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Month: August 2008

The Value and Importance of Writing

writing

Most science and engineering students I know went into their respective fields to avoid writing. I was also like them. I disliked writing essays in high school and left assignments until the night before to do. I despised it. I avoided it. Every time I sat in front of a blank document, the words wouldn’t come. I hated writing.

However, the more I continue in life, the more I realize that writing an essential skill you MUST have. Even in the realm of science, people write lab reports, scientific articles and educational material. Doctors spend a good portion of their day writing, dictating, and recording patient information. Effective writing is an absolute must for clear communication.

Though writing is easier to do today then ever, with word processors and online blogs, writing is still hard. Even the best writers are without words at times. Writing is at the top of the language skills domain. When we are babies, we only know how to hear and eventually listen to words. As we grow up, we begin to pronounce words and form sentences and a little afterwards, we are able to recognize letters and read books. At the top of this hierarchy is writing. Before we are able to communicate what we want to say in writing, we must learn a whole assortment of skills and tricks such as spelling, punctuation and grammar. Even when we have these basic mechanics down, you encounter tenses, vocabulary and diction. Representing an idea with clarity becomes a carefully coordinated task.

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Should I Retake the MCAT? (A Guide to your MCAT Score)

After every year’s MCAT score release date, the question of whether one should rewrite the MCAT comes up or what can I do with this (insert number+letter here). This question is so common that several forums are dedicated to answering this question including one for Canadian Students and one for American Students. I have decided to write a guide to help people who are in this situation figure out what their next steps should be. I will be writing this for Canadian audiences, but the ideas and principles should work the same with American Schools. I will update this in the future to provide examples from both countries.

What is your Score?

This step should be pretty self-explanatory for all test-writers. Your score should be a number ranging anywhere from 8-43 (I’ve never heard of any score <8 or similarly the other extreme >43) and a letter from J-T. A key fact about the MCAT is it is a standardized┬átest. That means that your grade is a reflection in comparison to everyone who’s ever taken the test. The median of the test will always be 24 because AAMC sets it up this way. In other words, what really matters is your percentile score and how well you did compared to other test-takers. It’s set up this way to ensure that all the tests are standardized so even if you find one sitting of the MCAT harder than another sitting, you won’t be punished for answering less questions correct because your fellow test takers will have found it just as hard. Regarding the letter score, it is sometimes looked at by schools and sometimes totally disregarded by other schools.

Most medical schools require their students to be above average. A score of 24 will not cut it for almost all schools. A standing in the 80th percentile is a solid score, but there are more factors to consider than just the percentile, which brings us to the next point.

Which medical schools do you want to apply to?

The next step is to see if your score is compatible with the schools you want to apply to. Make a list of which schools you will be applying to. Take into consideration factors such as location, expenses, curriculum, etc. Ideally you want to apply only to schools you would be willing to go to if accepted. Nothing is harder to explain to future admissions committees than being accepted into a medical school and declining their offer without having another acceptance in hand. It will make re-applying to medical schools that much harder.

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Stressed and Worried about the MCAT

This post is dedicated to all the people who are about to write their MCAT and may be feeling the stress of needing to do well.

Last summer, I was always procrastinated and distracted from studying for the MCAT. I worried that I would bomb the test and have to retake the MCAT the next summer. I was stressed out that there wasn’t enough time to cover all the material. I doubted my own abilities. With about one month left to go, I had a sudden turn around. One night while studying at the library, I took a break and stumbled upon an interesting titled book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. I found the title strange but applicable to my situation so I decided to read the first chapter. The following excerpt from the book spoke volumes to me and changed my attitude about how I was to prepare for the MCAT.

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On Being a Summer Research Student

Most people who want a competitive edge for getting into medical school will dabble with “research.” . As a summer student the most common feeling I had was being confused and overwhelmed. There are so many things you don’t know, so much jargon, so many techniques, so many people.

For almost all students, in just the short months of summer, you won’t be coming up with any breakthrough discoveries. In fact, you probably won’t even contribute the slightest bit to furthering the collective scientific knowledge. Real science is hard. It requires dedication, persistence and hard work. So keeping all these things in mind, I will give you my top advice for making your summer research experience as enjoyable as possible.

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