Do you have dreams of going to medical school? If a career in medicine is in your future, then there are some things you need to know.
- Get The Right Undergrad Education
While in undergrad, you will want to make sure you take courses that will prepare you for the MCAT and a future in medicine. The courses you should consider taking:
- College Biology with laboratory, one year: need to know about genetics, cells, and the framework of life. These are the building blocks of medical science and are crucial to succeed in the field.
- General (inorganic) chemistry with laboratory, one year: provides a strong basis for understanding acid-base imbalances with the body and how different medications work. Also, the foundation for understanding biochemistry.
- Biology, Chemistry-minimum of 24 semester hours in areas of humanities
- Mathematics (Calculus and Statistics), one year (6-8 semester hours): important for daily life as a physician or any health professional-from determining proper medicine dosage to reading lab results
- General college physics with laboratory, one year (8 semester hours): introduces key medical concepts, such as laws of pressure and volume, which are important for cardiology and understanding how forces operate in the body.
While these courses are less commonly required, they are still crucial for a career in medicine:
- English: most medical schools want you to have the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills.
- Biochemistry: increased emphasis on the MCAT
- Psychology and sociology: critical since the revision of the MCAT in 2015 that has a section on these subjects
There are also some non-required courses you should take:
- Medical anthropology/history: know-how medicine has changed over the years and appreciates the evolution of medical knowledge
- Foreign language: broader career opportunities and connect with a more diverse population and be a better medical provider
As an undergrad student, you will make sure you keep your GPA at 3.5 or higher. Your undergrad degree does not necessarily need to be in science. However, you should show a strong background in this field, along with extracurricular activities that showcase your diversity outside of medicine. You can look into finding a job and work opportunities related to the medical field or volunteer at a local clinic or in a medical office.
- Get Ready to Take the MCAT
The Medical College Admission Test is a standardized test that all medical schools require prospective medical students to take. The Association of American Medical Colleges developed the test and continue to oversee the exam. The test has recently undergone some changes and now takes eight hours to complete and will determine your readiness for medical school. You can take the test at your local Prometric Testing Center during one of the fourteen times per year it is administered.
Other changes to the MCAT include:
- The essay, or Writing Sample, is no longer part of the test (medical education experts said it was no longer useful in predicting success in medical school)
- A new section has been added: find out if test takers have the aptitude and understanding needed to deliver medical services across many cultures and sociological groups. This section was added due to the rapid demographic changes in the United States.
The MCAT will test physical and biological sciences and verbal reasoning. In 2015, the AAMC added a new section called Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior. The new section tests your ability to understand sociological, biological, and psychological influences on behavior and social interests as well as how people process stress and emotion.
The rest of the test consists of the following sections:
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: Similar to reading comprehension sections on other standardized tests. Passages come from a variety of humanities and social sciences disciplines.
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: tests basic biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: tests basic biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
When you are getting ready to study and prepare for the MCAT, you will want to make sure you register for the MCAT early to secure your test date and location. You will need at least twelve weeks to study for the test, but allowing yourself more time is crucial if you want to ace the exam. The test will judge your critical thinking skills as well as your reasoning skills when considering how you will offer medical services to patients.
You should take the exam during your junior or senior year of undergrad. Make sure you invest in suitable study materials and take as many practice exams as you can. You want to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you know what areas you need to focus on. You should sign up for a prep class either on-line or in-person. Prep classes are designed to help you understand how the test is structured and what strategies you can employ when taking the exam.
These three things are just some of what you will need to know to help you prepare for medical school.
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