So, my last post seems to have opened a can of worms relating to the MCAT, because I received a whole slew of other questions (many of them repeated) relating to the exam in the last week. So here we go, Q & A style.
Q. How long did you prepare?
A. I spent 8 weeks working a 9-5 research job during the summer after my sophomore year. During that time, I would study in the evenings for ~ 4 hours each day. I studied a little on weekends as well. Then I had 4 weeks afterwards with a more flexible schedule, and spent upwards of 6 hours each day studying, or doing practice exams. I hadn’t done any practice exams before that final month. In retrospect, I wish I had started doing practice exams earlier, because I learned a lot more by doing practice exams than by doing content review.
Q. What’s the best order in which to prepare?
A. I don’t like the idea of going through the entire physics prep book, and then moving onto chem and doing that entire prep book, etc. I liked seeing all of the subjects every day so they’d all stay fresh in my mind, so I did all of the subjects concurrently. So I’d do chapter 1 of all the books, then do chapter 2 of all the books, etc.
Q. Would you recommend doing practice exams during the ‘content review’ period or just after?
A. I recommend doing practice tests only after you have reviewed the content, done some practice problems, and memorized your formulas. Otherwise, I think it’s a waste of a practice test. Also, I think people are likely to tell themselves “Oh, it’s just because I haven’t memorized this one thing yet” or “Oh, I just mixed up this one thing because I didn’t review it” and brush off a bad score if they haven’t done their full content review yet. You want to go over your practice exams and figure out which concepts you are unclear on and having trouble with. If you haven’t completed the content review yet, you’ll make mistakes because you just haven’t reviewed stuff yet, not because you are fundamentally misunderstand something, so it’ll be less helpful.
Q. What was the hardest part of the exam for you?
A. Bio/biochem was the hardest for me, I think because i hadn’t taken biochem yet. Actually..I hadn’t taken physics yet either, but that was easiest for me. So bio/biochem was probably just my weakest area in general, even if I would have taken it before hand. I hated biochem in med school too, so…
Also. CARS was tough for me because I always felt like there was such a time crunch. I had to just practice doing passages as quickly as possible, which didn’t feel like a new skill or concept I was learning. It just felt like time management, but in a bad way. It was particularly frustrating because it isn’t something you can learn by reviewing concepts.
Q. How did you feel after?
A. I felt like it went just okay. I didn’t feel great about it, but I knew it wouldn’t be worth canceling my score and retaking it, because it’s so hard to gauge how you did on these things. I was nervous the entire month we had to wait for scores. I expected maybe 510 or something, but ended up doing way better. Also. I will say- my actual exam score was 12 points higher than my highest practice exam score, which was a huge surprise.