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> I have a year and a half until I take the MCAT. Since my reading skills are
> not up to par, I feel I would do poorly on the Verbal Section. In your
> opinion, what's the best way to prepare for this section

------reply 08/11/99

I have found little correlation between how much a person reads, or what
they read and their performance on the Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT.
In fact some of the highest scorers on the Verbal sections in my MCAT
classes hated reading, and very rarely read books, magazines, or the
newspaper, while others who regularly read about complex issues often did
poorly. I also found that having students read the editorial pages of the
New York Times and to think and analyze the editorials, did not show any
significant improvement in their scores when compared to those that just
worked on MCAT verbal reasoning passages.

Ok, now that I've got that off my chest, here's what I recommend. Purchase
Practice Tests I- IV and the Practice Items from the AAMC. Use these materials to learn what the verbal reasoning
section of the MCAT is all about. For more info see The Student Manual which
comes with Practice Test I, in one of the booklet packages which the AAMC
offers. Try a few passages under timed conditions (approx. 9 min per
passage) from the Practice Items. When you feel brave take a full length
verbal section from Practice Test I, under timed conditions, 85 min (use an
answer key). Keep your eye on the time, VR is very time limited. When you
are done, DO NOT LOOK AT THE ANSWERS. Come back the next day, and look over
the test, give yourself unlimited time and on a NEW answer key mark the
answers you believe are incorrect and what you believe the correct answer
should be. Make a BRIEF note as to why you made the change. Ok, now see how
you did, during the timed and the untimed run.

Now what you want to do is do the same thing as described above, over and
over again, using the Practice Items (3 passages at a time, giving yourself
28 min). In order to have a shot at doing well on VR, you must be able to
get almost all the questions correct during the UNTIMED exercises. Once you
get to this point, then the only thing left to work on is getting through
the VR section in 85 min without missing too many questions. Now you can
sacrifice a few questions in the interest of time. During my classes few
believed it was possible to get all 65 questions correct if given unlimited
time, but over half the class was eventually able to do it repeatedly.

Basically you are teaching yourself how to think like the designers of the
VR section of the MCAT "want" you to think. You should save the 3 remaining
Practice Tests VR sections for last, and always take all 9 passages at once
in these tests. Always come back the next day, and rework the passages with
unlimited time, before you look at the answers. Additional material may be
obtained in a bookstore from Princeton Review and Kaplan books (not as good
as the AAMC stuff, but good enough). Stay away from other sources.

Good Luck!



> i wondered about your comments towards the peterson's review book
> (gold standard). i actually own the kaplan materials as i took the
> review course last spring for the april test. after going through their
> course i scored v 6, p 10, b 10 (having not yet completed biology 2,
> physics 1, or even taken physics 2). since my undergraduate gpa was
> 3.96 i was a bit disappointed. i have since moved to graduate school
> and decided to take the exam again this august. disgruntled with
> kaplan's aid, i went to the campus bookstore and bought the only book
> available. you mentioned that you felt there were some "catastrophic"
> errors in a group of review materials that included the book i've been
> studying from. granted, it's not the only source i've utilized (class
> notes, text books, and some kaplan material), but i have weighted my
> review heavily around it's content. i wondered if you could explain
> your opinion on the book i've been using. is there some additional
> material i should review in the next week before the mcat?
> a second question is in reference to your opinion of the relative
> importance of the verbal section. your opinion is one that i've yet to
> hear. although i do realize many schools place importance on it as a
> measure of the ability to quickly read, interpret, and understand
> material, i haven't heard of it being the most important. my major
> professor during my master's degree in physiology was a former member of
> the admissions committee at Penn State. during his time at hershey he
> was on the committee 8 times and interviewed >250 applicants. his
> opinion was that the verbal section didn't carry much weight in light of
> good science scores. based on this, and my ever present "crappy"
> performance on reading aptitude tests, i haven't studied for the verbal
> section at all outside of the practice tests. i just figured that
> having completed a master's thesis would surely help my ability to read
> and understand the verbal section. my practice tests say, not much help
> though. so i've basically just chalked up the verbal section to another
> dismal performance, and really focused on the science review. any
> opinion on the advantages/disadvantages of this approach?
> well, i thank you for letting me ramble. i was actually just taking
> a study break and ended up on your site. thanks for synthesizing so
> much information.
> sincerely
> jamie

------reply 08/12/99

I do not have time to be specific regarding the Peterson's book. There are
numerous problems with it, and I do not have a list prepared. The Kaplan
materials are top notch though, but dry.

