In today’s episode, Ryan and Bryan talk about the 3 biggest mistakes among premed students when preparing for the MCAT along with proven ways you can do to counter these mistakes.
The newest version of a common mistake:
Bryan calls it the Buy-Another-Book- itis, a disease that med students and premed students get where “everything will be great if they buy another book” so they end up spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars buying resources not necessary.
Bryan’s take: Just learn the books you have.
Top 3 Mistakes Students Make When Preparing for the MCAT:
- Failing to fully review their practice exams.
Students take a test. They get a number, And then take another test and get another number and take another test and get another number.
What you need to do:
- In order to improve your MCAT score, you need to carefully analyze each test after you take it.
- Spend from 8-18 hours after taking a full-length practice test, carefully doing an autopsy on every single question.
- It may feel boring and time-consuming but it’s incredibly productive. So analyze your test a question at a time.
*Reviewing questions means reviewing ALL questions including those where you got right. Why did you get them right? How will you do this again on test day?
3.5 Not taking enough practice exams.
Students get real lazy and only take part of a practice exam.
What you need to do:
Simulate your test day and treat it like your real exam. Wake up early. Simulate the full experience.
- Always rushing ahead to new material without adequately reviewing the material you’ve already covered.
There is so much on the MCAT that you feel you have to move on to the next chapter even if you haven’t mastered the one that comes before it.
What you need to do:
- You have to give the time to reviewing. MCAT content cannot be studied the way you studied for your Immunology midterm.
- It has to be mastered. Learn it like a musician learns a musical score.
- Learn the material backwards and forward.
- Repeat. Sleep on it. Come back and review again 2 or 3 days after to make sure you’ve solidified the material.
- Rushing the MCAT itself.
Warning: Doing this mistake will entirely screw up your application timeline.
- You have a plan and realize a couple weeks ahead of time that you’re still pretty far out.
- Then you still decide to take the MCAT because don’t want to push it back.
- You get a score that’s not going to get you into med school.
- Now you’ve just spent over a month waiting to get that score back and realize it’s not the score you needed.
- So you’d have to schedule a retake and face the issue of whether you can get a seat to take the test in June or early July.
Making this mistake would imply that you’re not only losing a day or a week here, but you’re going to be losing a month or more of time and potentially screwing up your entire application timeline.
What you need to do:
- Take it as early as you can, but do not take it before you’re ready.
- Don’t rush the MCAT.
At the end of the day, your MCAT score, although not the only part, is a huge part in your application. So making sure you’re ready to take it is very crucial.
Links and Other Resources:
Use the Coupon Code: MCATPOD to save money on next Step’s courses and materials.
Dr. Ryan Gray: The MCAT Podcast, session number 5.
A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Next Step Test Prep, The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles, and this podcast will give you the motivation and information that you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.
Now welcome to The MCAT Podcast if this is the first time joining us. My name is Dr. Ryan Gray and I am the host here at The MCAT Podcast. I also host The Premed Years and the Old Premeds Podcast, and as always I am joined by Bryan Schnedeker. I guess not ‘as always.’ As always the first five episodes, I’m joined by Bryan Schnedeker, but Next Step Test Prep has a ton of amazing people behind the scenes, and on the frontlines helping students like yourself get amazing scores on the MCAT. And this week we’re going to be talking about the three biggest mistakes that Bryan sees among premed students when they’re preparing for the MCAT. So let’s go ahead and jump right in.
Bryan, welcome back to The MCAT Podcast. How are you doing?
Bryan Schnedeker: Ryan, glad to be here.
Dr. Ryan Gray: You like that? Very methodical, Bryan. So Bryan Schnedeker from Next Step Test Prep, I am Ryan Gray from the Medical School Headquarters. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. We are talking all about the MCAT here, obviously the title of this podcast is The MCAT Podcast. This week we’re going to cover the top three mistakes premed students make when preparing for, studying for, getting ready for, taking, all of the above, the MCAT. Right?
