Medical School Admissions: How to Ace the MCAT (519+) | Gurvir Rai | Skillshare

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Medical School Admissions: How to Ace the MCAT (519+)

teacher avatar Gurvir Rai

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

14 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:10
    • 2. What Is The MCAT

      0:41
    • 3. My Scores

      1:48
    • 4. When Should You Take The MCAT

      1:38
    • 5. What Resources Should You Use

      4:43
    • 6. How To Approach A Passage

      3:40
    • 7. Principle 1: Practice Time Management

      2:13
    • 8. Principle 2: Don't Focus On Memorization

      1:00
    • 9. Principle 3: Train Your Body For Endurance

      0:55
    • 10. Principle 4: Be Efficient In Your Studying

      1:36
    • 11. My Method

      8:46
    • 12. Taking Full Length Exams

      0:38
    • 13. The Days Before Your Exam

      2:28
    • 14. Thank You & Good Luck

      0:26
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About This Class

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a huge hurdle in gaining acceptance to medical school. Preparing for the 7 hour exam is time-consuming, expensive, and effortful. In this guide I will be going over my strategies, tips, and tricks for preparing for and acing the MCAT. My goal is to provide a method and schedule that is flexible, efficient, and easy to pick up, so that you can do well on the MCAT, while having time to study, work, have a social life, etc.

The course includes information on:

  • What the MCAT is
  • How to approach a passage
  • What resources to use
  • The study method I used to score in the 97th percentile
  • What to do during the days leading up to the exam
  • Key principles to keep in mind

Who am I?

My name is Gurvir. I am a 2nd year medical student at the University of Calgary. I wrote the MCAT in 2018 scoring 519 (97th percentile). In particular, I scored 131 (99th percentile) in the CARS section. Since then, I have tutored and mentored many students looking to write the exam, which is where I got the idea of creating an online resource that I could share with premeds. If you want to get in touch with me, send me an email at [email protected]!

Resources

General Information

Prep Books

Khan Academy Notes

Full Length Exams (Most important resource)

