bustle coat

MCAT in retrospect.

It has been almost a year since the dreaded/exciting/awful/rewarding day of my MCAT.  I took it only once and after about 8 months of studying.  I read through the books, made piles on index cards, and recited information aloud in my kitchen for hours.  Now that it’s over, and very over at that, I see it without a veil of fear and anxiety that shielded it since I first knew what the MCAT was.  Here is my list, in hindsight, about useful tips and advice:

  • Think big.  Remind yourself every hour if you have to what kind of consequence this test has.  Picture abolsutely dominating the test: it’s the gateway to your future. Can’t you see yourself in a long white coat, bustling through the hospital, running rounds?  Can’t you see your office, the patients, the diploma on the wall?  Remember that this is the key to what you want.
  • STOP if you’re confused and figure it out.  Yeah, so your goal was to get through 20 pages of material, but you are stumped at page three.  Go over and over the idea until it sticks, even though it’s painful realizing you will only get through five pages after all.  At least you will have a solid knowledge base and didn’t rush through to meet projected timelines.
  • Say it out loud over and over again.  When you catch yourself stuttering or skipping over words and just replacing them with mental notes, you don’t get it.  Be able to explain the concept to your wall, a stranger, your cat, without losing your “flow,” and you know you are ready to move on.
  • Be weird.  Say those strange thoughts out loud and fully envision any unexpected visuals.  This will help you remember on test day.  I reminded myself that calciTONin tones down blood calcium levels, DJ Ileum spins the sick beats in the villi (to remember duodenum, jejunum, ileum in the right order).  I also matched dramatic hand signals to remember physics equations (almost like interpretive dance) and had odd voice inflections over key words.  You’ll keep yourself entertained, too.
  • Pump yourself up.  Associate the MCAT with awesomeness and mastery.  I played by music deafeningly loud and memorized Iggy Azalea lyrics about domination: “I heard the top is lonely, I wonder if that’s the truth” and “I’m what amazing looks like, you’ll recognize it when you see it.” I looked forward to breaks so I could feel cool while rapping in my kitchen and drinking iced tea.
  • Do practice questions.  After content review, you are only halfway through studying.  You need to become almost bored with the question and answer format of the test, the wording, and the pace.  Time yourself, sit on a hard chair, stare a computer, eat nothing, put your water in another room, and be as realistic as you can.
  • Admit your practice score (on AMCAS practice tests) is an accurate projection.  Not much will change on test day.  Don’t assume you’ll get an expert spurt of knowledge at the MCAT computer.  If your physical sciences score doesn’t seem to reflect your efforts (like mine), that’s what will probably happen on the real test.  Review the specific questions you didn’t get, then explain (out loud) the right and wrong answers in a conversation tone until it’s simple and clear-sounding.  Tackle your weak spots wholeheartedly and admit when you have a weakness.

Looking back now, the MCAT looks like a faint memory that did not overpower my summer.  At the time, it felt like it ruled my life and took over my soul.  So if you are in the trenches, rest assured that this one day be only a memory.  Of course, the experience has seriously lasting consequences, but it still only feels like a droplet in the ocean once it is said and done.  Don’t be afraid, be empowered, to take another step on the doctor-journey!  =)