The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Five years since the MCAT: A Personal Reflection

“You’ll do really good you know, I’ll pray for your success! But you got it. Tell me how it goes after, and go buy something sweet afterwards! You should reward yourself with something yummyy~” —Ab imo pectore

As the title states, five years have now elapsed since I took the MCAT, and in the time that has passed, quite a bit has changed. For one, the AAMC has revised their exam such that there are now five sections, taking a total of seven-and-a-half hours to complete, compared to the 1994-2014 version of the exam: the computerised variant in 2007 could be finished in around five hours. In this time, my old MCAT expired, meaning that if I were to still retain any aspirations for a Medical Doctor degree, I would need to face down the new MCAT. This is something I’m unlikely to do, but at this five-year mark, the impact of taking an MCAT and the associated preparation for the exam remains a very profound one for me. There are bits and pieces of these recollections in the blog, especially in the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare posts, and the short of it is that I spent three months of my summer in 2012 preparing for the exam, spending many a summer day poring over textbooks and review material, occasionally stopping by the medical campus to review with friends who had previously taken the exam and were gracious enough to offer assistance, or else whiled away short breaks in the library, watching anime on an iPad during mornings before my MCAT preparation courses. Through the combination of sheer willpower, unending support from my friends and a bit of luck, I left my exam feeling as though a large weight were lifted from me: under the golden light of an evening sun, I stepped out for dinner at a Chinese-style bistro and greatly enjoyed this despite it not being something sweet as one of my friends recommended. I then proceeded to sleep the best sleep I’d slept all summer. Now, the summer lay ahead, and I spent the remainder on it working on my first-ever publication, as well as shoring up my old renal model in preparation for my final year in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme.

  • Besides long days spent studying for exams, one of the most vivid memories I have of 2012 was the fact that, owing to a frayed cable coming into the house, my broadband internet connection intermittently disconnected that summer, making doing full-length practise exams at home impossible. I recall a memorable July morning that I spent doing a practise exam and finished, scoring a 30T on it, right before the internet cut out. After lunch, I watched Survivorman and took the day easy. The connection eventually became so problemmatic that I did my final full-length exam on campus, using my lab’s Mac Pro, during one afternoon, before heading out to dinner at Bobby Chao’s with family. Here, I scored the 33T, and entering the exam, I was feeling much more confident.

  • This is a screenshot of my exam results. With encouragement from a friend, I walked into the exam a little nervous, but striving to do my best. Said friend’s constant, upbeat encouragement and support gave me a huge sense of comfort, and when my exam results came out, I was pleasantly surprised. However, as my undergraduate thesis wore on, I wondered if medicine would really be the best career path for me, and so, I took another year to figure that out while my friend took an exchange program in Japan. Our paths diverged here – they were broadening their horizons and chasing their dreams in Japan while I busied myself with learning more about software and learning to appreciate my home town more.

  • While we have gone our separate ways, it is appropriate to thank this individual once more: looking back, these experiences have also been integral in shaping who I am. Perhaps in the future, there’ll be a chance to do things over again properly. For now, this brings my reminiscences very nearly to a close: I do not think I will mention the MCAT again as it fades into memories past. I assure readers that future posts will return to the realm of the subjects I am wont to dealing with; this unusual segue is the consequence of the five-year mark passing on my MCAT, the point where scores usually expire.

A month later, my results arrived; I have previously not mentioned my scores at this blog, but with my scores expired, there is no harm in revealing them now. On my MCAT, I scored a 35T (the true score is likely between 33 and 37, inclusive), having managed to squeak by in verbal reasoning with a 10. The AAMC conversion estimates that of the people taking the exam, only four percent scored above me, and in today’s standards, a 35T approximates to a 517. Five years after the MCAT, my score has largely become a number now, with limited applicability except perhaps acting as a conversation topic for dinner parties. While the exam score itself may not hold a particularly great deal of importance, the experiences leading up to the MCAT and the attendant learnings would forever change the way I approach challenges. The summer also led to a first for me: I liken it to a variant of Tsuki ga Kirei where things don’t work quite so nicely, but as that story’s already been recounted in full previously, I won’t detail it too much further. While undoubtedly painful, I do not regret that things happened; it was reassuring to have someone provide support and encouragement during the MCAT, and although our paths have separated, I’ve not forgotten what they’ve done to help me. While the MCAT may initially appear to have been quite unnecessary, considering my eventual directions and the costs associated with preparing for the exam, in retrospect, this was an exam where the experiences conferred were those that proved to be quite helpful, whether it be learning how to read and problem-solve efficiently or how to handle stress. These learnings would subsequently allow me to wrap up my undergraduate and graduate programmes on a high note, contributing to how I approach problem-solving even today.

2 responses to “Five years since the MCAT: A Personal Reflection

  1. cloudst12 August 12, 2017 at 06:58

    In a way, I took the path you nearly took. Birds of a feather flock together?

    Medicine is no easy course. I don’t think I am qualified to speak for the entire life of being a doctor. Alas, being young means being unable to speak from an obvious lack of experience. But, I had a real period of time where I seriously questioned whether I had made the right choice in pursuing medicine. And, I was already in the course.

    We live in a generation that aims to be happy. Yet, going into medicine is the antithesis of happiness. Difficult people, long hours and the haunting scythe above everyone’s head. It’s miserable when I think about it. Even more miserable when I consider the alternative, I also wanted to go into Aeronautical Engineering. But then, I recounted, that I wanted to go into medicine because of children. It’s almost like that moment in Fate stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, where Archer tells Shirou, “Hey, that’s Hell you’re walking into.” To which, Shirou replies “There’s one thing you forgot, at the heart of it all was a wish” and walks ahead.

    Of course, choosing one’s course is not that dramatic. But, this was my answer to whether medicine was the road I wanted to choose. The answer to that difficult question of “Why I want to do medicine.”

    Meanwhile, I would still say congrats on the results you got for MCAT (although I am 5 years late). I am also glad with you that the exam turned out well and the hard work paid off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith August 12, 2017 at 22:22

      Your experiences might be your own, but they’re no less valid or valuable than those coming from a qualified medical practitioner! Having many peers in medicine as a result of my background means I’ve no shortage of friends to swap stories about the life of medical students and residents – hearing their stories, I now know that I’ve followed a path most suitable for myself. While all of us long to help others and give back to society, there are innumerable ways of achieving this. Being a medical doctor is one possibility, but not the only one. The difficulties of this career path, whether it be pressures from studying, stresses of being a residents, challenges arising from running a practise or horror stories from a hospital ward, are the reason why I greatly respect doctors. We see their occupation as a glorious one, but often forget about the less glamourous aspects they are willing to undertake for the sake of the peoples’ health.

      I considered this path at one point, and it was after a thorough talk with my supervisor and parents that I finally set out on a different route. While the MCAT ultimately became largely irrelevant to what I do now, I continue to see it as a learning experience. I appreciate the thanks, and note that, while the score itself is not particularly meaningful, I likely wouldn’t do that summer over again for the world 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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