 7 weeks for the July MCAT.

    ps I used Kaplan last time, this time it's Kaplan + ExamKrackers, I think EK is great for subject matter, definitely recommend you purchase the set, around $150-180 I think. Toughest part of the test for me was getting used to the timing, Kaplan sections online help with that quite a bit. (my 10 in PS I feel was due to Kaplan, even without taking Physics 2 or gen chem 1)

    3) Late aug/early sep MCAT will put you at a disadvantage, most every one of the 10+ schools' offices I've spoken with recommend submitting well before their secondary deadline (1-3 months). That said, per an admissions director I spoke with yesterday, (public school in the midwest), she felt completing an Amcas primary in October would be a bit late, but in her opinion as long as the app arrived a bit before their deadline (late Dec/early Jan I think) they would review it carefully. For you, if secondaries are complete in October, you would have a decent shot, but the chance of admission (for many schools) is lower than if the application was complete by August or so.

    MCAT advice? two things helped me. Confidence.. I test well. (like pretty much all pre-meds I'd bet). Given my success in many other tests, I don't foresee that one test will kick my butt. Looking at your number of years' school, I'm sure you do too. This test is different in that of the 40,000 top-tier applicants and 65,000 or so "test sittings" (per aamc 2007), there were either no or almost no "perfect" scores. The test is made so that almost everybody misses a number of questions, which is different from most other tests.

    Two, an admissions person told me that they look at the test to determine if a student is capable of medical school level work. I am absolutely positive that I can handle the work, which means that the test is a hurdle, but one that can be overcome by a person able to handle med school (with sufficient preparation) good luck!!

    ps extra suggestion, not really related.. be very very very explicit on extracurriculars and list them under the proper category.. the major research projects mentioned on my personal statement were not "seen" by a number of schools because they were not explicitly listed under the "research" section of my extracurriculars.
  9. kronickm

    kronickm even par. 2+ Year Member

    Feb 20, 2007
    I took them from August 2006-December 2007, MCAT was on 4-18-08.

    My post-bac offered an MCAT class taught by masters students who scored high on the MCAT. The class met 3 times a week for 3 hours a session for about 3 months. Outside of the class I studied at work (shhh) I would venture a guess that outside of the class I put in about 10-12 hours a week on MCAT stuff not counting the full-lengths I took. I took about 6 full lengths total. The first two were taken just a section at a time, and were old written kaplan and AAMC exams. In the last month before the test I sat down and took 4 AAMC exams online timed and under MCAT conditions. My practice scores were 34, 36, 38, 36 in that order. I would say my averages were 12-13PS 9-11VR 13-14BS.

    Just got the real scores back, 32R, 11PS 11VR 10BS. I am obviously unhappy with my BS score as it was much lower than my averages and I felt confident after taking it. Overall though, how upset can you be with a balanced 32.

    I don't really have any tricks or anything to add over and above what is on the 30+ thread, but if anyone has any questions for me feel free to PM me.
  10. Luxian

    Luxian 5+ Year Member

    Dec 13, 2006
    I second everything here. I hadn't taken my prereqs in 10-12 years when I started studying for the MCAT, but I picked up Examkrackers and felt comfortable after studying the material over about 8 weeks. (I split up the chapters over eight weeks and studied enough every day to finish.) There's no way to know how you'll do on MCAT until you actually start trying MCAT-like questions. Start working on the practice problems. If you run into trouble, focus on those parts and rework it. Having a biochem degree may mean everything comes back pretty easily, or you may need a bit more work. It all depends on how much you remember. I was pretty happy with how much came back and I ended up with a score I was really happy with [13-12-12].

    I then got my scores back in Sept, sent in my primaries in October and secondaries in November... and got not a single interview. Applying early is important. If you are confident you can have everything else set and rock the MCAT, go ahead, but be completely on the ball and get out all your secondaries by September! Then hopefully you won't have to reapply as I did (though I was eventually successful!)

    In any case, before you make a final decision, pick up some prep books (EK or others) and try a few problems. If it looks like you are in good starting shape, go ahead and sign up for the MCAT and begin prepping for test day!
  11. OldManDoc

    OldManDoc New Member

    Apr 13, 2006

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond and for your valuable insights and opinions. I know you are all very busy and I really appreciate it.

    Good luck to all of you.
  12. McSnappy

    McSnappy 5+ Year Member

    Aug 18, 2007
    Ask me later
    Passing the MCAT with a strong score is all well and good. Depending on what State you live in or where you want to attend will dictate the strength of score needed. 30 is a good goal. Higher if you really put your head down and/or are a skilled/talented test taker.

