What I Learned from Taking the MCAT
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What I Learned from Taking the MCAT

One girl's experience with the pre-med rite of passage

What I Learned from Taking the MCAT
Amanda Wang

I just finished taking the MCAT. (mic drop) Reflecting on my off-term studying experience, I decided to write on 4 things I learned/advice I have for anyone taking it. Or for anyone doing this life thing in general. Keep in mind though, I haven’t gotten my score yet, (and I know my score on “this life thing in general” is not the greatest either) so take this all with a grain of salt…

Don’t bail on taking a practice test, even if you aren’t feeling it.

I’m such a type A person, that I refuse to do anything until my mind, body, soul, and ~20 people I ask to help me make a decision are all on board. (yeah, I don’t do much…) Part of growing up for me has been learning that I will never feel ready for the majority of things that are worth doing, or need to be done.

One night before I planned to take a full practice test, I had a rough day and ended up crying myself to sleep at 3am. The next morning, I woke up late and decided to go through with taking the practice test, if anything just to distract myself. (Some people use alcohol for this, but apparently I use 7-hour practice tests?) The night before my exam, when I was feeling anxious and feeling like my head wasn’t fully mentally prepared to take the exam, I remembered that practice test experience, and it reassured me. If I had been able to take a test on a day that I was 300% not feeling it, I would be okay on test day.

Headless chickens can’t run marathons. (anticipating jokes about my half-marathon running form)

That being said, remember to take care of yourself. Mental health is important – I finally realized it was something I needed to take care of when it went south real fast last term. Maybe it’s just in my own head, but sometimes I feel like everyone at Dartmouth runs around like a bunch of headless chickens. And being away for a term, without the friends, social situations, and obligations to distract me from myself, taught me that I was the headless-est chicken of all. (Saving that title for my resume)

MCAT studying is a marathon. It’s a marathon that’s part of an even bigger marathon of applying to med school, medical school, residency, career… see, I’m hyperventilating already. @.@ To start a marathon as a headless chicken in a full on sprint will never work. Slow down. Fight the urge to feel like “I don’t have time for such and such”, or that endless churning of “I have to do this, then I have to do that, I have to... I have to…”. Find things that keep you sane and do those things.

Do things that help you remember why you’re doing this to yourself.

Even if you are doing things that you enjoy, and taking time off, studying for the test day in and day out and feeling like you’re going in circles can make you relate to the citric acid cycle on a personal level. Heck, that’s what every Dartmouth term feels like to me too. To prevent yourself from spiraling into a “who am I, why am I doing this” premature midlife crisis (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt), do something that reminds you that the world, and your life, is bigger than this test and bigger than the college washing machine. For me, this was getting the opportunity to attend an Academic Pediatrics Association conference, or working for a doctor in Dallas, but it could even just be something like reading news articles that interests you, or watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Missing the same question on a practice test is the best way to bond with someone.

Having friends, or making friends, who are going through the same process as you helps a ton. Even if you’re not the type to study with other people, it’s a great feeling to have people to complain with about how wholly unhelpful the answer explanations on practice questions are, or people who get your dumb jokes about MCAT material. (Sorry snapchat friends, terrible puns are my go-to coping mechanism.) Regardless of how I did, or how any of my friends did, sharing this process has been a great bonding experience, and I’m grateful for that.

It’s been a difficult 3 months. But I’ve learned so much about myself, about being a person, and about appreciating people around me, and that changes the way I approach being at school again. Here’s hoping this chicken can keep her head on this term.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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