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Common MCAT Prep Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Session 172

Common MCAT Prep Mistakes Premeds Make and How to Avoid Them

Another great discussion today as we bring in Ken, who is a Princeton Review MCAT instructor and tutor who was a premed himself at one point.

Preparing for the MCAT basically starts the day you set foot on your college campus. Today, we talk about the common mistakes premed students make as they prepare for the MCAT. Hopefully, after hearing this episode, you won’t make these mistakes anymore!

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

Ken’s interest in medicine and his background:

  • Being fascinated with translational applications of research
  • Wanting to apply to an MD/PhD program
  • Spending more time on research over clinical experience
  • Pondering whether to do research or apply to medical school
  • Planning to apply to grad school and get his PhD, then decide if an MD is still necessary for him

Common mistakes premed students make when preparing for the MCAT:

  1. Not thinking through their plan for MCAT studying.

  • Consider when you want to take the test.
  • You’ll want to have taken your med school prereqs before the MCAT.
  • The new MCAT exam has added more biochemistry, psychology, and sociology.
  1. Not knowing how to study for the MCAT.

  • The MCAT is not just a test of memorization.
  • You need to be able to apply concepts.
  • You need to do a lot of practice tests.
  • Review your practice tests closely.
    • Go over every question and all the answers (whether you got it wrong or right).
  • Figure out why you got each question wrong.

Princeton Review breaks down MCAT questions into 3 types:

  • Memory questions: Factual recall
  • Explicit questions: The answer is right in the passage
  • Implicit questions
The MCAT is not just a test of memorization. You need to be able to apply concepts.Click To Tweet
  1. Not knowing about the changes to the MCAT since 2015.

  • There is now a much bigger emphasis on long passages.
  • Get more involved with research that you can participate in.
  • Start a journal club with your friends:
    • Choose an article per week, read it, and discuss the article to understand the more technical passages.

Not being familiar with reading articles from scientific journals can be a major disadvantage on the MCAT. We talked about this more in Session 61 of The MCAT Podcast.

Not being familiar with reading scientific journals can be a major disadvantage on the MCAT.Click To Tweet
  1. Not using MCAT resources, such as Khan Academy.

  • Be aware of all the resources available.
  • Test prep companies are different, so figure out which test prep company is the best for you in your study habits.

Other resources you should be using:

  • Official practice tests from the AAMC: The most important resource since they’re from the actual creators of the MCAT.
  • Khan Academy: Khan Academy has free videos that help you learn the material. These Khan Academy videos provide a multimedia way to learn the materialYou can also find downloads where students have typed up all the information from the Khan Academy MCAT videos into documents to study.

Major changes to the MCAT in 2015:

  • Biochemistry is more important now: On the new MCAT, biochemistry is now the second most tested subject after biology.
  • The sciences are more blended together now: In the new MCAT, all the sciences are blended together, so don’t think of them as completely independent subjects. Understand how they general chemistry concepts can be applied to physics, and how organic chem is used in a biology context.
On the MCAT, all the sciences are blended together, so don't think of them as completely independent subjects.Click To Tweet

When should you have taken the MCAT?

  1. First, take all of your prerequisite courses.
  2. Make sure you have a chunk of time you’re able to dedicate towards studying for the MCAT.
  3. Talk to your pre-health advisor or upperclassmen from your school. Ask them about the courses you should take to best prepare you for the MCAT exam and when they think should you take the MCAT.

[Related episode: Are There Hidden Prereqs I Should Take for the MCAT?]

What’s the ideal amount of time to study for the MCAT?

  • It varies for each student.
  • Dedicate a good amount of time each week to studying for the MCAT.
  • At the same time, do something on the side like research or volunteering so you’re still seeing other people and can maintain your sanity.
  • Clinical experience and shadowing help you keep your broader perspective about why all this studying is worth it.
  • Try integrating multimedia resources, such as a prep course or the free Khan Academy MCAT videos, to vary how you’re studying and not get tired of it as quickly.
Even if you're studying for the MCAT full-time, do some research or volunteering on the side so you're still seeing other people and you can maintain your sanity.Click To Tweet

Different methods to understand MCAT passages:

  • Use all the tools available to you.
  • Actively read the passage. Participate, and engage yourself in the reading.
  • Highlight texts.
  • Try taking down notes on a scratch piece of paper. This goes into your head more than just highlighting text.

[Related episode: How Can I Prepare for and Improve My CARS MCAT Score?]

What makes Princeton Review stand out:

  • A good balance of everything premed students need to study for the MCAT exams
  • MCAT Ultimate Course: 123 hours (41 3-hour classes)
  • They cover all key content with the standard materials students use (science textbooks, online practice questions, tests, and passages)
  • Socratic method of teaching to engage the students to get more out of class

Some advice for premed students:

Studying for the MCAT can be really tough. Find friends that you can study with so you can learn better and stay social, too. One of the best ways to learn the material is to teach the material to someone else.

One of the best ways to learn material for the MCAT is to teach it to someone else in a study group.Click To Tweet

Links and Other Resources

Listen to Other Episodes

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