Second MCAT (6:30am + Advice)

So I wrote the MCAT at 6:30am. It was a chaotic 3 months leading up to the exam 🤧 I was able to improve on every section, except for C+P (a coincidence that the section I bombed was the first section at 6:30am?!! I think not). Nonetheless, I wanted to share some study and exam prep advice that helped me improve my mark! Note that I used AAMC, Princeton Review, UWorld, JackWestin, and Khan Academy to study.

Chemistry and Physics

Funny thing is that I actually scored higher on my first MCAT in C+P (97%!). I found the AAMC material for both sections the MOST helpful. They were the closest to the level of difficulty on the actual exam. But if you have bad luck like me, sometimes you get dealt with some of the more difficult C+P passages (I confirmed with a very reliable source: Reddit). The Princeton Review and UWorld C+P materials went in-depth for various topics, sometimes more than necessary- for example, overemphasizing low-yield subjects. It doesn’t hurt to learn more things but don’t drown yourself in the more difficult, low-yield questions. That’s my word of caution.

CARS

I spent 3 months preparing for my second MCAT, where I did about two passages per day…In the end, I was only able to improve my CARS by 1 mark…No, I don’t think I cracked the CARS secret code. I tried reading the passages first before attempting the questions, then I tried reading the questions first, AND THEN I went back to reading the passages first. It also became difficult to find good passages near the end. I exhausted my supply from AAMC, Princeton, UWorld, Khan Academy, and had to resort to JackWestin passages. I think JackWestin passages are the least representative of the actual exam compared to other platforms. However, practicing CARS everyday did help me build my CARS endurance so I highly recommend doing daily passages.

Biology + Biochemistry

Wow, this section is so much easier if you have just finished two semesters of third year biochemistry, which was my case. The first time I took the MCAT I didn’t even memorize glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, or any of the metabolic pathways; they all conveniently show up in third year bchm. This section is ALL about memorization and application of knowledge, which is a lot easier if you have them memorized by heart. I highly recommend taking extra time to memorize metabolic pathways (or at least the important steps of each), amino acids (ALL), and biological terminologies and cycles. I found AAMC and UWorld quite helpful in both bio and bchm. UWorld was especially great at grilling you on the details. If you think about it, the details are worth memorizing because they might be the questions that help you achieve a higher percentile.

Psychology + Sociology

I must have been blessed with an easy P+S section because I scored a 98%! I found the JackWestin P+S outline and UWorld quite helpful. UWorld was especially helpful with reinforcing the nitty gritty. They often provide answer choices that all sound plausible. Being able to identify the correct answer demonstrates how well you truly UNDERSTAND the materials.

OVERALL what I did better on my second MCAT compared to my first attempt:

  • DON’T RELY on third-party materials. My first time taking the exam, I solely relied on TPR and AAMC (AAMC was an angel). Little did I know that TPR left out a lot of low-yield content. It’s good to be aware of low-yield topics because there is still a chance they might show up on the actual exam. It’s best to review content from various resources, making sure you don’t miss out!
  • Refer to the official MCAT outline. How do you expect yourself to score good if you don’t even know what is being tested? Plus it’s free!
  • Join FB MCAT study groups and stalk the MCAT Reddit forum. The virtual MCAT communities are truly angelic. Everyone is so kind- sharing notes and offering genuine advice for improvements. I highly recommend if you want to feel all the love ~

My sole regret: taking a 6:30am exam. I regret choosing this time because I am not a fully functional human-being at this time of day. I also had to suffer from my decision to halt coffee consumption in fear of excessive bathroom breaks. It is all the wiser to pick a time that you KNOW favours optimal performance. Or at least prepare yourself earlier. Get used to waking up at a certain time and stimulate exam conditions. (Another lesson is not to simultaneously take on a full-time job that forces you to stay up late)

Best of luck to everyone writing the exam! Just remember this is only a minor hurdle in your med journey- for I have never heard of anyone who could not continue med because of a low MCAT score. Afterall, we each have 7 MCAT attempts in our lifetime (unless you reincarnate into another premed student).

Hope you enjoyed the coffee graphic 🤩 I decided to try a different style, and I think it turned out pretty good. It’s a(n appropriate) vibe…Best of luck! Bye for now.

Premed response to systemic racism in Canadian healthcare

When premed students are asked why they want to be a physician, I assume the answer is always along the lines of having a desire to help out those in need and to make a difference in the community. In light of the recent cases of police brutality on black people and the ongoing protests, we should also ask ourselves if the field we aspire to engage in also faces systemic racism.

