MCAT Intro

Kat Thomson
Lesson by Kat Thomson
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh MCAT
Hi and welcome to the video online course at Magoosh. Before we get started, I just wanna take a minute and congratulate you for getting to this stage of your academic career. A lot of students feel overwhelmed when they first start studying for the MCAT. And even though it is a difficult test, this can be, believe it or not, an exciting process.

You're making a big leap in your education, in your training. And the great thing about the MCAT is that it's not mysterious. Long, yes, difficult, yes, but they lay it all out for you. It is learnable, the amount of time you put into studying definitely pays off. So my name is Kat Thomson. I'm a medical sociologist.

I graduated from UC San Francisco and I've been teaching pre-med students for, I guess, 12 years now. Other people you'll hear from in this course include a few physicians. We currently have one other science teacher. And there are a few videos created by students who just took the MCAT, who are pretty much maybe two steps, two years ahead of you right now.

And the students that are featured in the videos are all students who scored in the 96 percentile and above. I've taken about 20 practice tests of the new MCAT. They won't let me sit in on the actual test because I'm not going into any kind of graduate program. So in this course, you'll be benefitting from a variety of experts and of expertise.

And don't forget to take advantage of the email tutors, okay? So if you come to questions where the explanation just doesn't make sense, that's what the tutors are there for, they're great. And this particular video is really devoted to getting you familiar with the structure of the exam. So if you're already familiar with it, by all means skip ahead, browse through, scan the transcript.

This course is yours, so make it yours and use your time effectively. The MCAT was originally created in 1928 and most recently revised in 2015. And so when people talk about the new MCAT, and they still do at least as of now, I'm recording this video in 2017, they're talking about substantial changes that were made to the structure of the MCAT. The most notable changes are that the MCAT's super long now.

You'll be sitting down for about seven hours. And it covers different content in a more integrated way, a more interdisciplinary manner. It's offered 25 times a year. It's administered by computer. And it's written by the AAMC.

This is a nonprofit group and it consists of medical doctors, mostly medical faculty. I definitely encourage you to go check out their website if you haven't already. This is where you're going to be going to register. And also, I mean, I tell my students even if they're first year, second year in college to go ahead and create an account now.

You'll get lots of news articles and you might not read them all. I'm almost sure you won't, but it just keeps you aware that you're invested in this. They're the experts. They have a bunch of materials that are helpful for studying such as their question banks.

We have questions here over 700, but all the test prep companies, including us, will recommend that you get whatever official sources you can. And so those would be things that are put out by the AAMC. So you already have an advantage over at least half of the students who take the MCAT every year. According to an AAMC report, when they looked back at the characteristics of test takers in 2015-2016, only 50% of MCAT examinees took a preparation course of any kind at all.

And that includes more elaborate courses that you might take in person as well as online format such as these, so congratulations. Who takes the MCAT? Well, pre-med students who are pursuing careers as physicians, MDs, DOs, DPM, which is a physician of podiatry. And that's both in the US and in Canada.

Sometimes students in Australia and New Zealand take it. I know some pre-vet students who've taken it. Some pharmacy students even though these have their own standardized tests as well. But usually were just looking at these three degrees in these two countries. If you're interested at all about what other tests are offered to pre-health professionals, here is a list.

You can pause it and look it over in more detail if this interests you. The four sections of the MCAT will appear in this order. Every time, every test, this is the order. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems is number 1. This is my weak area. And this is the most molecular section, although, the biology section is fairly molecular as well.

And after that, you'll come to what's usually called CARS, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. And so that's basically just the reading section. And so if you've taken, probably almost all of you have, either the SAT or the ACT, there are a lot of similarities. It's also probably the section that will improve the most with practice.

The passages in the reading section are drawn from the social sciences and humanities. You don't have to memorize any type of humanities. It's not content-based. They're not gonna ask you about grammar or anything like that. The focus is not on vocabulary, it's on comprehension and it's on speed.

So that's one of the more challenging things about this section is getting the questions answered in time. Now before you move on to the bio section, there is an optional break in between sections 2 and 3. And every tutor will tell you to use the entire break. If you're like me, you just wanna power through, get it over with, but don't do that.

So use your break, and then you'll hop into the bio section. And I would say the biological section is primarily centered around the unit of analysis of the cell itself. You will need to know some physiology. You will need to know about biology in its broader context such as evolution, but that won't be a big focus of this section.

And then you end with the social science section, Psychological, Social, Biological Foundations of Behavior. These three tend to be merged together. There's a real emphasis on the overlap between psychology and biology, and also on the overlap between sociology and demography. And so I really encourage you to look at my introductory videos in the psych and soc sections, so you get a better sense at that.

Most of the sections contain 59 question and you'll have 95 minutes to complete them. The exception to this is CARS, 53 questions only 90 minutes. And so actually, that break that I told you about comes slightly before the halfway mark. Which is another reason to really take advantage of it and be energized for the last two sections.