While some schools do not weight the verbal as strongly as the science
sections of the MCAT, the trend is moving toward considering the Verbal as
equal to, or more important than the PS or BS sections. Understand that I am
not claiming that the verbal is the most important section for a given
school, but that on average it is equal to or slightly more important than
the PS or BS. Since you will be taking the MCAT shortly, there is no time to
change your strategy. By the way, improvement in verbal often comes about
ONLY through working on VR tests. Working on a Masters may help your resume,
but typically does little to improve your VR score.

Now on to your second email:


> okay, i feel that maybe i should add some information to the previous
> mail. i've been reading all the mails/answers on the site and thought
> you should know a couple more things. 1) i graduated with my bachelor's
> degree in may 1998 (general studies-chemistry/physiology gpa 3.954 2)
> i graduated with my master's of science in exercise physiology in this
> summer gpa 4.0, thesis, full time gta (all course work was taken during
> the 9 month school year 3) i am now a graduate student in biochemistry
> and will graduate again with a MS/thesis in may of 2000. i took a year
> of biochemistry last year as a physiology student and finished #3 in the
> class. it was my performance in biochem 1 & 2 that made my admission to
> the MS program possible. my thesis project now has 2 articles ready to
> submit for publication. my biochemistry thesis project will take place
> this fall and be geared towards another publication. i was also awarded
> a gta position in the biochemistry department for next year as well
> (actually, i'm teaching for both the biochem and kinesiology
> departments). i applied last year (late) and did not get in. the
> rejection was my major motivation to retake the mcat, but you have
> repeatedly mentioned in email replies that graduate work is weighted
> differently. now, all things being said, this year i've decided to
> apply md/phd. i have already submitted 9 of my secondary applications
> and have three more sitting on my desk (in the slow pile since the mcat
> is next weekend). in addition to the questions in my previous mail, i
> was wondering what you felt my competitive level is as of now? also, i
> have now completed all my basic science classes so i'm shooting for 12's
> on the science sections (of course, 11's wouldn't greatly disappoint
> me). as i previously mentioned, i haven't done "jack" for the verbal
> section, and at this point, it's too late to lose sleep over anyway.
> however, when i took the mcat last april i got an R in the writing
> sample. does this have any weight in downplaying the verbal scores
> (since both assess a component of english/reading)? anyway, thanks for
> entertaining my ramblings...

Wow, you have a lot of good stuff listed above! Roughly, I would say that
with a VR of 8 you have a 40%-50% chance of admission, with a VR of 9 a 60%
chance, and with a VR of 10 an 85% chance. This is assuming that you have
some clinical experience in medicine, do a decent job on your applications,
and have a decent interview.

Good Luck on the MCAT, and with all that follows!


------ Second email 08/12/99


Mainly because I have something very important to do, and I don't feel like
doing it, I looked through the Medical School Admission Requirement book
instead, at all the VR, PS, and BS stats that are available (many are not).
The stats suggest that all three scores are roughly equal in importance.
However most schools show higher average BS scores. PS is higher than VR a
bit more frequently then the other way around. A number of reliable sources
have told me that they utilize VR scores as a way of selecting between
otherwise roughly equally matched candidates. Some applicants with very high
verbal scores will have PS and BS scores too low for them to be competitive.
In your case you have a great record and will probably score high in PS and
BS, so your VR need not be so high, but, in my opinion, it still is very
important. Given that the MCAT is so near, I do not believe you can do much
to improve your verbal abilities in so short a time period, and would advise
you to continue on your present course. Take care.



