Part III – Finding a Balance, Using it to Your Advantage
Kahn Academy and the MCAT outline are the two main resources that helped me prepare for the new MCAT. Now the trickiest question of them all — how much time should I allow myself? (Cue the Jeopady music, Alex!)
Personally I had to balance a full-time job, family obligations, AND my MCAT studying; I started EACH DAY EARLY, and set clear expectations and goals for the progress I wanted to make. For me this was about a span of 3.5 months of studying with an average of 3 hours per day. Weekends became very important for me as I could dedicate more time. However, one thing that I have to caution is not burning yourself out!! I really can’t overstate this more. Many of us on the Tour faced this same problem. For me, my arch-nemesis in life has been Organic Chemistry (the Magneto to my Professor X, the Joker to my Batman…you get the picture). Days I had to tackle concepts in this area were undoubtedly tough to get through. I made sure I headed straight to the gym to play some pickup basketball to reset myself. One of my mentors once told me that if you aren’t getting frustrated when learning you’re not pushing the envelope of your own skill set. Frustration is good, but dealing with it in constructive manner is important and finding your own outlet to relieve stress is crucial.
Lastly, as my test day neared I made sure that I started to think about another important skill for this new test: sitting in front of a screen for 8 hours straight. Right now AAMC has released one practice test for the new MCAT with another couple planned to be released in November 2015. Use these tests wisely and seriously as there are not many out there yet. Simulate timing yourself on practice questions. Each section will have approximately 60 questions in 95 minutes. Practice this and make sure you can cope with this constraint. Last but not least, some of the student’s I have talked to asked me about the for-profit testing services that are out there. Since I did not personally take one of these courses I cannot comment, but have to mention that all the information that these test services have is the same information available to each and every student thinking of taking the new MCAT.
There are good days where I told myself, “I got this” and other days where I felt lost. What got me through the rough days were my mentors, family, and friends. I and everyone in the Tour want you to succeed. This test stood between me and medicine, I wasn’t about to give up on my dreams and neither should you!