Ten Common Myths of the New MCAT

Article written by Dr. Ryan Gray of Medical School Headquarters

from his interview with Dr. Brett Ferdinand of Gold Standard MCAT.

Gold Standard has been providing MCAT preparation courses

and MCAT practice tests to pre-med students for 25 years.

1. Since it’s standardized, the exam day is the same for everyone.

Think of the exam day in it’s entirety because every day is different. The weather is going to be different. There are so many different experiences that you can have. Keep your mind open to many possibilities. Beware of the danger in going to forums. Prepare for all contingencies and understand that not everybody is going to have the same exam experience so you have to prepare for that.

2. I will learn everything before the exam.

In a traditional exam, you can learn all you need to ace the test before taking it. For the MCAT, it involves a different way of thinking. Perfect practice makes practice. Start very early in your MCAT prep. Based on your personality then you can start deciding which learning style suits you best which has to be problem-based learning. Start with knowledge-based questions. Move on to practical application questions and then full-length practice tests. 2/3 of your time practicing should be higher learning processes you’re applying.

3. CARS as a reading section so it’s not important.

Reasoning is a core element in the CARS section that makes up one quarter of your score. This cannot be ignored. Practice and find areas where you’re reading actively. Always get the global idea, summarize, and the author’s point of view.

4. Every question counts.

If you’re going beyond two minutes when answering a question, assess the value of the question and how close you are to finishing it. The MCAT is a scales course system, which means that even if you miss 1-2 questions, the likelihood is you would get the same score as if you didn’t miss those questions. Other exam questions are also not scored. Mark questions where you’re unsure of the answers and go back later.

5. I can take the MCAT as often as I like.

The MCAT is a full-day exam that is so stressful enough that you would want to minimize exposure to the exam. AAMC has also come up with rules on test taking where one can only take the exam up to:
   Three times in a single year
   Four times during a two-consecutive year period
   Seven times in a lifetime

6. A high MCAT score is vital for medical school admissions.

AAMC has created a new marking system to make people at ease with the mid-range scores so they have found a way to minimize the MCAT score on medical school admissions. The hope is that medical schools will put more emphasis on the personal statement and other application materials like the MMI which has a stronger correlation with a person’s clinical performance than the MCAT.

7. It’s only about the test.

It’s natural for students to focus on the materials but this is an unusual exam. There are peripheral matters that can significantly affect your experience such as stamina. The MCAT is not a sprint but a marathon. So you have to live the experience. One or two weeks before the exam, live your daily life similar to the exam day. Maintain your body and nutrition in the most stable way possible in anticipation of the exam day.

8. You have to know more content for the new MCAT than any other standardized exam.

Not drill and kill. Not lots but hots. It’s not a purely knowledge-based test but it also involves understanding, comprehension, application questions, analysis, and synthesis. It has lower order thinking skills and higher order thinking skills. MCAT has the least amount of lower order thinking skill questions.

9. Some questions are designed to trick me.

Take a step back to understand the questions. Evaluate graphs, tables, diagrams, research, experiments in a clear way and pay attention to the wording. MCAT is designed not to trick the students but to help students develop precision and pay attention to details.

10. I can’t practice yet.

Once you’ve made a decision to take the MCAT, do a few questions. Take your time. work through them and see what it’s like. By thinking about it, you won’t turn the MCAT into a greater beast. Think like the AAMC where you see the big picture and not just the knowledge details. Familiarize yourself with questions and problems and that will change how you will prepare for the exam. That will make you not just a better MCAT student, but a better doctor one day.

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