> Hi my name is Ren and I'm a premed going into my senior year of undergraduate
> studies. I have a question regarding the MCAT and the releasing of scores.
> I'm finishing up my personal statement as we speak and still need to turn in
> my AMCAS e. I wanted to ask you if I should just wait for next year.
> Presently my MCAT score (according to Kaplan's tests) ranges from 6- 9,
> pretty crappy. However I have a lot of extracurricular activities and a GPA
> of 3.8. Still I feel like I'm shouldn't have the AAMC release my scores,
> please tell me what I should do at this point. I greatly appreciate your
> time, thank you!
> Sincerely, Ren

------ reply 8/15/99

The moment of truth comes once the MCAT ends, and you must then decide
whether to void, hold, or release your scores. Although you will have no way
to divine your scores, you probably will have a rough idea how you did. If
you are sure you did awful, I'd advise you to void your scores. If you feel
like you scored a 27 or more, then I'd advise you to release your scores. If
you decide to hold your scores, by the time you receive them it will really
be to late to do you much good this year, unless you pulled a 32 or more. So
the advantages of holding your scores are that you may actually have done
well, but do not risk having to show your cards if you didn't, and can use
these scores for this admission cycle or the next -- and of course, you'll
find out how well you did on the real McCoy.

If you hold your scores, and you scored less than a 27, I would advise never
releasing the scores (this is a matter in some dispute). Medical schools
will know you have taken the MCAT this summer, but not how well you did. If
you void your scores medical schools will receive no information concerning
whether you have taken the MCAT, but since they will have received your
application they will know that you intended to take it.

Advice: Void if you did awful e.g., 23. Hold if less than 27, release
if 27 or more.

Good Luck!


PS Many of Kaplan's tests are more difficult than the actual MCAT. The style
of the tests, differs somewhat from the MCAT as well. If you believe you may
have done well on the MCAT, but are not sure, you probably have more to
gain, than to lose, if you release your scores.


> Hi Rich,
> i have been reading your premed website.. impressive work.. i have a
> question for you,
> i graduated from school a several years ago with a Bs average. i am
> now wanted to apply for med school. i just got accepted into a master
> program of human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, if i do
> well in this program to raise my gpa up, do you think it will help my
> chance for med school.
> thanks for your help..

------ reply 8/20/99

Thanks for your comment about the website. If the program is well respected,
and has courses that are similar to medical school courses in difficulty and
subject matter, than you can improve your chances by raising your GPA.

Good luck!




Hi Rich:
I am a Physician Assistant and would like to go to medical school. I did premed
courses 20 years ago. Should I retake the premed courses or should I take
graduate science courses. Which do you think would be the best approach.
Thanks, Jean.

------ reply 08/31/99

I'd retake. Its quicker, less hassle, and it will demonstrate to admission committee
members that you know your core sciences. If on the other hand, you have an
interest in a particular graduate degree in addition to an M.D., such as a Masters i
n biochemistry, microbiology, or immunology, this would also do the trick, but
would require considerably greater time and effort, with out necessarily any greater
chance for acceptance.

Good luck,



> Dear Rich,
> I'm a college freshman and I have planned on going on to medical school.
> While I was in high school I took a few college classes and collected a
> total of 36 credit hours. My plan was to finish college in 3 years, and go
> on to medical school for the fourth. I'm going to take all the classes
> required for med school such as GC I and II, Physics I and II, and O. Chem
> I and II, and Cell Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, etc. My concern is
> that will my major in Biochem, give me an advantage over other applicants?
> Someone once told me that Med. schools tend to pick people who are all
> rouonded, and they don't like people who are science majors because they
> teach you all that in medical school anyways. Also, what kind of volunteer
> work should I do? With my college classes I can't commit to one kind of
> volunteer work. Can you just give me some suggestions on what I should do
> now to increase my chances of getting into I would like to add
> that your website is the most thorough an
> d informative for pre-
> Sonali

------ reply 09/12/99

Sorry for the delay in my reply -- I've been very busy. There is nothing
wrong with a science major like Biochem, but it is true that most medical
schools are looking for well rounded classes. What that means is that if all
else is equal a student with a novel major or background has a greater
chance of being accepted. That being said it is generally not advisable to
change one's major based on this fact alone. Since 46.2% of Biochem majors
were accepted last year, while the general average was 42.4%, I'd advise you
to stick with a Biochem major if that is what interests you.

