Tag Archives: Q & A

Psyching Up For The MCAT

Take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Close your eyes.

Now… imagine yourself. See yourself standing. Focus vividly.

Now… imagine the MCAT. Close your eyes, and create a vivid image of the MCAT. Imagine the time, effort and energy you have and will expend to prepare for the MCAT.

Did you see yourself as “bigger” than the MCAT, or “smaller?”

This exercise gives you telling insight into how you see yourself and your relationship to the MCAT. If you see the MCAT as “big,” then your relationship with the MCAT may be characterized by overwhelm, anxiety, worry and doubt.

If you see the MCAT as “small” or “smaller than me,” then this reflects your confidence, and your scores will likely reflect this confidence.

Now do this:

Imagine yourself standing next to the MCAT. Expand your image of yourself until you are much, much smaller than the MCAT. See the MCAT as a giant mountain that seems impossible to climb.

Now imagine yourself towering over the MCAT. Create your image of yourself as a giant, standing hundreds of feet tall, and the MCAT is smaller than an ant, insignificant.

Experience the difference in your relationship with the MCAT. Take note of how you feel as you shift your perspective. Every time you study for the MCAT, every time you start a practice test, take 30 seconds and imagine yourself being bigger than the MCAT. Stand up tall and grow yourself taller. Feel the change in your relationship with the MCAT, and take note of the dominance and superiority you experience over it. Read my rant on test prep, and use the “Open Source MCAT Course” as a great tool to supplement your MCAT preparation.

Write a comment below with your feedback on MCAT mindset. I’m looking forward to reading them!

-DonO

3 Medical School Admissions Assumptions That Can Screw You Over

Like so many things in life, medical school admissions is filled with assumptions and myths that are 1) surprising, 2) not true, and, if you rely on them, 3) can get you into a heap of trouble. Here are three little-known medical school admissions assumptions. All of these have to do with the MCAT.

Assumption #1: You have to have your MCAT scores before you can apply.

Wrong. Your primary application is independent of your MCAT scores, so you can submit your primary application as soon as it is ready. However, you need to have both the primary application and the MCAT score to the medical school admissions office in order for your application to be considered. (You’ll need other documents, too).

Assumption #2: It’s a good idea to take the MCAT regardless of your practice scores, just to get the experience.

Wrong. Too many students make this mistake. I would never recommend you take the MCAT just to practice. It’s much better to take free practice tests at home, instead. Further, if your scores on practice tests are in the mid-20s, it’s highly unlikely your MCAT score will jump into the low 30s in just a few days.

Assumption #3: The MCAT is the most important part of the application.

Not so. Medical schools will evaluate your entire application. Like the parts to a car’s engine, all of the pieces are intricately connected; you engine won’t start without the battery, but that doesn’t make it the most important part of the engine.

I’ve got more tips and advice on my article called “Medical School Admissions: Unicorns and Other Mythical Creatures” over at my blog at INQUARTA.com. Check it out now!

- DonO

Reading Comprehension and the Future of the MCAT

It’s no surprise that reading comprehension is one of my favorite subjects. As a past MCAT instructor and co-author of materials about reading comprehension for the MCAT, I love the whole aspect of figuring out the puzzle in a verbal reasoning passage.

Now that MCAT 2015 is officially going to include social sciences and psychology content, it’s apparent that there’s too much content to make everything a prereq for medical school admissions. So if you’re thinking you might take the MCAT in a couple years, read on.

Premed Prereqs are A-changin’

The change in MCAT content implies a significant addition to the list of prerequisites for medical school admissions. The trouble is that students are already overloaded on their existing academic path. Adding-in more sociology and more psychology doesn’t sound like a winning solution. So I doubt that med schools will make this part of the premedical requirements. It’s enough that the MCAT will test these topics, making it a de facto requirement.

Verbal Techniques Widely Applied

I expect you’ll see innumerable books, courses, and online goodness all geared toward guiding you to better understand the upcoming “content.”

Don’t let yourself get too carried away, though. The nature of standardized tests, which I wrote about previously on this site, restricts test writers to a few tried-and-true approaches. None of this will change when the new subjects come online; if the process of elimination works on bio questions, and works on verbal questions, then it will also work on psych questions.

Bottom Line is Cognitive

The main thing the MCAT wants to know is this: Can you read a body of information, form your own, independent interpretation of that information, and then report the author’s perspective, bias and possible logical errors?

I write more about this on my blog … take a look.

Don Osborne is a contributing author to Princeton Review’s Hyperlearning MCAT Course. Don created the original Verbal Accelerator program and is a contributor to the latest “Cracking the MCAT” book from Princeton Review. Follow Don on Facebook to read his advice and recommendations to improve your chances of medical school admissions.