My Desk Setup

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Gurvir Rai

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: The Medical College Admissions Test, or simply the M cat, is a source of anxiety and stress for many students like me to get into med school. Prepping for the M cat is time consuming, expensive, and takes a lot of effort. Hi, my name is gravure and I'm a second-year medical student at the University of Calgary. In this guide, I'll be going over my approach on how to prepare for and how to ace the M cat. This guide was created by compiling my tips and tricks as well as those of other medical students. With that said, some of the strategies that I discussed won't be applicable for all students. But this should provide a good framework that can be personalized to each person's strengths and weaknesses. In this course, I'll be going over some key things such as what the M cat is, when you should take it, how to tackle a passage, as well as what to do the date of the day before and the week before the exam. I've also included some principles that I think are pretty key and should be something that you keep in the back of your mind the entire time that you're prepping for the exam. My ultimate goal is to provide a guide that is quick, efficient, and flexible so that anyone, no matter what your situation is, can prepare for the M cat and do well. With that said, let's get started. 2. What Is The MCAT: The M cat is a standardized tests that is required for admission. And most Canadian and American medical schools. With that said, there are some schools that don't require the M cat, including the University of Ottawa. The M cat has four main sections. You have chemistry and physics, in your biology section, there's cars, and then their psychology. Each section is scored from a range of 118 to 132, with 125 being the 50th percentile. Adding together your score for each section, you'll get an overall score for your M cat, which should range between 472 and 5.8. Typically, you should strive for a 5, 10 or higher. 510 being around the 80th percentile. 3. My Scores: Scoring poorly on practice tests, or even worse, having a negative trend in your practice tests can be very discouraging. That's exactly what happened to me. I initially scored 50, 6, so my first test, but the next five or six, we're pretty much downhill from there. And it was really only the seventh or eighth tests that I saw my score go up. At that low point of scores, I think I had 498 at 1. That was really discouraging score and below the 50th percentile. And that was a time where I really felt like I wanted to give up. But I'm very lucky with with the family and friends that I have that I had the support to keep going. And with that support and that motivation, my scores ended up going up. And eventually my final practice was around at 515. And on the actual Al-Qaeda score of 519. I always like to share my score to provide some insight into the fact that nobody is immediately great at writing the test. It takes time and it takes effort and practice. And the more that you practice, the more your score will improve. And that's in part due to knowledge. But in my opinion, more so, learning how to have stamina and endurance to write that seven our test, as well as learning how to manage your time while writing it. Now I don't consider myself to be the smartest person or the most hard-working. But I think that throughout my journey, I figured out exactly what I needed to do to do well, and how to do that in the least amount of time possible with the least amount of effort. And I firmly believe that anyone can do all of the M cat as long as they're efficient and have a good study strategies. 4. When Should You Take The MCAT: So when should you take the M cat? I would recommend taking the M cat after your second year of university. And there's two reasons for that. Foremost, you've completed the science courses whose material is going to be found on the Internet. So this includes general chemistry or biochemistry, biology, even psychology, likely to be done after your second year. I personally don't find that physics or psychology must have been completed by the time you finish second year. But I do think that it would help. And if you have the option, then there's no reason not to. But if you haven't completed psychology and physics, it's okay because those are sections or rather courses that can easily be self-taught. I get this question a lot. If someone should prioritize taking English classes to prepare for cars. But I personally don't think that taking an English class is going to help you do better on the car section. The second reason that I think it's important to do the M cat after your second year is that you'll have the option of rewriting it after 30 year. And it will really benefit you to have that experience under your belt and to have gone through the process, have gone through how to prepare for it. And the second time around, if needed, it'll be a lot easier to know exactly what you personally need to do to do the best money. I've got. One last point is that scores are typically valid for several years after you've written the M cat. In which case, writing after second-year could give you a window of several application cycles. 