We asked our readers to tell us about their experiences with taking the MCAT and what they wish they would have known before the big day arrived. We received tons of responses and found that many students shared some of the same I-wish-I-would-have-could-have thoughts. So we’re sharing the most common responses for those of you who are planning to take the MCAT.
You’ve spent months solidifying your understanding of organic compounds and reactions, going over topic statements and instructions for the writing samples, and more. Some of you dished out hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars on a MCAT prep course. You’ve spent more of your Saturday or Sunday mornings than you wanted taking practice tests. Then the big day arrives when you’re scheduled to take one of the most important test you’ll ever – the test that could determine whether or not you’ll get a score good enough to impress potential schools. Here are some things from PreMedLife readers wish they knew before taking the MCAT:
Testing room was a lot colder than expected
According to the AAMC’s web site energy-saving practices vary widely, and test takers may find the testing room colder or warmer than expected. Therefore, test-takers are advised to dress comfortably and be prepared for varying room temperatures. The web site also suggest test-takers bring a sweater or sweatshirt. If the test proctor permits wearing a sweater or jacket into the testing room, it may not be removed in the testing room. If an item of clothing is removed during the exam, test-takers will most likely be instructed to place it in the secure area. Keep in mind that the exam clock will not stop during this time you take to move about.Security at the testing center may be very tight
Over the years there have been numerous attempts to cheat on the MCAT. And with the increased availability of advanced technology, test administrators have taken several measures to ensure the security of the exam and the exam’s testing facilities. According to the AAMC, in order to provide fair, equal, and secure testing conditions for all examinees, the staff at each testing center follow common procedures. We’ve selected a few, and while the following rules and regulations may seem tight, they are considered to be standard practice at each testing facilities. However, the severity of how strict each facility abides by the rules may vary. Here are a couple: 1.) You must sign in and out each time you enter and leave the test room.. 2.) A digital image of your fingerprint will be taken and your identification will be re-scanned each time before entering the test room. We suggest that you review all of the rules and regulations listed on the AAMC’s web site.

Examinees may begin the test at different times
Going hand-in-hand with the security procedures, the check-in process on test day may cause a difference in time from when one examinee begins the exam and when another examinee begins theirs. According to the AAMC’s test day tips, not only is it a possibility that examinees may not begin testing precisely at the time scheduled, it is not uncommon that examinees wait for up to 30 minutes to begin their exam. This means that examinees may be working on different part of the test at different times.

Constants would not be provided for the Physical Science Section
According to a few students, constants were not provided for the physical science section of the test. Again, students should review the AAMC’s web site which states that while the necessary constants and conversion factors are provided with the test questions, examinees should know the equations and constants commonly used in introductory courses as well as those listed specifically in the AAMC’s content outline.

Taking the MCAT before completing pre-med courses may leave you inadequately prepared
While the majority of students take the MCAT a year before they plan to enter medical school, when they have already taken most if not all of their medical school pre-requisite courses, there are some who decide for various reasons to take the test much sooner. Unfortunately, these students may find that some of the material covered on the test to be unfamiliar because they haven’t taken certain biology or chemistry courses yet. According to the AAMC’s test preparation tips, examinees who have taken the requisite science courses, as well as classes in the humanities and social sciences should be prepared to take the test. And even though it is not a requirement, examinees are strongly advised to complete pre-med courses to position themselves as best prepared as possible.

Don’t underestimate the power of taking practice exams
Practice may not make perfect when it comes to the MCAT, but it will do a lot of good. Taking MCAT practice tests will provide the opportunity to become familiar with not only the type of material you’ll see on the test, but it will also give you the chance to get a feel for the test “experience.” The AAMC offers practice test that are comprised of actual MCAT items. In fact, the are actually retired forms of the test that were previously administered in “live” MCAT administrations. It is definitely not the best idea to underestimate how important it is to plan taking practice tests into you MCAT study schedule. For more information about taking MCAT practice tests, visit visit www.aamc.org.

This article was featured in the September/October 2012 issue of PreMedLife magazine.