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MCAT!!!!!

Recently I’ve released a survey for premeds on their wants, needs and pain points. I genuinely want to know how I can help.

Here is the link to my survey, please take it so I can understand how to help you! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TT5RGR6

A sticking point keeps coming up- that huge elephant in the room: THE MCAT!

I find this to be a HUGE barrier as preparing for the test and scoring a needed score (> 75th percentile or more ideally >85 th for some schools) proves to be difficult for many to afford and accomplish.

Traditionally I recommend prep courses because they helped me and many others score a solid score for admission. Being with other people with a common competitive goal and having face to face accountability help you achieve faster in my opinion. These days, things are so competitive and expensive that for some, having course books and online resources may be a preferred route since the test is in a digital format. However I still emphasize that you retain more if you take pen to paper, listen and/or recite at the same time. Use all your senses to help and utilize question banks that simulate the testing environment.

Khan academy has free resources and the AAMC has free testing resources too. This area has lots of resources including exam content outline (which is key to know what is on the exam!)

MCAT Exam Content

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Section
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems Section
  • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section

The AAMC MCAT Official Prep Hub button is where you can access practice exams. Sign in with your AAMC account information and go to Free Resources section. Select Practice with Exam Features Tool.

I’ve recently come upon another online platform for MCAT prep called AdaptPrep MCAT. It lets you identify your strengths and weaknesses on the exam and has 4,000 simulated test questions in a bank format. It gives the ability to asses your difficulty level of questions you can handle as well as flexibility and dynamic practice questions. The writers recommend that you have an “Earned Level” of 7/10 on a 0-10 scale before you are MCAT ready. Their website can be found here. There is also a free three day trial that can be found here.

I know full well how daunting this step is. I remember taking this test in a room full of people near UCBerkeley and my friend and I were the only African Americans in the room. It was intimidating to say the least, but we are now both practicing doctors and moms. I think back and remember the times studying alone, in groups, with friends and using a whole Saturday to take and scored full length exams. I would then adapt my studying based on what I consistently scored poorly on. I knew physics was a weakness and I concentrated on this. It helped- I scored higher on that section than others. Hard work does pay off!!

Best and hope these resources help inform your study process and plan!

Candice Williams MD

Premed Consultants

Uncertainty: How do you deal with it?

Hello all,

Summer is upon us and for many, this means you are starting the application cycle, filling out applications, taking the MCAT or starting residency. Things are new, you are embarking on a new journey and not sure how things will pan out. How do I know? I’ve been there and oddly enough, I’m there now.

You see, just because you become an attending, it doesn’t mean that is the end of life changing and needing to shift. Sadly, I have to break it to you that things can and will change and it’s normal to feel unsure or uncertain. I’d like to share with you my situation and how I’m coping with uncertainty as a working anesthesiologist, spouse and mom.

Long ago in the dark ages of residency, I was trying to envision a future where I kept my passions alive (music, family) AND working as an anesthesiologist. It seemed impossible as I was barely keeping my head above water with working and being a new mom. I just saw a dark future and really had to visualize better times to make it through. Along the way I had many jobs, bounced around and experienced many disappointments with my working situations and environments. I didn’t anticipate ever having to quit, change jobs or move anywhere. In residency and as a medical student, I thought you just get a job and stay there and everything is perfect and happily ever after. I came to find out that instead, I was experimenting and finding what is the best fit for me and my family.

Recently I’ve once again realized it’s time to shift and return to my specialty of pain management as I’ve been practicing OR anesthesia in a great group for the past year. I’ve had such a challenge finding the right environment to practice in while staying in the place I want to live. Many have suggested – just open a practice – as if it’s that easy. I will write more on this later as the current landscape in medicine requires so much of independent physicians that its designed to make it hard to survive. I’ve doggedly insisted on not moving and on not having a practice because of the work, money, time and commitment involved. I wanted to pursue locum tenens (temporary work) but this didn’t pan out either.

So now I’m left in an uncertain place. I know I need to move on and practice in my specialty, but there’s no opportunities that fit my needs or that fit my practice style. So- I’m continuing to pray, soul search and open myself to more opportunities. I’m exploring more practices in other locations and I’m simultaneously drawing up plans for a solo practice.

I’m writing mission statements and really envisioning what an ideal Pain practice would be. I am passionate about being part of the solution of the opioid crisis and I am a believer in non opioid adjunctive pain medications, interventional pain procedures, physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental health strategies, exercise, regenerative medicine and other strategies that emphasize a multimodal approach to pain management. I’m in a place with a lot of competition and I am currently assessing the landscape I’m in and feasibility of opening a practice that will thrive and serve patients well.

So, I’m right in the thick of it. I don’t have an answer today, but trust me I know what it’s like to be uncertain and not knowing the future. I trust that God knows what is best and that I will find my way. I am trusting that for all of you as well.

Stay strong, keep pushing, studying and striving to be your personal best no matter what stage you are in. It can and WILL get better.

Email me at premedconsultants@gmail.com or reply to this post about your uncertainty and where you are right now. This is a safe space and we should be able to share with each other. I’m here for a listening ear and to answer any questions you have about the path to becoming a physician.

All the best in your endeavors,

Candice Williams, MD D. ABA
Premed Consultants

Raising the Bar

Hello Premeds,

I hope your day is going well. Mine is. I’m spending it with my family and contemplating what I’d want to know if I were in your shoes. I was there once and felt that getting into medical school was impossible. I felt as if no matter how high my scores were or my grades, I could never measure up.

The fact is the medical school admissions process is getting more stringent. That’s right – its getting harder. Now more than ever before. some schools are requiring higher GPAs – 3.4 and above and high MCAT scores (> 85th percentile). This is higher than previous times and makes it much harder for students to qualify. Not all schools have adopted these criterion – so don’t fret. All is not lost. I just want you all to be apprised to what is required, so you can improve your grades and scores accordingly.

If I were in your shoes, I’d take longer to do my post bac or retake coursework and I’d study longer for the MCAT with a prep course to ensure I make these scores. The average MCAT score for African American applicants  is near 496 and average MCAT for African American matriculants is 504 which is 61st percentile.     Latino applicants have average GPA 3.4 and average MCAT of 499. Latino matriculants have average GPA 3.6 and average MCAT score of 505.

Source: https://www.aamc.org/download/321498/data/factstablea18.pdf

Having an score of 85th percentile on the MCAT is near 512, which may prove difficult to achieve for students underrepresented in medicine.The reasons are multifactorial. including not having money for a prep course, having to work in order to support oneself and other matters. My concern is that with having these criterion, certain schools will become less diverse in terms of ethnicity and be robbed of a perspective that comes with having a diverse student body.

So premeds, please be advised some schools have these higher criterion. At a minimum in my opinion, to apply to medical school, you need at least a 3.2 GPA and MCAT score of 75% percentile. This seems low, but for some students who are disadvantaged and don’t have the same resources as others, I’d say these are absolute minimum numbers and you MUST apply to many schools (25-30).

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Just trying to give you all a heads up.

I hope I’m not the bearer of bad news, but I do believe its better to know now vs. not preparing well.

Candice Williams MD, D.ABA

Premed Consultants

MCAT DISCIPLES

Another MCAT course I’ve discovered recently is MCAT Disciples. They have online and in person courses that are reasonably priced and effective! The MCAT is a major hurdle, and it always pays to have access to premium content. If you are seeking admissions to Ivy or California Medical schools, your MCAT percentile rank matters! Check them out at mcatdisciples.com