Bryan Schnedeker: Absolutely.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright. So you’ve been helping premed students with the MCAT now for fifteen years?
Bryan Schnedeker: Something like that, yeah.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So you’ve probably seen all of the mistakes, I’m assuming, that students have made.
Bryan Schnedeker: Yes, I mean my progress as a tutor, and my students’ progress nowadays comes built on a long, long history of seeing the mistakes other students have made before. And so we definitely benefit by standing on the shoulders of giants and learning from the mistakes they’ve made in the past.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Now I’m going to break off here and have a little fun, and ask you what’s the most recent mistake that you’ve seen that caught you off guard, that was something you haven’t seen before?
Bryan Schnedeker: Oh that is a good question. You know the MCAT is such a focused universe that within the first few years I’d seen most of the broad categories of mistake. I’ll kind of answer a variation on your question, which is the kind of newest version of a common mistake would be that I had a student last summer, so it was the first summer that the brand new MCAT was being offered, and because it was the new MCAT and we had never actually seen it be administered before, there was a lot of anxiety out there. So I had a student who without exaggeration must have bought thirty different MCAT books. I mean he literally bought- like if you just Googled the word MCAT, every book that you got out there. It was crazy. Just spending hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars because there was the sense of like, ‘Oh well I have to see everything.’ And it was totally unnecessary, right? Like this kind of- I call it ‘buy-another-book-itis.’ It’s this disease that med students and premeds get where like, ‘Oh everything will be great if I buy another book.’ But of course that’s totally unnecessary. You just need to learn the books you have.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Unless it’s my book, right? The Guide to the Medical School Interview. Right?
Bryan Schnedeker: Right, absolutely. Yeah that’s the one big premed book you need, right? But if you’re a med student studying pathology, you don’t need ten different pathology books, just buy the BRS Path and learn it front to cover- cover to cover.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah I’ve seen that mistake a lot as well, so that’s a good one. Alright so let’s cover this David Letterman style and do a top three mistakes that students make, starting off with number three.
Mistake #3 – Failing to Review Practice Exams
Bryan Schnedeker: Right so number three is failing to fully review their practice exams. So med students and premed students, Ryan you’ve described all of us as type A’s, very data driven, want to get top performance. So the mistake students make is they take a test, they get a number, and they go, ‘I have to take another test and I need to get another number, and I need to take another test and get another number.’ And there’s just this headlong rush forward with taking more, and more, and more tests. And of course if you go to any premed forum other than the exceptionally high quality Med School HQ, you go to other premed forums out there which are just full of bragging and bull hockey. You’re going to see all this nonsense online. ‘Oh I took 27 practice MCATs and that’s how I got my 540’ or whatever. Like just total nonsense. The reality is that improving your MCAT score comes by carefully analyzing each test after you take it. So you take a full length exam, you should spend anywhere from eight to eighteen hours carefully doing an autopsy on every single question. And nobody wants to do that because it’s time consuming, and it feels boring, and it feels nonproductive. But the reality is, it’s incredibly productive. And when I take on tutoring students, which I don’t do much these days, but I still do take one or two students every now and again; the biggest battle I have with them is convincing them that they have to review every single question from every single exam they take. And frankly, I take no credit for the enormous score improvements that my students get these days. They get it for themselves, all I do is convince them to study the right way by analyzing their tests a question at a time.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So we’re going to lose Next Step Test Prep business now because everybody that’s listening to this podcast is going to know this already. And that’s okay, we’re here to help students.
Bryan Schnedeker: Absolutely.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So a couple qualifiers there. You’d mentioned reviewing every question, and you mean questions that you got right, and questions that you got wrong, right?
Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah and that’s the mistake, right? Is students will look at let’s say a practice passage and there were six questions, and they only got two wrong, and so their reaction will be, ‘Oh I got this right, no problem. I got this right now problem. I got this right, no problem. Oh I got this one wrong, what happened here?’ And they like obsess about their wrong questions, and this just creates a very negative mindset, it creates these skewed perceptions of performance. The reality is that success on the real exam means reinforcing good habits every bit as much as extinguishing bad habits. And the only way to reinforce good habits is to review the things you got right. Why did you get them right? How will I do this again on test day?
