Freak Out: An Insider’s Guide To The MCAT
However, after thinking back for a moment on the Aprils that have come and gone, I couldn’t help but remember that it was only a few short years ago that one fateful April day became one of the defining days of my college career: the day I took the dreaded MCAT. With that somber memory in mind, and knowing full well that I am on what can only be described as the biggest joke of a rotation right now (affording me so much free time that I have had the opportunity to dissect and laugh at each and every circumcision comment that was sent my way – by the way, that Godwin's Law thing was fascinating – and also providing me with absolutely nothing entertaining to share in the form of news methods of self-humiliation), I thought I would provide a few pointers to those eager beavers among you who are about to take the defining standardized test of their college careers. Not that there’s any pressure or anything.
1. Don’t Take It – Seriously, have you read nothing I’ve written here? You don’t even have to know anything to take the LSAT or the GMAT. Christ, people, c’mon now.
2. Stamina – Perhaps the most challenging part of this test is simply staying awake. “But Fake Doctor,” you’re no doubt thinking, “how could one possibly fall asleep during the biggest test of his or her life?!?” Actually, it’s pretty easy. On test day you’ve probably amassed a maximum of 5 hours of sleep (or even less, if, say your mom found a place near the testing center for you and friend to stay the night before that was a cross between the Bates Motel and your average inner-city crackhouse…hypothetically speaking, of course), you’ve had to think your way through all sorts of inane questions, and you’ve had to deal with all sorts of douche bags saying things like “I just aced the physics section!” during the lunch break. Honestly, it’s a miracle people don’t end it all right then and there. Seriously though, if you can just figure out a way to stay awake to the point that you are marginally functional during that last section, you’ll be more likely to get questions right that other people who are succumbing to their fatigue will be missing. Options include eating a moderately sized meal during lunch, taking many practice tests so that it all becomes routine, and the occasional amphetamines. Can you believe I made it through an entire section about “Stamina” and didn't make even one stupid sex joke? Me neither.
3. Blowing In The Wind – One beautiful thing about the MCAT is that, unlike its medical school equivalent (USMLE Step 1), you don’t really have to know much of anything to do well. Seriously. Hell, I’m the poster child for this statement. I promise you that 60% of the answers to the test are actually in those atrocious paragraphs they give you to read, and that you literally do not have to know a single fact about organic chemistry to get a lot of organic chemistry questions right. The test makers don’t care if you memorized every way a bonobo has sex on page 689 of your 4,000 page life sciences book; they want to know if you can reason through a paragraph that describes the mating patterns and interpret the pointless population chart they give you, knowing full well you should have never seen this chart before in your life before shelling out hundreds of dollars to take this test in the first place.
4. No Biggie – One stint on the admissions committee has taught me that, contrary to the belief of every premed out there, MCAT scores really are not that big of a deal. Which is not to say that you are sitting pretty if you tallied up a 25, but there are people out there who think that getting a 45 is vastly superior to being an interesting, well-rounded person who can carry on a conversation (or at least construct complete sentences on occasion) but had a less stellar MCAT score. To be honest, I had a negative impression of the person who’s application had an almost perfect MCAT score before the interview even started, if only because I would assume that this person earned that score by locking him or herself up in a room for 4 years of college to study rather than actually developing as a human being. And I’m sad to say that I was, more often than not, correct with these assessments. The MCAT is used to weed people out, but after that initial screening it becomes quite possibly the least important part of a person’s application. The most important? Well I can’t give away every secret, silly! (Here’s a hint though: it rhymes with “imbibe” and involves giving me money).
5. No Problem, Ess'ay - I believe there is still an essay portion to this exam, and I am pretty sure it is still graded on a letter scale (whereas everything else is graded with numbers). This pretty much assures that, as was the case on the admissions committee I was in last year, no adult faculty member will have any clue whatsoever on how to interpret the score you get on this, so all you have to do is refrain from drawing a stick figure and you'll be fine. In fact, you could probably throw in a paragraph discussing the fourteen linguistic origins of the name "Suri" (Hindu for "publicity stunt", Arabic for "MI-3 arrives in theaters this May!", and Swahili for "My daddy is a closeted homosexual") and no one would notice. I promise.
6. Good Times – Look at you, you’ve just taken what is up to this point in your academic career the most notoriously painful standardized test known to mankind…what are you going to do now? The answer to this question better be damn well be “Get shitfaced!”, or else you’re not going to get into medical school. Period. Call it the Fake Doctor Jinx if you need to. After finishing the test, I literally walked out the door, down to the nearest liquor store, bought a (multitude of) 40(‘s), and proceeded to get wasted on the train ride back to campus with a few equally celebratory friends. I expect each and every one of you aspiring medical students to do the same, and I expect each and every one of you to tell your equivalent post-MCAT-drinking story to your interviewer (which, should I rejoin the admissions committee this fall, may or may not be me).
I hope these pointers helped, and I hope those of you about to take this test do well. So well, in fact, that you build up enough confidence to take the LSAT or GMAT on a whim and apply elsewhere. Can I get an amen? Amen!