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Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2001 22:22:36 -0000

Subject: HELP!!!

I would like to discuss my situation with you to and hope that you will try
your best to advise me. I am currently a senior at and I am not enrolled
for this intended date of graduation is Dec. 01. This is my
situation: My overall GPA is 2.999 as is my science GPA (may be a bit
higher/lower). I plan to take courses during the summer to help boost my
GPA (and I still have a semester left before I graduate...will AMCAS?medical
get that last semester...No, right?) What is your suggestion on retaking
courses that I received a C in (should I retake the course or should I take
other course now, knowing that I will do better and bring my grades up with
never before taken courses???)? I have been volunteering in hospitals
off/on since high school! I have strong letters of recommendation from my
science professors as well as a few doctors. Given my gpa I am hesitant to
apply to med school or begin the process b/c I know how competitive it
is....I KNOW I WANT TO GO TO MED SCHOOL...what should I do. How do med
schools view post-bac/MS applicants? Should I consider this route before
applying. Following this another issue is when I should take the MCAT...I
heard that it would be a good idea for me to take it in April but I don't
think that I will be ready for the this one...should I take the one in Aug.
or should I just wait until next April...which may offset the whole process
which means that I wouldn't be applying to med school until 2003 and if I do
that should I consider an MS program (since I would be able to graduate) or
should continue to take classes undergrad working on my GPA? The bottom
line is that I know how competitive it is to get into med school and right
now I don't feel that I am a competitive candidate given my GPA but I know
that if I have the opportunity to study hard and prepare for the MCAT I can
do well (which means I won't take it in April). I don't know what to do at
this point and I REALLY need advise. What should I do? Just study hard and
take this April's MCAT, wait until Aug.? wait until next April? Go
post-bacc/masters? When would the school receive my transcript if I take the
MCAT in April? Would I have to wait until after I take the summer courses
before I register with AMCAS. What is the AMCAS process like? I am sorry
that this is sooo long but I REALLY need help as you can see. PLEASE be
patient with me. Thanks for your help so far.

Hope to hear from you soon.


With your GPA you need a minimum of a 12, 12, 12 on the MCAT to have a
chance. While you can update your application after sending it, with new
grades, in your case that hardly seems he point. Unless you think you can
make a 32 on the MCAT (a 38 would give you a 50% chance or better) it makes
sense to think about an MS program. While you still can go through the whole
application process now, unless you expect to make a 12 or better on all
sections of the MCAT, you are playing for very long odds. With an MS program
your undergraduate GPA would be unimportant. You would essentially have a
clean slate.


If you took the MCAT in April schools could already have your transcript but
would not look at it until your MCAT scores were received in mid-June.

See for AMCAS process information & free software.

Good luck,

> Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 22:05:05 -0500

> Subject: mcat
> I have a question in regard to MCAT scores. I received a 31 on the August
> 2000 MCAT, but my three individual scores were 7 VR, 13 PS, and 11 BS. I'm
> not sure if the disparity between the three merits my retaking the test. As a
> Philsophy major at Princeton University in my Junior Year, I have an overall
> GPA of about a 3.56, so I don't know if I need a higher MCAT score. I'm not
> looking to get into Hopkins or Harvard, but more like Georgetown (where I am a
> double legacy) or possibly Vanderbilt. Should I take the MCAT again this
> April? Thanks.
> -Nick

Hi Nick,

If you feel you can retake the MCAT and get the VR up to a 9, without losing
more than a point on BS or losing more than 2 points on PS, I'd advise you
to retake.


Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001 22:48:40 -0800
To: <>
Subject: Science GPA

Hi Rich,
I'm a math major (yeah, I hear the grumbles), and have done well in my major
classes. When calculating my science GPA, do I count all of my math classes
along with the science ones? Thank you, Deborah

Hi Deborah,

Generally, math classes are included when calculating science GPA.


Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2001 20:23:22 -0500

Hi Rich,

What is your opinion on the INTENSIVE HOME STUDY practice books by Columbia
Review? I want to practice from as many practice tests as possible before
taking the MCAT this time. Although my GPA and parts of the application are
competitive, my dismal performance in MCAT makes the overll application a
poor one. I already have Kaplan(2000), AAMC practise items for both verbal
and sciences and practice tests I-III, Arco(sample exams), and Silver
Bullet(2000). Please let me know of all of the books I can purchase without
having to pay a bundle for poor practice tests such those in REA.



