MCAT blues

I was wondering how other people were doing with the AUgust MCAT? I am working full-time on this stuff, and despite my (really) earnest efforts, I can’t seem to lift my scores very much. Because of all the time I have spent on the Physics (which is a black hole for me) I even went DOWN in bio. I feel so burned out and tired, I think I will finish up my Princeton Review, take the Diags and then skip the real test. I’m not sure why I can’t seem to “get it” and really hit a stride. The physical sciences section I haven’t even been able to finish and have usually left 2 sections undone. So, time, and mental facility in the physics are what I need.
This test is so hard, I have good grades in my courses, but this test is a real flattener for me, and I feel like a real dummie. Especially sitting next to 20/21 y.o.s who shout out every answer and dominate the class discussions.
I would rather not wait another full year for school, but I don’t see the point of rushing to get the test done if I don’t get a very good score. I have my application almost ready to go, but I’m just not so sure about the test. Frustrating. How are other people doing?
Sarah :O ???

Sarah, if you aren't ready, you aren't admitting defeat, you are admitting in a mature way that you need more time to figure the test out.

If I may be so bold…maybe you should consider changing your focus. Like most folks, esp non-trads, their MCAT prep seems to dwell on factual recall & binge/purge learning. Since the MCAT reformatted in the early/mid-90s, it has progressively de-emphasized wrote-recall and focused more on reading comprehension.
In other words, to succeed on the MCAT, you no longer need to be able to recite reams of data de novo. But, you need to possess a working level of comfort with the material and be able to couple that with apt reading/comprehension skills. You will find that the preponderance of the info you need to answer all of the questions is contained in the passages - with only supplementation from your own knoggin.
So, stop trying to commit to memory God only knows how much science, that has precious little to do with Doctor-dom. Alter your efforts to mastering solid test-taking skills, llike the ones they are shoving down your gullet at TPR or Kaplan, and skillful scanning of the information the kind MCAT authors provide you right there on the page.
How? Practice test questions until your eyes are bloodshot! Sleep…dink, eat, shower…then do more test-style questions. Believe it or not, at some point, the “style” will click.

Hi guys, I'm about 2 to 2.5yrs. from the MCAT, but I still check out this thread. My question is, what's the TPR? I've heard of the Kaplan review but I'm not familiar with the TPR. Please enlighten me. Thanks, Vita

TPR is the Princenton Review.

You guys are right of course about both points: 1) sometimes you have to step back and say wait a minute, I might not be ready; and 2) like Dave says, I am finding that the MCAT is a whole lot of “what are your going to do with the information I am giving you” passages.
The truth is that there is alot of stuff you do need to know cold so that you can then work with the passages and the questions. Alot of people tell me that you just keep saturating yourself with the material, taking the tests and reviewing the answers and eventually it does reach a point where you feel you have some proficiency with the standard passages so that you can jump right into material you’ve never seen before and feel confident in being able to disect the material, find the necessary information and answer the questions with some sense of ok-ness.
I just was wondering when/if that was going to happen for me and I had my doubts. I hope my questions are helpful for other people tho, sometimes I wonder if I am complaining too much! (or blowing off pre-med steam?)

Sarah, I forget - when did you take your prerequisites? I ask because that’s where the “saturation” of all the facts occurs. If those prereqs were spread out over a period of time that started some years ago, then yes, it’s going to take some review to get those facts back into your head and you do need to be strong on all the principles.
Be careful, though. It is impossible to know all the factoids that would help you get every question right. It is definitely better to have a comfortable familiarity with facts, and a high level of confidence in how to work through passages.