    However. Do NOT forget, just as in life outside the ivory tower, it will matter as much, who you know as what you know. Get to know someone in a really good position within the hospital you want to attend and shadow them NOW and get them to write you a letter. I don't know what you think you want to go into, but I would find someone to write you a letter from the hospital associated with the Med school. Best, is someone in a specialty that carries some clout within the hospital... i.e., Rainmaker. Like Cardiology or Plastic surgery or Interventional Radiology or Oncological surgery, etc.. Something like that. Even if you plan on primary care, a letter from a specialist that has good things to say, will carry some big lumber with the committee. People know people. The community of attending docs is small enough that someone will know that person. A second letter coming from a doc on the ethics committee that you shadow would be outstanding too. That person could be a primary care doc and most docs will know that person. Bonus, it shows you have empathy, integrity and are concerned for the greater good. Lastly, get the recommendation from the BIG Guy. The one that wrote The Book! See quote below;)

    Good luck!
  13. montessori2md

    montessori2md Member 10+ Year Member

    Oct 1, 2005
    On the Road Again
    I was over 30 on my MCAT, I was Spanish/history major, so my science coursework was so recent, I took my Physics II and chem II finals just a couple of weeks before I sat for MCAT.

    I used Examkrackers audio, listened on my commute to class. I took several e-MCAT exams and used a book of Kaplan practice exams b/c it had questions organized by topic, and I liked their explanations of the questions.

    My first practice tests were AWFUL because I took them prior to taking physics : )

    I tried to pay attention to the EK info that was relevant to what I was studying in my classes, to make sure that there were no "gaps" in what I was learning in class.

    I liked the EK materials because they stress that MCAT is just a test, that it has a specific format, and that format can be "played" to some extent (like rounding g to 10).

    The BS passages are sort of a crapshoot for any non-bio major, because you can't learn about each topic. So BS is more common sense and luck than knowledge, plus what you remember from biochem. But as a biochem major, you may need to be careful not to "overthink" questions, especially wording.

    Vocabulary development is a huge component of MCAT prep (that is, just knowing the definitions of words in the questions). I used Campbell's Biology and a subscriptions to science magazines to help me learn more science terminology.

    When practicing, try to keep yourself to less than one minute per question (once you've "mastered" a subject) -I found if I was taking longer than 1 min, I was going to answer it wrong anyhow. Once you get to 1 min, mark the question and then go back if you have time. Time management is very important on exam day.

    SAT prep can help you w/ verbal, if it's a hard section for you, and it's cheaper and easier to find than MCAT stuff.

    Read the threads -most of us feel that late testing is BAD for apps, but there are people walking around with an acceptance late in the season. For me, it was too much cash to thrown down w/o timing carefully. If I had tested in August, I probably would have waited till the next season to apply.
  14. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion 10+ Year Member

    Oct 30, 2006
    In my view, it hurt me on the writing sample to have substantial experience in professional/technical writing. It was a mistake for me to feel confident on this section, and to deprioritize it in test prep.

    It's very difficult to find practice test feedback for the WS, but if I could do it again, I would have tried harder to maybe get a Kaplan reviewer.

    Specifically, I didn't practice putting together 500 word responses to questions that are subjects for entire fields of graduate study. I was too slow, and I had too much to say. I'm too old to see things as black and white, and too old to revert to ignorance of how complicated an ethical dilemma can be. But the essays need to be brief and concise and hit strategic angles without ratholing or suggesting ambiguity.

    The upside, though, is that the things that hurt me on WS were strengths for my critical reasoning throughout the test. I took physics in 1988, did no significant review, and still got a 10, 18 years later.

    Best of luck to you.
  15. p30doc

    p30doc Ever true and unwavering 10+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    33M for me. I took all the prerecs within about a year and a half of taking the test. I studied for two months, via princeton review course. It was 3 hours of review class 4x a week. Then I studied on my own for about 1-5 hours each day. August/September seems like it could be a bit late for this cycle, it also depends on what your GPA and MCAT numbers are, and if you are applying MD or DO.
  16. BWSTW

    BWSTW The B's be ballin' 2+ Year Member

    This is an old thread, but thought it might be worth a try in reviving it. I now the 30+ thread is a goody too, but how do the nontrads feel about the MCAT study techniques?
  17. 2010houston

    2010houston Resident Physician 7+ Year Member

    Jun 17, 2009
    My personal opinion - which worked for me, but i think MCAT studying is highly individual - is that nontrads tend to need more content review than someone who's had all the prereqs in the past 18 months. Even if you've taken more advanced bio/chem/phys courses recently, I think it's worth doing a heavy, heavy content review before you start taking practice tests and such. The AAMC has specific topic outlines for each part of the exam on their website, and that's an excellent starting place.

    The plus is that nontrads sometimes have more time to study....the minus is also that nontrads have more time to study! you can kill yourself with this stuff ;-)
  18. BennieBlanco

    BennieBlanco Banned

    Aug 24, 2008
    Nice work ethic!

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