Revaluating the MCAT

By: Miriam Pearl Klahr  |  April 3, 2017


Anyone who knows me knows that I am currently studying for my MCAT. When I started studying, I approached the test as something to conquer, a necessary evil I had to deal with to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a physician. This made the process miserable. The MCAT tests biology, chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, sociology, psychology and physics. There seemed to be an endless amount of material to learn. I constantly spoke and thought about how wrong the test was, causing students such stress by demanding that they master this unusually large volume of knowledge, just to weed students out of medical school admissions.

Yet, as I began to study more, I realized that I could look at this exam differently. Of course, its purpose is to distinguish medical school applicants and see how well they can process and retain large volumes of information. But I also came to appreciate that the test wasn’t pointless, as much of this knowledge is vital for medical school and retaining large amounts of information is a key to medical school success. Moreover, I realized that the test also serves an important role in my personal life. After having taken all the pre-med requirements, the MCAT is an exciting opportunity to review and synthesize this information. The MCAT tests how physics applies to the human body, how sociology impacts doctor-patient relationships and the biochemistry of medications. Until this point, each course I took has stood on its own with no obvious connection to my future; the MCAT has placed all of them in conversation with one another and allowed me to better understand the integration of fields encompassed within medicine. The MCAT is an exciting opportunity to review and concretize much of the information I have been studying over the past three years and apply it on a higher level.

Furthermore, the test is much more enjoyable when I think of it as an important learning opportunity instead of a necessary evil. Every practice question I get wrong is no longer a scary indication that I might not score as well as I want to, but an indication of knowledge I still need to fully master, a chance to learn something new. This attitude is not only true of the MCAT, but of all tests we take. We are often so focused on getting As that we forget that studying should be first and foremost about learning and processing. Finals season is scary, but it is also the time of year when we master and pull together the different texts, theories and principles we have studied all semester.

Having this attitude is difficult. We are surrounded by a result-driven society, and on many days, if you ask me how my MCAT studying is going, I reply that the process is miserable. A lot depends on this test and it is hard to think about it as an exciting learning experience.  But on the days when I do succeed, I am happier, more fulfilled, and generally study more successfully. I therefore encourage everyone to approach studying as a learning experience first and as a means to get an A second. At the end of the day one test won’t change our lives, but the attitude we display when taking and preparing for life’s tests can.