What Classes Should You Take Before the MCAT?

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Session 164

The 2020 MCAT season is coming! We’ll talk about classes and courses that prepare you for the MCAT and when (or if) to take them. Once again, we’re joined by Phil from Next Step Test Prep.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:08] Prepping for the Next Year

The MCAT calendar has turned at this point. The MCAT for 2019 is over and the AAMC has just announced its dates for 2020. They haven’t opened up the registration yet. Today, we’re dishing our some stuff to help students better prepare for the MCAT next time. We show you ways to use your time efficiently.

There’s no MCAT at the end of the year because September is towards the end of the application cycle. So if someone takes the test in October-December, it’s all the same. So they decided to take this off and ramp-up and prep for the next cycle of the MCAT.

[04:50] The Hidden Curriculum and How to Best Prepare for It

'When the MCAT changed, they ramped up the difficulty because the students are higher in caliber.'Click To Tweet

The old MCAT wasn’t able to separate people so they made the new MCAT more difficult. 

They even added stuff that’s not technically in the prereqs. This is by design because the MCAT writers want to know that you’re able to learn huge amounts of information.

To prepare yourself for this sort of “hidden curriculum,” check out the AAMC where they outline the content they’re going to be testing students on.

There are a lot of biological systems included. Anatomy and Physiology are not prereqs. You don’t need to take them to take the MCAT, but there are a ton of Anatomy and Physiology on the exam itself.

This being said, Phil believes that taking Anatomy and Physiology is a good use of time. Not only does it help you in the MCAT, but it also makes that transition into medical school a whole lot smoother. Even if you’ve already taken the MCAT and you’re just trying to figure out if you need one more elective to graduate with your degree, look into Anatomy and Physiology.

Of the biological systems, Phil recommends Neurology as it has the highest yield of the systems. Because they can ask a lot of neuro-based questions in the Physics section, for instance.

The Bio section can also have a lot of neuro questions in it, as well as Psychology/Sociology. Look into any upper-level neuro course. Immunology is also up there on the list as well as Endocrinology.

'When it comes to endocrine, immunology, and some of the nuances of neuro, things get a little bit more complex. If you can get a stronger background, that would really help.'Click To Tweet

[11:05] Which Classes to Self-Teach

'You can self-teach one semester's worth of material or one field while you're prepping for the MCAT.'Click To Tweet

Organic chemistry is unlike all the other Chemistry topics. If you haven’t taken Orgo 1, you’re going to have a really hard time understanding what they’re talking about. But Orgo 2, which is also a prerequisite, is largely unnecessary. Very little of it shows up on the actual MCAT.

Based on feedback, it’s just focused more on memorizing specific mechanisms. The MCAT is not going to make you draw mechanisms so you can get away without having to take Orgo 2.

If you haven’t taken Physics 1 and/or Physics 2. it can be tricky. Physics 2 is a lower yield than Physics 1. Phil recommends Biochemistry because it’s usually one of the last classes students take. So if the student hasn’t taken one class, it’s usually biochem.

Biochem in undergrad is very memorization-heavy but the MCAT doesn’t do that. The MCAT is more interested in, for instance, whether you understand how something is regulated than they are interested in having you memorize specific enzymes.

The bio courses are useful for students as they can cross over. Phil puts a high emphasis on Psychology/Sociology because it’s really high yield.

If you take Orgo 1 at UCLA or NYU, it’s all going to be the same course. But Psychology and Sociology have a lot more wiggle room. A Psychology class in undergrad may talk about Freud for two months or they might not talk about Freud as much.

'The level of Psych/Soc courses in undergrad usually don't necessarily correspond to what the MCAT actually tends to ask a lot of questions about.'Click To Tweet

[15:55] Working with a Huge Amount of Data Interpretation

Try to get into a course that involves journal reviews or join a study group that does journal reviews. This doesn’t even have to be a course. If you’re interested in Biology, pick out some journal articles and topics you’re interested in.

'Find a professor that you want to ask a letter of recommendation from and ask for journal article recommendations.'Click To Tweet

[17:40] Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)

If you’re looking for some help with your MCAT prep, check out Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep). Choose among 4, 6, or 10 full-length exams and get a free one when you sign up for their diagnostic test. Save 10% using the promo code MSHQ.


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