Column Intro: The Third Year Differential

Central to the skillset of every physician is the differential diagnosis. This is a list of possible diagnoses that helps guide clinical decision-making. By asking specific questions, performing a focused physical exam, and ordering lab tests, all through the lens of the differential, physicians are able to rule in or rule out each item on the list. The differential is not fixed, however; it is a fluid list that can be rearranged or completely changed at any time given new information. This information often comes in the form of an extra piece of history from the patient, a new finding from an imaging study, or frequently, from several lab tests coming back negative.

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Top 3 Myths about MCAT Scores Busted

As with any high stakes exam, it’s not surprising that there are a number of rumors circulating around the MCAT exam. So we are busting three of the top myths about the MCAT scores and score scale.
Myth #1: The MCAT exam is graded on a curve. 
There is no curve associated with the MCAT exam. Instead, the MCAT exam is scaled and equated so that scores have the same meaning, no matter when you test. What does that mean, you ask? There are many different test forms that are produced for a testing year, any of which you could see on your exam day. The forms of the exam are designed to measure the same basic concepts and skills, but each form contains different sets of questions. While care is taken to make sure that each form is about equivalent in difficulty, one form may be slightly more or less difficult than another. We adjust for these differences in the difficulty of test questions when we convert the number of questions you answer correctly to the MCAT score scale. This ensures that scores have the same meaning across test administrations and testing years.

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Post-Bacc Program Guide

post-bacc program

Post-baccalaureate or “post-bacc” programs, for short, are often discussed among pre-med students. While post-bacc programs can benefit students with many types of backgrounds, they are not for everyone–and knowing this ahead of time is important, as the cost for these programs is anywhere between $20,000-$40,000. This article covers just what post-baccs are, as well as important information on who should consider such a program and what students should ask about before actually signing on the dotted line.

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Diversity in Med School: Why It’s Important and What Minority Applicants Need to Know

While getting accepted into medical school is more difficult than ever in America, there are some particular challenges facing would-be medical students from certain ethnic groups that have been traditionally underrepresented on medical school campuses across the country. For many reasons, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is heading a multi-faceted campaign to increase racial diversity among would-be doctors.

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Who Makes a Good Doctor? How Medical Schools Around the World Try to Find the Best Candidates

around the world

One of the continuing challenges for medical schools both here in the United States and around the world is to find ways to select the students who will have the best chance of successfully completing their education. The goal of a good medical education, after all, is to train students who go on to become doctors, helping to fill the enormous global demand for well-trained, competent physicians. What might surprise many students, however, is how many different ways medical colleges around the world have come up with to find these ideal candidates–and how widely medical education varies from one country to another.

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Five Mistakes to Avoid in Medical School Interviews

medical school interviews

We all know medical school interviews are important. But did you know, according to a survey of medical school admissions committees conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), interviews are the most important factor used to decide which applicants gain acceptance (Dunleavy DM, et al. Medical School Admissions: More than Grades and Test Scores. AIB. 11 (6), 2011)? The most important factor! Fortunately, interview techniques can be learned and, when practiced, improved. This article addresses the five biggest mistakes I have seen pre-meds make regarding interviews during my over 10+ years as a Harvard pre-med tutor and admissions consultant.

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Chronicles of a Med Student: And That’s a Wrap!

Chronicles of a Med Student

Whew! It’s been a long year and I am itching for a much-needed, well-deserved break. Thankfully, summer is here to save me. I can’t wait to talk about my summer plans and all the ways to spend the summer between first and second year (also sadly known as your last summer ever). I think it will be beneficial to recap what I’ve discovered this past year!

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Challenges Remain for Female Medical Students

female medical students

It might actually come as a surprise to many would-be medical students that gender is an issue that still affects those who are training for a career as a doctor. After all, there are more women in medicine than ever before–and certain areas of practice have become largely female-dominated. Despite this, however, gender attitudes can color nearly every aspect of medical education.
Women in Medicine: Close to Parity – at Least In Numbers
Statistically, if you just look at the numbers, the participation of women in medicine has indeed come a long way. According to the AAMC, as of 2013, of the 20,055 students who were accepted into medical schools across the country, the split between men and women was almost evenly divided: 53% male and 47% female. It is important to look at these stats in terms of their historical context in order to truly appreciate them.

