In today's episode, Ryan and Bryan talk about the prerequisite “coursework” you have to take to prepare for the MCAT. How much weight should you put into the MCAT side of things? Or can you just skip a couple of classes and take a test before finishing these classes?
Here are the highlights of the conversation between Ryan and Bryan:
How much weight should you put into the MCAT side of things?
Do what the medical school is telling you to do. If they tell you to do xyz to apply to their school then you have to do xyz.
Do you have to take the coursework before the MCAT?
AAMC – a year each of Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Biology and a semester each of Psychology, Sociology, and Biochemistry.
A year of biology is almost certainly not going to be enough. Biology is the most tested topic on the MCAT (in all three science sections).
It's recommended to do the first year of biology but before you take the MCAT, try to get an upper or upper middle level course on Cell Biology and a mid or upper level course in something like Molecular Genetics.
Taking a couple of upper level courses of Biology that operate at levels of Cell, Molecular, etc., is going to be tremendously valuable for the MCAT.
Is a semester of Psychology enough?
Bryan recommends you take a whole year of it. Psychology is the second most tested science (in terms of countable number of questions). It's best to take a full year of Freshman psychology (Psych 101 and Psych 102).
Places where you can cut corners:
2nd semester of Organic Chemistry and the 2nd semester of Physics are not as valuable. There are not so many O. Chem and Physics questions on the MCAT. Although they have value for your grades. they have almost no value for the MCAT, So focusing on these two won't pay as big dividends as Biology and Psychology.
Is there the option to self-study?
Yes. You shouldn't do that with more than one semester's worth of content. Otherwise, trying to teach multiple semesters worth of material while also prepping for the MCAT is highly, highly difficult. Bryan has never seen a student do this successfully in his 15 years of experience.
Links and Other Resources:
Dr. Ryan Gray: The MCAT Podcast is part of the Med Ed Media network at www.MedEdMedia.com.
This is The MCAT Podcast, session number 9.
A collaboration between the Medical School Headquarters and Next Step Test Prep, The MCAT Podcast is here to make sure you have the information that you need to succeed on your MCAT test day. We all know that the MCAT is one of the biggest hurdles as a premed student, and we are here to give you the motivation and information you need to know to help you get the score you deserve so you can one day call yourself a physician.
Which Courses Pre-MCAT
Now my name is Dr. Ryan Gray, host of several podcasts on the Med Ed Media network which you can find at www.MedEdMedia.com. As always I'm joined by a fantastic member of the Next Step Test Prep team, Bryan Schnedeker. This week as it has been every week leading up to now, he is the Vice President for MCAT content and tutoring. So Bryan, biochemistry, physics, biology, chemistry, sociology, psychology.
Bryan Schnedeker: And organic chemistry.
Dr. Ryan Gray: And organic chemistry, how could I forget organic chemistry? The gatekeeper for premeds. There are so many prereqs that number one, my school is telling me that I need to do. That number two, the medical school is telling me that I need to do. And now number three, the MCAT is ‘telling' me that I need to do before I'm ready to take the MCAT. How much weight should I put into the MCAT side of things? Or can I skip a couple classes and just take the test before I finish those classes?