Why The MCAT Is NOT Your Friend!

In 20 years of coaching students to take the MCAT, the two biggest lessons I share with students are:

  • Above everything else, the MCAT relies on behavioral conditioning to provide a reliable result to medical schools
  • Self-awareness of your test taking tendencies becomes paramount to significant score improvement.

Let’s look at each of these lessons.

The MCAT As a Test of Conditioned Behavior

For your entire academic life, you have been trained to look for and provide the right answers. As a child, you got significant emotional and social rewards for providing the right answers to any question. You got a “good grade,” you were called a “smart boy or girl” and you received significant emotional and non verbal cues as rewards — your Mother’s smile, your Father’s hug, your teacher’s recognition.

To say that you have been brainwashed is not an understatement. In my report called, “Don’s Tactical Nuclear MCAT Testing Taking Techniques,” I write extensively about how the MCAT operates within this context. Suffice it to say — before you can begin to improve on the MCAT, you have to know within what paradigm the MCAT operates.

I call MCAT test writers “psychometricians.” These are psychologists who live and breathe the answer to the question, “How do I get thousands of college students to respond to a series of test questions such that the answers from these students always results in a normal distribution?” The MCAT test writers need something to help them make sure that a certain percentage of students get a particular problem right, and a certain percentage get that same problem wrong, every time. They need tools to help them do this, and the tools really cannot be content-based, because students can always study themselves out of content-based problems.

So test writers look for some other technique. Let’s call this technique “testing linguistics,” a specific way of writing test questions and answer choices that causes a predictable, repeatable result.

OK, now you know how MCAT test writers are thinking, and how they go about structuring the MCAT. Sure, there are knowledge-based questions, but cognitive reasoning is what’s really being tested, and your ability to see past the knowledge and into the logic of a particular problem is what they’re after. So by structuring test questions in a way that subtly misleads your thinking, they are able to get the guaranteed distribution of scores they need in order to call the MCAT a “standardized” test.

Your Test-Taking Tendencies Are Paramount

How well you recognize the patterns of language that the MCAT relies upon to mislead you will determine your ability to significantly improve your score. And because the MCAT is a timed test, the additional time pressure makes it difficult to take a significant amount of time to look for and recognize these patterns. You need a shortcut.

Here’s where things get really interesting. Your test-taking habits and tendencies are different from mine. You will have a preference for specific language patterns in your answer choices. When you get that pattern, the answer just seems “right” to you, and you “feel” that you have discovered the correct answer. The trouble is, the MCAT test writers know, better than you, what those language patterns are. So how do you go about discovering this for yourself?

Create a “Wrong Answer” Journal

Consider this: What if you had a list of 200 answers that were all wrong, but that you were attracted to? Do you think you could go through all of them and discover underlying patterns that make the answers attractive? If then do you think you could better identify and AVOID these trappy patterns? I think the answer is “yes,” and I strongly encourage you to create your own “wrong answer journal” to guide you.

Taking the time to create this journal may seem like a large time investment, and it is. But you’ll soon discover how to rapidly identify language patterns that you know are trappy, and avoid them. That in itself is sufficient to raise your score significantly.

I walk through step-by-step how to create this journal in my report called, “Don’s Tactical Nuclear MCAT Testing Taking Techniques.” The report is free to all MCAT Question of the Day readers.

- Don Osborne with INQUARTA.com

Don Osborne is a contributing author to Princeton Review’s Hyperlearning MCAT Course. Don created the original Verbal Accelerator program and is a contributor to the latest “Cracking the MCAT” book from Princeton Review. Follow Don on Facebook to read his advice and recommendations to improve your chances of medical school admissions.

C+ In Organic Chemistry – Should I Drop?

MCAT QuestionsAllison Greco is a medical student in the class of 2013 and has a great passion for medicine and social media. You can read her awesome blog here, and follow her on twitter @grecoa3.

I’m currently in my second semester of organic chemistry and I’m going to end up with a C+. Should I withdraw and retake the class next semester with hopes of getting at least a B? Or is it better to take the C+ instead of a W?

This question is a little beyond my scope, and I think you should talk to your pre-med advisor. You’re certainly not the only person who has ever found themselves in this situation, and advisors are great people to turn to with questions. However, if there is something particularly challenging going on in your personal life or otherwise that is preventing you from performing your best, you may be able to write about it in a personal statement one day.


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Conduct Offense While Entering Graduate School?

