In a previous post I gave an overview of the steps to applying for medical schools in Australia as a graduate student, and step number 1 was to conquer the monster – the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Most schools in Australia have M.D programmes with graduate entry, so apart from a Bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to take an entrance exam to be eligible for entrance. There are 2 – the MCAT and GAMSAT. For me, I took only the MCAT..and thought I should share with you some tips on tackling this monster!
1. Register early
When I registered for the MCAT, I was greeted with a surprise – all the slots for the local office were taken! Because I had planned to apply for medical schools in Australia for the academic year of 2017, I had to resort to taking the exam in another country. So tip number 1, is to register for the exam early! I would suggest at least 3 months before your preferred exam date. Make sure to match it with the medical school application timelines, so that you are able to provide your MCAT score in time.
You should also give yourself ample time to study. While I know of people who maybe only studied for just 3 weeks before the exam (and still manage to ace it), I am more on the cautious side, so I gave myself 3 months.
If you want to be extra careful, you could give yourself more time…JUST IN CASE you need to retake the exam to get a better score.
2. Know what you need to know
The first thing I did before any studying, was to find out the scope of the exam. You’ll need to know what you need to know, to be able to even begin to start knowing what you need to know! (pardon that, I couldn’t resist)
You could go to the AAMC website and download a copy of the MCAT guide to know more about the topics that will be tested in the exam. This sounds like a no brainer, but because of the amount of studying you need to do, it is important to do some research so that you don’t “under” study, or “over” study! You should also know which topics you need to put extra effort in, and then allocate more time to studying them in your revision.
Just in case you didn’t know, you’re not allowed a calculator in the MCAT. Gave me quite a shock when I found out, cos I had been using a calculator all the while. The trick is to do quick estimations. The options in the multiple choice are far enough to allow you to pick the right answer if you round the numbers up or down to one that is easier to manage. Also important is to learn how to calculate logarithms without calculators. There are videos on Youtube that teach you to do just that!
3. Schedule your study times, especially if you’re working at a full time job
Working at a full time job greatly limits the amount of time you have to study for the MCAT. For me, I made full use of lunch hours and hid out at Starbucks to study what I could before I had to head back for work. It also meant being disciplined to go straight home to after work…to study some more. I had so little time that I honestly felt so ill prepared for the exam even as I stepped into the examination room!
This might be a good time to revisit Tip #1 again…Register early to give yourself more time to study!!
4. Do the trial questions and exams
There is only so much memorising of the content can do for you when it comes to the MCAT. Best way forward is to try some questions and practise applying what you’ve learnt. There are lots of practice questions available online, including the free Khan Academy MCAT courses. You can also watch the videos to refresh your memory on the topic if you need to.
I will also highly recommend purchasing some trial exam papers, and sit yourself down to complete at least 1 or 2 runs of the entire 6 hour exam to build up your stamina for the real thing. You can also have a rough gauge of where you stand, and identify the weaker areas where you’ll need more work in.
The MCAT may be a monster, but I’m sure that with some hard work and smart studying methods, you’ll be able to conquer it!
All the best and Good Luck!