“Systemic Racism includes the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions, which result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups. It differs from overt discrimination in that no individual intent is necessary.” -ACLRC

http://www.aclrc.com/forms-of-racism

And sure enough, medicine and healthcare is not impervious to racism. If our reason to become a physician is to help those in need and to make a difference in the community, are we really achieving such if we perpetuate systemic racism in healthcare?

Faiza Amin has several great articles in Toronto CityNews discussing marginalization that the Canadian black community faces in the healthcare system (1, 2, 3). The recount of John River’s story about unreasonable delay in medical treatment, which was nearly life-threatening, only emphasizes the extent of this issue. Amin shows that besides suffering from medical illness and pain, many black patients also have to worry about the way they present themselves to healthcare workers. Something as simple as dressing a certain way can be seen to change the way healthcare workers interact and treat patients.

Other marginalized groups in Canada, such as Indigenous peoples, share similar experiences with the healthcare system. The death of Brian Sinclair is one tragic case where ER healthcare workers failed to even acknowledge the treatable suffering of this man. There is no doubt discrimination and systemic racism played a role in this tragedy. A paper discussing inequalities in healthcare for Aboriginal people in Vancouver shows a pressing need for healthcare workers and policy makers to even acknowledge racial discrimination. 

The Social Accountability Working Group formed by The College of Family Physicians of Canada seems like a promising movement towards bringing more justice into Canadian healthcare. Their goal is to establish greater social accountability amongst physicians.

There is no doubt stigmatization and discrimination exists in healthcare. This reality is undeniable and deeply saddening. Institutional change in response to these types of systemic racism is extremely difficult to initiate and implement. However, as premeds, we can start by educating ourselves and addressing these inequalities. We should strive to bring greater awareness and reflections on behaviours that perpetuate systemic racism. The morals of our generation build the foundation for fundamental changes in our institutions. 

I will continue to educate myself on these topics, and so should you 🤓 Here are some other interesting reads: Healing racism in Canadian health care, by Yvonne Boyer; Colour Coded Health Care: The impact of race and racism on Canadians’ Health

That is all. Bye for now ✊🏿 ✊🏾 ✊🏽 ✊🏼 ✊🏻

My MCAT Experience and Advice

Hi everybody,

I wanted to share my experience self-studying and writing the MCAT in the summer of 2019. I heard the MCAT has been shortened this year…(Almost makes me wish I took the exam this year). Nonetheless, I want to share some MCAT advice from my experience.

  1. Plan ahead:
    • I set myself 3 months to study for the MCAT. And let me tell you first hand you will not be using all of that time. The first month will fly by with a blink of an eye. The second month might be filled with unexpected surprises. And the last moth is where things get serious. In fact, the last 2 weeks will make you stressed like no other situations.
    • From my experience, you need at least 3 months. 2 months to ease yourself into ALL the material, but the last month is when the real studying gets done.
  2. Plan less:
    • I had a part-time job on the weekends (so I can still fund my coffees and doughnuts). However, I do not recommend taking up anything more than ONE job or ONE volunteer or ONE summer course. People weren’t kidding when they said studying for the MCAT is a full-time job!!
    • One thing that helped me balance a social life and study grind was to make a checklist. Set yourself a study goal everyday. For example, “On monday, I am going to review all the metabolic cycles and review physics. On Tuesday, I will memorize all the amino acids and review psychology.”
  3. Have a study spot:
    • This is a given. Everyone has that one place where they are the most productive. For me, it was a library at UBC. And sure it took me more than A HOUR just to bus there, but I knew that my time there was the most productive. With regards to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are now limited to our homes. During the past finals session, I found myself most productive when I designated an area at home just for studying.
  4. Take a freaking break:
    • No one can study all day, everyday (okay, maybe some of us can…kudos to those folks because most of us can’t). Take a break! There’s no better way to refresh the mind and return to studying in a better mood.
  5. Face it, you might never feel “ready” but you will be READY
    • This last reminder is for the week/day before the exam. I was on the verge of tears the day before my exam. Partly because I was preparing myself for the biggest fail of my life. I felt so unprepared. My mock exam marks were in the low 70s. CARS was more terrifying than ghosts or an episode of Black Mirror. Even AFTER the exam, I told myself to take a L. Time is up. You weren’t meant for this path. And to my surprise, I got a decent mark (90 percentile)! That just goes to show that you are more ready than you think you are. Trust me.