5. What Resources Should You Use: So what resources should you use? I personally find that there's no correct answer when it comes to this because everyone learns in a different way. But one thing that is very important, of course, is to have prep books because they will be your bread and butter of studying for the M cat. And there are so many different options to choose from. Personally, I find that Princeton and Katlyn are fairly similar. There very much so in-depth, comprehensive and they cover everything. I've used exam crackers personally because I I like the fact that they're more concise and they pick and choose what they teach. But I did find that there were some things that are missing in the exam crackers, books that were present on the exam and on practice tests. So I did find that I needed to use additional resources along with the exam practice. So depending on how confident you are in your knowledge of those science courses, I would recommend exam crackers. If you're not so confident and you think that you need some more comprehensive books, then I would suggest Catholic. And I'll have links to these books in the description of the video. Alongside the exam crackers books, I really found Khan Academy useful. It's a free resource online. I'm sure everyone who's watching this has already heard about it. But I find that the video-based teaching is very useful for filling in the gaps of things that perhaps aren't available in your books. But you've seen on practice exams, AMC also has a lot of good resources, namely the three full length practice tests, as well as question banks. I personally don't enjoy using question banks, but I know others find it very useful. So I definitely would recommend AMC because they're going to be the most similar to the actual endcap. The final resource, which is arguably, which is not arguably definitely the most important, is full length practice tests. If you're gonna do anything in preparation for the M cat, do full length practice tests? I personally did about 13 in total. I think three of the AMCs for sure, as well as around nine to 10 all Ts full length practice tests. I personally used all Ts full length tests. However, Kaplan and Princeton also have options. And ultimately it doesn't really matter which company you go with as long as you complete the full link tests. Now the topic of prep courses is probably the most controversial in terms of prepping for the M cat. Some people swear by them and others, not so much. I personally did take a prep course and I didn't find it that useful. I think that there's a lot of ways in which a prep course can help someone if they don't have a good science background. But if you've done two years of a science undergrad, I don't think that you need to do it, but of course at all. And some of the reasons why I don't recommend a prep course. The first and foremost is it's not personalized. And I think that this is the most important point. You don't have much time When you're probably for the M cat because there's so much information. And oftentimes when you're doing a prep course, you're falling someone else's schedule. You're doing things that you already know and perhaps things that aren't that high yield. I remember the prep course that I did. There was a lot of physics content when in reality there isn't gonna be much physics on your M cat. The second is the method of teaching. I personally don't benefit from listening to lectures and being lectured to. I think that doing things is the way that I learn. And I'm more hands-on in that way. And I know a lot of my friends as well felt the same. But when you're taking a prep course, you're kinda pigeon-holed to do what everyone else is doing and to follow the schedule that the prep instructors have chosen for you. Prep courses are also very expensive. They can range from one to $3 thousand. They're time-consuming if you have to commute to the courses. And also they're not flexible if you have other things signed at the same time, most people study for the M cat during the summers. And that's a time where a lot of people are working. They're volunteering, they're trying to improve their applications for medicine. So if you're stuck with a prep course that is scheduled in a way that doesn't work with your schedule, then that can be pretty frustrating. And for these reasons, I think that it's best to avoid prep course unless your background isn't instances, in which case it can help. Seeing as you haven't had as much exposure to those science courses as science undergrads would have. 6. How To Approach A Passage: How to approach a passage? This is probably the most common question that I get whenever I'm tutoring someone on how to prep for the AMP cache. And I also find that it's the most overrated question where the answer probably won't help you as much as you think. Everyone learns in a different way. And by the same token, everyone approaches passages in a different way. There's a lot of different techniques that you can use. And I'll be discussing a couple of them. One technique is reading the questions before the passage. I personally don't recommend that. One. I don't think that you'll actually remember those questions after you've read them and are reading the passage. And two, it's time-consuming. You're going to read those questions again anyways, which is just going to take more time away from actually answering them. Highlighting is also something that's recommended by prep companies, but I personally don't find it that useful. Initially when I was highlighting it was four key points, but I found that I wasn't really referring back to the highlighted portions. So it was almost useless because I would highlight something that I've already noted in my brain, and then I would never look at it again. Some people prefer to highlight certain words or certain phrases. This can be more helpful in cars, but not so much in science sections. My personal approach is to just keep things as simple as possible. I simply read the passage and I go through each question in order. The following are important points that I think you should keep in consideration. The first is to read with intent. It is super easy to zone out when writing the M cat, especially if it's been four or five hours. But if you can focus on the passage and the information and make sure that you're reading in a way that you're actually absorbing things where you're not passive. That will help you a lot when it comes to answering the questions, It's important that you focus on the main idea. You're going to see a lot of fluff in these passages. There's going to be terms and sentences that make absolutely no sense. Things that you've never seen before. But they're included for that very reason to distract you from the main point. So keep things simple. Focus on the main point. If you don't understand a sentence or even