How to Overcome Panic On the MCAT

Editor’s Note: Since many of you are about to take the MCAT, I thought this post from guest writer Don Osborne was very timely.

Here’s the typical scenario that is the catalyst for MCAT panic: You’re two weeks or less from your MCAT test date. You take a practice test, and the test results aren’t what you hoped for. You scored a little lower than you have done on previous tests, and what you expected to happen on this test didn’t happen. Your test result surprised you, and not in a good way. An internal, mental dialog begins — something like this: “Uh oh, my score isn’t higher than last time. Yikes! I must be going backwards! I’ve studied so hard and worked much harder than all my friends who are slacking off on the test and pushing out their test date. Oh crap, I’m losing it … I think my med school career could be over before I even start.”

This is usually followed by an extended crying session, or you throw your books across the room in anger.

How to Solve MCAT Panic

I’d like to suggest an alternative reason why your score may have dropped on your last test, something that doesn’t include fear-inducing doom and gloom predictions for your chances for acceptance to medical school.

Start with this: You want to be careful about misinterpreting one bad practice test. Just because you got a lower score on a practice test doesn’t mean that you are backsliding, that you are losing your ability to take the test, or that you’re losing your mind. It might mean that you got a little over-confident on one test, and you let a few trick questions mess you up.

I humbly suggest that you go back over the test that got you into trouble, and look for evidence that maybe, just maybe, you got a little cocky. Look for questions where you might have made a “dumb” mistake — you picked an answer choice too hastily and didn’t think things through.

MCAT panic is a predictable part of the weeks just prior to taking the test. I write more about what to do in the last couple of weeks before you take the MCAT in this article over on Take a look.

Getting one bad score on a practice MCAT may mean that you underestimated the test; respect MCAT and watch your score go back up.

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