Is MCAT Test Anxiety Going to Keep Me From Med School?

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ADG 156: Is MCAT Test Anxiety Going to Keep Me From Med School?

Session 156

This premed has been struggling with testing anxiety and has done poorly on the MCAT because of it. Can he recover from both testing anxiety and a low score?

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[00:31] Question of the Day

“If I take a gap year, and I do an MPH, would that still make me a strong applicant for medical school?

I’m taking the MCAT. I’m a senior. I’ve taken it a couple of times, and I haven’t gone to the school I wanted. I’m taking a gap year now. And I’m applying to an accelerated one-year master’s in public health, have a good GPA, and a good resume. 

The only thing I needed was the MCAT. But I want to know if that in total will make me a strong applicant still even though I had to take multiple advocates.

[01:34] An MPH Has Nothing to Do with the App

The MPH is irrelevant. Do an MPH if you want to do it and don’t do an MPH if you don’t want to do it. The MPH has nothing to do with your medical school application. It won’t help your application and it won’t hurt your application unless you do really bad in it.

[01:46] Multiple Scores Aren’t the Problem

For the far majority of schools, having multiple MCAT scores is not a problem. What they want to see is that you do better. Ultimately, you get a good MCAT score. There are students who have taken the test five times. Finally, they figured it out and got a 512. And they got multiple acceptances to medical school.

'Taking the MCAT multiple times isn't a problem. The issue is taking multiple times and never seeing any improvement.'Click To Tweet

Our student is curious about what else he could be doing differently as he has tried numerous programs, and is still getting testing anxiety on the day of the test.

Whenever he’s doing his full-length practice exams, he’s scoring near his target scores almost every single time. And then when he got to the test, he got nervous, started rushing, and then scored significantly lower. In this case, he’s doing everything right but he just has test anxiety and he needs to work on that.

[03:29] Test Anxiety is Real!

What he needs to do is to talk to a professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk about test anxiety. That being said, there are things you can do to, not get rid of, but control your test anxiety.

You can continue to take practice tests, continue to learn content, and every single time you step in into that testing center, all of that anxiety is going to come back. 

So you need ways to manage it. It’s not going to be courses, not tutors, or anything. It’s going to be helping those thoughts rushing through your head that that is causing you to do poorly on the MCAT.

This can get worse every single time you have to retake it. And now that there’s this seven-time cap on taking the MCAT, every single time you take the MCAT is counting towards one of your seven lives. Every time you go in there and take it and your test anxiety gets the best of you, you are removing one of those lives. And so, every time you go back, the stakes are that much higher. That’s on top of all the normal pressure that the MCAT brings which is normal anxiety. 

'It's very normal for people to all of a sudden have test anxiety around the MCAT.'Click To Tweet

Our student says he already applied to medical school in May and withdrew his application after noticing he did poorly on the exam. There’s no consequence to this except that he’s just wasting money and donating it to the AAMC.

Now, our student was scoring between a 510 and a 514 in his practice exams. What he needs to do then is to check out the school’s resources, see if they have a psychologist or psychiatrist that they would recommend for you to go talk to.

If you’re consistent in getting 510-514, then you should expect around that on the actual test day. If you’re between 510 and 514, and you get a 508. That’s expected. But scoring less than 500 is not expected and you need to work on that. 

[08:03] Doing a Gap Year

Between now while you’re getting some help and when you retake, make sure to not let the knowledge and test-taking skills that you’ve built up go to waste. You still need to stay in there. Do practice questions, and review content for questions that you’re still struggling with. That way, when it comes to getting back in gear for the full MCAT, you’re still on top of your game.

During your gap year, do as clinical experience and shadowing as you can. It doesn’t mean you have to do 20 hours a week, but as much as you can.

If you’re saying you have good grades and you have good experiences. And the one thing holding you back is the MCAT then, obviously, it’s going to be on your mind.

[10:14] Recommended Study Tools

For more study materials, check out Blueprint MCAT and get access to their flashcards, their full-length exams, and their study planner tool. That’s the core of what everyone should be using. UWorld is also great in terms of questions. Their explanations are second to none, almost. So that’s probably all you need. Full-length exams and questions are really the prep for you.

Ultimately, therapy is awesome. I, myself, see therapists because, why not? So it really helps to just talk things out and get some tools to help you manage the test day.


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