The best volunteer work is work that has as much patient exposure as
possible, i.e. clinical experience with high levels of responsibility. The
more exposure you have to "what medicine is all about" the better. While
admissions committees are looking for well rounded classes and candidates,
they are primarily interested in individuals who are mature, who are able to
deal with difficult course loads, and who have developed a working
understanding of what the profession of medicine is about. Candidates who
display in their application and their interview, personality traits
compatible with a career in medicine, including determination, dedication,
and compassion, are favored for acceptance. So doing well with a difficult
course load, completing all your requirements in 3 rather than 4 years, and
working in a demanding clinical setting and getting recognition for the
outstanding work you have done (in a letter of rec), are just some of the
ways you can make yourself stand out. If you are good in Biochem then
sticking with this major can help you more than some other major, "with a
higher percentage attached to it". (Biochem is one of the toughest 1st year
med school classes.)

Short answer: To increase the odds of acceptance, show med school committees
that you've got what they want.

Good luck, and thanks for your comment about the site.



hi, i am a pre-med student in puerto rico. I have a gpa of 4.00 and took the august mcat. Can you tell me the minimum mcat score i should get to be considered as a good candidate for the admission officials at good medical schools like
Emory, Jefferson and Dartmouth?

------ reply 09/25/99

[Rich] Let's take Emory as an example. From the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) 2000-2001, 50% of the entering class is filled with Georgians, the mean GPA of the 1998-19999 entering class is 3.69, mean MCAT scores are, VR-9.8, PS-10.6, WS-P, BS-10.5, 67/111 applicants are accepted from out of state, additional info is available in MSAR. Short answer: anything above a 30, without any individual score below a 10, would give you a good chance. See MSAR for more info, that relates to your major, ethnicity etc.

Does having a 4 gpa cause some sort of impression to admission officers?

[Rich] Yes, a 4.0 is impressive!

For example, drawing a line which says:
Everyone with MCAT higher that 35 will be interviewed,

[Rich] No.

everyone with 4.00 will be interviewed

[Rich] No.

or everyone with a Nobel Prize will be accepted!?

[Rich] No. A gestalt is taken based on the overall record of the candidate, although an applicant with a 4.0, and a 35 or higher on the MCAT, who is also a Nobel Laureate, would probably get an interview[:-)]

I would appreciate any info you can give me on this matter or places where I can find this type of info.

Thanks a lot!


> Hi, do you of any medical colleges in the United States that do not require
> a degree or MCAT test results for admission into medicine?
> I would be very grateful if you are able to answer my question. Thank you
> for your time.
> Derek

------ reply 09/19/99

Sure, they are all listed in the Medical Admission Requirements Book,
available through the AAMC web site (see or at most college bookstores.



> Help!! I am 17 years old and i am currently in a community college. My
> aspiration is to become a veterinarian, and i am currently working for one.
> However I would like some advice please as to what courses i should take in
> community college, b/c due to financial reasons, i would like to take as many
> courses as i can at community college, before i transfer to a four year
> institution. So if you have any advice that you can give me I would greatly
> appreciate it.
> Thank you!!
> T.W.

------ reply 09/19/99

The courses you should take would be similar to that of a premedical
student, 1 year of biology (or more) w/ lab, 2 years of chemistry w/ lab, 1
year of physics w/ lab, and a year of English and of humanities. It is
important that you check with the institution that you wish to transfer to
after community college to find out what their policies are regarding the
transfer of credits, that way you can maximize the number of credits taken
at your community college and save some money. Good luck!



> Thanks for the load of information. I am not at the point where I need
> tutoring yet since I have a couple of years to go. I am writing to ask
> your advise if your willing to give it. I graduated with a Bachelors
> degree in Finance from St John's University about 7 years ago. My grades
> were average at best. I am now more focused and have decided to go back to
> school for a premed program. Would you suggest getting a second bachelors
> degree in premed or go for a Masters? and Why?
> I appreciate any advise you could give.
> Thanks.

------ reply 09/19/99

There is no degree in premed, only degrees in psychology, philosophy,
microbiology etc. If you do well in your post-bac premed courses, there is
no need to go for a masters. I would only advise going for a masters if you
did poorly in your undergrad premed courses, and needed to show admissions
committees that you had what it takes to make it in med school. Since you
have not, as of yet, taken these "nasty weed out" courses, you have your
future ahead of you. Take full course loads and do well, and your previous
grades will be irrelevant. Good luck!




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