Thursday, June 21, 2012

Overcoming the MCAT Exam Jitters

The last thing that you want to do a few days or a few hours before a major exam, such as the MCAT, is to cram.  The worst thing that can happen is to get your confidence about the test depleted! Remember that while preparation is the key to a successful MCAT, your disposition as you approach the test is just as important.

Here are a few reminders to keep you from getting rid of those exam jitters:

  • Be an Early Bird
Try to get a good night sleep.If you take your test early in the morning then make sure you get the 8 hours of sleep needed to face the MCAT marathon. This could mean adjusting your body to a new routine; thus you must start at least one week before the test by going to sleep a little bit earlier than your usual hour.

On the test day, wake up early so you will have enough time to get to the test center. Some candidates find it helpful to spend at least 30 minutes before the test to go through some notes and go into “testing mode.”

  • Follow the MCAT Exam Diet
Do not try any new dishes on the night before the test. The only surprise you should get on that specific day is the one found in the test.

On test-day morning, eat a healthy breakfast. Avoid fats and protein. Steak should be your treat only for the night AFTER the MCAT test.  Greasy food tends to shoot up your insulin level making you feel sleepy during the day.  Sugar-packed snacks also cause a ‘sugar low’ that eventually makes you drowsy. A chocolate bar or other sweet highly caloric food could, however, be very useful during the 10-minute break just before the last section when you may be tired. The ‘sugar low’ will hit you only after you have completed the exam when you do not have to be awake!

  • Be a Relaxed (M)CAT
Avoid last-minute cramming. On the morning of the exam, do not begin studying ad hoc. This only increases the feeling of desperation, and you will not learn a thing. In fact, noticing something you do not know or will not remember might reduce your confidence.  This will lead to panic, then to test anxiety, and eventually to lowering your score unnecessarily.

You may find it useful, on the night before the exam, to jot down a few ideas or facts that you wish to have fresh in your mind when you begin testing. Read through your list a couple of times when you get up in the morning and/or just before you take the exam, then put it away. This kind of memory reinforcement not only improves your performance on the test, it also improves your long-term memory of the material.

Make sure you answer all the questions!
You do not get penalized for incorrect
answers, so always choose something
even if you have to guess. If you run out
of time, pick a letter and use it to
answer all the remaining questions. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

MCAT Changes (Again!)

Every testing system has to undergo periodic reassessments and revisions to be effective. The MCAT is no exception. After a three-year comprehensive review, the AAMC finally reveals significant changes in the MCAT format and focus.  

The Writing Sample Removed by 2013

The Writing Sample has been part of the exam for quite some time but according to a research conducted by the MCAT review committee, “scores on this section of the test are used for only a very small group of applicants.” Furthermore, results on this section are said to be less informative hence less predictive of an applicant’s readiness and or performance in medical school. This has prompted the change in the MCAT beginning January 2013: the test will no longer include the Writing Sample section
In lieu of the Writing Sample, a voluntary, unscored trial section will be added to the MCAT exam. These 32 trial questions – which include psychology, sociology, and biochemistry topics – aim to test content that will form part of the new MCAT.  They will be administered as the last section in the test, with a 45-minute time limit.
The AAMC hopes that the eventual revisions in the MCAT will better prepare medical students in becoming tomorrow's doctors "having a wider understanding of the social and cultural aspects of health" thus leading to improvements in patient care.

MCAT Changes: A Summary
The last significant changes in the MCAT were in 2003 (less organic chemistry and more molecular biology and genetics) and 2007 (from a paper test to a computer based test or CBT). Now by January 2013, the MCAT will no longer have a Writing Sample (a section that few medical schools currently take seriously). In its place, a voluntary, unscored trial section covering psychology, sociology and biochemistry will be added. By 2015, the MCAT will further change with the addition of sections in the natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and critical analysis and reasoning skills.

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