If you're planning on going to medical school, one of the most important
tests you will take in your academic career will be the Medical College
Admissions Test, or MCAT. The MCAT has been around in some form since
the 1920s, and as one would expect it has undergone a lot of changes
over the years. The MCAT as it exists today is a standardized test made
up of multiple choice questions and a writing section that is meant to
test a student's scientific knowledge, writing ability and problem
solving skills. The test isn't technically required to get into medical
school and become a doctor, but passing it will greatly improve your
chances of being accepted to the school of your choice.
It's definitely in your best interest to take the MCAT exam, but preparing to take it can be a nerve-racking experience. There's definitely a lot riding on the test, so you will want to get it right the first time you take it. Here are some tips that might help you get ready to take the MCAT and hopefully settle some of your nerves when the exam date approaches.
1. Take a Practice Exam
One of the best ways to prepare for any exam is to know what you're up against, and the easiest way to do this is to take a practice exam. Fortunately, there are plenty of practice MCAT tests available. Some of the more comprehensive exams will cost you some money, but for most people the prices will be reasonable. These tests are updated versions of retired exams, but they will at least give you some idea of what you're up against. If you want to take a free online MCAT exam, you can find one at www.e-mcat.com.
Don't get too discouraged if you don't score well on a practice test. The goal is to become familiar with the exam, not ace it on your first time out. If you don't do well, you will at least know where your weaknesses lie and focus on them as you study.
2. Don't Go for Rote Memorization
The administrators of the MCAT are less interested in your ability to memorize complex formulas and other information than they are in your ability to understand the physical and chemical properties and reactions they are meant to describe. One good strategy for preparing for the MCAT is to see if you can explain some of the more complex concepts in a way that a fifth grader will understand. It sounds strange, but if you can explain a process in a way that is easy to understand, chances are that you have your information down pat.
3. Use Your Old Notes and Textbooks
A lot of medical school candidates spend thousands of dollars on cram courses and materials shortly before taking the MCAT. Some of these courses and materials are useful, but there's a much cheaper solution if you want to cram the week (not night) before your MCAT exam. Hopefully you saved at least some of your notes and textbooks from your previous college courses. In most cases, this is actually all you need to study for the material on the MCAT. You can just dig them out and start studying without spending $2,000 for a last-minute cram course.
The thing to remember about preparing for the MCAT or any other exam you plan to take to further your career is that the process is a marathon, not a sprint. Set aside some time every day to study for weeks or even months before the exam. Cramming the night before will just stress you out with information overload and a lack of sleep. In the end, you'll be doing yourself a disservice by engaging in a last-minute cram session. Feel free to look over your notes for a refresher course the night before your exam, but by then you should know what you're up against and what you need to do to get a decent exam score.
Elliot Chambers writes on medicine, medical science, medical education, health and fitness, wellness and other related topics; those interested in the medical profession can learn more by visiting CNACertification-Training.com.