Hi Rohan,

Short answer, I'd give the Columbia Review tests a B- (MCAT like, but too
many errors; as compared to AAMC materials which rank an A); Kaplan materials
a B- (fewer errors than Columbia, but not "MCAT-like" enough--needs to be updated);
Princeton Review tests a B-, (more MCAT-like than Kaplan, but more errors. Arco and
REA exams both get a D. Silver bullet--don't know.


>>> Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001 22:29:46 -0800 (PST) To:
>>> hi, i have a very serious question regarding the mcat verbal section. i
>>> read your response to a question regarding why med schools value the verbal
>>> so much, but i don't believe this section tests what it claims it is
>>> testing. i don't think people do poorly on the verbal because they are poor
>>> at drawing conclusions from prose. i think the mcat passages have become so
>>> convoluded and difficult that people do poorly because they have no idea
>>> what the hell they read. when i was in high school i scored a 790 on the
>>> verbal sat and was always regarded as a humanities whiz. i know, big deal.
>>> but then i took the mcat and got some passages that had more commas,
>>> semicolons, and references to music schemes than words. i read some
>>> passages twice and had to waste all my time deciphering them. it just seems
>>> that many students can't show their abilities to draw conclusions and think
>>> abstractly when the passages are set up to bewilder us. i know it's graded
>>> on a curve, but you can grade anything on a curve. i know students who do
>>> well on the VR probably do well in medschool, but i read an article about
>>> how the SAT verbal is actually a better indicator of medschool and USMLE
>>> performance that is the VR. what does this mean? if you are a slow reader,
>>> but a great thinker, how do you beat this thing? please reply as soon as
>>> you can because i am considering not retaking the exam, and your advice is
>>> invaluable to me. thank you.


If you are a slow reader, but a great thinker, you may be at a disadvantage.
Slow readers and great thinkers, are not what medical schools are
necessarily looking for. Medical schools tend to look for students who are
able to assimilate vast amounts of material quickly, without the requirement
for much independent thought. The truth is that highly creative individuals may
be at an disadvantage early on in a medical career, although these traits may
later become an advantage.

I try to stay out of issues like, "how well the verbal reasoning section of
the MCAT correlates with medical school success as compared to other tests
like the SAT*", because this tends to border on the "philosophical", and I try
to restrict myself to practical matters.

Here's a response I wrote yesterday to a student regarding how to improve
verbal scores:
>> Hi Rich,
>> I do not know if this is the best place to email you, but the only place on
>> your website that I found your email address. Anyways, I am a premed student
>> about to receive an BSc. in Anatomy and Cell Biology up in Canada. My MCAT
>> scores are competitive for Canadian schools, but my one weakness lies in VR,
>> I have gotten an 6 and a 7. My question to you is what preperations I can
>> possibly do to get my VR past an 8 (50 percentile) and beyond. I have done
>> numerous practice exams, prep courses, everything possible, I just can`t get
>> past that hump, please help!!
>> Regards,
>> M

> Here's what I would recommend. Use AAMC materials if possible (available from
> Always take the tests under timed conditions. When you complete a
> test do NOT look at the answers. Take a break, up to a day, and then retake
> the test again giving yourself unlimited time (but keep track of how much time
> you use). Only when you feel you can not possibly do any more work, should you
> check the posted answers. With practice you should be able to score near 100%
> correct under unlimited time conditions. Once you get to this point, you
> should begin to cut down from unlimited time during the second phase of this
> exercise to smaller and smaller time intervals, while maintaining a nearly
> 100% accuracy level . During this period, you should begin to see an
> improvement in your scores during the officially timed (1 hr 25 min) portion
> of this exercise.
> While I have seen students achieve the level of improvement you are suggesting
> in VR, progress is slow and requires a great deal of dedication. While there
> are no guarantees, I have found the regimen above to frequently be effective;
> I hope it is for you. Good luck!

As you may know, the MSAR (See lists all
U.S. medical schools that accept SAT scores in place of MCAT scores. Since
there are very few schools that do this, your options would be very limited.

Since you did not provide me with any specific information, I am not able to
advise you regarding whether or not you should retake the MCAT, but I wish
you the best in whatever you decide.


*Supplementary Note:
There is growing evidence that medical schools are beginning to look for a different
type of student; one who is able "see the forest, from the trees".

> Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 11:53:48 -0600
> To:
> Subject: Medical School Questions
> Hi Rich,

Hi Beth,
> Thank you for the informative site. I have a few questions:
> 1) Do schools request your high school GPA/transcripts?

Yes, but it is not very important in determining the likelihood of
acceptance to medical school.

> 2) I graduated from undergrad as a Physics major in 1996 with a 3.6 overall
> and a 3.57 science. I then got a MS in Physics with my graduate GPA around
> 3.3. I then worked for a while and then took some post-bac pre-med classes to
> make up for the bio and chem I was lacking. My post bac GPA is 3.88. What do
> I consider my GPA? My original undergrad work? My combined undergrad work (4
> years of college and post-bac) which is 3.64overall/3.65science math? Or do I
> need to add in my graduate school classes which will lower it to 3.59/3.57?

Medical school admission committees look at all your records, but the GPA's
you mentioned remain separate, with the most recent GPA, provided that it
contains around 45 credits, being by far the most important.

> 3) I have a lot of research experience and some marginal volunteer
> experience. I'm interested in clinical research though, not just straight
> practise. Given all that, what do I need on my MCAT (will be taking in April)
> to be competitive?

With the record you describe, a 29 or above would make you competitive,
assuming you were to score roughly equally in all three multiple choice

> Thanks for your help.

> From: <earlyeditiondude@-------->
> Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 21:28:23 -0800 (PST)
> To:
> Hey Dude, I like your bodacious site, man. I'm from
> California and I would like to know if going to a
> small (10,000 people) would play a factor in my
> medical school admission? I'm thinking about
> attending either CSU Stanislaus or CSU Sacramento? I
> do rather like to attend a smaller college like CSU
> Stanislaus, but will AdComs dislike that decision. I
> would like to attend Stanford's Medical School. And
> also I'm going to major in Economics. Keep up the
> narly, tubalacious site, dude. Any info given will
> help tremendously. Thank-you

Yo early edition, going to a small school ain't no prob. AdComs can evaluate
your record based on the school you attend. Fact is, going to a small school
has an advantage in that you should be able to get some tubalacious letters
of rec if you do well in your classes and get to know your profs. So... hang
loose, cause 52.1% of eco majors get accepted, as compared to the average of
42.4%. Good luck dude! -rich

Oh yeah, make sure the school you attend has a good premedical
advisor/committee. Don't just take their word for it, make it a point to
talk to some premeds at the school.


From: "Sam
Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2001 16:42:47 -0500

Subject: verbal section

I read a email post you wrote concerning the verbal section, and a possible
method to improve your score. I have a similar problem to that person, in
that, I find it very difficult to improve my verbal score. The method you
mentioned centered around using AAMC practice tests and taking a break after
the test for 1-24 hours. You then advised doing the same test in unlimited
time. I am not sure I understand what you mean, do you want us to re-answer
all the questions that we already answered? How do you approach the verbal
section as far as your plan of attack from the point you start reading to
the last question of the passage. Do you read the whole passage to
understand? What annotations do you make that seem to be the most
effective. And do you look for certain spcific type of answer choices
depending on the type of question (inference/roman numeral etc.) I was also
curious as to what AAMC practice exams were worthwile for verbal , as well
as, physical and biological. What have you heard about practice test 5. I
know this is pretty specific but I have tried everything to improve my
verbal score, and I just want to get your opinion on the above topics.
Thank so much for your help and a great site.

Hi Sam,
> I am not sure I understand what you mean, do you want us to re-answer all the
> questions that we already answered?


As far as a specific procedure for VR, I don't believe there is one best
way; I have seen many different approaches work well. But I have also seen
what doesn't work. Generally it is a good idea to read the passage quickly
(either before or after scanning the questions). You should be looking for
structure (where is stuff located, how do the paragraphs interrelate, what
is the progression of ideas), point of view, main idea, tone. Most folks
need to refer back to the passage repeatedly while doing the questions.
Reading the passage thoroughly, trying to completely understand it, tends to
produce the worst results.

Here's the thing, some folks are just naturally better at VR, and since VR
is not as content laden as PS or BS, doing well is far more of a skill. In
tennis, I can tell you to keep your eye on the ball, bend your knees and
move your feet, but unless you have the opportunity to practice, learn from
your mistakes and develop a style that works for you, no amount of
instruction or advise will make much difference.

