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medigeek

What makes the MCAT so hard?

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I'm just wondering cause everyone says things like...

 

"It's gr 12 physics"

 

"It's 1st year chem + intro organic chem"

 

"It's basic general biology"

 

"Grade 12s can answer a lot of it"

 

 

So what makes this test overly challenging? With a strong review, if someone has learned all of the material through courses, why would it be overly difficult to do well?

 

I'm just wondering cause it seems things I'm hearing are misleading.

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The MCAT is hard because it tests your ability to apply concepts through problem-solving. You can know all the background knowledge and it will help you, but the MCAT tests more than a general ability to answer questions based on what you've memorized. It's a matter of testing your understanding of concepts so that you can overcome tricks, and apply the concepts through problem-solving.

 

It's also difficult because it's 5 subjects + 2 essays rolled into one. It takes a lot of stamina and mental capacity to maintain the same level of concentration straight through a 6 hour test. The first time I did a full diagnostic I was nearly blanking out in the last section and was completely fatigued and restless by the end. It's exhausting and it's a matter of physically training yourself to withstand the mental exertion as well.

 

And then it's a matter of test-taking ability. You're under time constraints so you need to train yourself to pace, make sure you get as many right answers as you can.

 

Anyways that's my 2 cents!

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The MCAT is hard because it tests your ability to apply concepts through problem-solving. You can know all the background knowledge and it will help you, but the MCAT tests more than a general ability to answer questions based on what you've memorized. It's a matter of testing your understanding of concepts so that you can overcome tricks, and apply the concepts through problem-solving.

 

It's also difficult because it's 5 subjects + 2 essays rolled into one. It takes a lot of stamina and mental capacity to maintain the same level of concentration straight through a 6 hour test. The first time I did a full diagnostic I was nearly blanking out in the last section and was completely fatigued and restless by the end. It's exhausting and it's a matter of physically training yourself to withstand the mental exertion as well.

 

And then it's a matter of test-taking ability. You're under time constraints so you need to train yourself to pace, make sure you get as many right answers as you can.

 

Anyways that's my 2 cents!

 

Ya that makes a lot more sense now. But what about question difficulty? How far does the difficulty of the questions generally go.

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just some thoughts:

 

1) it is a test that whose grading is scaled against all other people taking the test. So it isn't enough to do well, you have do well relative to a lot of other smart people. For every 12 someone gets, someone else is getting a 4 (approximately etc)

 

2) it is test where you generally have to do well on every section - it isn't enough to be good in physics and chemistry - you have to be consistently good in a lot of subjects (and what I mean by "good" means referring to 1) :) )

 

3) The areas that count the most in Ontario are those sections you are least likely to study a lot in most premed programs. V.R. and the writing sample in particular.

 

4) it is a very long test - 5+ hours is a lot of time to stay focussed. A lot of people just are used to that.

 

5) There is more stress than a typical test since there is generally speaking more on the line.

 

hmmm that is all that immediately springs to mind!

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It asks for basic concepts (ex. gr 12 physics) in a very confounding manner. Remember your first year g chem exam? Put all the hardest questions, hide them in a passage that doesn't make sense, and throw in 3 very similar answer choices and multiply the number of questions by 52.

 

That's the MCAT science, lol. The VR is worse and the WS is not that bad.

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It asks for basic concepts (ex. gr 12 physics) in a very confounding manner. Remember your first year g chem exam? Put all the hardest questions, hide them in a passage that doesn't make sense, and throw in 3 very similar answer choices and multiply the number of questions by 52.

 

That's the MCAT science, lol. The VR is worse and the WS is not that bad.

 

Pretty much. The biggest thing about the MCAT is test-taking and strategy. You also really need to know your stuff. In other MC tests, you are tested more on the concept itself and you can discern this by eliminating the other answers even if you don't know the CORRECT one. On the MCAT, it is assumed that you KNOW the correct concept, and you have to apply it further to get the correct answer.

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Getting a balanced score.

 

For schools like Queen's and Western, if you are below the cutoff in one section, you do not get an interview. You need a 11 in VR for western, likely an 11 in bio as well. For Queen's its been as high as an R in the written. So to be totally safe at pretty much every school you need a 10PS/11VR/R/11BS. Hitting that combo can be pretty tough, especially the VR and WS which are a bit more subjective than the sciences.

 

Many people write several times, one section score goes up and then another goes down.... very frustrating indeed.

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I wrote the MCAT back in 2006, when it was still a written exam (and much longer). Overall though, I don't think the test questions on the MCAT are very deep or abstract. It really is a test of how you approach the content in a given passage, mainly to sift out the key information that will allow you to determine the right answer in a time-constrained manner. It's really pitting you against the clock.

 

As for scoring, it is nonlinear in the sense that the difference between a high score and a very high score is only a handful of questions (typically attributed to the 'harder' questions that sort the exceptional test-takers from the rest), whereas the bulk of the test questions that most people can answer correctly tends not to have a drastic impact on the score incrementally speaking.

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not sure if this has been mentioned but don't forget timing - sure you may be able to figure out the answer to each question eventually, but you need to be able to answer questions fast enough so that you can get through all of the passages in time

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it's a scaled test

to get a good score, you have to score in the 85th %

so even if you find all the questions easy, i guarantee there's 50% of people who will also find it easy.

 

it's getting those few extra hard questions that makes the difference.

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No one has mentioned the stress of the exam too. I am someone who normally does quite well with stress, for instance I have never been stressed for a final before.

 

But I was stressed for the MCAT. And it caused me to make some DUMB mistakes. Like there was a question that was essentially asking how much string would be pulled out of a circle when the circle rotates twice. I answered the question by multiplying the number of rotations by the RADIUS of the circle, not the circumference. I didn't realize this until a later section (when it was too late to change).

 

So there you go. It's hard because it's stressful which increases the chance of stupid mistakes.

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