a paragraph, it's okay. You should move on. Tackle the questions with confidence. It's very easy to second guess yourself and to try and read back in order to make sure that your answer is correct. Go with your gut. Go with what you think is correct, and have the confidence to be able to move on without thinking of that question. Oftentimes you'll get stuck on a question. There'll be on it for a couple minutes even, and you'll lose track of time. But this is something that happened to me a lot initially. But I learned that it was more valuable just to skip the question and to go with my gut, then to waste more time which I would need later on. Finally, move on. Once you're done. One of the passages, it's so easy to overthink and think, maybe the answer was actually this, or maybe it was that. Just move on. Put it in the past. Forget what you just read and start fresh. If you're not assigned students than I would recommend reading science papers or at least having an understanding of how to read a scientific paper. Because oftentimes the passages that you'll see on the M cat sort of emulate what a scientific paper looks like. All of the points that I've just discussed are applicable to all the sections of the M cat. However, I feel that the cars section deserve some more specific pointers. So I'll be creating a course that is specific to cars in the future. 7. Principle 1: Practice Time Management: Next I'll be going over principles that I think you should keep in mind. Principle number one is time management. Time management. Time management. The one issue that I hear of most for people reading the M cat is that they run out of time. And oftentimes this is in the car section. And this goes back to the point of having confidence in your answers and being able to move on when you need to. One strategy is to have a set period of time that you allocate for each question or each passage. This can be a minute focusing on keeping that consistent throughout so that you make sure that you don't have time. For some people this works. I personally think that if you need two minutes on one question, then you should take it as long as you believe that the extra time can help you answer the question at the same time. It's important to focus on saving up time so you can address harder questions in the future. A lot of students will say that time management is something that they just don't have or they're not good at. But I firmly believe that when it comes to managing your time with M cat, that's something that can be improved through practice. Something that I struggled with earlier on, especially the first couple of practice tests that I did. I was never finishing on time, especially for the car section. But the more I gained confidence in my answers and the more I learned to move on when I needed to, I slowly start to get more time. And eventually I was finishing 20 minutes early for each section. One thing to keep in note is that the M cat is scored on a percentile basis. And that means even if you get 80 percent of the questions right, you can still get a very high score because they're competing essentially with everyone else writing the same examines here. So in that case, you don't have to get every question right. And it's okay to guess when you're not sure. One final point is that you don't want a lack of time management cause extra stress and anxiety while you're writing the exam. Oftentimes I find that that stress of running out of time causes people to be flustered. And that just makes writing the exam even harder. 8. Principle 2: Don't Focus On Memorization: Principle number two is that critical thinking is much more important than memorization. I know a lot of people that spend months and months learning everything there is to know about science, psychology, physics, when in reality, a lot of the information is going to be tested. You don't need to know every enzyme in the Krebs cycle. You don't need to memorize every psychology term. A lot of the MK is looking at what's in front of you and piecing together of the key points so you can answer the questions. So in that case, you don't need to focus so much on knowing everything. Rather knowing how to approach the passage and how to gather the information within. Prioritize learning how to take the test. Prioritize testing yourself, rather than learning, which is something that isn't necessarily applicable to most tests that you'll write in your life. 9. Principle 3: Train Your Body For Endurance: Principle number 3 is the MK is a marathon and not a sprint. And what I mean by that is just like a marathon runner has to adjust their training because they're not doing sprints. Likewise, a student that wants to write the M cat needs to train their body to be able to write the marathon. That is, it is a super underrated skill to be able to sit down for seven hours, write a test, and be focused the entire time. I'm sure for some people, the first time writing that seven our tests was the actual M cat and they did amazingly well. But I don't think that that is going to be the reality for most people. You have to train your body to be able to go through that. And the more that you are habituated to that environment and that test-taking method. And the better you're gonna do. 10. Principle 4: Be Efficient In Your Studying: Principle number 4 is to be efficient in your studying. I don't know about you, but I consider myself to be pretty lazy. If something isn't important or high yield than I usually don't even bother learning it. And I think that that actually helped me quite a bit on the M cat because I was focusing a lot more on important things and less so on things that either already knew or I wasn't gonna see much up on the exam. One example of this that I see all the time is people setting for physics super in-depth. And that's not just their fault. A lot of the prep companies will sell books where the physics section is just as thick as say that Jan camp section. The second component of being efficient with your studying is to not re-learn things and to study things