Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Attempting the MCAT

The MCAT examination is a test conducted by the University of Health Sciences, Lahore, abbreviated to UHS. If you want to enter into a government run medical college, you MUST give this test which is held years in August-September. In preparation for this test, many academies spring up with summer MCAT courses where they revise the syllabus given bu UHS. Academies are very popular, with almost 70-100 students in each class at the start of the course.

I personally attended the MCAT session of KIPS academy, a chain school with a branch in G-10 Islamabad and another branch in Rawalpindi while it's roots lie in Lahore.

Despite having tests daily, followed by Full Length Papers (FLPs) afterwards, KIPS has failed to actually inculcate the ability to clear the examination efficiently in students. KIPS focuses more on completing and revising the syllabus, as well as introducing novel questions- as though preparing the students to be able to solve the entire paper. Alongside this, they take (in my opinion) a very extreme approach to the negative grading aspect of the test, by constantly stating "if you don't know the answer, leave it" (nahi ata, chor do) without specifying the maximum number of question you should be allowed to leave.

Perhaps they genuinely think they are equipping their students with enough to solve at least 90% of the paper, thus making guessing unnecessary. However, not all students are such super geniuses (myself included) and most of us are probably only able to correctly solve 50% of the paper, the remaining paper consisting of
  • questions answered incorrectly
  • questions whose answers may be ambiguous or may have two answers that appear correct
  • questions related to topics the student has not studied (something common for A Level students) and thus cannot even produce a probable answer
For all these cases, which I assure you is a majority, the advice I got from KIPS is absolutely stupid and in the heat and pressure of the examination, will be the only reason for your downfall.

So what's the solution? What's actually helpful?

Solve the MCAT in the exact same way that the SAT is solved. Make educated guesses. Solve at least 90% of the paper, don't leave more than fifteen questions blank under any circumstances. Just go with your gut feeling in questions which have two options that look correct to you- chances of success are 50%.

Why adopt the SAT style of solving the MCAT? First of all, the MCAT has much more lenient marking than SAT. Work it out. The SAT scores involve +1 for correct answers and -0.25 for incorrect answers. Convert it to the MCAT scoring (multiply by 5) and you get +5 for correct answers and -1.25 for incorrect answers. What does that mean? The SAT cuts 0.25 marks more than the MCAT, and educated guessing is actually encouraged in SAT- the complete anti-thesis of the fear that MCAT students are given regarding their examination! (The pros of educated guessing are given in more SAT1 books, for example Barron's)

Is this not unbelievable? The negative marking is actually a good thing- you could guess at six questions and if you get only one right, your balance will be at zero! So imagine how many more marks you could score if you made rational and logical guesses- giving you a success chance of 50%!

To sum up, the illogical approach to negative marking taken by academies should be revised. The fear that these approaches breed in students is a major cause of the downfall of otherwise hard-working and capable students who have been cheated of a chance of studying in a medical program.

Tags- MCAT, KIPS Academy Review, How to attempt the MCAT, The Cons of KIPS

1 comment:

  1. This reminded me of my engineering entrance exam :P


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