not feeling very confident?!@…
A lot of us know exactly how you feel, and I’m feeling the same way going into this August test. Every subject I study or go over makes sense, but when I start doing passages and taking practice tests things just don’t come together. Like all the stuff I just spent hours trying to get won’t stick … DAMMIT! What to do? The practice, practice, and more practice seemed to not work until I figured something out.
The BIG secret. At least it was for me, came down to REALLY UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE QUESTION WAS ASKING FOR. No matter what the subject VR, BIO, or PHY they always seem to throw curves with difficult questions versus difficult material. You can probably do most of the problems out of a book, but they don’t test that way. When’s the last time you saw on an O-chem exam … "Which of the following statements does NOT support this experiment?"
Not only do you have to work under time pressure, but they try and confuse you with all kinds of ill-worded, tricky questions and/or answers. The best way to combat this besides hitting yourself over the head with that large physics book (by the way, it doesn’t work and leaves unsightly marks) is to: 1) stop and reword it in English you can understand 2) avoid the answer traps by thoroughly reading the question and answers without psyching yourself out 3) be confident! 4) oh! … and be quick, very quick!
Here we get back to practice, practice, and more practice. Not just what you got wrong, but the process you used and probably how you should have re-worded the question better. You will get faster and more accurate! I too have taken the TPR and I’ll reiterate their advice, “If you are taking too long on A question, stop, guess, and move on. Too long is anything usually over 2 minutes, because you’re wasting valuble time better spent on questions you can get RIGHT.” Basically, mentally change your approach to the test, because its not your ordinary final exam.
As to skipping this august test, don’t unless you need the $100 bucks back. For three reasons:
1) it will be a very good experience, better than just taking diags with your classmates … real conditions, real stress, and real sweat.
2) at the end tell them to tear it up and not score it, no one but you will ever know, but who knows you might get PHY section that is more chem than physics and feel good about it
3) you might have to check with TPR, but I believe they give a free/discounted re-take of the class for the april test if you took the august test and didn’t do well
PHEW!!! that was more than I planned on saying … Whatever you decide, best of luck!

sarahb, I’m with you in your misery… :(
My biggest obstacle is finding/making time to study. I am WAY behind where I thought I would be 2 weeks (less!) before the test. I have three preschoolers, one of whom has just entered the “terrible twos” and we have had a steady stream of visitors this summer. No-one but my husband knows that I am taking this exam, so it is next to impossible to get people to just stay away and give me some time to study. Our house has been the “Do Drop Inn” ???
ugggg - looks like it will be 5 AM study time for the next 10 days or so…

I hear you! Not too many people know that I’m taking the MCAT, either. A select few know that I am taking “a really big science test,” which, coincidentally, is what I’ve been calling it so as not to wig out every time I study. :)
Hang in there, everyone!

I'm also not feeling ready for this and am not sure if I will go ahead and take it next week or wait until April.
I've also not told anyone (except my sister) that I'm taking it. Only that I'm trying to finish an old course that I started years ago… I'm always doing pharm med courses for my job so everyone just thinks it just one more.
I have been through all of the review material and think I am clear on everything but when I do the practice tests (I've been using the EK sets mostly and some of Kaplan online) I get blown away by the 'apparent' complexity of the questions-exp the organic. I was really discouraged after doing the EK organic test on Monday. It may just be too long ago that I took these courses and I need more reviewing to have the key basic information down cold and immediately available. All my grad coursework has come in between this stuff and I haven't thought about this material in years - except the bio and biochem.
I am starting to see through some of the 'tricks and diversions' of the question but I realize I have not spent as much time doing practice tests as I need to have done to be quick enough. And I don't know if the next week will be enough, even though I have the week off work and can spend alot of time at it. I'm not doing bad on the physics and bio and the verbal sections but it's the chemistry I'm worried about (and this from an undergrad chem major - though many years past her premed & undergrad chem courses)
I think the last day to cancel the exam is the 10th.
Is it really an option to sit the exam and then cancel it at the end of the day without their being a record of it in your application? And does anyone else think this might be at all useful.
I don't know if I'm asking for advice as much as just venting or worrying online… sorry if this is tedious…
(It also hasn't helped this week's reviewing, that my daughter and I got salmonella food poisoning on Monday and spent most of yesterday and today at the children's hospital - though everyone is fine now.)

As I understand it, it has been a while since I sat the MCAT, once you crack the seal on the first test booklet, your MCAT transcript will always indicate that you at least took the exam. If you leave, cancel or do not release those scores, that is still indicated on your MCAT transcript permanently.
So, I would strongly recommend that you, nor anyone else, take it “for the good experience”. You may very well hang a boat anchor around your neck that will not so easily shake off. Kaplan, Princeton Review & other test prep companies offer free mock-MCATs under full testing conditions at their centers. It is a sales tool, but I feel that at least Kaplan & TPR offer excellent programs that are very helpful to the right people. And, in your specific case, allow you the “experience” of sitting the exam w/o the implications of a blown score permanently emblazoned on your MCAT transcript.

Thanks, Dave. That's what I thought too, so I was surprised it was suggested.

