Finally Tackling the Beast – MCAT 2015

mcatA few days ago, I brought back this post from 2010 about my interest in medicine. There was a reason for bringing back that particular post. It relates to something I want to post about now.

Earlier this week, I registered for the MCAT. I’ll be taking it on September 23, 2015.

Trying to insert a Countdown Clock but it’s not working. Just one more reason I might switch over to WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com.

I was thinking that, among other topics, I might post about the whole ordeal of preparing for the test and then taking it. I figured it’s sort of a unique situation–you don’t get a ton of blind and visually-impaired people taking that test–so hopefully it’ll be interesting to people. I can only hope.

A little background:

I was actually going to take it two years ago. I did a prep course through The Princeton Review and it was pretty brutal because I was going to school full-time, working part-time and for three months I also spent 5.5 hours every Saturday and Sunday morning doing the prep course. I only missed it once, and that was to go to a wedding. I was all set to go, though of course I felt like I could do a lot more work to be ready.

But things ended before they began. After going through that grueling course, I got denied accommodations on the exam. It’s a long story so I’ll write a separate post about that saga.

Right now, I want to focus on the test, the big mythical beast I have to defeat in slightly less than five months. I want to be as prepared as I possibly can.

I’m going to fucking crush this test.

I mean, I hope I will. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of mental stamina, and a lot of practice over the next few months. And a fair amount of adjustment. I studied for the old version, and the new one is different in two major ways, one that plays to my strengths and one that doesn’t.

The good way it’s changed is that there is now a huge focus on biochemistry. I’ve been taking that class, a full year’s worth of it, and doing really well, so that material will still be fresh in my mind. I also think that I’m pretty skilled at chemical reasoning (that’s how I approach questions on biochem exams that stump me or throw me for a loop), usually using the principles of organic chemistry.

The bad (for me) way it’s changed is they’ve added a psych/soc section. I took both in high school, and a year of psych as a freshman in college but that was, like, fifteen years ago. So I’ve got to study that area a lot.

So the sections of the exam now are Physics/Chem, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS), Bio/Biochem and Psych/Soc. You get a separate score in each section, between 118-132, and an overall score between 472-528. It’s scaled so the average should always be right at 500.

As far as what I plan to do to study for this beast, well, hmmm. For one thing, I’ll really ramp up after my summer classes end on July 16th. That’ll still give me two solid months of studying while not taking classes. I’ll be working during the first month of that, but not for the rest of the time. I schedule this test so I can make the best use of my month off. Everything starts back up on the 28th so having the test on the 23rd is really ideal for getting a lot out of my time off.

I’m going to start with taking a full-length practice test to see where I’m at. I want to add more full-length practice tests along the way later on. I plan to spend a ton of time reviewing those, seeing why I got things wrong, and using that to inform my study plans.

There are a whole bunch of Khan Academy videos and it looks like they were made to follow AAMC’s specific outline for what will be on the new version of the test, and that Khan and AAMC have somehow partnered for this, or AAMC has approved the videos (it’s not totally clear) so I’ll definitely be going through those fully.

I have all my old books from the old MCAT and I think I’ll use those to refresh on topics that I’m not as clear on (mostly physics related) that are likely to be on the new MCAT. I’ll also probably use a lot of the more difficult, experimental biology passages in the prep books because I’ve heard the bio/biochem section is in that style. As for biochem, it’s so fresh in my mind, and I have all my notes and exams and notes and my textbook, and I might just use that to fill in any holes I come across. I’ve actually seen some people say that the best prep book for the biochem section of the MCAT is the textbook that my class is using.

I do need a prep book for psych/soc. I need to focus on this area a lot as I need to learn so much in this realm. It’s been soooo long. So I think I might get The Princeton Review’s psych/soc MCAT book since that also comes with access to three of their online full-length practice MCATs.

The tricky thing with a new exam is that there aren’t many official practice materials, and the prep companies don’t know exactly what to go off of either. Even if they know the topics, that doesn’t mean they know the styles of passages or questions that will be asked.

I’m also going to get the AAMC question packs for Phys/Chem, CARS and Bio/Biochem (none for psych/soc available!) and their official Guide to the MCAT. I just wish there were more full-length practice tests available.

I also heard about some app that has MCAT-related flashcards, I think it’s through Kaplan, and I might do that too, just as something to do while on the bus or something, to reinforce definitions, again esp for the social sciences section.

Wow, writing this out, I realize I really need to nail down a study plan. There’s time, but I don’t want to get complacent about that and fall behind. I also don’t want to go so full-on that I burn myself out. I’m kinda wanting to do just a little bit every day at this point, since I’m still in classes and working. Just to sort of warm up, refresh material I’m rusty on, that sort of thing. But I do better with a plan, so I need to make one.

I also am usually at my best when I’m on some sort of impossible quest. So, bring it on!

~EJ

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4 thoughts on “Finally Tackling the Beast – MCAT 2015

  1. Go for it! You have amazing focus and determination and I fully expect you to come through in a blaze of glory.

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