Bryan Schnedeker: Well yes and no. So how much weight should you put on the MCAT side of things? I think first you have to do what the medical schools tell you to do, right? They're the gatekeepers, they're entirely in charge so if they say, “To apply to our med school you have to do X, Y, Z,” then you for darn sure have to do X, and Y, and Z. The question you're asking about is ‘but do I have to do it before the MCAT? How does the coursework fit into the MCAT prep flow?' And you had rattled off all the various courses that students- the AAMC says are considered to be on the MCAT, and that's certainly true. Right? A year each of chem, orgo, physics, and bio. And a semester each of psych, soc, and biochem. So let me start with the kind of real recommendation that I make with students which is this; a year of biology is almost certainly not going to be enough. Biology is by far the most tested topic on the MCAT, it's in all three science sections have some biology in them. So I typically recommend to my own students that they do the first year of bio- you know, Bio 101, Bio 102, but then before they take the MCAT they really should try to get in an upper or mid or upper level course on cell biology, and mid or upper level course in something like molecular genetics, because the tests is very heavily skewed towards what I call the biology of the small. You're not going to get questions about ecosystems, but you're going to get a whole lot about ribosomes. So taking a couple of upper level courses of biology that operate at that level- cell, molecular and so on, is going to be tremendously valuable for the MCAT. In the same way, psychology- they say you only have to take a semester but you really do need a whole year of it because actually it's kind of surprising for folks who are familiar with the old MCAT, but psychology, one of the new sciences, is the second most tested science in terms of countable number of questions. You actually get more psychology questions than any of the other kind of traditional physics and gen chem subjects. So I really do recommend an entire- Psych 101, Psych 102, take a full year of freshman psychology. And then finally the places where you can cut corners a little bit, the second semester of organic chemistry and the second semester of physics are just not as valuable. And that's- again it's just simple math. There's not nearly so many organic chemistry or physics questions on the MCAT anymore, so if you're thinking about where to invest your time, a ton of time spent in orgo and physics is not going to pay as big dividends as biology and psychology.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That kind of goes back to- a couple weeks ago we talked about how there's a lot of knowledge on the MCAT, but it's shallow. And so those topics, not taking a second semester kind of plays into that a little bit, right?
Bryan Schnedeker: Yeah, exactly. Like organic chemistry really is the biggie. I mean there's only like twelve or thirteen questions on the entire 230 question test that are organic chemistry, and even some of those are debatable. You know where it's like well you could call this orgo or biochem. Or you could call this orgo or gen chem. And so all of that real in-depth nit-picky nitty gritty detail about reaction mechanisms and so on, I mean it has value for your grades but it has almost no value for the MCAT.
Dr. Ryan Gray: What if I'm looking at my calendar, looking at the courses that I'm taking, looking at when I'm going to take the MCAT, when I want to apply to medical school, and there's absolutely no way to fit in one of these ‘required' classes before I want to take the MCAT so that I can apply a year, without having to take the class, take the MCAT, and maybe delay applying a whole year? Is there the option to self-study?
Bryan Schnedeker: You can. A lot of students certainly do. You know to say- look just like you said, there is no way- I cannot move heaven and earth, there's no way to take a sociology course before my MCAT. Or there's no way to take my second semester of whatever- of some course. And so you can say, ‘Well I'm just going to have to teach it to myself. I'm going to have to self-study.' And the usual guideline I tell students here is you really shouldn't try to do that with more than one semester's worth of content. So if you say to yourself, ‘Look I am going to have to self-teach one semester of sociology while also prepping for the MCAT.' It's not fun, it's not easy, but you can do it. Or ‘I will have to self-teach my second semester of physics,' or something like that. Where we really see trouble is when students who are saying, ‘Well I will not have taken biochemistry, or psychology, or my second semester of organic chem. Can I take the MCAT? I really, really, really want to. I really, really have to.' And I say, ‘Okay you can but I'm going to be blunt, you're going to end up having to retake the test because trying to self-teach multiple semesters' worth of material while also prepping for the MCAT, I'm not going to say it's impossible but I will say in fifteen years' of MCAT prep, I've never seen a student do it successfully.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright there you have it. It's such a popular question, what prereqs do I need? What prereqs can I self-teach? What can I skip altogether? And hopefully the information that we talked about today will help answer those questions so that you can schedule out your classes, and figure out when you can take the MCAT, when you're going to have those prereqs under your belt.
Next week here at The MCAT Podcast, we're going to talk all about courses, and whether or not you really need to take an MCAT prep course. So subscribe to our show if you haven't already. You can subscribe in iTunes, in Google Play Music, in whatever podcast app that you use, make sure to subscribe to us so that every week your podcast app will download this podcast automatically, and you have it ready for you to play whenever you are ready to listen.
I hope you got a ton of great information out of the podcast today, I hope you join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and The MCAT Podcast.
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