Prepping for the MCAT

hi all

Ive come across a slight dilemma. I’m trying to figure out when the best time would be to start studying for the mcats. Originally I was going to take it in december -( I plan on taking genetics, orgo II, and microbio in the fall. I figured that this info would be fresh in my mind for the mcats in dec. ) However, with all the course work and studying that I’ll have to do, I wont have time for MCAT prep!! All I have is the rest of this month and all of august and thats not enough.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I can always take it in the spring but I already have all these MCAT prep books staring me down… Its hard to not want to pick them up if they are in my face.

Should I focus on getting through my Fall semester as best as I can first? Or should I take the risk and add MCAT prep to the mix and see how I do in december??

I need a promising course of action. Anyones prep advice is greatly appreciated!

Focus on your coursework and do all you need to excel - and to really learn the info.

I don’t expect that material directly from Genetics or Orgo 2 will play a big role on the MCAT, but you’ll want to do well in those courses (and again, understand the stuff; especially Oxygen-related chemistry).

Either way, though, you’ll want to fully prepare for the MCAT. The time you’ll need varies, though the general range I’ve seen is probably 1.5-4 months. IMHO, trying it in December, on top of that courseload, would be too much.

What are your courses like in the spring? If they’re lighter, mid-spring may be a good time to take it. If not, perhaps early summer.

I know it seems like a long time from now, but you’ll be surprised how fast it goes…

Pi, you have a good point - i should probably focus on getting those A’s.

My courseload in the spring will be just as heavy (developmental bio, physics II, cell bio, calc II) Lighter? I’m not sure…

In that case I might have to push it to the early summer. Both fall and spring will be pretty heavy. I’ve begun to prep already though, maybe I can study what I can until school starts and see where I am in Sept. I bet it all does go by fast

Thank you for your advice!

Grades always come first. While you can (God forbid) re-take the MCAT, you only get one shot at your coursework… unless you do so badly that you have to retake a class and that is not a good idea.

So yes, focus on the coursework. Besides, from an application standpoint there is not one bit of difference between the December 2009 MCAT and the June 2010 MCAT - either score would be used for an application in 2010, I presume.

Not to imply that you should take the MCAT with the idea that you could always do it over. You want to go into that with the hope that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


If you are not planning on applying before summer 2010, I’d wait until next Spring. You’ll still receive your scores back to have an early application, and who knows what more you’ll pick up in your knowledge base after completing this courses.

Actually, pi, from what I’ve heard, genetics seems to be more visible on the mcat, so who knows how many more pts you may gain from having the genetics background.

Putnam, what I would do would be to take one of those practice tests to get an idea of where you stand. Periodically through the year, take additional practice tests so that when you get to the actual test, you’ll be more used to the length of the test. For August, I would set up some kind of schedule for the year…maybe just a few hours a week, and perhaps a monthly practice test under test conditions and also something that you can do know is to work on your verbal…

Good luck!

I agree with Mary. Taking the test earlier will not change the application timeline. You have a heavy fall semester and personally I’d be leary of trying to prepare for the MCAT with that schedule. Plus some of your fall courses will actually be tested on the MCAT, so having them done will making preparing that much easier. When do spring courses finish for you? Will you have a significant amount of time after your courses have finished to really focus on MCAT prep, in addition to the work you’ve done in the spring, prior to the June test?

Navigating the process of getting into med school can be tricky. As has been mentioned over and over, you need to do as well as possible in your courses AND on the MCAT, in addition to getting done the other things schools at which the schools look. IMHO, no sense shooting yourself in the foot by doing less than your best in your courses.

Thanks all for your advice! I think it makes the most sense for me to do as best as I can in the fall (and spring) and take the mcats in June.

In the meantime, I can go ahead and periodically take practice tests under test conditions if I review on weekends etc. But yes Krisss, good idea to work on my verbal first!

md2b, i think my spring semester ends sometime early May. That wont give me much time to review before the June test. Then again, it depends on how well Ive been doing on my practice tests… This is partially why I’m almost obsessing on how and when to prepare for this test because i have NO CLUE what kind of score I’m capable of. No clue.

Plus since I’m doing this under the radar (with only less than a handful of people who have “been there done that” to help me out), I wont be taking any prep classes or anything. Besides…its expensive. Maybe I will consider a tutor in the spring. I know it’s not the best idea, but these are the cards im dealt. Any good reviews on going the private tutor route??

I’m applying to caribbean schools so thankfully I can be a little more time flexible with my application. I’m intending on applying for September matriculation.

I think if you have a solid month to prepare for the exam, assuming you’ve been doing a little each week along the way and that you’ve done well in your classes, you would be prepared for the exam in June. I don’t have much to offer on the private tutor as I don’t know anyone who did this–I could see where it might be helpful, if nothing else, to keep you tied into a strict study schedule. I would HIGHLY recommend doing as many practice questions and exams as you can in timed settings.

Just a quick thought: You say that you’re applying Caribbean. I am not familiar with your background or reasoning for this, but I would recommend if you feel at all competitive that you apply to DO and MD programs in the US prior to going the Caribbean route. There is a variety of entrance standards to medical schools in the States but regardless of where you attend stateside you will be better positioned to gain a residency after medical school than if you graduate from a Caribbean school. I’d be happy to share more if you’d like to hear more. Whatever your route, I wish you all the luck in the world!

Sounds like a plan, putnam.

Similar to MD2B, I’d like to ask: is there a particular reason you’re mainly/only looking at the Caribbean route?

Yes, I’ve heard exam krackers is a great tool. Thank you I’m certainly going to buy some when the time comes. Thankfully, my friend was kind enough to relinquish the Kaplan books that she had used when she was studying, so i have those in the meantime.

To answer both your questions as to why I’m going carib, is this: I dont think I am competitive at all. I’ve made many mistakes academically in the past , which dropped my gpa several tiers. My transcript is riddled with C’s and drops. Lets put it this way, I dont even have a GPA above 3.0 (gasp, i know) So, I’m not sure I can compete with the 22yr old 4.0 GPA/ 40 MCAT applicant. Over the next few months, I know I’ll have to work vigorously to raise my GPA.

I’ve considered DO years ago, but when I brought it up at the dinner table, the idea of DO was highly scrutinized and I was discouraged from pursuing it. Since that night, I’ve never looked back. I should probably revisit that option, re-educate myself about it. It could be a possibility, yes. But it was just something I never followed through with.

md2b, i’d be happy to know more about it. What are some good sites I can check out? I tried searching for DO information and all that popped up was info about Tae Kwon Do classes. Also, I’m interested in pathology, how does that fit in with DO if at all?

This’d be a good place to start . You can learn about the DO stuff, and see a few stories of folks with perhaps comparable grades. For instance, I got my bachelor’s with a 2.5 cumulative, barely scraping by… after ~2 years of post-bacc work, I was apparently a fairly competitive applicant. OldManDave here took about 7 years to be, ah, politely asked to leave his undergrad institution. After a full second degree, he was accepted into his DO program of choice and kicked some butt; he’s now an attending anesthesiologist.

So don’t count yourself out! It ain’t easy, but it’s doable.