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 ✊🏿 ✊🏾 ✊🏽 ✊🏼 ✊🏻