By working on the questions under unlimited time conditions you should be
able to develop better skills. While a tutor may expedite this process,
given enough practice you should see improvement.

As far as AAMC VR I am familiar with Practice Items (a.k.a. Study Items) and PT
I, II and III. All the VR is first rate. I have not look over PT IV or V,
but my guess is that it would be too.

Good luck,

From: "libby"
Date: Thu, 05 Apr 2001 11:02:11 -0700
Subject: in dire need of some april mcat advice!!

Hello and thanks for your terrific website.
Quick question regarding MCAT-what kind of timer do you recommend and
where in the heck do you find one that doesn't beep illegally? Is it true that you
are required to wear it as a watch, and if so, why do people often talk about using
a kitchen timer or some type that would sit on the desk?

Hi Libby,

A small timer, not just a watch is allowed, at least it has been up to now. To prevent
beeping, set the timer for one hour more than required. For example, VR is 1 hr 25 min,
set your timer for 2 hr and 25 min, when the counter reaches one hour you are out of

Rich Hochstim

From: "libby"
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001 13:07:38 -0700

Subject: Re: in dire need of some april mcat advice!!

Thanks for your earlier advice regarding timing devices. Problem is....I
called AAMCAS finally to get the scoop. They told me that the proctors are
instructed to allow only a wristwatch, as something on the desk might fall
off and cause a disruption. Chances of that are slim, but anyway they said
if the proctor will allow it, that is their discretion, however your best
bet is to find a watch! My problem is that every single watch I have looked
at beeps when you set it-lightly, but it still beeps. Everyone else must
have this same problem-I'm just trying to figure out what can be done. A
digital timer is necessary for accuracy and for pacing myself.

Thanks again


My students have brought in small countdown timers that sit on the desk; at
least in the Miami area, there have been no problems. They do beep quietly
(once) when reset during breaks, but not during the test. Or you may wish to
set the timer/watch to 2 hours. When 35 minutes remain VR is over, and when
20 minutes is left PS or BS is over.


AAMC 2003 UPDATE: Are timers allowed for the MCAT?

Due to advancing technology and the wide spread availability of digital image capturing equipment, no timers are allowed for the MCAT, except wristwatches (and we prefer analog watches).

Rich: Bring a simple watch with a count down timer, not a chronometer--count up timer.

To avoid beep - O - interruptus, set your watch for one hour more than the allotted time.


Take all your practice MCAT tests using an analog watch as a timer. As each section of the MCAT begins adjust the watch so that it will read 12:00 when time expires for that section. Use the same approach on the actual test.


> Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2001 20:59:07 -0700 (PDT)
> To:
> Subject: What to do?
> Dear Rich,
> Thanks for your site. I'm currently living overseas and have made a life
> decision to do something that I've always wanted to do and try to become a
> forensic pathologist. The problem is that I have a BA in an unrelated field
> and an MBA, obviously not much science background. I'm 33, and am willing to
> add science classes etc. There are chemistry and biology classes offered in
> this country(Singapore). Is it worth trying to go along this path or wait
> until we go back to the states (in about 1 year) or just give it all up?
> Thanks for you help


These days, folks with diverse educational backgrounds coming from a wide
range of age groups are being accepted to medical school. So if you
seriously want to become a physician, I'd advise you not to give up. Your
best bet is to wait till you are back in the states. You may want to spend
the extra time looking over some of the core sciences you will be taking
when you return, and/or sitting in on a class or two. Good luck!


> Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 00:53:30 EDT
> To:
> Subject: need advice..poor undergrad years
> Hi Rich...
> Firstly, I had a 3.2 GPA my freshman year..and I am in my 5th year of
> undergrad now. This semester Iwill do good..cuz i am part time...and have
> recovered from serious food allergies.I didnt know I had. I was always
> sick...and felt discomfort going to classes..but nobody knew I was always sick
> because of food allergies. and in those years I accumulated lots of W's
> (withdrawl's) and C's and some D's and F's ... Now I have 1.5 years and about
> 50 credits left before I complete my undergraduate BA in biology. My
> question is I was always for Medical school, and I think Med Schools wont even
> look at me even If I raise my GPA to 3.5 (its 2.0 now but credits left) and
> get an MCAT of above 38. But If I go on to grad school and do good for 2 years
> and get a MCAT score of 38 or above, will I be a good candidate then for Med
> school? thanks.. Jim




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