Cracked MCAT guidebook: BIG MISTAKE and ? for MCAT Takers

So, I’m half watching a movie on a Sat. Night and half reading my BIO textbook when I decide I’ve had enough studying for the day. However, I decided to crack open this MCAT guidebook I got from the library to see what my future holds. BIG MISTAKE! I went over some of the practice questions and realized I know nothing! I do also realize that I only have A & P under my belt at this point and I’m only a month into Gen Chem and Bio I, so really I’ve just begun my pre-MCAT studies, but I was overwhelmed. I find it amazing that the courses I will be taking will be enough preparation for this crazy test. I’m a Bio major, also now, so I’m hoping that will help also, but I guess I have to have the faith that these courses will thoroughly prepare me (along with studying hard, of course). Which brings me to a question for all you MCAT takers, do you feel that the foundation courses (2 sems of physics, 2 of gen chem, 2 of bio, and orgo) really prepared you well for the MCAT or did you find there were pieces of the puzzle missing when you went to prep for the MCAT? I’m freaked out a little. I’m doing well in my classes and I have been doing well in school overall (3.9 gpa) so I know I have it in me, but it’s still overwhelming to think of the road ahead.

I can’t say what it would be like if I only had taken the basics before my MCAT, because I hadn’t. What I can say is that what helps about taking upper level Bios before the MCAT is that you will have seen most of the stuff three or four times. It always helps if you have been exposed to the material more than once, but I would never say that you have to do this in order to be successful.

Shannon: First of all, I don’t think it was a mistake to start looking at MCAT materials. However, since you’re just getting started, don’t stress yourself out about it. Just trust that you will eventually get there.

The foundation courses did provide a majority of the puzzle I needed for the MCAT. However, there were still missing pieces that I had to learn on my own, so I say be prepared to do this. Even after all my studying I still saw items on the real MCAT that I did not know I needed to study.

In hindsight, I think the only way you can learn in class all the material covered by the MCAT is to also take Physiology, Genetics, Cell Bio, and Biochem. I took Physiology and Cell Bio and thought they were helpful. I’m taking Biochem now and kind of wish I would have taken it before I took my MCAT. In any case, it was still effective for me to learn the missing puzzle pieces out of my MCAT prep books.

In summary, the MCAT is a game you must learn how to play. Your classes will teach you many of the rules but some you will have to learn on your own.

I agree that taking upper-level bio and chem courses is a great help. I attribute much of my 4-point score increase to having taken biochem 1&2 before that 2nd attempt. For me, seeing the basic bio, chem, and orgo applied to biological processes I could visualize helped me understand the basics so much more than just studying it in a vacuum. You’ll know as you progress through your pre-reqs and take some MCAT practice exams whether upper-level courses would be a benefit to you - plenty of people take the test without those “additional” courses.

Thanks for all the replies. It does put my mind at ease some. Being that I am seeking my Bachelor’s in Biology I will be required to take many upper level courses. I have Physio. under my belt already, but Cell Bio and Genetics are bottom line requirements of my major so I am sure those will help. I think I may dive into at least one semester of Biochem, too. Besides my love of the subject, a big reason I decided to pursue the Bio major, was because I knew the repetition of at least some material from one semester to the next will be a good boost and can certainly help come time for Med School. I am already finding a lot of overlap in my Bio I now with things covered in Physiology I took in Spring. The reinforcement is excellent and makes some things more second nature now that I have some background. I still feel a bit flummoxed over the darn MCAT book, though. I’ve listened to some of the EK MCAT CD’s and they are basic and somewhat goofy so that they have not scared me, but this book did! I find I’m actually studying harder today as a result so it should end up being a good thing. By no means did I think the MCAT would be a breeze before last night’s “scare” but I realize now more than ever I have to keep up my dedication and “can-do” attitude lest the FUD take over!

Shannon - you can get a list of the MCAT topics from the testing company. I used that when reviewing each subject. When I found an area that we had not covered (maybe 3 things in chemistry, 2 in biology, and a few in physics) I made sure to study those from my texts or other prep materials till I felt pretty confident in them. My basic bio was VERY heavy in molecular genetics so I didn’t feel I needed any more of that, which was helpful. All I took was the core prereqs although I’d had a wider biology background it was 30 years ago. I thought they covered the majority of what was on the test. But, bear in mind that what you are after from your preparation is an understanding of the concepts behind the passages. The specific passages you need to analyze from your background. There will be passages that give results from some experiment that may be greek to you, but you can still arrive at the correct answers from applying more general concepts to the information you are given. As you finish each basic prereq it might be helpful to relook at the prep materials for just that subject and see what you are still unclear on.


Hi Shannon,

Just to add another perspective, I had taken only the basic prereqs (excluding statistics and Orgo 2 lab) before I took the MCAT. I did very well on it. I found that there were things I hadn’t had in class, like the kidney and optics, etc., but I think if you are a bio major you should be good in most topics (except maybe physics–no one is except a physics major, I guess).

In the end I think the MCAT is a special, painful test that requires a certain way of thinking, a certain set of meta-skills. Things like dealing with formulas abstractly and manipulating numbers easily and “strategizing” how to eliminate answers. AMCAS reports that Physics majors do the best on the MCAT and bio majors and health-science the worst (albeit spread is only 2pts btwn Phys and Bio). I say this not to scare you in any way (really) but just to emphasize that the test is not about knowledge but about developing these meta-skills, for which I think Physics for example prepares you particularly well.

That said, repetition of material is great, just as the others have posted. I just started Biochem and I think it would have been a great help; I won’t have time to take much else but all the other classes others mentioned can only help. I would also spend your coming years reading articles from Science or some other very science-y journal. Read an article a month, the hairiest, most indecipherable one you can find.

Kate and mesclun: Thanks for more great advice. I will certainly be using these suggestions as I shape my MCAT prepping strategy and as I study in my courses. Great thoughts!

Did you like the EK Mcat study materials?

I’ve only listened to the EK MCAT audio in my car here and there. It is fast paced, so listening to it in the car, for example, is fine if you are just reviewing material. Plus, some of the sound effects are just plain goofy and could get annoying after awhile. I have heard that the written EK material is very good, though. As I get closer to really prepping I am sure I will check them out. I got the EK MCAT Audio free so really it just provides a back up to what I’m learning in classes now; to see what they talk about that I already know and if I “get” what they are jabbering on about, and for a break from NPR! I wouldn’t recommend this EK MCAT Audio for serious prepping, though, and I wouldn’t recommend paying too much for it, either, if you do find you want to use it as a supplement.