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah so I want to add one more qualifier in there and add a number 3.5 before this mistake of failing to fully review practice exams. Number 3.5 is not taking enough practice exams, if I can say that properly.
Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah, absolutely. Students will get real lazy and they’ll like take part of a practice exam, and they won’t actually simulate test day. Look, like it or not you’ve got to get up at 7:30 in the morning, you’ve got to start your test at 8:00, you’ve got to treat it like the real exam, simulate the full experience. Yeah.
Mistake #2 – Rushing to New Material
Dr. Ryan Gray: And we’ll dig into that in a separate podcast episode all about practice exams, because it’s a huge deal. Alright so moving on. Number two for top three mistakes premed students make with the MCAT.
Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah so number two is always rushing ahead to new material without adequately reviewing material you’ve already covered. And so this kind of ties into number three, that you have to give the time to reviewing. There’s so much on the MCAT, so much that there’s always this feeling, ‘Well I have to move on to the next chapter,’ even if you haven’t mastered the chapter that comes before it. And I always say that MCAT content cannot be studied the way you studied for your immunology midterm or whatever, because that’s just a cram it in your head and vomit it out the next day. MCAT material has to be mastered. You have to learn it like a musician learns a musical score. You need to know that material backwards and forwards, and the only two- there are two essential steps that have to happen. You have to repeat, and you have to sleep. So you have to review a chapter, sleep on it, come back the next day, redo the end of chapter questions. Sleep on it, come back, review it again two or three days later to make sure you’ve really solidified the material. And students get so anxious about moving forward that they don’t do the necessary repetition.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, okay. And number one.
Mistake #1 – Don’t Rush the MCAT
Bryan Schnedeker: Okay so number one, biggest mistake you can make because it will entirely screw up your application deadline- your application timeline, is rushing the MCAT itself. If you have a plan, ‘Oh I’m going to take the MCAT let’s say on May 1st,’ and you realize a couple of weeks ahead of time that you are still pretty far out, you are not where you need to be and you say, ‘Oh well but I just have to take it, I can’t push it back.’ And then you get a score that’s not going to get you into med school, now you just spent over a month waiting to get that score back, now you’ve got the score, you realized it’s not the score you needed, now you have to schedule a re-take, then you’re faced with this issue of can I even get a seat to take the test maybe in June or even early July? So rushing and taking it before you’re ready is the most important mistake because it’s not just a matter of, ‘Oh I lost a day or I lost a week.’ You’re talking about losing a month or more of time, aggregate a bit because of having to re-take the test, and potentially screwing up your entire application timeline. So take it as early as you can, but do not take it before you’re ready. Don’t rush the MCAT.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah I worked with several students this past application cycle who put off their MCAT because they needed to, and we had discussions about what that was going to mean for their applications, and getting their score back, and what schools were going to do with their applications. But at the end of the day your MCAT score is a big part of your application; it’s not the only part but it’s a big part. And so making sure that you’re ready to take it is very, very important.
Alright there you have it, the three biggest mistakes that you should be avoiding as a premed, preparing for the MCAT. You need to go check out what Next Step Test Prep is doing over at www.NextStepTestPrep.com. Sign up for their new awesome course, their MCAT Course, they’re breaking into the course arena. We talked about it in session one. If you haven’t heard about their course and everything that they’re offering, go check out session one of The MCAT Podcast and hear all about how they are creating something better than Kaplan or Princeton Review for a cheaper price. And you can save some money by using a coupon code only given here in the podcast, and that coupon code is MCATPOD. That’s MCATPOD, all capital letters. That will save you some money on their course and everything else that they do over at Next Step Test Prep.
So I hope you got a lot of great information out of the podcast today, and I hope you join us next week here at The MCAT Podcast, and everything that we do here at the Medical School Headquarters.
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