Other information that might be helpful:

  • My study material:
    • 90% Princeton review
    • And a bunch of random books from Amazon that didn’t really help
  • Courses to take that helps with MCAT:
    • Psyc 100*** (if possible take it the class right before you start studying for MCAT and you will likely breeze through this section like it’s a review)
    • Biochem 200-300 level **
  • Course you don’t need to take: sociology!!! 🙅🏻‍♀️
  • Biochem and orgo: memorize the amino acids but you don’t need to memorize all the metabolic pathways.
  • Physics, chem, and bio: don’t spend too much time fussing about physics because it accounts for such a tiny portion of the exams.
  • Psyc and sociology: know your terms inside out.
  • CARS: This is the section that absolutely stumped me to the Mariana Trench. I studied the whole summer, and my mark did NOT improve AT ALL. Definitely seek out other people’s advice on CARS because I could not figure it out for the life of me. If I decide to rewrite the MCAT in the future, this section is definitely something I would emphasize the most.

Good luck to everyone writing the exam! For someone who didn’t think it would be possible to self-study all of this, I guess I proved my past self wrong. You can do it too 💪 and you are one step closer to your goal 🤩

How to get more involved in uni as an introvert

I didn’t get involved in many extracurriculars back in high school nor my first year of university. I remember feeling like there was something wrong with me for not being interested in anything school related, especially seeing how active my friends were at school.

All this, and I can tell you that that mindset is false. First of all, there are COUNTLESS clubs and activities on campus. You are bound to find something that sparks your interest, even in the slightest bit. For me, I am especially interested in science/healthcare related clubs. Combine that with graphic design and it’s a match made in heaven. I really enjoy graphic design so I find myself enjoying a graphic design position in clubs that are not even related to science or healthcare. There are so many roles delegated in each club that you are bound to find one that speaks to you. For example, do you like marketing, finances, outreach, or sponsorship?

If all else fails, you can always start your own club! This I can speak for. It also explains my long hiatus from this blog. My friends and I started a club this year that supports the local Parkinson’s Disease community.  Getting this club up and running hasn’t been easy but I know it will be worth all the time and effort. As an introvert, the idea of starting my own club was terrifying at first. Luckily, I was able to find a group of friends who were willing to put in their own time and effort to help me make this club a reality (how am I so lucky to have found these people 🥺). I am going to be cliche here and say that nothing is impossible if you have enough drive and passion- you can do it.

My advice to anyone who is stressing about not being involved in enough extracurriculars is to… NOT. Sounds like dumb advice. But it’s true. Take a deep breath, mediate, and start seeking out clubs or activities that you are ACTUALLY passionate about or interested in. When you find those opportunities, you will find that being an active, involved student on campus will be easily than previously thought.

Here are some graphics that I did for my clubs last month:

 

Cheers and good luck!

Reluctant to Tell People that I Want to be a Doctor

Just another stressed out student that is uncertain of life after university.

My dream job when I was a kid was always to become a doctor. But shortly I stopped having that dream because my grades were terrible in elementary school. I poured my passion into art and design and when I began to gain some confidence in myself as an artist, circa high school, I found my grades starting to improve. I started taking more science classes and before you know it, I am studying Life Science at Queen’s. As my life gears me closer and closer towards my childhood dream, and my current goal: med school; I am very reluctant to tell people that I want to become a physician.

I think it’s the fear of failure. I am fearful that by announcing my hopes of becoming a doctor that I will be judged should I fail to achieve such. Judgement not just from others, but also feelings of disappointment towards myself.

So when I am confronted with the question, “What are you going to do after university?”, I constantly find myself telling people about other careers that I have previously considered, such as pharmacy and research. And the more I maintained these responses to the seemingly unfair question (seriously people, I have rarely met students who know exactly what they are doing after university), I find myself less motivated in my pursuit of medicine. When you tell people that you want to become a doctor, people may unintentionally have higher expectations of you. I used to be scared of this. I was scared that I did not live up to other people’s expectations of a pre-med student. This sounds kind of ridiculous but I think many students feel the same way.

In the positive light, I think we should all embrace these unspoken expectations of an aspiring doctor, whether they exist or not. Let those sentiments be a motivation to work even harder. Hopefully next time someone pounders me with the notorious question, “What are you going to be?”, I can soundly tell them the truth and be content with all that.

Old Town Lengthy Road. SketchBook. 2019.

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