You may have heard the gut-wrenching story of a friend of a friend who studied for the MCAT, did well on practice tests, but when it came time for the real deal, everything fell apart, they broke down in a bundle of nerves, and their score was Not. Good.
Or, perhaps you’ve been working on your MCAT in a prep course for three months or so, and you felt fully ready — until you took a practice test and the wheels came off the truck, your score dipped significantly, and now you find yourself in a tailspin, like:
“Should I delay my score?”
“Won’t that screw up my timing and my chances for acceptance?”
Lots of stomach pain … and I’m going to try to help.
Psychology of MCAT Preparation
Taking the MCAT is much more like preparing for a significant sports competition, like an important tennis match or the finals in a basketball tournament. You have to show up on a specific day and time and perform your best.
And, like sports, there’s a psychology of performance that can make a huge difference in success or failure. Plus, there’s one thing you absolutely must do to overcome the panic that sets in just before you take the test for real. More on that later.
Setting the Stage for Panic
It starts with a tiny little seed of doubt. It’s usually just a subtle change, maybe only a two or three point difference in your MCAT practice scores on the last one or two tests you took.
Your score dips a bit, and then a nagging thought takes hold, slowly growing inside, the insidious doubt, worry, and anxiety that begin in your mind as a tiny sliver, but then grows larger and larger like a wedge cutting your confidence in half.
You have taken many practice tests, you have studied the MCAT for many hundreds of hours, and your practice scores have steadily improved.
Then, 10 days before you sit for the real MCAT, you take a practice test, but this time your results are much lower than your expectations and your hopes.
You are shocked. You are surprised. You’re stunned.
What could be happening? Is the practice test you last took somehow more difficult? Is it radically different than everything else? Or, heaven forbid, you have lost it. Suddenly, all of the hard work, all of the practice, then everything that you have done up till now seems like it’s no longer working.
You go online, and you begin to dig for information to help you understand what’s happened. You find out that there is nothing unusual about the test you just took. And suddenly you come to the realization that your other practice scores MUST have been a lie, and you are not going to get the MCAT score you have hoped for. Your spot in medical school is now deeply in jeopardy. You feel like you have no chance to become a doctor and pursue your career dream of practicing medicine.
Your life is over. And, you feel fat.
This is an all-too-common scenario for thousands of premeds who are about to take the MCAT. I would like to suggest an alternative reason for why your MCAT score may have dipped, and reassure you that you have not lost your mind, nor have you lost your ability to score competitively on this test.
Latest posts by Don Osborne (see all)
- How to Join a Google Hangout - March 5, 2014
- MCAT Club Podcast — Verbal Reasoning expert Leonardo Radomile gives tips - February 28, 2014
- MCAT Club Podcast — When does your MCAT score expire? - February 28, 2014