And here we have the list of courses you need to take. So two of intro to bio and that's it. I mean, a lot of you are biology majors, but really it's just biology and then biochem, 2 of general chemistry, 1 organic chemistry, 2 of physics, 1 introductory psychology course, and then 1 for sociology. Now some schools, I think this is the case with my Berkeley students, require 2 semesters of organic to take biochemistry.

And so make sure you're really familiar with your own school's layout, so that you can hopefully get these courses in pretty early. It'd be great if you can take biochemistry by the time you're a junior, especially if you're wanting to take the MCAT by the end of your junior year. Most students will have taken all of these classes before going into the MCAT. In terms of sociology, at least in 2016, only 30 something percent of students took an introductory to sociology course.

And so even though I think you can definitely do well on sociology without a course, there's something to be said for taking it. Because it's going to give you a course that most of the other students won't have had. And so what we're looking at here, the number of questions by content area that you're going to see on the exam.

Most of these are going to be kind of interdisciplinary, so there will be some questions that are very distinctly only physics. Most of the physics is going to have some biology in it, so biology is definitely the big player in town here at 45. And here we have psychology at number two, which is a huge change. There wasn't even psychology on the original or any of the earlier versions of the MCAT.

Most of the psychology, well maybe not most, but a lot of the psych questions are going to be heavily biological. They test quite a bit on structures of the brain, which is considered a psychological topic more than a biological usually. Neurology comes up a lot. Some of the neurotransmitters of the brain and hormones.

And then number three is biochem. And so the second and the third most frequently tested content areas, they're new, they're new to the 2015 exam. We have chemistry, sociology, physics, and then way down at the bottom we have the notorious organic chemistry. And now I always point out to students this is a little bit misleading because organic chemistry is a prereq for biochem.

You're going to see more organic chemistry than 11 questions. It's just that a lot of it is going to be under the umbrella of biochem. Each of the sections are worth the same amount. And if you remember from a couple slides ago, the CARS section actually has fewer questions on it. But the weight of it towards the total exam is the same as every other section.

And what that means is each individual question on the CARS section is worth just a little bit more. Since there are only 53 questions here and 59 on the others. You'll receive a score somewhere between 118 and 132 on each section. So if you completely bomb it, 118 is as low as your score goes in any given section.

And the median of each section will be normed out at 125. So your scores are completely dependent on how everybody else scores on that particular test that's given that day. The total score median is 500 and you could get a score as high as 528. So what do successful students do to prepare? Well, you definitely wanna review the AAMC website.

Take the AAMC practice test. $35 each, it's usually recommended to take one somewhere towards the beginning of your studying and then one about a week or two before you actually take the exam. Right now, the AAMC only has two official practice tests that are scored, where you actually get a sense of how you might do on the real MCAT. Practice the reading section, the CARS section daily.

I typically recommend that students spend 60% of time studying MCAT-specific sources. So that means practice questions, practice tests, videos that are geared towards and for the MCAT. And then 40% of their time studying college texts and notes. Use this 40% primary source time to review the sections you don't know as well.

For a lot of people that's like the physics because they haven't seen it in a few years. It could be any variety of topics, maybe physiology. So yeah, so let's say a 60-40 or a 70-30 split. Dedicate most of your time to studying areas of weakness. Commit to 250 hours, I would say at minimum.

And if you can get in 350, all the better, cuz that extra hundred hours is where the polishing work comes out. Next steps, you should create a study schedule based on how many hours you're going to be devoting to this. And we have several blog posts on study schedules and organizing your time and I recommend you look at that.

You want to dedicate a consistent place for taking notes, for keeping your notes, storing them. Students often kind of start in one location, end in another one. And that's something about having them all in one place that's gonna be really helpful when you get towards the end of your studying, and you're trying to boil your notes down to maybe a set of 20 pages.

Browse our site, look at our additional resources. We have some flashcards there. Browse the official website and start thinking about what date you're gonna take it. You might already be signed up for one test. If not, start thinking about that.

And then really early on, I would say within the next seven days, take the AAMC sample test. So this is different than the practice tests. These ones cost $25. They are full length. They do not offer a scaled score, but they'll give you a lot of information on your areas of weakness.

And so that will help you think about what areas to devote your studying time towards. You might start watching some of the other introductory video lessons in this course. And then from there, I recommend starting in on the content, on the video lessons. A lot of students start with the practice questions and that's fine as well. But the practice questions are gonna be more valuable to you if you've at least reviewed the major areas, but it's your choice.

Probably a lot of you are really curious about the sample questions, so approach it in a way that keeps you engaged with the material. That's probably the most important thing. I'm really excited to be here with you during this process. I do review and personally read all the comments that come through in reaction to lessons.

We have a really big student help team that is also very responsive. And so even though you're not seeing me, we're not in person, I hope you really think of me as a resource. So go for it and good luck.

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Intro to the MCAT