Preparing for Medical School: Part 2

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The new MCAT is here to stay. How exciting! I’m here to give you a first-hand recount of how it went for me. This is part 2 of that story, here is part 1.

So I just took the MCAT first time over last weekend. Oh Boy, was it fun. Let me start from the beginning.

“So.¬†

In the beginning, there was nothing.

Just the water.” -Green Grass Running Water, Thomas King.

 

A great quote from an insightful book by the way, which I would recommend for everyone. No, I have not digressed far, because you see, For the 4 weeks that I was supposed to be studying for the MCAT, I had time to read that novel, celebrate Christmas with family, prepare a fantastic birthday surprise for a close relation, and continue with school. Key Point: There is enough time for everything! Pre-med is not a way of life, scheduling will help maintain one’s sanity.

*Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the exam-related organizations in any way. I am  recounting my personal experience with their materials. Readers should do research before deciding on any exam prep strategies.

The pre-exam experience:

I registered exactly one month before my exam. My arsenal: The ExamKrackers boxset, The Princeton Review boxset, the Kaplan boxset, practice exam books, Khan Academy, and myCourses.

4 weeks is arguably short, but 4 weeks = 28 days. By studying 4 hours per day, you get 112 hours of solid study time in 4 weeks. For comparison, a bit over 100 hours is the time it takes a prep class to walk you through all the material. I think reading through the materials is even faster. There are people who use 3 months (or the entire summer) to prepare, and some 3 weeks. I think somewhere between 4-8 weeks would be the sweet spot.

Out of my arsenal, I heavily recommend:

  • ExamKrackers booklet on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Section (CARS). That section gave me the most trouble and the booklet is very short but gave very good methods for approaching the questions.
  • Khan Academy for its excellent videos covering the Sociology and Psychology section, which is enough if you have taken any courses at the university level (which you should, many med schools have requirements). Without any background, additional reading in any of the boxsets is essential to learning the concepts.
  • Khan Academy again for its massive¬†collection of passage questions and solutions. There are more questions on here than all of my paper resources.

I did not find any of the boxsets to vary significantly from one to the next. The MCAT is a standard test, so the material is standard too. I compared the boxsets versus the materials in the science courses at McGill. The physics, chemistry, and organic chemistry materials are pretty consistent between my course slides and the boxsets. I am slightly in favor of the boxsets because of the condensed and concise writing, and also summaries of key points to memorize.

The biological section is a whole separate issue, because in all the sections except CARS, the questions are relevant to biology. Yes, the boxsets cover all the concepts you should know, but I really think that is not enough. Biology is too wide and informational to be summarized well in one book. Instead I found knowledge from several courses that I have taken to be very helpful:

  • Molecular Biology (BIOL 200, 300. Quite a number of questions on biomolecule functions and properties)
  • Genetics (BIOL 202. )
  • Biochemistry/Cell Metabolism (BIOL 201/BIOC 212/ANAT 212. BIOC 311 covers some important points too)
  • Laboratory in Biology (BIOL 301. Yes, they ask you to read the results of PCR bands and how to do protein extractions)
  • Mammalian Physiology (PHGY 209, 210. MCAT likes biological systems a lot)
  • Statistics (Math 203 or equivalent. The definitions of central tendencies and data validity and reliability)
  • Psychology (Psyc 100 or equivalent. Covers almost the exact material of the Psychology Section)

 

 

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