The Main Event

So, let’s get to the goods.  I took the MCAT yesterday afternoon as planned – no issues with the testing facility or anything like that.  Although, I did leave two hours early in case I got pulled over – I haven’t had a chance to renew my license plates since January and I was worried that, with my luck, I’d get nailed on the way to the testing center and show up late.

For those of you that haven’t taken the MCAT yet, examinees are prohibited from discussing specifics of the exam, so I can’t give any specifics out about the exam.  That said, I still have plenty to unload.  Understand that, right now, I’ve got a couple of imperial stouts onboard, so this should be a rather free-wheeling post.

Up front, let me be clear, anyone that thinks to take the MCAT without having taken all of the AAMC practice exams is a complete fool.  Taking the full-lengths under timed conditions and then reviewing them afterwards is the most important part of preparing for the exam.  Having a sense of the timing required is absolutely crucial and the only to develop that is by taking the practice exams.  I also did timed MCAT-style practice passages the entire time I was studying for the exam, and I really think this helped me get used to doing questions under test conditions.  As it turned out, even with all that, the timing on the real thing was auite a bit different than I had expected.

First, the physical science section was not all that different from the ones that I encountered on the practice exam.  In hindsight, I’m somewhat glad that I tanked this section on the last practice exam I worked.  There were two questions that really stumped me and I was relatively sure I had worked out answers, so I gave what I thought was the correct answer, marked it, and then went on to the next one.  I had about 4 minutes left at the very end and was able to go back and verify that I had the correct answer.  If I hadn’t gotten snagged on the timing that one time on the practice exam, I could have very easily burned too much time on those and not finished the section.  As it turned out, I’m pretty sure that I did fairly well on this section.  There were several very crafty passages that were easy, so long as you really knew the physics, but if you didn’t, would definitely leave you facedown in the dirt.

Now, for the verbal.  Really glad that I practiced these as much as I did.  The VR section was absolutely nothing like the practice exams.  First, the length of every practice passage I did was around 600 words or so.  On the real thing, the first three passages were easily 1200-1300 words.  Huge.  And the first few passages were aboslutely brutal.  I fell behind a bit on the first passage because of the length, so I stepped up the pace and got caught up by the third passage.  I never felt all that pressed for time and actually finished up about 6 minutes early.  The last few passages really cruised and I found myself reading the questions, reading the answers, bubble the right answer, and then cruising on to the next one.  Hopefully, that’s a good sign, but it’s hard to really know one way or the other.  On several questions, I knew exactly what the distractors were and felt confident that I was sidestepping the landmines that the test writers had lain.  As always though, it’s really tough to feel confident about any of these.  Hopefully I was able to score at least a 10 on this section.

The writing sample was more or less a break from the stress.  I sort of just tuned out the fact that I was taking the MCAT, relaxed, and acted like I was writing a blog post on whatever random topic they had assigned me.  What was interesting was talking with some of the other examinees.  I ran into a guy from one of my post-bacc courses who took one practice exam a couple months ago.  Another girl had taken the exam three weeks ago and scored something like a 25.  I was amazed at the super-gunner atmosphere there too – everyone that I interacted with were humongous douchebags.  I talked to one girl between sections and then wished her luck, and she acted like I’d tried to feel her up.  Those are the kinds of people that I want nothing to do with in medical school.

Finally, the biology section.  A lot of premeds count on the MCAT to not test much organic chemistry and many do not review it to any significant degree.  Big mistake.  There were at least three passages on organic chemistry, mostly first semester stuff.  There was also a rather nasty passage that asked a couple of questions that took me about 20 minutes to work out once I got home and had access to a biochemistry textbook.  Luckily, I didn’t let those questions trip me up – I gave them my best educated guess, marked them, and then came back to them.  There was one question on stereochemistry that I marked to come back to make sure that I hadn’t made some silly mistake.  As it turned out, I had, so I reworked it several times to make sure that I was correct, changed my answer, and then finished up the section.

After I finished up, there was the obligatory survey, where I just sorta relaxed and reflected on the exam.  My first thought after I was finished was that I’d probably gotten a 34.  My guess yesterday was a 13/10/11.  I have no idea how accurate that is.  Hopefully I was correct on a couple of the questions that I wasn’t absolutely sure on and will wind up doing better than I think.  Hopefully, I don’t score worse than that.  It’s hard to know – there were several questions that I felt were worded so ambiguously that they had two correct answers.  Anyway, I have no desire to spend the next 30 days freaking out about the exam.

The most hilarious part of my day yesterday was looking at the exam thread on SDN yesterday.  Listening to all the frantic premeds freaking out about how incredibly rough the physics and biology sections were was rather humorous.

Sometime in the next couple of days, I’ll write up what my thoughts on studying for the MCAT are, what I’d have done differently, what I found that helped me the most.  Anyway, I’m glad to be done with the exam, but I don’t feel relieved or any sense of success or accomplishment.  Hopefully, once I get my scores back, that will pass and I can check a >35 on the MCAT off my to-do list for this year.


11 Responses

  1. Well, congratulations on being done. I’m sure that you did get that >35! 🙂

  2. That’s a huge accomplishment. Taking the MCAT is no joke!

    • Agreed. Important to think of it as part of the road to becoming a doctor, rather than the end result. A lot of people don’t do that and wind up putting a lot of pressure on themselves.

  3. You’ll probably get a 34. Almost everyone I know got exactly what they predicted their score was when walking out, including me. I feel like after taking so many practice ones, you know what a 34 feels like. On that note, you had stated that your goal was a high 30s. 34 is great, and definitely med school admissible.

    • I honestly tend to underestimate my scores quite a bit. In hindsight, especially after checking out a couple of the discretes that I wasn’t sure on, I may have done better. I think a 35 is entirely possible.

  4. I don’t think it’s necessary to take ALL the AAMC tests, although that would ideal. I only took two of the AAMC tests (free one and most recent) and scored 31/34 respectively. I scored a 34 on the real exam in 2011 (12 PS, 9 VR, 13 BS, 34Q). I studied for 3 weeks with most time spent on review. I scored 1130 in 2001 SAT 1 (1 week review), 1420 on GRE in 2005 (2 day review)–so it’s not like I’m a genius.

    • You’re probably right. Contrary to the prevailing opinion on SDN, I did not find any significant difference in difficulty between any of the AAMC practice exams. One thing I was grateful for was that taking lots of practice exams forced me to make mistakes and learn from them. If I hadn’t tanked my last practice exam, I would have probably not learned to give up on a rough question and come back to it later. Making that mistake on a practice exam prevented me from making it on the real thing.

  5. I’m taking mine in January. I’m glad I found your blog. I wish you the best.

    • Thanks a lot. I’m going to try and finish a post on what I learned about studying for the MCAT, so keep an eye out for it. Best of luck with your January exam. Are you planning to take classes while you study for the exam?

      • Well, yes, since I’m still in school. I switched over to premed my senior year of college so I’m a little behind in almost everything.

      • Studying for the MCAT while you’re taking regular courses as well would be really tough. Give yourself a lot of margin.

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