Nov 4, 2010
6
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Pre-Medical
Does anyone have any advice/experience with studying for the MCAT years after taking their prerequisites? I graduated with a BS in '07 and went straight into the air force (I was in AFROTC). I'm planning to take the April MCAT but I was thinking that I should start studying now since my pre-reqs were all completed in 2003-2006. That was a long time ago and I've definitely forgotten a lot.

I'm wondering if anyone else has been in my sort of situation, and if so:
1) How long did it take you to prepare?
2) How many hours/day did you do?

I'm currently doing chemistry research full-time, and I really can't quit to study since I need the money! So I guess I'm trying to get a feel for the best way to map out my time/study schedule.

 

tartrate

10+ Year Member
Apr 3, 2007
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Your situation is not uncommon, and it really varies from individual to individual. You are probably the best person to assess how much time you think you will need. Just try looking over the topics, or just flip through a review book, and that will give you a rough idea of what you need to do. A lot of it would probably depend on how well you did with your basic sciences.

Also, the fact that you have been doing chemistry research will be a huge benefit, much more than you currently realize.

Typically though, people put in about 3 months of solid studying time, and I think that's sufficient for almost anyone. Any longer and there is the risk of forgetting information, compounded by the fact that most people who put in longer than 3 months only start with light review, only to go into cram session 1-2 months before the test. Hours are hard to estimate, because there is a lot of variability between people. There are some here who have put in 1 hour a day, and some who have put in more than 10 hours a day, with both groups having done exceedingly well on the test.
 
Sep 2, 2010
280
0
Status
Podiatry Student
Does anyone have any advice/experience with studying for the MCAT years after taking their prerequisites? I graduated with a BS in '07 and went straight into the air force (I was in AFROTC). I'm planning to take the April MCAT but I was thinking that I should start studying now since my pre-reqs were all completed in 2003-2006. That was a long time ago and I've definitely forgotten a lot.

I'm wondering if anyone else has been in my sort of situation, and if so:
1) How long did it take you to prepare?
2) How many hours/day did you do?

I'm currently doing chemistry research full-time, and I really can't quit to study since I need the money! So I guess I'm trying to get a feel for the best way to map out my time/study schedule.

Hey buddy. I am in your boat. I graduated with molec bio in 2008.

just now studying for the mcats and have had ZERO science exposure since graduation (eg I have not worked as a research assistant or anything... the reasons why... well... long story )

Anyhow, I am taking MCATs in Jan 2011.

I study A LOT (8hrs + / day 6-7 days/week)

Some of the stuff has come back a lot better than other things. For example, Ochem and Bio is coming back relatively hassle free. This is because I took these courses my Junior/Senior years.

Gen Chem and Physics... well. I took these classes freshman/sophomore year and never really learned them then. Lets just say I put a TON of effort and relearning these subjects. Slowly but surely it is paying off.

It can be done. Optimal situation? No ... but doable.
 

centraldogma

The Young Wolf
Sep 12, 2010
193
2
Status
Medical Student
Hey buddy. I am in your boat. I graduated with molec bio in 2008.

just now studying for the mcats and have had ZERO science exposure since graduation (eg I have not worked as a research assistant or anything... the reasons why... well... long story )

Anyhow, I am taking MCATs in Jan 2011.

I study A LOT (8hrs + / day 6-7 days/week)

Some of the stuff has come back a lot better than other things. For example, Ochem and Bio is coming back relatively hassle free. This is because I took these courses my Junior/Senior years.

Gen Chem and Physics... well. I took these classes freshman/sophomore year and never really learned them then. Lets just say I put a TON of effort and relearning these subjects. Slowly but surely it is paying off.

It can be done. Optimal situation? No ... but doable.
Agreed. I graduated in 2008 as a biology major and I just took the 9/9/10 MCAT.

Relearning ochem and physics was really hard for me since it's been so many years, but they came back very quickly.

I made sure to learn all the concepts before I looked at the practice passages or took the practice tests.

But yeah you have about four months. If I were you, I'd work on the material for the first two months, then focus on practice tests for the last two. That's what I did this summer and it worked out very well.

