Pre-reqs completion or MCAT first?


I am new to this site. I have a Masters in Biochem (from India - 1994) and am currently taking courses at Penn State to complete my pre-reqs here in the U.S.

At the end of this year (2006), I will have completed 1 year of Bio, 1 year of Gen Chem, 1 semester of Org Chem and 1 semester of English (I am a non-native English speaker). I will still have 2 semesters of Physics and 1 semester of Org Chem to take.

I want to be able to do the MCAT in April or May 2007. So I am planning on preparing for it starting Jan 07. Keep in mind that I have not done any Physics and 2nd semester Org Chem. Is it okay to self study and do the MCAT first and then do the pre-reqs after that? Or is it a bad idea?

The reason for this is that if I continue with pre-reqs in Spring 07, I may not have time to prepare for the April, May or June MCAT. I have heard that the earlier in the year you do the MCAT, the better off your chances are. I want to apply next year so that I can matriculate in 2008. Sorry, this is such a complicated issue! I need some help with this.

  1. Must I finish pre-reqs first and then attempt the MCAT?

  2. I am good at self-study. So what if I study Physics and 2nd semester Org Chem on my own and attempt the MCAT first? This way I can do the MCAT early on, apply to med school in June 07 and then complete the remaining pre-reqs after that.

  3. What MCAT study material do you recommend? Any suggestions on College Physics textbooks ?

  4. How much time do you need to prepare for the MCAT? Are 3 - 6 months sufficient?

    Please help. Any input will be greatly appreciated.

  • Anu

Welcome to the website!

If you are good self-studier you should be fine w/o taking 2nd semester of Physics or Organics! Organic on the MCAT mainly covers 1st semester anyway, and Physics is much simpler on the MCAT that Physics you take in college.

I recommend ExamKrackers MCAT series. If you find that you don’t follow some physics or organic, you can always refer to your college textbooks.

It looks like you will have all the material fresh, so if you start 3 to 6 months before the MCAT you should be fine. By do not ignore Verbal section. Especially that English isn’t your 1st language…or you’ll end up with 7 on Verbal section, like I did

Are you going to apply as an international student, or are you a permanent resident right now, or a citizen? It makes a big difference. Most schools won’t even consider you if you’re an international student.

One more question. Are you aware that most schools require not only prerequisits from American University, but also at least 90 credit hours…

Good luck,


Welcome, Anu!

If I read your post right, you won’t have taken ANY physics prior to taking the MCAT. I DON’T think that this is a good idea. Kasia is right that you can probably get away with not having had the second semester of physics or ochem, but to do it without ANY physics seems like a recipe for disaster to me. If you get a test version that is particularly heavy in either in both of those (the tests do seem to vary - the number of questions per topic is NOT evenly split), you could be doomed. I think you would be better off finishing the pre-reqs and taking a later MCAT than attempting the MCAT without them.

I found that having taken the pre-reqs immediately before taking the MCAT allowed me to not have to spend so much time reviewing content and more time on test taking strategies. For the average student taking the MCAT, it could have been up to three years since they took some of the pre-reqs, and they need to spend a lot more time reviewing the material.

Also - given that your original degree is from a foreign university, it might be more important for you than for other people to be able to put that you have completed all of the pre-reqs on your application. It might be to your disadvantage to apply without those grades. I would recommend that you talk to the admissions office at Penn State and get an opinion on that (and maybe an opinion from a couple of different other schools as well). If you aren’t going to have 90 credit hours or an American degree, you should probably check into that as well, as Kasia suggested.

Now is a good time to contact admissions offices - they are in a slight lull before they start processing this year’s applications and you are over a year from applying. Make sure you make it clear to them, though, that you are NOT applying this year.

Good luck!

Thank you very much for your responses. I really appreciate it. As far as having a U.S. Degree being a requirement for Med School, I checked with a few Med Schools- Drexel, U of MD, U Penn, Kansas etc and they were okay with a foreign degree as long as I had the Bio, Chem, Physics and English pre-reqs from an American University. The only School that said an absolute no-no to a foreign degree was Jefferson, Philadelphia. I am aware that this issue will limit the schools I can apply to. I will probably have about 65 credits when I get ready to apply. (I have some Computer Science course credits from several years back.) Also I am a U.S. Citizen, so that wont be a problem. I have more issues than the traditional(if there is such a thing!) candidate which means I have to work harder!! Let’s see where it all goes.

Thanks again guys for the advice.

  • Anu