doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Category: MCAT

In the midst of studying for the MCAT, I need breaks. I also need to laugh. To accomplish both of these tasks simultaneously, I have had some photo editing fun the last couple of days. Here are my brilliant pieces of art … I hope they bring a smile to your face, or at least make you groan.

The angry dinosaur in this image is a velociraptor. If you remember from
the movie Jurassic Park, these guys are cunning, smart, and nasty.
Yep. That’s me. At least when it comes to attacking the MCAT!

Recently I have been working on MCAT physics - fluids in particular. I found myself scribbling these lyrics in the margin of my scrap paper as I was working with Bernoulli's equation ...

Recently I have been working on MCAT physics – fluids in particular.
I found myself scribbling these lyrics in the margin of my scrap paper
as I was working with Bernoulli’s equation …

MCAT Prep: Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

head against brick wallA couple of days ago, I finished my MCAT biology review book. (I’m using Examkrackers.) Yay! I was so excited. Not that I know everything, but I’m done with my first run-through, have a bazillion online flashcards made (feel free to access any of my sets here) that I can study on the train to and from lab, and was consistently getting most (if not all) the review questions correct. I felt encourged. Energized.

Then I hit a brick wall: physics.

I would read a section in my Examkrackers book, think I understood it, then get half the review questions wrong. And I wasn’t even to the tough stuff. I’m talking F=ma, projectile motion, that sort of thing. I was very frustrated, and demoralized. I won’t even go into how my Lesson 1 practice exam went. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

Part of my frustration was that I had done so well in my physics class — an A both semesters. An A on every exam, for that matter. I worked my a** off for those grades, and I know it wasn’t some fluke. I also know I’m not stupid (although I certainly felt that way yesterday).

I also felt frustrated because I didn’t know what step to take next. Obviously, reading the Examkrackers lessons over and over wasn’t working. So … what?

This afternoon, I knew I needed to take action. Change tactics. More specifically, see if another review book would be a better fit for me, at least for physics (I found the Examkrackers bio book to be a great resource). Seeing as how I’m flat broke, though, I don’t have the cash to go out and buy every MCAT physics book. Then it came to me – I don’t have to. I live just outside Chicago, and a whole bunch of suburbs in my area are members of a giant library network. I looked up “MCAT” on the online catalog (my mom always says, “let your fingers do the walking”), and found a ton of resources, including practice tests. I submitted several requests, so we’ll see what happens when the books arrive at my local library.

I’ll try to post comments here regarding my thoughts about the different books (I’ve got Princton, Kaplan, and Gold Standard books coming).

In the meantime, I’m putting physics to the side for now. No use in continuing to bash my head against that brick wall. I’ve got better things to do.

Beautiful Day

In the midst of this MCAT madness, and everything else that has gone on in my life in the last couple of years, it’s easy to lose perspective. To get lost in frustration, sometimes even pitch black darkness. But the song “Beautiful Day,” by U2, helps remind me that today IS a beautiful day, regardless of what is happening, and that I shouldn’t let it get away. I don’t see it as a Pollyanna thing, but as a change in mindset. Deciding that I will make the most of the day, of any day. That doesn’t mean it will be a perfect day, or even a great day. But it can still be beautiful.

Lyrics to “Beautiful Day,” by U2:

The heart is a bloom, shoots up through stony ground
But there’s no room, no space to rent in this town
You’re out of luck and the reason that you had to care,
The traffic is stuck and you’re not moving anywhere.
You thought you’d found a friend to take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace

It’s a beautiful day, the sky falls
And you feel like it’s a beautiful day
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

You’re on the road but you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud, in the maze of her imagination
You love this town even if it doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over and it’s been all over you

It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

Touch me, take me to that other place
Teach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out
It was a beautiful day
A beautiful day
Don’t let it get away

Touch me, take me to that other place
Reach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case

What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
You don’t need it now, you don’t need it now
Beautiful day

Let It Burn

One thing I learned from my ex-husband was how to make a good music mix. So when “Ticket To Ride” popped into my head (see my previous post), I decided to make an MCAT inspirational mix. I would like to share those songs on my blog, in the hopes that they might inspire others.

The next song on my playlist, after “Ticket To Ride,” is “The Fire,” by The Roots:

The music is catchy as heck, and the lyrics are phenomenal. The chorus alone makes this song an amazing inspiration:

There’s something in your heart
and it’s in your eyes
It’s the fire, inside you
Let it burn
You don’t say good luck
You say don’t give up
It’s the fire, inside you
Let it burn

It’s all about keeping that fire burning, not giving up, achieving your goals, even in the face of hardship. That’s a good perspective to keep in mind when facing something as daunting as the MCAT, or anything else for that matter.

