Tour for Diversity in Medicine

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How I Tackled the NEW MCAT

By Sean Treacy-Abarca


PART 1: A Familiar Foe, with NEW Tricks

The MCAT is another obstacle on the road to medical school. Since 1990, the MCAT was designed to have three sections (Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Verbal Reasoning) totaling a possible high score of 45. Starting April 2015 a NEW version of the test has been introduced — one that is much longer and substantially different. Having taken the previous version and now the new version, I’d like to stress that this new version is not harder or any easier, but rather different. One of the reasons AMCAS moved to update the test was to create a new test that balanced hard science knowledge and new content focusing on the social, economic, and cultural nuances a physician may encounter.
As I look back on my time leading up to eventually applying to medical school and taking both versions of the MCAT, I think one unique aspect that better prepared me for this new test is the basic research I was involved in. Many of the scientific principles that are tested on the MCAT are in everyday research. But, maybe more importantly, my research experience taught me to:
1) Think about information from multiple sources
2) Integrate that information to generate answers that are not otherwise clearly stated
As an immigrant, English is my second language, I’ve always taken special care to consciously improve my reading comprehension skills. Research pushed me to read papers from very different fields and integrate knowledge across these fields. On this new MCAT the number of standalone questions is drastically reduced; instead, questions are now tied to long, often research-oriented articles! What they expect you to do is integrate knowledge from the passage and knowledge from your MCAT studying, then arrive at the correct answer. I realize that many of us don’t have the opportunity to do research, but one of my favorite ways to access research are things like Reddit’s science blogs, especially the section of medical research, the JAMA smart phone app, or even the New York Time’s This Week in Science section.

Coming Next — PART 2: Khan Academy, the Secret Weapon?

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