MCAT QuestionsAllison Greco is a medical student in the class of 2013 and has a great passion for medicine and social media. You can read her awesome blog here, and follow her on twitter @grecoa3.

I have a question about past conduct offenses. My freshman year I was charged with underage drinking. Since then, I’ve been a great pre-med with high grades and heavily involved in extracurriculars. Is this offense going to significantly hurt my chances? Should I wait a year after I graduate to expunge my record?

Hmm, it depends. Was the offense managed by campus security or was it the police? If it was campus security, you should look into your school’s policies. Some schools will not release information about certain offenses when you apply to graduate schools, but other institutions will. If this was an issue involving the police, you will have to disclose this on your application. However, you can write about the incident in your personal statement, and describe how you’ve grown and learned from your mistakes.


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What If I Don’t Get The Residency I Want?

MCAT QuestionsAllison Greco is a medical student in the class of 2013 and has a great passion for medicine and social media. You can read her awesome blog here, and follow her on twitter @grecoa3.

Hi Allison, I’m a current medical student and already worried about if I don’t get the residency I want and get stuck doing something I don’t enjoy. What are your plans if you don’t get matched with any of your preferences?

It’s actually pretty rare that someone doesn’t match, and when this happens it’s usually because they overestimated their competitiveness and applied to only super-prestigious programs. If this does happen, you enter what’s called “The Scramble.” In the beginning of Match week you get notified if you did or didn’t match. If you didn’t match, you can then ‘scramble’ to find an opening in a program that didn’t fill all their spots.

My school has a great program that sets us up with specialty-specific advisors. These advisors end up being highly involved in the residency selection processes in their respective subspecialties. When I met with my advisor she was able look at my CV, grades, and personal statement and tell me how competitive of an applicant I am, and listed some programs that I should look into (in the geographic locations that I’m interested in).

I would advise reaching out to someone in the field you’re interested in. Set the meeting up for the middle-end of third year so you’re sure you really know what you want to go into. This person will be able to help you identify programs that will best fit you.


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Pre-Med Extracurriculars & Admissions Committees

MCAT QuestionsAllison Greco is a medical student in the class of 2013 and has a great passion for medicine and social media. You can read her awesome blog here, and follow her on twitter @grecoa3.

I have a 3.5 GPA and decent MCAT score, but I’m really passionate about art, too. Is it OK to send admission committees a gallery or link to my website? Or should non-science activities be left out from my application?

Absolutely not! The AMCAS system has room for lots of extracurriculars, and medical schools DEFINITELY want to know about them – especially if you won any awards, are involved in leadership, or teaching others.

I’m currently going through a similar situation regarding my blog and freelance work when applying for residencies. Right now, my plan is to put a link to my blog (I even linked to my twitter) in my CV. When it comes down to it, Medical School admissions committees WANT people to have constructive hobbies and good personalities, not robots.


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Time Management Tips For Pre-Med Students

MCAT QuestionsAllison Greco is a medical student in the class of 2013 and has a great passion for medicine and social media. You can read her awesome blog here, and follow her on twitter @grecoa3.

Between school, volunteering, research, and my job, I feel I’m spreading myself too thin and it’s starting to burn me out. Do you have any advice on how to handle time management?

Wow, you sound like you’re super busy! While only you can decide what kind of lifestyle you want to have in the long run, if your grades are suffering or you are dealing with unmanageable stress levels, you may need to take something off your plate.

Personally, when it comes to time management, I always try and finish “busy work” sooner rather than later. For example, if I have a paper due late in the semester I try and do it early so that I can free up time for things that may pop up later on. Another suggestion is to always take one day every week for yourself. Don’t allow yourself to do any schoolwork, and take time to do all your “real person activities” like grocery shopping, errands, or just other fun things. This way, you won’t have to worry about them as your running around and doing everything else.

If you feel like you are spread too thin, you might consider checking to see if your college offers online courses, so that you can make your daily schedule more flexible. Many accredited colleges offer online versions of their best courses, for example there is SJU Online.


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Importance of an Interest in Research for Medical School?

MCAT QuestionsAllison Greco is a medical student in the class of 2013 and has a great passion for medicine and social media. You can read her awesome blog here, and follow her on twitter @grecoa3.

How important is an interest in research for medical school?

Research is one of those things that you notoriously hear “looks great” on medical school applications. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about it when I started looking in to medical school. As time moved on, several opportunities presented themselves throughout my other extra-curriculars and academic programs. I needed to do a thesis to graduate in my school’s honors program. In the end, I basically killed 2 birds with 1 stone in terms of my research involvement.

Different medical schools put more or less emphasis on research. This is something your pre-med advisor or the medical school itself can tell you more about.


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