How studying for the MCAT benefits you as a med student
April 4, 2014
1. Content- Now, I will be the first to argue that many topics that show up on the MCAT are not necessarily relevant or applicable to becoming a physician. There are, however, many topics that are exceptionally useful. So far in medical school I’ve used the Nernst equation, the circuits equations, pretty much every biology topic, fluid dynamics, the equilibrium constants, R and S chirality and all the biochemistry that was on the MCAT. The one thing that I teach in MCAT classes but I haven’t seen much of in med school is Newtonian Mechanics.
Additionally, things that I learned in medical school take on new relevance when I’m teaching and tutoring. The passages that I used to struggle with now make more sense because I know about the diseases. For example, we completed our Blood and Lymph block a few weeks ago and when I was teaching the Biology 3 lesson, I realized that the passage on Thalassemia was exactly what I had learned in medical school. I’ve taught that passage hundreds of times, but after my most recent classes, the passage took on an entirely new level of meaning.
2. Test Strategies- I still triage questions on my test. Most tests in medical school are timed and multiple choice with the idea that the format will help you be prepared to take the USMLE exam at the end of your second year. Due to the format being similar to the MCAT, strategies like Stop, Think, Predict and Match and triaging are absolutely still effective when taking your tests. I always try to predict an answer before I look at the choices since distracting answer choices abound on medical school exams. Looking for and eliminating extreme answer choices is another good practice that I first learned to implement when studying for the MCAT. Rarely in medicine is something always true or never true. Those are great answers to eliminate immediately.
3. Studying high yield content- You can’t know everything. It’s just not possible to know every single scrap of information about a topic that could possibly show up on an exam. There are definitely pieces of information that are very important and highly likely to show up on an exam. My professors like to point out specific, potentially testable material. Those are the things that you want to focus your study hours on. I’m sure that I’ll get a question about different levels of AV blocks on my exam on Monday the same way that I’m pretty sure you’ll get a question about electrostatics and magnetism on the MCAT.
Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over six years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a second-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.