Hope this helps.
 

phltz

7+ Year Member
May 13, 2010
889
30
Status
Medical Student
Does anyone have any advice/experience with studying for the MCAT years after taking their prerequisites? I graduated with a BS in '07 and went straight into the air force (I was in AFROTC). I'm planning to take the April MCAT but I was thinking that I should start studying now since my pre-reqs were all completed in 2003-2006. That was a long time ago and I've definitely forgotten a lot.

I'm wondering if anyone else has been in my sort of situation, and if so:
1) How long did it take you to prepare?
2) How many hours/day did you do?

I'm currently doing chemistry research full-time, and I really can't quit to study since I need the money! So I guess I'm trying to get a feel for the best way to map out my time/study schedule.
This sort of thing is different for everyone. I finished college in 2001, taking first semester intro bio then. I took my physics prereqs in the mid 90s. For the 2009-2010 academic year I was in a postbac program, taking the remaining bio and all the chemistry classes. I spent probably on the order of 5 hours a week studying for the MCAT during my spring semester (call in 10 weeks), and then pretty much full time for an addition two and a half weeks after finals. I took the MCAT in May of this year, and did quite well.

I've done a substantial amount of tutoring and teaching physics over the years, and didn't need to study physics at all. I did need to do some review of first semester bio. I looked over the list of topics that the MCAT covered, took a couple of official AMCAS FL practice tests, and determined which topics I was rusty on. It turned out that I mostly needed to relearn the details of the cell cycle, mitosis, meiosis, and cellular structure. The most useful part of studying, for me, was learning to pace myself properly, to stay focused, to avoid simple mistakes, and to be consistent.

If you're working in chemistry research, I'm guessing you'll be fine. You're presumably scientifically minded, do a decent amount of reading and reasoning about scientific literature. If you do bench work, I'm guessing you work with many of the chemistry topics on a regular basis. Bio and physics may demand more review. The only way to be sure is to take a couple of practice tests. This will let you see where you stand - what you remember well, what's fuzzy, what you've forgotten, what they actually focus on, etc etc.
 

dollarbill

7+ Year Member
Nov 22, 2010
44
17
Status
Medical Student
Hi everyone,

sorry to hijack your thread but I think this question pertains to the op as well. Has anyone heard of the 5 year rule. I believe the rule is if your pre-reqs are older than 5 years they won't count the credit and you essistially have to take the course over. I had a girl in my chem class that was taking gen chem 2 over because she took it like 5 years ago. I know the op said he took them like 7 years ago and I know I took some of my bios/ chems like 5 years ago. I plan on studying all winter once i get my BR books and apply at the beginning of next cycle but i hate to do all of that and than they tell me that my pre-reqs are out of date. do i contact the individ schools i want to apply to or aacoms? Thanks.
 

JohnWetzel

WikiPremed
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Dec 29, 2008
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This is John from WikiPremed. I have taught many students having to prepare for the MCAT with a knowledge base so long fallow the student believes it doesn't exist anymore, but you should take reassurance in how the memory system works. The application of a scientific concept is an electrochemical performance of neural networks. Your long term memory has many of those performances you had ready for test day even decades ago stored in far more detail than you might imagine. As you undergo your MCAT review the association of conceptual vocabulary and phenomenal space will activate a selection process based on context cues and continuously provide you with a frame of reference you didn't know you still had. If you used to drink a lot of coffee and smoke cigarettes when you were a student you should probably reconsider taking up those habits again and listening to the same music you used to for a while.

As far as how to approach the studying itself when you haven't had the material in a long time, the beginning really isn't all that different than for everybody else. You should take heart that many students fresh out of college have been studying for years for the test of the week and don't have that good an overall picture on things, so you aren't as far behind as you may suppose. Try a real discipline for a week to feel better. Gather all resources and try to go from beginning to end in your MCAT books and textbooks and only ready the table of contents, look at the pictures and the bold headings. This will give you an overall sense of familiarity and signal past thought performances to begin fortifying themselves with energy and the potential to become elaborately interconnected. Try to get your mind around the structure of the science because confidence in the overall comprehensiveness of your knowledge base is key to being able to place MCAT passages within the right frame of reference.

Depending on when you took your biology, though, there are a few important MCAT topics that have changed since you were a student. Be sure to take a little extra time to learn what's new in molecular biology such as techniques like microarray or things like the new understanding of noncoding RNAs which weren't in your textbook way back then. The RNA discoveries are so important that it's almost predestined we'll be seeing a lot of RNA on the MCATs of the next few years.