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4 Ways to Get Accepted With a Low GPA

low GPA

The fastest way to  not  get accepted to med school is to think that your GPA doesn’t matter. It does, in fact, matter quite a lot, as it’s the way medical schools can see how you perform academically. It also serves as an easy way for adcom to compare applicants; it is imperfect, given different grading scales and study paths, but it is something that all students have in common.Not thrilled with your GPA? Worried it might get in the way of your med school acceptance? Here are 4 things you can do NOW to increase your chances of acceptance:

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Get A Better Letter: An Insider's Guide to Letters of Recommendation

letter of recommendation

By Michelle Finkel, MD Whether you are a candidate for medical school, residency, fellowship, dental … Read more

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Students With Disabilities in Medical School

students with disabilities

Medical school, for some, remains the ultimate “glass ceiling” — the unseen yet unbreakable barrier that stands in front of one’s dream career as a physician, regardless of his or her qualifications and achievements.
Medicine still employs the “medical model” of disability, meaning that disabilities represent a deficit of sorts, and are something to be “fixed” or “cured.” The physician or medical professional has a job — to cure or heal the deficit. This message is repeated throughout medical programs and serves as a reinforcement that students will not be qualified providers if they have a disability and need to be fixed.

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Study Like It’s Game Day

Preparing for an exam is the same as preparing for any other major event you might encounter. Just like a football player prepares for Friday night’s game or a pianist practices for their upcoming recital, preparation should be completed just like it is the main event. When preparing for a major exam, set the scene up like it is the day of the test.
First order of business is finding a location that is most conducive to studying for you. This might be a quiet location like the library, a place with background noise like a coffee shop, or your favorite nook on campus. Finding the correct place to study for you is very important for concentration and retention of information. If the location does not provide you with the ability to focus on your studies, then try a new place until you find what works best.

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The Top 5 Ways to Improve Your CARS Score Today

improve your CARS score

For most pre-meds taking the MCAT, the CARS section proves to be one of the biggest obstacles standing between them and admission to the medical school of their dreams. The CARS section is a highly artificial environment, unlike any test you’ve ever taken before. It can be difficult to know where to begin and what steps to take to improve your overall CARS approach. Everyone and their mother seem to have an opinion about how to do well on the CARS section, opinions that often contradict each other as often as they agree. To make matters worse, unlike the other sections of the MCAT which play to the inherent strengths of pre-meds, hardly anyone starts off with a CARS score in range of where they’d like to be on test day. Fear sets in, and the “you’re not going to get in” gremlins starting chanting their mean-spirited slogans; all because of one stinking section.

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What the Adcom Sees (and Thinks) About Your Multiple MCAT Scores

multiple MCAT scores

MCAT History
Back in the olden days (like prior to 2007), the MCAT was only offered a few times a year, and test-takers took the paper exam with a No. 2 pencil. There was also a restriction placed on the number of times you could take the exam in a single year, as well as in your lifetime.
Today, the MCAT is offered 17 times a year with the following limitations on how often an applicant can take it:
– Three times  in one year
– Four times  in two years
– Seven times in a lifetime
It’s become increasingly common to take the exam, retake it, and then sometimes retake it again before  applying to medical school.

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Junior Doctor Stress and What Can be Done about It

junior doctor stress

Junior doctors [and residents in the US] do a valuable and sometimes life-saving job for patients. They are the future in medicine and can bring enthusiasm and fresh ideas into the profession. Despite the importance of their role to society, junior doctors have sky rocketing stress levels and many have an appalling state of mental health.
The Shocking Suicide Rate Among Doctors
It is totally shocking that in the 21st century, so many bright young doctors fall prey to depression and around 400 US physicians intentionally end their own lives annually. This means that every year in America, a million patients lose their doctor to suicide. The chance of dying by suicide is greatly increased for those in the medical profession compared with ‘lay’ people. For instance, male doctors have a 70% increased risk of dying as a result of suicide, when comparing the death rates with men from the general population. One of the reasons there are more completed suicides – ironically – may be as a result of doctor training. Doctors know the human body intimately. They know about drug dosages, they know more about the effects of drugs on the body. They know how to save a life and because of this, how to take one. A determined doctor can calculate a fatal drug dose expertly or know where to cut that would be catastrophic. They also have access to powerful, death dealing drugs that are only available on prescription to the rest of the population. This may be why there are so many successful doctor suicides each year.

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