The Road to Becoming a Doctor

This is a guest post by a friend of mine who recently got into medical school. I can't begin to express how excited and happy I am for her and proud of all the hard work she put forth to get where she is now. 

The Road To Becoming A Doctor

I knew this day would come – the day when I would have to take the dreaded 4-lettered test that most pre-meds groan when uttered – MCAT. I had always excelled well in class and its exams, but never with standardized tests. I knew this from taking the SATs and ACTs for my entry into college. How was I getting just average to slightly above average scores on these tests? Surely, I am smarter than that?

I had a high school friend, pre-med like me, who did ridiculously amazing on her MCAT. I was proud of her, but yearned to learn her secret. Take a MCAT prep course she said. So I did. I was bound to strive and succeed like her.

The class was very beneficial for me in its interactive program and set schedule to prep me to score well. I attended all the classes (via my computer screen), took mini tests in between work and school, and studied all the textbooks provided by the organization. 

I signed up to take the test when I thought would be a good time, compelling me to buckle down and study hard. It is very important to have a set schedule and keep to it. Additionally, register for your “ideal” test date and see if there are locations convenient for you. Some dates aren’t available at certain places nor are the dates always available for when you want to take it, especially since those dates go fast like hot cakes. While I got the date that I wanted, I didn’t get the location as all testing centers nearby were either booked up or unavailable. As a result, I ended up having to drive approximately 5 hours away to my testing center and I decided to drive down the night before, so I wouldn’t be tired from driving. However, I did meet a tester who tested with me that day who drove in that morning from 5 hours away.

I was stunned when I got back my test results. I felt defeated. Perhaps the MCAT was telling me I was not cut out to be a physician after all. I felt stressed during test day. My first attempt gave me motivation to try again. I changed my study habits: I took more practice tests, worked on understanding the concepts, reinforced high-yield test questions into my brain, and plastered equations and “cheat sheets” all over my house. I wrote in a notebook concepts I didn’t understand and reviewed them all every day.

I registered my second attempt early (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!) and got a more convenient location (90 minutes away!) I felt more at ease going into the test despite being in a waiting room with about 30 blatantly nervous people – Not all of them are taking the MCAT I reminded myself to keep myself calm.

When I got my results back, I was relieved I made a great improvement but still unsettled with the score – While it’s not where I’d like it to be, it is still a competitive score nonetheless.

I took the MCAT in 2013 because between the year 2013-2014, the test was the shortest it has ever been in history. The writing portion of the test was eliminated (thank goodness!) as many med schools weren’t really looking at that score as it was intended for.

Now, the MCAT has undergone a dramatic change to reflect the change of medicine and hone into concepts that future doctors will need in succeeding in medical schools. 

The MCAT 2015, which will begin in April, has 4 sections (instead of 3): biological sciences, physical sciences, critical analysis/reasoning skills, and social/behavioral sciences (which tests over sociology, psychology, biochemistry, etc). Unlike the current MCAT which was approximately 5-6 hours or so, the new MCAT will be two hours longer. 

I think this change will be beneficial for medical schools in identifying qualified applicants who will succeed at their institution. I can imagine schools will heavily rely on this new test as more and more applicants are coming in (50,000 applicants for 2014 according to AAMC). Personally, I just hope I never have to endure that test.

Learn from me: the key to your success with the MCAT is to study hard, but study smarter.

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