What it feels like to take the MCAT

The Medical College Admissions Test has long been considered the crucible of medical school. Let’s say it all together now: the MCAT is hard.

Great, now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk about all of the things no one tells you.

Randolph-Macon College has a great early acceptance program with Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Washington Medical School, and Medical College of Virginia. In the spring semester of my sophomore year, I applied for the program with the Medical College of Virginia and was accepted!! That acceptance, of course, was conditional. The program involves a certain number of medical exposure hours, high GPA standards, a list of required classes, and an MCAT score of their determination. DUN DUN DUN. Yes, you read that right. Get the score, or have the acceptance taken away. No pressure here.

I began researching my test prep options and wasn’t too thrilled with what I saw. Classes were upwards of $2,000 and private tutoring was $3,500. I didn’t have a couple extra thousand dollars laying around so I asked for the six book Kaplan set for Christmas. Santa delivered and I had committed to self-studying. I know, I’m absolutely nuts.

I took a full 12-credit hours, but I tried to keep up with the pacing guide I had set for myself. I had to read six chapters a week (one in each book) for 12 weeks in order to stay on track. That was all fine and dandy until I realized reading each chapter could take 2-3 hours. Needless to say, I didn’t have a spare 12-18 hours a week either. I did the best I could to keep up throughout the semester and began studying full-time once school let out.

Quickly, life looked something like this:

You think I’m joking…

If you’re taking the MCAT this summer, here are some things you might want to keep in mind.

  1. Self studying IS possible. There are so many resources available online for free! Kaplan offers free bootcamps and diagnostic tests. The AAMC practice tests are affordable. Amazon has great deals on the content books. Just be honest with yourself, what do you need to do to stay focused?
  2. Do what it takes. I recommend three hours studying, two hours off, then another three hours of studying a day. That means that during your two hour break you can do life things, like laundry and showering. It also means you get to watch excruciating Snapchat videos of your friends having fun at the beach while you sit inside and read.
  3. Try not to agonize over the wait. After you finish your exam, you will have to wait a full 30 days (sometimes more!) before you get your score. In that time, you will want to pull your hair out. Not knowing is so much worse than ripping off the bandaid. Nonetheless, it is out of your control at that point. Take some time off and recover from the stress you just put your body through.

Have you taken the MCAT? What was your experience?

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