In preparing to take MCAT, students face onslaught of studying
As Eric Ray emptied a payload of Medical College Admission Test preparation materials from his backpack, each hefty book hit the floor with a resounding smack.
Carey Flack, The Oklahoma Daily
The resulting pile, complete with six paperback tomes and four stacks of bundled notecards, grew into a formidable mountain of chemistry, biology, physics and verbal reasoning at the zoology junior’s feet.
“I have eight weeks of studying left,” Ray said. “After that, I’ll have my life back.”
Ray is not alone.
He is but one of OU’s soon-to-be medical school applicants, who must brave the onslaught of late nights and practice problems as they prepare to take the MCAT in the coming months.
OU is the sixth largest producer of medical school applicants in the country, pre-medical adviser Nancy Blass said, citing National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions statistics.
Blass, who advises OU’s approximately 1,800 pre-medical students, said the exam often terrifies students.
“It’s like the great-grandma of exams,” Blass said. “If they go in with a lot of fear, they won’t do well.”
Professional preparation courses can cost up to $2,000, but Blass said she’s not a proponent of such measures because they do not always result in good scores. Self-study materials, such as the Examkrackers study packages, often show positive results, however.
To help stifle this anxiety, OU Pre-Medical Professions Club President Travis Buckner said his organization offers a reliable sense of community for those preparing to take the MCAT.
“The best thing is that you can take the [Kaplan] class with a bunch of friends,” Buckner said. “It’s nice to have those people to fall back on.”
Buckner, who will take the MCAT for the third time on April 13, said students may use a variety of resources ranging from commercial preparation courses to studying revised old exams to prepare for the grueling five-hour test.
For most students, finding the appropriate balance between coursework, jobs and MCAT preparation proves to be the most difficult challenge, Buckner said.
“Right now, I’m on physics,” Buckner said. “And I’ll be up all night again.”
On average, students are expected to study at least two hours per day leading up to the exam, Buckner said. Most students who plan to take the MCAT for the first time feel anxious because they’re not sure what to expect, he said.
“The biggest concept is learning how to take the test,” Buckner said. “It doesn’t only test you on the knowledge you know, but it takes that knowledge and applies it to different concepts.”
Ray, who likened MCAT preparation to enrolling in a 10-credit-hour course, is taking a Kaplan course taught by instructors who are required to have scored in the 90th percentile on the exam.
Studying can become tricky when reviewing material from freshman year, Ray said.
“It’s like synthesizing all the science knowledge you’ve gained into one test,” Ray said.
Despite heavily covering the sciences, the preparation period also can improve students’ time management skills and help them understand the connectivity between all of the subjects they are taking, Ray said.
Ray, who hopes to make at least a 30 come April, said he feels confident as he approaches his test date.
“People just say it sucks and that you don’t have a life for the next three months,” he said. “But it’s more doable than most people think it is.”