Today, we chat with George about his MCAT journey and all things MCAT. George is soon on his second year of medical school in Canada and is also a Blueprint MCAT live online instructor.
We talk about how being a good MCAT taker has prepared him to be a good medical student. If you would like to follow along on YouTube, go to premed.tv.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:49] Relatable Skills from the MCAT to Medical School
George says the approach is very analytical when you come to the MCAT. A lot of people think it’s like a content-based exam, which is true to a certain extent. But it is fundamentally an application exam. Then you’ll see in med school how everything clicks together, for instance, how this disease is similar to that disease.
Now even in med school, George noticed that it’s very application-based as you’re going to see new stuff all the time. It’s how you click things together that counts.
[04:08] Active Studying vs. Passive Reading
Now, in order for you to apply these things, you have to know them too. And the biggest thing, George says, is to make it engaging for yourself. Look at the idea of active recall over passive reading.
Make Things Fun!
Try to be visual and then speak it out loud. The more you engage your senses, the better recall.'The more ways you can engage yourself with that learning and make it active for yourself, it's going to stick so much better.'Click To Tweet
Whether you’re using Blueprint MCAT flashcards or Anki decks, or any which way that you can make it so that it’s active recall, you’re going to engage yourself and force yourself to pull it from your memory.
The Danger of Passive Reading
That’s so much different from just reading things over and over where you may feel like you’re reading something but then you’re zoned out.“That's the danger of passive reading, because you're physically looking at it, but you're not internalizing it.”Click To Tweet
Again, make it fun for yourself. Pull it back from memory. If you can make it engaging, you’ll actually learn it. Or you can spend three or four hours reading notes but that’s not productive time if you’re not internalizing anything.
Relate It to Your Life
For the more dry content such as complicated theories and whatnot, try to relate it to your own life. Try to find ways to connect it with other information you already know. Come up with your own examples.
[09:07] The Goal of the Diagnostic Test
A lot of students are scared of diagnostic exams, and much of it may be ego-related because they don’t want to see a bad score. Just go to sign up for a free account at Blueprint MCAT and take the diagnostic test, if you haven’t yet already.
George adds that he even sees this ego stuff in students taking full-length exams because they don’t feel prepared enough. And so, they don’t want to take the full-length. But that’s going to be a wasted opportunity.
George got a 524 in his actual MCAT. But when he first took his first full-length test, he got a 500. Then it slowly moved to a 505 and up to a 518.'The point of the diagnostic is to diagnose what you know and what you don't know. You want to establish a baseline for yourself from the get-go.'Click To Tweet
So just take that step. Take that diagnostic test and take that leap of faith. Accept that even if you don’t score high, it will show you all the opportunities in areas you need to improve so you can ultimately improve your score on the actual MCAT.
[12:04] Focus on Strategy, Not the Specifics
George explains that the MCAT is really good at making core concepts look really difficult. They’re testing the same core principles, and ultimately the same core strategies and approach.
That’s why the mindset and the thought process is so important, because they’re going to throw things at you that are distracting. They’re going to big, ugly figures, these long gene names. They’re going to throw things at you.
But it’s about how you approach it. It’s not just knowing the answer.'The specific piece of content knowledge is nowhere near as important as the ability to read a question.'Click To Tweet
[14:34] Have a Growth Mindset
George strongly recommends looking at things with a growth mindset. If you score low on your practice tests, then don’t wallow in failure. Try and test out new things to help you improve on your score.
Identify those weaknesses and look at these wrong answers as an opportunity for growth. Convert those weak areas into strong areas. That’s how you’re going to ultimately increase your real score, which people are going to use for med school applications.
If you don’t identify those weak areas, you can’t expect a better score because you haven’t tried taking the test. The test is a different beast than learning content. The test is about application.“You can know every little detail about every little thing and all the textbooks and still not get a great score on the MCAT because it's about how you think.”Click To Tweet
[16:57] Final Words of Wisdom
George wishes to tell students who are in this process that it’s a long journey, so take it one step at a time.
Whether you’re falling behind in your prep, maybe you’re not sure how to approach it, when you take a big goal, the easiest way to not get overwhelmed and to continue making progress is to take a big goal and split it up into very small discrete chunks.
Blueprint’s study plan does a great job of this because they will organize everything for you. But even if you’re doing it on your own, just divide your day into studying four topics, for instance.“When you can scale things down to concrete things you can achieve now, it makes these big unscalable mountains actually possible.”Click To Tweet
Just take it one step at a time. Break it down. Take it one step at a time and keep up all your good work!