The MCAT’s true testing strategy

Posted in: MCAT

March 28, 2019 | by Luke

The Medical College Admissions Test isn’t just an intellectual exercise, it’s a physical one as well. A particularly grueling one. Preparing to take the MCAT only by studying would be like preparing to pilot a helicopter by only reading the machine’s manuals. You might know all the relevant words, but you’ll find it physically challenging, and be in real trouble if you try to take a break in the middle.

Over seven hours of everything at once is a terrible way to test knowledge

Every year some students approach the MCAT as a purely academic test and find it extremely hard going. But the MCAT isn’t designed to find out how much you know. Over seven hours of examining every subject one after the other is a terrible way of finding out how much someone knows. It’s almost designed to make you miss things. It IS designed to see you if you’ll miss things. It’s a brilliant way of testing how well they think clearly even when busy, tired, and under significant time and psychological pressure. Which is much more important for any doctor than how well they remember page 79 of a textbook.

Every year countless students complain about the MCAT’s grueling design, wondering why it can’t be broken up into different subjects on different days. You’d score so much higher! Yes, and if you were able to treat just one patient a day you’d do much better with them as well. But sadly that’s not the way things are.

Sustained stress is something regularly faced by doctors and veterinarians. Having to keep working even when they want to take a break is emergency medicine all over. The MCAT isn’t a memory test, it’s an endurance exam. Understanding this early can help you a lot. It reminds you to train your body as well as your mind, studying and testing yourself under true endurance conditions now that you know they’re part of the course.

Understanding this true testing strategy also improves your attitude. When you realize it’s all on purpose, not some silly scheduling mistake, you’re no longer as annoyed with the exam. You’re not frustrated by what feels like unfriendly design. You’re not worried that you’re not doing perfectly because you’re tired and hungry. Instead you’re happy that you’re still going, still scoring highly on the unspoken endurance examination, and still delivering the right results.

When you know what you’re challenging, and why, and can prepare yourself to perform even better than before. Which will make you a better student right now. And a much better medical professional in the future!

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