Whether you've just begun to consider a career in the medical field or have planned to become a doctor, physician assistant, or another medical professional for as long as you can remember, you may be anxiously contemplating the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This standardized test operates as a gateway to the rest of your medical education, and a poor MCAT score could prevent you from achieving your dreams. Read on for three important tips to keep in mind when taking the MCAT for the first time.
Take Practice Exams
Like any standardized test, one of the keys to success is taking (and timing) practice tests. Even if you know the material forward and backward, taking practice tests or even enrolling in an MCAT practice test online can give you a better idea of how this knowledge will be applied and how much time you'll have to complete each question.
There are a number of practice books that contain actual questions and answers from previous MCAT exams. By purchasing these books and spending some time each day focused on answering questions (and studying any answers you miss), you'll be able to quell your nerves and enter the exam room with confidence.
Engage in Critical Thinking Exercises
The MCAT isn't just about "book knowledge"; it's also about being able to apply this knowledge in tense, high-stress situations. After all, a physician who has an encyclopedic knowledge of anatomy or physiology but who faints at the sight of blood or freezes in an emergency may be of limited use in a fast-paced hospital environment. While taking practice MCATs can give you an idea of how your critical thinking skills will be tested, you may want to expand your studies to read case notes or non-fiction books that detail what a day in the life of a practicing physician is like. Asking yourself "what would I do in this situation?" can help you hone the decisionmaking skills that will come in handy in your future career.
Remember That One Test Isn't the End-All, Be-All
Although taking the MCAT can be a stressful experience even for those who are well-prepared, it's important to remember that this test isn't a one-shot deal. If you're disappointed by your initial scores, you can retake the test; in many cases, getting a poor score on your first crack at the exam can give you a better idea of where the gaps in your knowledge may be and how you can improve your study skills to raise your score.