Let me add one other thought to this concept of cancelling your MCAT at the end of the day…
IF you have taken several practice exams and gotten a “feel” for how you are doing on them, then MAYBE, just maybe, you would be able to have some sense of how you did on the MCAT at the conclusion of the real thing. That is a HUGE “IF.” Most people I’ve known were so numb by the end of the day that they really had NO idea whether they did bad, good or in between. I’ve yet to meet someone who walked out of that exam pumping his/her fist in the air, yelling “Yessss! I nailed that one!.” I have known LOTS of people who slunk out of the test thinking they did awfully only to find out that they did okay or better. In my own experience, I actually did predict my scores pretty closely but I would never have bet anything on my prediction.
So totally aside from all the other concerns about cancelling your score, I would never recommend it because unless you are superhuman, predicting your performance is going to be really hard to do.
Also keep in mind, your performance on the day of the exam needs to be focused on getting through the test. If even a teeny part of your brain is doing an assessment of how you are doing as the day wears on, you are wasting valuable energy. Don’t do it.

I'm glad to hear other people's situations around this test - this week (Eeek!). I have been fluffing it too about just what kind of test exactly to alot of people because I am too tired to 'explain' it to people who don't know me well. I guess I am a private person when it comes to what's really important to me.
That was really good advice about the test questions: I am finding that a good percentage of my 'wrong' answers are really 'I didn't understand the question they were really asking.' When I go back and re-examine the questions in a quiet moment, I am shocked at how simple some of them really are. That said, I am really trying to be stuffed with practice tests and reading etc., so that when I sit and look at these questions I can say, now wait a minute here … and try and break down the weirdness and get at the kernel of question without loosing my concetration or my confidence. I admit the first test I took, I was frightened just looking at the physics problems and geussed, whereas now I am much more aggressive with them and wrestle them to the ground. Well, as much as I can in the 1.3 minutes allowed.
I am really surprised at how my scores seem to go up and down, but I am glad to report they are (so far) going up overall. Today's test was really hard tho …
I am going to go through with the test and just surrender to this miserable process and do my best. People have told me that their scores were flat, or went down even, but that eventually they did ok. Just to keep at it to the very end. Well, this will all be good expereince for April and I think I'll be really well prepared if I have to take it again. At least I will know what I am up against and can plan for it. Two short months doesn't seem like enough time for this kind of test, even tho I am just finishing up my pre-requs.
I wish you guys luck as well, and hang in there with the rest of us!

Just a note to add to Mary’s about voiding your test. I don’t think there is any way to know how you did, because the test is scaled. Yeah, yours might have been hard, but that means an easier curve. Don’t do it!
By the way, when people asked me how I did, I figured I did ok but really had no idea. The score I would have guessed was 9 points lower than the score I actually got.
Good luck on Saturday. The best part of the test is having it over and done with!

<!–QuoteBegin–spacecadet+Aug. 12 2002 2:00 pm–>

Quote (spacecadet @ Aug. 12 2002 2:00 pm)
Good luck on Saturday. The best part of the test is having it over and done with!

Truer words were never spoken. Good luck to everyone.

We’ll all be suffering and brain dead by the end of the day, hopeful that watching spaceballs and drinking some good wine after the test will balance everything out.
In my advice to sarah (glad to hear some of it helps) and anyone else concerned, I truly was trying to help and not advocating taking the test “just for the hell of it” or for “shits and giggles!” The MCAT is not to be taken frivolously and hopefully you have been preparing enough to know your strengths and weaknesses. Like they said, many different tests are given (not everyone takes the same test) and each test is averaged nationally. So, you never know what you might score, no matter how you feel. BUT, if you know your strengths, you might get lucky with a test weighted in your favor, less physics more chem, less o-chem more bio or genetics. I advocate attacking the test actively, while knowing when to retreat (if you did awful and didn’t finish 2 or more passages per section).
Also, here is the “official” AAMC statement on voiding your test, website address … see page 55 for full details.
Voiding Your Answer Documents
If for any reason you are not comfortable with your performance and do not wish your test to be scored, you may personally ask the test supervisor to void your answer documents at the test center. … The test supervisor will inform the MCAT Program Office of all examinees who void their tests. If you void your answer documents, your participation in this administration of the MCAT will not be reported to AMCAS or to non-AMCAS schools.
Thanks to OMD and all the others who make this a great site to share with our peers. :D