that you know well. I remember watching a YouTube video of someone that scored in the 99th percentile. They memorized front-to-back all the prep books. They went through them five different times. And that's great for them. But I don't think the average person has the attention span or the perseverance and effort level to do that. And what I found was that this person was just re-learning things that they already knew. And if they had just prioritized what they didn't know, than they could have gotten the same score in a much more efficiently. So I'll teach you how to study in a way that is very efficient, where you aren't wasting your time. 11. My Method: In this section, I'll be going over the schedule that I used and the one that I recommend that everyone implement. And I would say that this is the most important section of this course. I really don't enjoy studying. So when I was probably for the M cat, I wanted to do it in a way that would allow me to have as much free time as possible so that I could work, I could volunteer and I could still put in put in enough effort that I would do well, when you have a limited amount of time and an insane amount of material to cover, being efficient and is super important. And I think that this method will allow anyone to tailor it to their needs and make them more efficient schedule, especially if you work full time. This method will be very useful for you. Oftentimes, prep companies will split up and cat prep into two phases. Where you have your learning phase and then you have your testing phase. And I find that they usually have a learning phase that is maybe 66 percent of your setting time and then a 33 percent test-taking time. And then people that study individually, their phases are even more skewed towards learning, where 90% of your time is spent learning and 10 percent of your time is spent taking tests. I personally think that it should be the other way around. If you are reading the M cat after your second year and you've covered all the science courses, I think that you should skip that learning phase altogether and just go straight into taking tests. That doesn't mean that you're not going to be learning things that you don't know. As you go through the tests, as you've see what you don't know, you can tailor your studying for those things. So in a sense, it's kind of like a hybrid between testing and learning. And I find that that's the most efficient method if you're going to have a learning phase. I think that it should be for psychology because that section can have a lot of specific terms that you probably won't have encountered unless you've done a significant amount of psychology courses. But these terms are typically fairly easy. Psychology is a bit easier to grasp. Compare the sciences for most people go over the Khan Academy psychology PDF file. And it's going to have all of the terms, everything that you really need to know and just skim it and kind of get the general gist of the most important things. Don't sweat the details. Learn that before you tackle the psychology section. But again, with this method, you'll be learning things that you don't know and not learning things that you know. So it's not too important to have a significant learning phase. The first thing that you need to do is testing. Because your schedule will be built off of what day you're writing your test. Personally, I wrote mine the last week of August and I gave myself around three months to prepare for the M cat. If you're reading your exam Saturday at eight AM, then every Saturday, every Saturday I am leading up to your test day. You should be doing one full length test. Now this might seem like a lot. But in this method, you're not really focusing too much on learning throughout the week, but focusing on that test a, as the center of your schedule where you base everything around it. So Saturday ADM, you wake up, same time you write your test. You're priming your body to be able to function. At that time of the week, it's going to suck for the first four or five tests. But as soon as you hit 78, it will be second nature to you. You are done it so many times. You'll be so used to it that it won't phase you to sit somewhere for seven hours and write the test. So you write your test, you finish seven hours later, and then just take the day off the next day. If that's a Sunday, depending on what day you're testers, you'll be going over your your questions that you've gotten rate and the questions that you've gotten wrong. Make sure that you make a list of important points that you missed. Let's say you got every single gen chem question, right? In that case, you can make a note of that. And you'll know that you don't really need to focus on Jan can when it comes to learning things that you need to improve. But maybe every question on physics was wrong, in which case, it's probably valuable to go over those physics questions. And to go over that material. You will find that a lot of the test prep companies that do offer a full length tests, for example, LTS, will provide subjects and sections, in which case you can actively find whatever it is that you're weak at. Go into the prep book, open it up to that section, review that content, do a couple practice questions, and then be better for the next time that those questions come up. And you'll find that with this method. You can essentially study for two days out of the week. And if you're working for time, then it might be beneficial to just do this on the weekend where one day is your test day. The second day is catching up on old material that you were weak at. And slowly you'll see that the gaps in your learning. The list of things that you need to study or gets shorter and shorter because you'll have covered everything. And here are some other benefits of this method. The first is progression of scores. Having a trend will show you how prepared you are. If you need more time, if you need less time, if something's working, if something's not. And you can tailor your studying strategies or your test-taking strategies based on