Admissions Blog

To help those sitting for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) this coming MCAT season, we interviewed a student who will be joining our MD Class of 2020. We posed the following questions to April, who holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) degree from Nanyang Technological University and scored 520 on her MCAT. She was part of the first few batches of candidates who sat for the new MCAT, launched in April 2015. Here’s how she prepared for the test.

How far in advance of your test date did you begin studying for the MCAT? Were you studying full time or did you have a job/were you still in school at the time? How was your study schedule like?  I began studying for the MCAT one month in advance of my test date (ie. July for my early August test date). As this was during summer of my junior year, I was able to just focus on studying for the test that entire month. Due to the short duration I had to study and the sheer volume of content, my study schedule was 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Which practice tests did you use to prepare for the new MCAT? Which would you say was the best? Which was closest to the real MCAT? I only used one practice test, the Official MCAT Sample Test, to prepare for the new MCAT as it was the only one available from the AAMC then. While it lacked full functionality of the actual MCAT exam like scaled scoring information, it gave me a good idea of what to expect for the real MCAT.

What was your best resource in preparing for this MCAT? What prep books did you use? My best resource in preparing for this MCAT was the Khan Academy MCAT Collection. I used the free videos to learn and revise all the concepts required to take the test, and the review questions were incredibly useful in testing my understanding afterwards. I used “The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam, Fourth Edition” from AAMC and “MCAT 528” by Kaplan to gain insight on test-taking strategies such as how to reason out the answers for certain questions.

Which section was the most difficult when you were studying for the MCAT? Please elaborate on why and how you coped. The new Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section was the most difficult when studying for the MCAT. Coming from an engineering background, I was most unfamiliar with the content of this section and found it not as intuitive to learn as the rest. In addition to the Khan Academy videos and review questions mentioned earlier, I also devoted extra time to independent online reading for the Psychology and Sociology concepts introduced.

Looking back, what do you wish you would’ve done differently now that you’ve actually seen the exam? Looking back, I wish I had spent more time practicing for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section. I neglected it for the bulk of my MCAT preparation due to the overwhelming volume of content in the other three sections, forgetting that it actually contributed the same weightage to my final score!

What advice would you give to students about to test? Take full-length tests in a distraction-free environment to practice pacing yourself and train your stamina for the real MCAT. Personally, I started by doing multiple Khan Academy passage questions back-to-back to create my own “mini” practice tests for each section. Only when I felt comfortable enough with this did I take the full practice test from the AAMC, allowing me to maximise the benefit gained from that one practice test.

How did you prepare in the last 2 weeks leading up to the test? In the last 2 weeks leading up to the test, I divided my time between reviewing the notes I made during previous weeks and doing the Khan Academy practice passage questions I mentioned earlier.

Would you share some tips on how you approached the test day? Find out ahead of time how to get to the test venue, pack everything you need (documents, snacks etc) the night before and get a good night’s sleep!

For latest MCAT test dates, visit AAMC

By: Duke-NUS Admissions