MCAT Exam Preparation India 2020 – 2021
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized MCQ-based test for candidates looking for admission in medical schools in the US, Canada, Australia, and other countries. It tests skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, and knowledge of scientific concepts as a precondition for the study of medicine. Clocking in at around 7 and a half hours, it is surely one of the lengthiest standardized exams out there. The four sections tested on the MCAT are listed here. It is administered by Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Each test section is assigned a score of 118-132, hence the total score varies from 472 to 528. The test is offered approximately 25 times in a calendar year. The number of attempts for a candidate is restricted: 3 times in a single year and 7 times in a lifetime. The only eligibility stated is that the candidate must be preparing to apply to a professional health school. The basic fee for the test is $310.
How to prepare for the MCAT
As can be seen from the length of the exam, MCAT is more of a marathon, not a sprint. Based on your target schools, you should prepare a time table that stretches over 4-6 months (AAMC recommends 300-350 hours of total study hours). You can get a fair idea of the amount of preparation that needs to go in by taking practice tests (here) offered by AAMC. It will also give you a fair idea about the format and question types. Cramming for the test is a bad idea, as the test-setter is more interested in your understanding of the subject areas rather than recall memory.
After the initial diagnostic test, you should focus on your strengths and weaknesses to account for them in your study plan. It is imperative to focus on your weaknesses too if you plan to get a high score. Giving equal time to all subject areas is not optimal, and the level of difficulty you should practice depends on the target score. A high scorer cannot afford to miss even the difficult question types or questions which have very low chances of appearing on the exam.
You should also make sure that you book your desired location and date well in advance. If you’re taking the test from India, you need to fly to another country. MCAT is administered in 19 international locations, and India is not one of them. The neighboring countries of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore do however conduct the test.
Methods of preparation for the MCAT
There is a host of options available offered online by major test-prep companies such as the Princeton Review and Kaplan. As of today, The Princeton Review is offering a self-paced module for a price of $1,799, and a classroom-based module for a price of $2,499. Folks who are self-directed and/or not moneyed can also opt for free resources and books to craft their own study plan. Khan Academy offers excellent courses and practice material for MCAT — well structured and free!
Preparation tips to crack the MCAT
Thousands of aspirants appear for the exam in a year, and you need to work hard and smart to emerge a winner. Here are some tips to tackle the exam and get a high score:
- Focus on solving questions: Some students have a knack for memorizing things, but lack the rigor to solve questions by applying the learned concepts while catching nuances. Doing lots of practice problems is a good way to make sure that you can think critically and become oriented towards application of concepts.
- Timed practice: As the sheer length of the exam can exhaust even the seasoned test-takers, you should make sure that you take the practice tests in timed conditions that mimic the test scenario as closely as possible.
- Group study: Given the nature of the MCAT, the study session can be a bit tedious. Studying in a group can be a stress buster with an added bonus that sometimes concepts are better understood from a fellow test aspirant.
- Consistency is key: While all hell won’t break loose if you don’t study for a few days, it gets increasingly difficult to get back on track as days pass by. Hence, it is absolutely critical to create a study plan and stick to it. It is a swell idea to space out the study time too: much better to study a couple of hours every day instead of a 14 hour stretch every Sunday. The ideas stick around a lot longer.
- Carefully choose study material: If you are using different study materials for different sections of the exam, a single substandard resource becomes the weakest link in your preparation. Before opting for other practice materials, make sure that you’ve covered all practice problems provided by AAMC. Use Khan Academy to jump-start your preparation in a structured manner.
MCAT Exam Practice
Studying for the MCAT is a full-time job, especially in a final couple of months leading up to the exam. Be sure to give full-length practice tests after regular intervals to make sure you’re on the right track. Similarly, reviewing the wrong answers is equally important. You will uncover gaps in your understanding, strategy, or execution. Develop a good elimination strategy for MCQ’s: your chance of getting the right answer is 50-50 after eliminating a couple of wrong choices.
In biology, you should make your own mnemonics and shortcuts to memorize things. Connect the information from various subject areas to enhance understanding — visualizing blood flow in a kidney through Bernoulli’s equation and the associated biochemistry! Though the writing section is not given as much attention as the other subject areas, be sure to accommodate it in your practice. You should have a central hypothesis, ideas and logic to support it, and a coherent structure with the right grammar.
Rather than sidelining the verbal portion, doing well at it is a smart way to increase your overall score. Be sure to skim the passage at first glance to get the main idea, the tone/intent of the author, and the transitions between the paragraphs. The answer choices can be confusing for verbal at times, and the strategy of elimination can often work wonders for arriving at the correct answer. Consistent preparation with a good feedback system will surely reap rewards over time. Also, do not make the mistake of leaving the questions unanswered.
Tips for MCAT Test Day
Sleep well the day before the exam for a minimum of 8 hours. Writing equipment, scratch paper, and earplugs will be provided to you in the examination hall. Bring high-protein snacks to the center to recharge your brain cells during the breaks. If you’re feeling stressed at any point in time, taking deep breaths can rejuvenate and reboot. Do not forget to carry your primary identification (passport) to the center!