1. Dismiss Notice
  2. Download free Tapatalk for iPhone or Tapatalk for Android for your phone and follow the SDN forums with push notifications.
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Visit Interview Feedback to view and submit interview information.

Semester off to take the old MCAT?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by OwlHov, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. OwlHov

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2014
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    3
    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    Hello!
    This is my first time posting here but I follow SDN a lot. This past summer I took my physics prereq and
    didn't fully study for the MCAT. Summer classes are pretty intense when labs are included but I did well ;).

    I studied some content from TBR over the summer and I feel with just a little more I can be ready for the
    2014 January MCAT. I am thinking of taking this semester off to fully prepare for the test and maybe
    volunteer once a week. The next semester go back to full time and apply June.
    I know taking a semester off is not good... but semester off or new MCAT?

    My gpa is not amazing at 3.52sgpa and 3.67cgpa. So I was hoping to get an impressive MCAT score with all the known as good material out there. Because there is not much known good material for the new MCAT, it might hurt my chances of preparing for the 90th %?

    Taking the new one over the summer means a gap year for me...but it can also mean I can improve my GPA, ECs. :unsure:
    I am so lost, advice anyone? @SN2ed @kyamh
     
    pizza1994 likes this.
  2. Note: SDN Members do not see this ad.

  3. NoDakDok

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2014
    Messages:
    351
    Likes Received:
    315
    MDApps:
    Status:
    Medical Student
    Who said taking a semester off was bad? I mean, it's not ideal by any means, but I can't imagine them holding a semester off against you when it comes to considering your competitiveness. I would do whatever makes you perform the best. If you think you will do better on the old MCAT and will be ready to kill it, I don't see an issue with taking a semester off to do it. I wouldn't abandon all other efforts in that time, though (work, volunteering).
     
  4. BigRedBeta

    BigRedBeta Why am I in a handbasket?
    Physician 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2007
    Messages:
    1,357
    Likes Received:
    682
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    Short of major illness or a close relative death or some other MAJOR catastrophe, I cannot imagine a situation in which taking an entire semester to study for the MCAT makes a single iota of sense. It really should not take you that long to study. At a very real point, likely somewhere about 8-10 weeks of "normal" study, there is a point of diminishing returns, and it may be even sooner than that (my medical school tracked study time for Step 1 of the USMLE and the point of diminishing returns happened between the 5th and 6th week - we were explicitly told NOT to study for more than 6 weeks). Certainly if you're doing nothing but studying for the MCAT, >5 hours a day, 4 weeks is likely enough...while in the midst of a normal semester course load, and all the social aspects of college, then maybe you're looking more like 12 weeks to reach that threshold.

    I am very much of the opinion that you should avoid any situation that you have to "explain" to admissions committees. A semester off certainly would need to be explained. The competition for spots is tough, and having to worry about whether they accept/agree/don't hate your explained "situation" is an unnecessary burden. Make the semester a light one, take 12 hours, make it full of "fun" electives and do your MCAT prep with less on your plate.

    Lastly, and this may not apply to you or be a consideration, but keep in mind that for many scholarships, some loans/grants, and other things like student health insurance, they may be contingent on maintaining full-time student status. Taking a semester off or going to part time status may have consequences outside of your med school aspirations.
     
    pbrocks15 and Vans42 like this.
  5. OwlHov

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2014
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    3
    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    Thank you both for your input. I have decided on part time classes and using the rest of my time for MCAT studying. If this doesn't work then it will be the new MCAT over the summer :)
    @BigRedBeta It is true that it will bring some questions but I think a good MCAT score can mean much more than a semester off. Also without considering December (finals week), the semester is only 3 months long which is about the same amount of time that people use to study over the summer. Of course this means break days and maybe some volunteering but it is not unusual to prepare for 3 months.
     
    optimistic3 and Make Or Break like this.
  6. user12

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2011
    Messages:
    392
    Likes Received:
    250
    i don't know if i agree with the whole "taking a semester off" is awful. but i guess im not really one to give advice. there was some girl i talked to once (she was hot by the way). she took off a semester to study for the mcat. i think she transferred schools too. and i don't know exactly what she got, but i know she KILLED it. 14 in verbal, and im sure the other 2 sections were excellent too. her grades are good, and i know she held a research position for a summer or more. im quite confident shes definitely going to get in somewhere. either way, ill tell you one thing, the new mcat doesn't look like a good time at all.
     
  7. IslandStyle808

    IslandStyle808 Akuma residency or bust!
    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2012
    Messages:
    5,574
    Likes Received:
    4,227
    I don't know if I can quite agree with BigRedBeta. A good chunk of schools weigh the MCAT more heavily than the GPA (YMMV). I do believe it can look bad taking a semester off solely for the MCAT. However, if you can't get your target score with taking the summer off, then how can you with a 12 credit load (even if it is fluff)? It is probably best to hear it from someone who took the semester off, did well on the MCAT, and then applied.

    Also, comparing the MCAT to the USMLE is like comparing apples and oranges. I do not believe studying >5 hours a day and 4 weeks is enough to yield you your target score (if in the 30+ range). I am not referring to those that did extremely well in the pre-reqs or good test takers, but for the norm in general.
     
  8. BigRedBeta

    BigRedBeta Why am I in a handbasket?
    Physician 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2007
    Messages:
    1,357
    Likes Received:
    682
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    I really think the negative impact of a semester off without a compelling reason is large. There are a couple things that lead me to this conclusion and all revolve around the impact relative to everyone else not the impact on the particular individual. That's the key, in the grand scheme of things, a better MCAT score is a better MCAT score (certainly if you manage to improve over one of those important thresholds), and I'm not saying there's no hope of gaining admission with a semester off. However, if we're talking about perception and how you compare to someone who got similar stats WITHOUT taking a semester off, it's a problem. Further if you already have an official score, much as with retaking a class, the score improvement gained will not be as favorably viewed...take a semester off and your score goes up 6 points - well no kidding, you had nothing but a laser focus on the test. That improvement becomes less impressive. Score only goes up by 1 point...well what the hell happened? You had all that extra time and couldn't beat out all these other people who were managing classes, clubs, volunteering, shadowing, and everything else. So that's what it comes down to, perception and relative competitiveness.

    Sure, the MCAT and USMLE are different, but 1) no matter what there's absolutely a law of diminishing returns related to study time, that's just fact; and 2) I'd actually argue that the differences between the two actually favor greater gains being made in the MCAT in a shorter period of time than they do for the USMLE. The MCAT, regardless of whatever sort of iterations they make to the source content, is a test of critical thinking. It's always been far more important to be able to "figure things out" than to have an exceedingly deep understanding of the science facts which is why they can put passages about 18th century Russian Literature that no pre-med has ever heard of on the test and consider it fair game. In contrast, the USMLE is pure content. If you don't know the concept being tested, it's far less likely you can just work through it.
     

Share This Page