There are three things that are certain in life: death,
The MCAT Exam
The MCAT is
the standard that medical schools use to rate one student against another. It is
the most important test you will take in your medical career, and is second only
to your grade point average in determining whether you will be a doctor or not.
It is different from other standardized tests you may have taken, and will
require a focused and sustained effort to prepare properly. Very few students
pass this test without studying. Make it a priority to spend 20 to 40 hours a
week for a solid 3 months to be competitive. You should extend your studying to
at least 6 months if it has been a few years since you completed some of your
medical school prerequisites. In addition, take several practice tests to build
up your endurance and familiarize yourself with the conditions on test day. Your
ability to work hard during these few months may be deciding factor on whether
or not you’ll be a physician. So make the most of this time.
If you feel it will help, you can retake basic science courses or enroll in
one the MCAT preparation courses by
or the Princeton Review. Keep in mind that
these programs are best at teaching you test-taking skills, or to keep you
engaged if you’re not a self-starter. However, you will still need
to study just as much outside the classroom to prepare for the MCAT. That means
that you’ll spend 20 to 40 hours a week in your review class, in addition
to the 20 to 40 hours a week you’ll spend studying on your own..
It was 12 to 15 years since I took my premed courses, so I had a lot of
catching up to do, which I worked on for 9 months (from August through April). What I did was to review General Biology on my own in August, take Genetics
and Cell Biology courses in the Fall, review Organic Chemistry I over the Winter
Break, and then audit Organic Chemistry II in the Spring. I also studied MCAT
review material 20 to 40 hours a week from Christmas through April. I studied
one subject each week, ending each week with several practice tests in that
subject area. For example, I studied Biology the first week, General Chemistry
the second week, then Organic Chemistry, then Physics, and then I started the
rotation over again. I also practiced Verbal Reasoning passages a few times a
the review books I used along with comments on how helpful they were. My rating
for each book is A or B for a good primary review, C for a good secondary
source, and D or below for books which were not that helpful. There are many
other good sources of material out there. What follows is just a summary of what
I found helpful.
Flowers and Silvers MCAT, The Princeton Review, 1997-1998 Edition (Rating:
Definitely, the most helpful review book I have found. It is very easy to read
and focuses on the most pertinent topics. While other books have more technical
content, Flowers and Silvers was the most relevant.
Flowers and Silvers Annotated Practice MCATs, The Princeton Review (Rating:A).
These practice tests were similar to those provided by AAMC in that they were
most like the actual test. This book also came with complete explanations of
each question, unlike AAMC.
MCAT Student Manual and Practice Tests (Rating: A).
Not very helpful as a study aid, because the tests do not come with detailed
answers. However, they are probably the most realistic practice tests, since
they came from the same people who developed the MCAT. You can order these
directly from AAMC web site.
MCAT Comprehensive Review, Kaplan, 1998 Edition (Rating: B).
This is an excellent book with a complete and detailed overview of the required
MCAT material. The material is more comprehensive than Flowers and Silvers, but
maybe a bit harder to grasp if you have a lot of catching up to do.
MCAT Supercourse, ARCO, 3rd Edition (Rating: C).
I wouldn’t recommend this as a primary review book, because a lot of the detail
on important topics is missing. But I did find the book helpful in providing quick
summary overviews of formulas and additional review questions.
The Easy Way Series, Barrons (Rating: C).
This series includes the following books: Biology The Easy Way,
Anatomy and Physiology The Easy Way, Chemistry The Easy
Way, Organic Chemistry The Easy Way, and Physics
The Easy Way. These books are easy to follow, written at the high
school to community college level, and come with tons of questions. For those
who need a little extra help at first, these books might be a good place to
Schaum’s Outlines, , McGraw-Hill (Rating: C).
These books are more for reviewing than for learning. They are a good
secondary review with lots of questions. But they are hard to follow if it’s
been a while since you’ve studied this material. The series includes
College Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics
for Pre-Med, Biology, and Allied Health Students.