Taking the MCAT Without Physics/Biochem-Can I Pass?

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Session 327

This is a mini-episode to hopefully get you excited about MappdCon and make the financial burden of attending even less!

We’re joined by Nicole from Blueprint MCAT. 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.

Nicole’s Advice to Applying This Cycle

Nicole’s advice for those applying to medical school this cycle is to embrace patience as the key to success. It’s important for all applicants to support each other through this journey. For those who have already submitted their applications, the focus now shifts to completing secondary applications.

“Patience is the name of the game.”Click To Tweet

This may feel like the easy part compared to the hard work done so far. However, the waiting period can be challenging and unfamiliar. It’s normal to feel restless and eager for updates. It’s essential to stay positive and maintain a patient mindset. Remember, the application process is a lengthy one, and finding a balance between anticipation and staying grounded is crucial.

Keep this mentality that you have put your best foot forward. If that’s not right for the school, then you wouldn’t have been a good pair.

Navigating MCAT Preparation When You Lack Foundational Knowledge

Tailoring Self-Study to Course Difficulty

When it comes to MCAT preparation, students need to think critically, especially when lacking foundational knowledge. The approach might vary depending on the courses taken. It is generally easier to self-study Physics II compared to biochemistry due to their relative importance on the exam and the depth of concepts expected to be known.

'It's a lot easier to self-study your way through Physics II than it is for Bio/Biochem just because of their relative importance on the exam.'Click To Tweet

Considering the Timing of MCAT and Course Enrollment

Another crucial factor to consider is whether it is necessary to take the MCAT before completing relevant coursework. While some students may answer yes, it is becoming increasingly important to consider taking gap years.

Planning ahead in the early stages of undergraduate studies allows students to strategically space out major milestones. Opting for a gap year can alleviate the pressure of juggling intense studying, coursework, and the application process. Therefore, it is essential for students to contemplate the possibility of spreading out these commitments. This might involve taking the MCAT earlier or later, or even taking a dedicated gap year.

By carefully considering these aspects, students can navigate MCAT preparation effectively, even when faced with a lack of foundational knowledge.

Understanding the MCAT Sections and the Importance of Biochemistry

Analyzing the Weightage of Sections on the MCAT

When preparing for the MCAT, it is crucial to understand the breakdown of sections and their significance. The exam consists of the CARS section, Chemistry and Physics (Chem/Phys), Psychology and Sociology (Psych/Soc), and Biochemistry (Bio/Biochem).

By examining the nomenclature alone, it becomes evident that biochemistry plays a significant role, comprising one-eighth of the test. This emphasizes the importance of mastering biochemistry concepts for success on the MCAT.

Considering the Significance of Physics 2 and Biochemistry

When discussing self-studying for specific sections, such as Physics 2, various factors come into play.

If a student is taking Physics 2 concurrently with MCAT preparation, there may be less cause for concern. Physics 2, which covers electricity and magnetism, has relatively less weightage on the MCAT compared to physics 1 (mechanics). While electricity questions are likely to appear, magnetism questions are fewer in number. Therefore, it is possible for students to encounter a test day without any magnetism questions.

However, the situation changes when considering biochemistry. Biochemistry encompasses a vast amount of content. Hence, understanding it is not only crucial for related MCAT questions but also for enhancing overall reasoning skills. It provides valuable insights into other concepts on the exam, even those not explicitly categorized as biochemistry. Therefore, students should prioritize gaining a strong foundation in biochemistry to excel on the MCAT.

Navigating MCAT Preparation Without Organic Chemistry

Importance of a Strong Chemistry Foundation

When considering MCAT preparation, it is essential to assess your chemistry background. If you haven’t taken organic chemistry (o-chem), it may raise concerns, especially if you also lack exposure to biochemistry. Many universities structure their chemistry sequences in a way that assumes students have already covered o-chem before delving into biochemistry. Therefore, attempting to self-study organic chemistry can be a daunting task due to its reputation for difficulty and the different skill set it requires.

Balancing Reasoning Skills and Memorization

Organic chemistry heavily emphasizes working through mechanism problems, which may not be directly assessed at a high level on the MCAT. However, the reasoning skills developed in o-chem are valuable and can enhance your understanding of concepts tested on the exam.

Combining these reasoning skills with more memorization-based topics can significantly benefit your overall performance. Attempting to self-study organic chemistry without the guidance of a structured course may prove challenging, particularly if you have yet to take biochemistry, as these subjects often intersect.

Evaluating the Time and Effort Required

While it is technically possible to teach yourself any subject, including o-chem, it is crucial to consider the amount of effort and time it would require. Self-studying for additional subjects like physics 2 and biochemistry simultaneously raises concerns about the length of your study period.

“You can teach yourself anything... but the question is, how much effort are you going to have to put in?”Click To Tweet

Prolonged study periods can lead to challenges with information retention and the impact of forgetting curves. Adding an extra two months to self-study biochemistry at an accelerated pace compared to university instruction may affect your ability to effectively retain the material.

When faced with the decision to self-study o-chem, it is important to weigh the potential challenges. Consider seeking structured instruction or support to ensure a solid foundation in these critical topics for MCAT success.

Considering Time Gaps and Non-Traditional Students in MCAT Preparation

Impact of Time Since Last Exposure

The time elapsed since studying certain subjects can significantly impact a student’s ability to pick up the material again. For instance, if it has been four years since a student last encountered a physics problem, their proficiency in the subject may vary.

Factors such as natural aptitude for physics, previous enjoyment of physics classes, or even higher-level physics coursework taken during an engineering degree can influence a student’s ease in relearning physics concepts. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that non-traditional students often face challenges when revisiting content after extended periods.

Challenges Faced by Non-Traditional Students

Non-traditional students, who may have taken a significant break from academics, may experience difficulties in grasping the MCAT content. 

Whether it has been three years, five years, 10 years, or even 20 years since their last exposure to the material, it is essential to recognize the potential struggles they might encounter during their MCAT preparation journey.

'Make sure you have the flexibility to push your MCAT test date back.'Click To Tweet

In some cases, additional coursework may be necessary for these students to bridge the knowledge gap and build a solid foundation.


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