1. Priority Shift to a Career In Medicine
Deciding to undertake and conquer the MCAT is also an unspoken commitment to the profession of medicine. Just as studying during medical school will takeover most all priorities, preparation for the MCAT should also begin to take priority in your life now. It is an investment in the now for a much larger return of a medical degree and career, later. It is sometimes daunting when students make this realization all too late, but the MCAT is the first exam in a series of exams that will qualify you and prepare you for the medical profession.
2. Developing Self-Imposed Discipline
Unless you plan on hiring an around the clock coach/tutor, preparing for the MCAT requires an incredible amount of self-imposed discipline. If you are an athlete, you may know that mastering mental discipline is important for success. A 4+-hour question-answering-marathon, the MCAT is physically, intellectually, and psychologically draining. And just like a marathon requires weeks of training, successful mastering of the MCAT requires a “training” schedule so that come the day of the exam, taking the MCAT just feels like another routine day of practice. You need to be prepared for the fact that while you are inside studying, your friends and colleagues may be out “enjoying life more.” Knowing that you will have to decline many future invitations is important so that when the time comes you are ready. Most future physicians and medical students I meet find the medical profession and studying about it to be worth the sacrifice and enjoyment in itself.
3. My Intelligence is Not Being Tested
An important thing to accept regarding the MCAT is that, like most standardized tests, it is not a measure of intelligence. The MCAT is, in part, a measure of the ability to take a standardized exam. This is directly pertinent to a successful medical career: constant recertification and updating of degree/knowledge. Recognizing this allows one to move beyond initial failures since they are just an indication of needing to learn how to navigate the MCAT.
4. Developing a Relationship with the MCAT
It is important to begin to form a relationship with the MCAT; after all, you should be spending several hours together over the course of preparation. As you attempt to begin a career in medicine, forming a “relationship” with the MCAT is important so that you feel the desire to learn as much as possible about the exam. That is to say, you should start to begin to feel the impetus to want to “read” the MCAT exam so well that you predict answers based on how questions were asked or what was asked. On the other side, you should be so familiar with the format of the MCAT that you are able to eliminate possible answer choices because of their formulation or key words. Think of the MCAT as a new girlfriend/boyfriend that you need to learn every single detail about, from favorite color to pet peeves.
5. I Have Never Studied This Way Before
Now, I can imagine lots of students already contesting this statement. But unless you have already studied for the MCAT and successfully mastered and conquered it, then you have never studied this way before. It is important to recognize that every standardized exam is its own “beast;” each exam is written differently by different people, and thus requires the acquisition of new knowledge on the new exam format. And as a consequence, each exam may require a shifting of study habits and way of thinking concerning subjects. The first few weeks of preparation should be spent trying to figure out how studying for this exam, the MCAT, works for you the best.
Nasya Mendoza is private MCAT tutor in Chicago who’ll be attending the University of Illinois – Chicago Medical School in 2014. She attended the University of Chicago, where she majored in Biology. She’s been working with MyGuru to deliver high quality, customized MCAT tutoring as well as high school and college level biology, chemistry, and physics tutoring for the past few years.