This list is not exhaustive, but it represents a large portion of the beliefs I hear from MCAT students all of the time.
Myth #1: “The MCAT is a medical school exam.”
Not quite; the MCAT is a medical school entrance exam. It’s an undergraduate exam that sophomores can take if they really wanted. It’s surprising how common the perception of the MCAT is that it is somehow testing material which is not able to be learned during general science courses. It’s the way in which the MCAT presents problems that is difficult, not necessarily the content itself.
Myth #2: “You need to study a bunch of content before jumping into MCAT passages.”
If you think this, why? Or even more importantly, let’s say that you don’t know around 200 concepts – which one do you study first? To what extent should you study them? How long should you study them for? How do you know when you know enough?
It’s much more efficient to study those concepts which you failed to understand while practicing real MCAT problems. You’ll kill two birds with one stone and spend more hours getting comfortable with the way the MCAT tests these concepts.
Besides, since you are reading this blog, you’ve studied some of the content that is tested on the MCAT at least once in your life (at the very least you took a course on it in high school or college). The point is that you have some baseline content knowledge. You’re not starting from nothing. So instead of starting purely from reviewing content, you can start by practicing passages as well.
Myth #3: “I already know what I need to study for the MCAT.”
The picture above is an example of one of my previous student’s attempt to go through the AAMC MCAT 2015 Master List and extract the topics and subtopics which he felt weak in and which he felt strong in.
As you can see, I had to cut the list pretty short.
Again, the question is how do you determine what is strong and what is weak? What happens when inevitably you get a problem wrong on the MCAT in an area which you considered strong? How do you know what to prioritize? The solution here is to cut out this unnecessary step, take a deep breath and dive right into the MCAT. At first you might consider the passages to be quite incomprehensible, but I promise that by the end of this book you’ll have the tools needed in order to understand what exactly are the gaps in your knowledge and put a mechanism in place to be able to fill these gaps.
Myth #4: “I need to go to medical school within a year after I graduate undergraduate school.”
This is your choice, but if your decision has very little reason other than “I don’t want to feel left behind,” then you might be setting yourself up for rushing through the MCAT study process and ultimately getting a subpar MCAT score.
Myth #5: “I need to buy and stick to one MCAT resource.”
One MCAT resource, no matter how many friends or online forums tell you otherwise, cannot and will not be able to help you understand every gap in your knowledge perfectly.
In fact, if I was to be brutally honest, I’d say that all content books are a waste of money.
Why? Almost every question that you’ll have about the MCAT can be or has been answered online for free.
You must master the art of Google-fu!
The only reason to spend money would be for practice problems, drills, step-by-step passage breakdowns and test-taking strategies, because these are things you cannot readily find for free.
MYTH #6: “I must only take the MCAT once and must not apply to medical school without an MCAT score of 510+!”
Not true; you can take the MCAT more than once, but the important point here is that you shouldn’t need to take the MCAT more than once unless you chose a test date when you weren’t ready.
Mathematically speaking, getting “over the hump” of the Gaussian distribution curve for the MCAT 495-505 should make you competitive.
One of my students, Mo, improved his test score from 497 to 505 and got accepted to medical school.
Myth #7: “I need to spend $2000 on an MCAT prep course.”
Here’s a typical way that students/parents purchase the big test prep courses:
“It was my junior year going into senior year, and a couple of my friends had mentioned taking ____ course. It was the talk of the campus – or at least amongst my premed friends. So, when it came time to study for the MCAT, my parents said ‘we’ll help you pay for the course – we just want to get you the best of the best.’”
What’s wrong here?
Well, for one thing: a $2000 purchase was made based upon the “talk of the campus.”
I wish the big test prep companies realized that their customers are students and parents who are riddled with anxiety and limited information about what they need.
I mean, how are college students and the majority of parents able to afford a $2000 course?
And more importantly, how is one course supposed to provide the answers for every student?
I prefer to follow the proverb “if you give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” I think it’s much more important to peel back the layers of what seems so inexplicably complicated and arm yourself with the confidence to think for yourself and become a stellar problem-solver.
It will pay off apart from just the MCAT.