The MCAT is hard. Being a nontrad and studying for the MCAT can seem impossible. Should you quit your job to study for the MCAT full-time? That’s the question we focus on today!
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:20] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
As usual on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our question is taken from the Nontrad Premed Forum:
“I’m debating whether I should resign from my job or not. I graduated last year and have been balancing working a very full-time job, 40-50 hours a week, and MCAT studying. I already took the old MCAT before the change happened in January 2015, and I scored a 20, but I’m a very good student with a 3.97 GPA.
When I took the MCAT last time, I was taking a Kaplan course while also taking three science courses and a thesis, and I just cram-studied for 18 days. In retrospect, I needed to strategize, and I needed more time.”
Note: This student said they took the old MCAT in January 2015. I’m assuming they cram-studied because they were trying to take the test prior to the change to the new MCAT.
“I’m aiming to take the exam in January of 2017. I already unofficially pushed back the exam twice due to events at work, and I feel like I need to study head-on.
I haven’t seen much improvement despite on-and-off studying since last October. I’m so tired when I come home from work; I know something needs to change. Financially, I have about three months worth of rent for New York City, and I’m concerned about finding a job to sustain me after my exam.
But my main focus at this point is to do well on the MCAT, and I don’t want to delay taking this exam anymore. I’m going to ask my employer if I can take a one-month leave of absence from late December to my January exam date and somehow find a way to use my vacation days so I can work three to four days a week. Would this be enough time to improve my score to 510+?Is quitting your job to study full-time for the MCAT worth it?Click To Tweet
My first Kaplan practice test score was 491. I’m determined to do well, but for some reason, I’m not making much progress on this exam. Is quitting your job to study full-time for the MCAT worth it? Would med schools look unfavorably at me if I were to study for the MCAT full-time?”
[03:50] The MCAT is Like No Other
I don’t think medical schools care if you quit your job and only study for the MCAT. They just want to see you have a good grade. So you don’t really need to worry about that.
This student was good in school but bombed the MCAT, studying for 18 days and trying to cram in one of those last test dates in January 2015, just like many other students were trying to do. As a result, this student didn’t do well, with a 20.
My first point is that the MCAT is not like any other test you’re going to see in your life. It doesn’t care if you have a 3.97 GPA. It doesn’t care if you’re a good student in general. All it cares about is how well you’re going to do on the MCAT. So you need to study specifically for the MCAT, and that also means studying for more than 18 days.The MCAT doesn't care if you have a 3.97 GPA. It doesn't care if you're a good student in general. All it cares about is how well you can do on the MCAT.Click To Tweet
[Related episode: What Is the Best Way to Learn MCAT Test-Taking Strategy?]
[05:30] Take Many Practice Tests
This was actually posted in August, and the poster was looking at taking the MCAT in January and possibly taking a one month leave of absence to cram for the MCAT.
I still consider one month to be cramming for the MCAT. That’s not enough time to do content review and take a sufficient number of practice tests and review them closely.
The goal is to take many practice tests. Go listen to The MCAT Podcast, where we cover topics like how long to study for the MCAT, how many practices tests to take, and all of these types of questions.
[06:18] Should You Quit Your Job to Study for the MCAT?
Every job is different. There is a difference between a librarian job, which is relatively easy, compared to the job this poster has, working 40-50 hours a week and coming home too tired to study. That’s a huge difference!
So you need to take into account what your life is like, what your job is, and the amount of energy you have after work to prepare for the MCAT.
Your priority should be the MCAT, but you obviously have to sustain yourself financially with living, food, and everything else. This poster only has three months worth of rent saved up. Could you take on a roommate? Or go and live with somebody? Adjust your lifestyle so you can prioritize studying for the MCAT.Adjust your lifestyle so you can prioritize studying for the MCAT.Click To Tweet
[07:33] The Best Case Scenario is Studying Full-Time for the MCAT
The best case scenario is always studying full-time for the MCAT. But that is not reasonable for everyone. It’s not always doable. In that case, you just need to be able to study as much as possible. And that means you may have to adjust some things, like going down to part-time, or going down to three or four days a week, or four or five hours a day instead of 40-50 hours a week.The best case scenario is always studying full-time for the MCAT. But that's not always doable.Click To Tweet
[08:03] The MCAT Comes First
So to recap a few points:
- The MCAT comes first.
- The medical schools are not going to look at it negatively if you quit your job to study full-time for the MCAT.
- One month is not enough time to study for the MCAT for most people.
More on that last point: If you think about a normal study schedule, you’re taking the unscored AAMC MCAT a week before your exam. You’re taking one of the AAMC scored practice tests two weeks before the exam, and you’re taking another one three weeks before the exam. Then you’re taking four to six other full-length practice exams in the month before that. So you’re looking at about two months minimum to do the necessary amount of practice tests and all the rest. As you can see, it takes some time, so you need to plan for that.
If you want more information about the best way to use the AAMC official practice tests, be sure to listen to Session 15 of the MCAT Podcast all about that.The MCAT comes first.Click To Tweet
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my book about the MCAT, co-written with Next Step Test Prep: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.
- Related post: How I Scored 523 on the MCAT with a Busy Schedule.
- Related episode: MCAT Retakes: Change and Improve to Get the Score You Want.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Next Step Test Prep!
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