I feel good about it. From the practice exams on AAMC (yup, practice tests from the agency that writes these MCAT exams itself), I’ve written 4 full length exams.
And I did well.
To be more specific, I don’t know how I did on the essays, but the other three sections (physical sciences, verbal reasoning, and biological sciences) were marked out of a percentage, then a standardized scale score out of 15 is estimated for these practice tests. “Standardized scale score” means they have a fixed mean and standard deviation (which means if you happen to write the exam at the time when thousands of crazy keeners, you will probably end up with a low mark).
And what scale score is considered good on MCAT?
Here’s some data. I couldn’t find what the score on this website is (maximum? minimum? mean? median?), but I think it’s the mean of MCAT scores of the entering class
For the Canadian schools, MCAT scores rank from Queen’s @ 33 -> McGill’s & UT @ 32 -> and UBC comes in at a humble 29.
And the American schools (deng deng deng!): Washington University @ a staggering 38, followed by Duke’s @ 36, and across the board, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and most Ivy leagues come in at 35. Some Ivies trail slightly behind @ 34.
I don’t know what is up with Washington University; a MCAT score of 38 is probably something like 13:13:12 (physical:biological:verbal).
And even Sparta will think it’s madness!
In the wake of this madness, I humbly compiled a list of realizations that may prove boring for some, and more boring for others.
If you are at UBC and you want to go to med school, what courses should you take?
A solid background in 1st year physics and 1st and 2nd year chemistry (take chem 205 if you are at UBC and you want to go to med school, boys and girls) will put you at around 12-13 in the physical sciences section.
A solid background in o-chem (chem 233 at UBC), physiology (phyl 301 helped big time), biology (cellular bio would be most important, followed by really basic genetics. biol 200, biol 201, bioc 303 and the like) will put you around 12-13 in the biological sciences section too. On a lucky day, maybe 14. On a bad day, 10.
And verbal? You are on your own. Maybe if you read 100+ passages religiously under the intense supervision of a MCAT reading coach (if there is such a person), you can improve your score on this section. Maybe. But no matter what I did, I always hover between 10 and 11.
Disclaimer: having a solid background is awesome and all, but you still need to spend a good chunk of time reviewing your stuff. This raises another question:
When should I write the MCAT?
Many people write it after they finish 2nd year university, when o-chem and other 1st year sciences are still hot and fresh in their young heads. This way they can also start applying to Med school in 3rd year and get the experience when they get rejected. They can come back stronger and more prepared than most in 4th year.
But taking 3rd year courses like physiology and biochemistry really helps with MCAT preparation. It’s fair to say that I’m really glad I held off MCAT until I have a solid grasp on the different systems in the human body. If I took the test last summer, I would have needed to take a MCAT prep course for 2 months and a half, and cram the heck out of myself because of the inadequate time to properly digest this knowledge.
The down side of taking the MCAT after 3rd year is you start to feel old and your time’s running out; if you do badly on your MCAT, you would have left school when the next application cycle comes around. By then, your mind is probably not set on school (assuming you started working or feeling like a full time bum at home).
A quick solution: stay in school longer 😄 I’m taking 5 years with my undergrad, and I don’t feel some of the pressure my friends who are graduating feel.
What else should I do to prepare for my med school application?
Find your passions, devote time to them, and back them up with references!
It is no good to say: “I like cycling”. It’s pretty awesome to say: “I started a cycling club/I was the captain of this cycling team which competed in this race/I spent 100 hours on the track with this coach”.
It’s pretty frustrating to be unable to show yourself off because of a lack of reference; not every activity has a reference. But you gotta keep an eye out and collect contacts wherever possible if you are serious about med school. Unlike a job interview, where experience and passion in a particular field would suffice, the med schools seem to look for super-human well-roundedness — and they want this peer reviewed.
Oh, spending 150+ hours on a blog doesn’t count as a referenceable activity unless your blog wins some kind of blog award or such? Oops me.
That’s it for today. Wish me luck.