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What Can You Learn From Reflecting on Your MCAT Test Day Experience?

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

The MCAT is a significant hurdle that all students who wish to attend medical school must overcome. However, even after you have successfully completed the exam, you can continue to learn from your testing experience by reflecting on the test day itself.
Below are four areas of reflection that can provide you with additional insight about your future as a physician. Do not neglect to consider them!
1. How you learn best 
Many students experiment with a variety of study and test-taking strategies when preparing for the MCAT. After identifying which methods are most successful, they ultimately settle on a framework that works best for them. Throughout this process, you will likely discover how you study most efficiently and most effectively, which is an invaluable tool as you move forward to medical school.

For me, my MCAT prep suggested that I learn best by answering practice questions and actively writing out information, rather than passively absorbing details from charts, tables, outlines, etc. The process of recording facts and concepts by hand helped me to commit the information to memory. This tactic was invaluable as I studied increasing volumes of material during medical school, and it continues to serve me well as a physician. Be sure to identify how you best learned the material during your MCAT prep so you can study as efficiently and effectively as possible for the remainder of your college courses, as well as in your career as a trainee, and eventually, as a doctor.
2. Your ability to perform well under pressure
One of the biggest rewards of a career in medicine is that you are constantly pushing your intellectual limits and challenging yourself. The MCAT often represents the first of many of these scenarios. Given that the MCAT is a major component of any pre-medical student’s application, most of them will likely feel a great deal of pressure when sitting for the actual exam on test day. This feeling is similar to how you may feel when taking medical school exams and/or various portions of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which help determine your competitiveness for residency applications.
Moreover, you will also experience pressure when you begin caring for patients on hospital wards or when you start performing a variety of medical and surgical procedures. As such, you should think back on what kinds of strategies you used to augment your performance under pressure while taking the MCAT. In my case, the most important tactic was to continue to remind myself that I had adequately prepared, and that I had all the tools necessary to succeed.
3. Possession of mental stamina
The mental stamina that you must have in order to complete the MCAT with success is usually significantly more than what is necessary for regular college tests. The length of the exam, the variety of questions, and the importance of the score all weigh in to make taking the MCAT an incredibly tiring mental experience for most students. It is important to assess how mentally fatigued you felt both during and after the test. As a future medical student and resident, you will need ever-increasing levels of mental and physical stamina to complete all the tasks for which you will be responsible. If you felt worn out very early in the exam, commit to further developing your mental stamina and increasing your focus as you continue studying for the remainder of your college coursework.
4. How you work with incomplete information
Healthcare providers must work with incomplete information about their patients every day. This is another aspect of medical care that makes the career so interesting. The MCAT is purposely designed to present students with information that they have not seen before, and it thus tests their ability to apply newly gained knowledge. Many students are not used to this, since it is usually possible to study all the material covered on college exams before sitting for them. As such, some students experience a great deal of difficulty answering questions about topics with which they are not familiar.
Reflect on your experience with the MCAT and determine what your comfort level was when working with incomplete information. If you felt that this was one of the most difficult parts of the exam (do not worry—most people, including myself, did), make an effort to work on your ability to apply information in novel ways, rather than simply regurgitating content that you have already memorized. Consider working through advanced application-based practice problems while studying for coursework. You might also try to use the information you are learning in the classroom on a research project with one of your professors. Though medicine undoubtedly involves significant memorization, it is a constantly changing field. You must develop a great deal of comfort with applying new information in order to provide your patients with the highest level of care.
Remember to assess these aspects of your MCAT test day adequately and it will serve you well in your medical career. Good luck!

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