The medical college admissions test (MCAT) is often intimidating when applying to medical school, especially since it can play as significant role in acceptance. As you approach your junior year of college, it is time to start planning for the MCAT and the application process.
Start With Timing
The timing of when you take the MCAT should coincide with having enough knowledge from your educational program to help you, while leaving enough time to retake the test if necessary. Generally, students register for the MCAT in the spring of their junior year or the summer before their senior year. This will allow you additional time to retake the test in the fall of your senior year and have your results back in time to submit applications. Ideally, you will take the timing of testing into consideration early in your academic career so you can plan to complete the courses most applicable to the MCAT before testing. Once you have a general idea when you want to take the test, you can develop a plan for preparation. Depending on your schedule and how much information you have retained from your classes, you may only need a few months of consistent studying to be prepared.
Plan Your Approach
Your approach to test preparation should include as many resources as possible. Prep courses can be an invaluable resource for doing well on the MCAT. Not only do you go over key concepts that are frequently on the test, but you also learn strategies to do well and better manage your time. In addition to prep courses, your old textbooks, notes, and tests are inexpensive reference materials. Outline the different topics you need to study for the MCAT and organize them based on difficulty.
Concepts you do not remember or that are harder for you should be at the top of the list so you can dedicate more time to these subjects. Anything you remember well can go at the bottom of the list, and you can simply brush up on the topic in the weeks leading up to the test. Remember, studying for the MCAT is not meant to be a cram session. You should study digestible chunks of information daily or at least for several hours each week, consistently. Rote memorization is a poor strategy for standardized tests because you often need to understand concepts to apply them to various scenarios to answer the questions correctly.
Have A Back-Up Plan
Having a back-up plan in case you do not achieve the score you want is important. If your score is good, but not ideal, retaking the test before the application deadline might be an option, but the decision should be contingent on the reason you did not do well. A lower score because you were ill or some other uncontrollable variable is a good reason to retake the test before the upcoming application deadline. If your score was low because you did not adequately prep for the test or did not have sufficient knowledge to do well, you will need several months of studying and prep before you retake the test. If you do not have enough time to prep, retake the test, and apply to medical school, waiting until next year is likely the better decision.
There are situations when a student might perform poorly because they did not have a sufficient background or there was a long gap between undergraduate school and applying to medical school. In this case, you should consider the option of post-baccalaureate or graduate programs designed as medical school preparation. These programs may offer a certificate or a graduate degree and typically require you to complete coursework that will better prepare you for medical school. In addition to coursework, there are special prep courses for the MCAT. To gain the most benefits out of these programs, you might want to choose the program leading to a graduate degree.
In addition to preparing for medical school, you can also earn a graduate degree in a related field, such as biomedical sciences, biology, toxicology, or pathology. Earning a graduate degree can enhance your medical school application, and if you happen to find a graduate program that closely aligns with your professional goals, you may be able to find a job in the field while you are waiting for acceptance into medical school. For example, if your goal is to become a medical examiner, earning a graduate degree in pathology would certainly make your application to medical school stand out, and you may find a job working with a medical examiner in the meantime.
The MCAT can be a major hurdle when applying to medical school. Using all the preparation tools available and having a good back-up plan if you do not do well can increase your chances of being accepted into medical school. Contact a private MCAT tutor for additional information.