Good luck in your studies!
 
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fizzgig

LudicrousSpeed!
7+ Year Member
Dec 10, 2009
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with regard to the OPs question, i agree it will depend on you a lot. you've remained sciencey so that'll help. i took the mcat in september. i studied i would say for 3months, 2 harder core than the first. i graduated in 2005 so it was a while ago for me too. i would say the study plans you find here will be appropriate except that you might need more content review. i went through all of the EK books twice, every word. i outlined them. i went over my outline multiple times. a lot of people on this board do not seem to do that much content review but as it was so long ago i needed it. my advice would be to get a good content review in up front, and do some problem sets, and that'll show you where you are. it'll bring it all back (ooh yea, i remember torque... no problem... this looks familiar) and then remind you that sorta remembering isn't going to cut it (the EK lecture questions put me in my place the first go round). if you do that far enough in advance you'll have time for redoing content.

as to the time limit questions, you need to look at specific school requirements. some schools don't specify that i could find, some i have seen say 10 years, some may be shorter. if you're out of date, you could double check with them to see if your situation might be ok anyway (if you did upper science later and did well, were in a related field/did research in a related field, whatever...). i guess i'll know more about how flexible they are after i apply :)
 

JohnWetzel

WikiPremed
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Dec 29, 2008
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Here is a link to MCAT Pearls by Alfa Diallo, one of the books published under the Student Doctor masthead: http://www.studentdoctor.net/bookstore/mcat_1000_0976968991_The-Official-Student-Doctor-Network-MCAT-Pearls-A-high-yield-review-of-the-pre-medical-sciences

This is the published printed method of a work Alfa made five to ten years ago and had online as a free resource. He told me one time in a correspondence that students hit his tip jar one or two times a year on tens of thousands of visits per month. At some point in his ER residency at Johns Hopkins he and Student Doctor put out MCAT Pearls in book form. What you have with MCAT Pearls is a comprehensive, somewhat illustrated set of clean notes that present the very core concepts within each topic and nothing else.

I believe that if the next edition used a lesser paper and smaller print it could sell below the price point of the standard type comprehensive MCAT books and be very successful. This work should be patronized today, though, in my opinion, even if it's a little steep in the current format, but that is my recommendation. In my imagination the optimal MCAT preparation using today's resources includes Alfa Diallo's useful book despite a mild critique of it. (To my mind the designer tried to stretch out the pages too far. There isn't enough conceptual material on each page. It's like when a high school student uses sixteen point font to fool the teacher. However, this busted editorial play can make the book useful as a workbook for solving practice problems with he generous margins while giving yourself the benefit of a presentation of core concepts relevant to the problems). There is one thing. I believe MCAT Pearls is the very best thing in print for MCAT prep for the FIRST WEEK OR TWO. Make yourself sit down for twenty hours and get through the book from cover to cover. Don't get bogged down. Familiarize and re-familiarize yourself with the basic shape of the knowledge and the degree of articulation at the fundamental conceptual level. Reading MCAT Pearls with a constant, attentive forward momentum, not holding yourself responsible for more than refamiliarlization, is a method for walking around the mountain in a time effective way before you tunnel through it during your main conceptual review cycle.

For students returning to science learning after a number of years this kind of discipline for a few weeks at the beginning will give you a way to recover broad familiarity. If you think of building your knowledge base like a developer thinks about building a planned community, you would know not to make fifty feet of road, the driveway and finish the first house before moving onto the second, but many students get their big MCAT book, open it to page 1, and say, okay, I have three months, that's 40 pages per day and then a few weeks for review. What you need to do first is survey the land to develop. Read the table of contents. Flip through all your resources and look at each picture and formula. Judge your resources based on a figure of merit that includes variety, comprehensiveness, authority, design, and fun. Go back and look at your old textbooks. Put the roads in for the whole neighborhood and install all of the foundations of the houses first. You will have many times to revisit each. A goal I learned to give my students after the first two or three weeks is to be able to outline physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and biology at the topic level from memory on a piece of paper to be able to picture the simplest model system required to represent the phenomena of each topic mentally.
 
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