that. Let's say you, initially we're highlighting every passage. And whenever you are doing that your scores were lower. And then you tried not highlighting. And he found that you save more time and you're doing better. That should be reflected in your trend of scores. And based on that information, you can make adjustments into your study, study strategy well as your test-taking strategy. Second, tailoring your setting is very important. And when you do practice tests and you see which questions you got wrong, that I'll let you focus on things that are important, focus on things that you don't know. And it'll leave the things that you're good at to the side. So you're not repeating, setting the same things over and over again. And finally, you won't burn out. I know some people like to take the couple of weeks before the actual M cat and do a bunch of practice tests, maybe one per day. I personally don't think that that's a good idea because writing a seminar or a test every single day is very tiring, very energy consuming. I think that having a test once a week is the ideal amount time for your body to recover and for you to be at your best when you're ready that exam. Some people can probably write two tests per week and be fine. In which case, go for it. But building your stamina over that time is more valuable than just cramming and a bunch of tests at the last second. So now you have your general layout of how to structure your schedule. And one day as your practice tests and on the following day, you make a list of the things that you need to work on. But depending on how much effort you want to put into this, you can stretch out that second day and tackle certain subjects on one day, more on the next, and so on, so on and so forth. And then after that, you can incorporate Anki flashcards, question banks, particularly, particularly the AMC question banks, and then rinse and repeat. It may also be valuable to perhaps studying groups and cover those points together. Again, as long as your personalized and you're studying and you're focusing on things that you need to improve on, then you're working efficiently. As long as you're doing that practice test consistently every week, building up your stamina and endurance. It's really up to you how much additional studying you want to do. I know for some people, it's probably not that easy just to study two days. And they want to include different studying techniques. And you're more than welcome to do that by starting early. You can really give yourself time to learn what techniques are most useful for you. 12. Taking Full Length Exams: When doing these full length exams, you want to make sure that your mindset is that the actual app cat. So make sure that your environment is going to be similar to that of the M cat. Have a desk, have your computer setup, have a separate location where you're going to be taking your tests. If you're going to be using ear buds or ear plugs during the actual M cat. Make sure that you study in that way. Take breaks in the same way that you would turn the actual uncut. Don't just take breaks every time you feel hungry or tired. Treat it like it's the real thing, and follow along the schedule that the actual unchecked takes. 13. The Days Before Your Exam: Now there's one week left before your test day. What do you do? Most importantly, make sure you know when and where the test is taking place. Sometimes there's cancellations, sometimes timings can shift, or locations can change. So it's important that you are well aware of where you need to be and when you need to be there. The second thing is to know what to bring. Oftentimes you'll need two pieces of ID. And depending on which province here in your health card may not be an acceptable piece of ID. And one person, during my test actually only brought their driver's license, in which case they had to call their family member who came and brought their passport. And it was a whole ordeal, probably caused a lot of stress of that person and made it much more difficult to write the M cat for them. The third thing is to figure out how to get there. And either this is learning the bus routes or finding someone to drive. You are driving yourself. Personally, I would recommend having a family member drive you if that's a possibility. Because driving yourself are committing yourself can add a little bit of stress to an already stressful day. Now the couple of days before the exam, a lot of people probably want to catch up on last minute details and topics that they haven't gotten a chance to cover yet. But I would recommend not doing any studying for the three days prior to your exam. Ultimately, it's not gonna make that big of a difference. And you don't want to burn all your energy right before you have to write that seven hour exam. So I would absolutely not encourage anyone to do any full length exams for at least a week before. Take this time to catch up with friends. Do hobbies, do things that lower your stress and will make it easier for you to relax. Now the day before the exam and make sure that you pack some food. Sometimes you're testing location won't be in the most ideal place for you to go find some food. Some places might not even let you leave during your breaks. In which case it's super-important to have pack your lunch. Go to sleep early, so that when you wake up, you're well rested. The day of your exam. Make sure you have good breakfast. Make sure you get there early. There were a couple of people that showed up pretty late and there are super frazzled and you could tell immediately that they didn't anticipate they're going to be late. So be there at least at least 30 minutes advance. If not earlier. 14. Thank You & Good Luck: If you're still here, thank you for participating in the course. Your Skillshare assignment is to create a schedule and what you've done. So feel free to share it with me. If you have any feedback, any questions, comments, please let me know. I'll share my e-mail and I look forward to hearing from everyone. Thanks again. And best of luck with the M cat.