My Experience Taking the MCAT During a Pandemic
By: Alyssa Uribe, SDSU Chapter Member
The MCAT: an exam that tests knowledge, stamina, and perseverance. Every pre-medical student will have to face this exam at least once in their career. It is the first of many steps to becoming a physician.
The MCAT exam alone can be a stressful challenge. However, 2020 has presented pre-med students with another obstacle- Covid-19. Thousands of students had exam dates canceled, study plans changed, and home lives altered. For those that had the opportunity to continue studies, a newly shortened MCAT exam was made.
I just recently took my first MCAT exam in July. After the cancellation of my first test date, my preparation was more important than ever. The weeks dwindled down to days, soon my test day was here! It was a big day for not only myself but for my family. I am the first in my family to pursue a career as a physician. Years of work and classes came down to this exam. Though I was caught in a whirlwind of emotions, I also felt an immense amount of peace and confidence. I knew what I knew. I did all that I could do. I was ready to fight. I was there to win the war.
My exam was scheduled at 6pm. After the final glimpses of flashcards, my mom drove me to the testing center 18 miles away. I listened to my carefully selected MCAT playlist and focused my mind during the drive. I arrived an hour early. One by one, I saw fellow students drive into the parking lot, each preparing to overcome their fears. 30 minutes before my exam, I said my last prayers and goodbyes to my mom and sister. I walked into the testing center and began my journey.
Seven students were testing with me in the center. As students walked in, we were standing six feet away from each other and given exam rules to read. I was to keep my mask on throughout the entire exam and use hand sanitizer as much as possible. I presented my ID, signed my agreement, scanned both of my palms, and took a picture. I placed my belongings in an available locker and made my way down a hall to enter my exam. Before I entered the room, I was asked to check my arms, legs, and open pockets. The same procedure occurred every time I entered the testing room after a break. The proctor led me to my desk and provided me with a note booklet and earphones. My exam began.
There were 4 sections of the exam. I had the option to take a 10-minute break between each section. I brought iced water, chewy Sweetarts, and peanut butter M&Ms for my snacks. I know these are definitely not healthy, but they worked for me. Since my exam was at the end of the day, I ate my usual meals during the day and wasn’t too hungry during the exam. I felt that the candy and cold water helped me stay awake with other practice exams and it worked on the day of. I experimented in the weeks before and found snacks that allowed me to stay focused and awake. Personally, coffee or espresso drinks just made my heart pound and hindered my thought process with practice questions. Iced water has always been my go-to study drink for years. As my test progressed, I was happy with my snack choices.
At last, after 5 hours and 40 minutes, I was done. I practically ran out of the testing room. I followed the check-out process and grabbed my belongings. It was over! My heart was pounding and my body was shaking, but I felt so happy and relieved. I did it!
During the weeks leading up to my exam, I read the book, Everybody, Always by Bob Goff. One of the chapters was about putting faith over fear. The author was in a life or death position landing a plane. He chose to confront fear and land his plane without knowing if the landing gear was in place. At the end of the chapter, Goff stated, “Now’s your time. Don’t wait any longer. You know what to do. You’ve got this. You know enough. Go land the plane.” As I sat at my testing desk, I knew I was prepared. I was ready. I was fearless during a life changing moment. At 11:40pm, I walked out of the testing center. I had landed the plane.