Here are the rest of the lyrics, for those who are interested:

“The Fire”
(feat. John Legend)
[John Legend]
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire
[Chorus: John Legend]
There’s something in your heart
and it’s in your eyes
It’s the fire, inside you
Let it burn
You don’t say good luck
You say don’t give up
It’s the fire, inside you
Let it burn
[Black Thought]
Yeah, and if I’m ever at the crossroads
and start feeling mixed signals like Morse code
My soul start to grow colder than the North Pole
I try to focus on the hole of where the torch goes
In the tradition of these legendary sports pros
As far as I can see, I’ve made it to the threshold
Lord knows I’ve waited for this a lifetime
And I’m an icon when I let my light shine
Shine bright as an example of a champion
Taking the advantage, never copping out or cancelling
Burn like a chariot, learn how to carry it
Maverick, always above and beyond average
Fuel to the flame that I train with and travel with
Something in my eyes say I’m so close to having the prize
I realise I’m supposed to reach for the skies
Never let somebody try to tell you otherwise
[Black Thought]
One love, one game, one desire
One flame, one bonfire, let it burn higher
I never show signs of fatigue or turn tired
cause I’m the definition of tragedy turned triumph
It’s David and Goliath, I made it to the eye of
the storm, feeling torn like they fed me to the lions
Before my time start to wind down like the Mayans
I show ’em how I got the grind down like a science
It sounds like a riot on hush, it’s so quiet
The only thing I hear is my heart, I’m inspired
by the challenge that I find myself standing eye to eye with
Then move like a wise warrior and not a coward
You can’t escape the history that you was meant to make
That’s why the highest victory is what I’m meant to take
You came to celebrate, I came to cerebrate
I hate losing, I refuse to make the same mistake
[John Legend]
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire
Ohhhh, the fire, the fire
[John Legend]
Ohhhh, the fire inside you
The fire inside you
The fire inside you
The fire inside you

The MCAT: My Ticket

Exactly three months from tomorrow, on May 23, I take the MCAT. It’s the equivalent of D-Day, a potential turning point in my long pre-med journey. Hopefully a positive turning point, with a “victory” (a good score). Given that I want to do an MD/PhD, a victory for me means scoring at least a 35, out of a possible 45. That might not sound difficult, but the national average in 2011 was about a 28. Most people are happy if they get a 30. So naturally, I’ve been a bit nervous about the whole thing.

But about two weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I realized that I could look at the MCAT in one of two ways: either as standing in the way of my getting into medical school, or as my ticket to getting into medical school. Regardless of which way I view this exam, I need to study my butt off. But having a more positive outlook, I think, will help me be more confident. And confidence, when it comes to standardized test taking (or to anything for that matter), can make a huge difference. Self-doubt, on the other hand, is most certainly not a recipe for success.

Being a musical person, as I pondered the word “ticket,” a song popped into my head: The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride.” Granted, the majority of the song’s lyrics have nothing to do with my situation (thank goodness). But one memorable chorus line definitely does:

She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care

The MCAT is my ticket. And I don’t care what else is going on, what distractions may come my way. I will focus on my ticket. Because one way or another, I am going to ride.

It’s All Coming Back To Me Now

Finally, after some hemming and hawing, I have begun studying for the MCAT. “M”-Day for me is March 23, 2013. So I’ve got a bit of time. But given that I took Physics, General Biology, and General Chemistry two years ago (2010-2011), and Organic Chem one year ago (2011-2012), I feel the need to do some hard-core review. That, and the fact that the average MD/PhD matriculant’s MCAT score is a 35 puts a bit of pressure on.

To put that score in perspective, the mean MCAT score for 2011, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, was a 25.1. That’s out of a best-possible 45. Not a single person got a 45 in 2011. The highest score was a 42. To get a 35, I would have to be in the 94th percentile. Yikes. (See the full score report from the AAMC here.)

My strategy is to use the Examkrackers review books series, both the subject matter review books and the “1,001” questions books. I have started Gen Chem, Orgo, and Gen Bio. Today I will venture into the world of Physics. I am making flashcards on Quizlet, which I can study anywhere using their iPhone app. With all of these resources, along with taking (and re-taking) the available AAMC practice tests, I believe I will be as prepared as I can be.

That said, I was a bit worried, when I first opened the review books, that I would have forgotten … EVERYTHING. Not so. And thus, the song “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” has been cycling through my head. And of course, like most songs that play in my head over and over again, I had forgotten most of the lyrics. Solution: YouTube. So here, I present Glee performing this song, in celebration of the fact that my science knowledge is … all coming back to me now.

Change Of Plans

According to my plan, I was supposed to take the MCAT this coming Thursday, June 21. According to my plan, I was going to submit my medical school application this month, do interviews this fall/winter, and matriculate in the fall of 2013.

Life, however, does not always go according to plan.

The last 15 months have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have had successes and joys, yes, especially in the academic realm. But there has been much loss and sadness as well. Some of that (such as my divorce) I have written about here on this blog. Due to everything that has been going on, I have decided to postpone my application by a year.

This is not me giving up. I don’t give up. I can’t, and won’t, not after all I have accomplished and gone through to get where I am now. I look at this not as a failure, but as a success – as me knowing myself, knowing what I need to do for myself, to be the best MD/PhD applicant I can be.

I do have a plan for the upcoming year. I will be working part time at the UIC lab where I worked for the last two summers. I will also be doing freelance writing and editing for the Joint Commission Resources, which is the for-profit arm of the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals. So I will both be earning money and learning about hospital standards and procedures, which will be good.

Is this what I wanted to happen? Not exactly. But it is what needs to happen. And I look forward to what the coming year will bring.