In which I discover that I’ve learned nothing for the past three years of college.

When I entered college three years ago, I took a free practice MCAT offered by Kaplan.

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Three years later, I took a practice MCAT again. This time, I was trying for real. I had been in college for three years already, so I had to do better– right?

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Apparently not. After three years of schooling, my score raised only by a nominal point.

Unlike during my freshman year, where I could just brush it off…

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…I can’t really ignore it now.

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Since I’m graduating college in a year, I actually have to think about my future now. Part of this has become studying for the MCAT, also known as the Medical College Admission Test. Among all of the grad school exams, the MCAT is particularly notorious. It is long, hard, demands a great deal of memorized knowledge, and is designed to weed out the weak.

The weak, including me.

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So I registered for one of Kaplan’s online MCAT courses.


I knew that I would have to study hard for this exam. It covers organic chemistry, general chemistry, biology, physics, and verbal reasoning– all subjects that I have struggled with in the past. But I was still a little shocked when I received my Kaplan review books in the mail.

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I was even more shocked when I started to read the material.

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As it turns out, I haven’t learned 50% of the content I’m supposed to know for the MCAT, ever. The other 50% I studied years ago. In between my full-time internship and increasingly time-consuming half-marathon training, I continued to study.

My first MCAT class rolled around.

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Try as I might, I could not keep up.

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But as life got in the way, even the weekends failed me.

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Falling so behind started to get to me.

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There was only one thing to do.

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So now, I’ve bought myself a little more time (literally, as changing your MCAT test date costs $65) to prep for this exam. In other words, I’ve delayed my inevitable collapse until October.

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Maybe I should go into business instead.

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Failing the MCAT

I have an affinity for free things. Who doesn’t? Except my love led me to do something slightly ridiculous– in this case, taking the MCAT.

The MCAT, for those who are unaware, is yet-another standardized exam for medical school applicants. As with any grad school exam, it’s monstrously competitive, perhaps even more so for the MCAT as it’s taken by overachieving pre-med students. Kids usually take at least six months to study for it, if not more. Like any major exam, the MCAT fuels a whole business of study books and preparatory courses.

Kaplan, one such test-prep company, happened to be offering a free MCAT practice exam at NU. I’m a pre-med student. For now, at least. So I decided to give it a shot.

The exam I took had a few differences from the real thing, though. The real MCAT is entirely computerized– but we took it on pencil-and-paper scantrons. Also, Kaplan omitted the writing section and shortened the remaining sections by 10 minutes each.

They might as well have. Because I died.

The MCAT has four sections: physical science, verbal reasoning, biological science, and the writing sample. I took the first three in a process that went a little like this:

In all fairness to myself, I’m just a freshman. I haven’t seen chemistry in one and a half years. I’ve never taken an advanced physics course. Nor have I taken organic chemistry. My AP Biology class in high school was pretty useless. So, while some of the questions went like

The majority of the test looked more like

Since the practice test was only multiple-choice, we got our results back right away. I got the high, high score of

Afterwards, we received an answer key showing which questions we got wrong. MCAT teachers were available for any kids wishing to discuss their results. I didn’t take up the offer, just because

Oh, well. It was a worthwhile attempt. Now I know how much I have to improve! Besides… I’m a freshman. I’ve got quite a ways to go.