Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The MCAT experience

I just took the MCAT for the second time yesterday. My first attempt was in 2006, and I wasn't happy with the results. I was in the 70th percentile of testers but only in the 30th percentile of the accepted folks. With a mediocre-for-med school-GPA and no research/face time with faculty, I decided to put things on hold for a few years.

I must say that the new test was much more convenient. It's shorter, which is nice. The highlighting function on the screen is very nice, and the ability to take the test at noon instead of 8am makes a huge difference. Probably the greatest advance in the last 2 years is the online practice tests and analysis.

Two years ago, to practice, students would print out the test, fill in the bubbles, and figure out their grades. Now, everything is calculated automatically and you can find your weak areas immediately. This allows students to be more efficient.

I studied the first time with Examkrackers and tried to digest hundreds of pages of information. This time, I decided to take the practice tests and spend the most time on my weak areas.

After taking a few tests and a few copy/pastes into excel, I created some formulas and found some interesting facts. In all, I took 6 practice tests. In the physical sciences category, 28 out of the 312 questions were on 1 topic in chemistry and 28 were on one topic in physics. Not only were these the most common types of questions, they were also where I missed the highest number of points.

The results in Chemistry were also interesting. Out of the 312 questions in that area, 1/3 of the organic chemistry questions were based on one area and 26 were on a major area in biology. I quickly downloaded these two documents from the MCAT site and used mostly Wikipedia to create my own 20-page study guide for the test. My practice test scores improved significantly from the beginning to the end.

I think that actively discovering the information by research made it easier to retain. I guess we'll see in 29 days when the scores are released.

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