How To Apply To Medical School Part III: The MCAT

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” 
― Winston Churchill

Happy Wednesday morning! 

Today's "How to" will cover preparing for the MCAT.  To apply to medical schools in the Caribbean that aren't U.S. based the MCAT is NOT required, however if you've sat the examination you can mention that either on the application itself (if there is a spot) or on your resume. 

Before I delve into how to prepare for the MCAT, I would just give a little background on the examination for those who are curious and who may not know what it is. The MCAT stands for Medical College Admissions Test, and it's just that. It's similar to the SAT but it's specific to the sciences (Chemistry, Physics and Biology) with a verbal component. Although I've never sat the actual examination, I've registered and studied for it during my course of applying to U.S. medical schools and went through the pressure of practice examinations at different times. 

The MCAT website is what I resorted to time and time again during my course of medical school application, because I found it to be very comprehensive and detailed. The examination is usually sat your junior year of undergrad or for the non-traditional student, as soon as you've covered the material on which you will be tested. It can be taken in January, March and April-November. This is nice because you're able to sit the exam, receive your results and re-sit if you weren't pleased with your score. 

When I first studied for the examination I tried doing it on my own, with notes from lectures and my textbooks. I noticed that for me this was not beneficial-which was evident by my practice exam test scores. After seeing this and talking to friends, I decided to study smart since I didn't have the funds at the time to register for a Kaplan course, I utilized material from friends who sat the examination and who had review materials. This allowed me to get through the material and stick to a schedule.  

So what really works? It all depends on the kind of student you are. Are you able to finance a review course? Can you do without an in-class review session but can afford study materials? Luckily, the amount of MCAT study material is endless and with YouTube and other sites that offer free videos for review sessions, one can cheaply and effectively study for the MCAT without spending more than the cost of registering for the exam if you are smart. 

I was able to study and work at the same time which also meant I could afford the MCAT prep courses through Kaplan. I used two different options on two different occasions. The MCAT On Demand and the MCAT Classroom Anywhere. Kaplan once you're registered for one of their programs sends you a nice package of review books and a schedule that gives you everything you will need to cover the material. 
I chose the MCAT On Demand option first when I worked the night shift. During downtime I would have access to videos of lectures and access to explanations of concepts. This allowed me to study without any restrictions. 
The MCAT Classroom Anywhere was almost like going to a class. There were scheduled days for lectures and we would have to log in at a certain time before the sessions began. I liked this method more because I was able to ask questions in real time and get the answers either from the lecturer or a TA or another student. 

The materials I received from Kaplan made understanding concepts easy, and the material less intimidating to study. The practice questions were extremely helpful in measuring how I studied and my progress. 

I received these materials from a friend and although I didn't use the books (because I had the Kaplan Review books) I did use the audio, which allowed me to listen to any subject anywhere. 

These review materials are more animated and makes learning fun with mnemonics and concise and clear explanations. 

These were the main review materials I used in conjunction with textbooks from undergrad to assist in my MCAT preparation. Overall, the main thing required for studying for an examination like this one, is discipline. You can have all of the review materials in the world, but if you don't have the discipline to actually stick to a study schedule and to put in the work months in advance you won't receive the score that would set you apart from other applicants. It's important as well to relax the day before the examination and to get a good night's rest. Some persons go to the spa, read a book for leisure and even watch a movie and enjoy a meal with friends before the examination. Feel free to treat yourself before the examination with a break. 

Have you sat the MCAT already? How'd you study? What would you recommend to others? Feel free to leave a comment of your study tips for standardized examinations. 

I am not receiving any compensation from Kaplan or ExamKrackers for my review of their material. The material was purchased with my own money, unless stated otherwise. 

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