For anyone considering a career in medicine, the MCAT is a crucial step on the path to becoming a doctor. This standardized test is one of the primary ways medical schools assess applicants, and a high score can be the difference between being accepted or rejected. This, combined with how notoriously competitive medical schools are to get into, means there is a lot of pressure to do well on the exam.
For many people, preparing for the MCAT can be a daunting task. Seeking advice and a support network is a wise endeavor, and where better to look than the internet? A simple Google search of “MCAT prep” will lead you to many different forums and websites, but one of the most popular resources is r/MCAT.
r/MCAT is a subreddit – an online forum dedicated to a specific topic – with over 200,000 members. It’s a place for people to ask questions, give advice, and support one another as they prepare for the MCAT.
On the surface, r/MCAT seems like a great resource. It’s full of people who are going through the same thing as you, and who are more than willing to help. However, there are some downsides to using r/MCAT as your primary MCAT prep resource.
Hit or Miss Advice
First and foremost, the quality of advice on r/MCAT can be very hit or miss. Anyone can post on r/MCAT, regardless of their qualifications or expertise. This means that the advice you’re getting could be coming from someone who got a low score on their MCAT, or someone who hasn’t even started studying for the exam yet.
Of course, not all advice on r/MCAT is bad. There are many posts from people who did well on the exam and who are more than happy to share their tips and tricks. However, it can be difficult to sift through all the noise to find good advice, and even then you can’t be sure that it will work for you. Furthermore, without the confidence of knowing who is giving the advice and whether or not it actually produced results, you’re left second-guessing everything you read. Are you just gravitating towards advice that sounds like it will work?
With r/MCAT, there is certainly an invigorating sense of comradery. There are funny memes, relatable posts, and a general feeling that everyone is in it together. Being a part of a community of people who are all working towards the same goal is usually beneficial. But, if you’re browsing Reddit to better prepare yourself for the MCAT, it’s only beneficial insofar as the advice you’re receiving is helpful. Unfortunately, with r/MCAT, you can’t always be sure of that.
Quick Tips from Fellow Travelers vs. Expert Guidance
While there are many individuals on r/MCAT who have a lot of great advice to offer, the overall quality and expertise of the advice you’ll find on this subreddit pales in comparison to what you would receive from an expert MCAT prep course.
This is because the vast majority of people on r/MCAT are simply sharing their own experiences, rather than providing in-depth, expert guidance.
Quick tips from fellow test-takers can certainly be helpful. The subreddit has its fair share of catchy mnemonics and interesting stories about “aha!” moments while studying.
However, simply experiencing studying or taking the test is not the same as being an expert in how to study for the MCAT or knowing all the ins and outs of the exam.
There are only so many tips and tricks that can be passed down from person to person. At a certain point, what you need is professional guidance from people who have dedicated their lives to helping others enter the medical profession.
This is where r/MCAT falls short. In order to provide the best possible advice, you need a team of experts who are constantly researching the latest information and techniques for MCAT prep. You need people who know exactly what it takes to score high on the exam.
But, most importantly, you need people with experience tutoring premed students and a proven track record of helping them get into quality medical schools. Having great study habits and acing the MCAT unfortunately does not qualify someone to provide expert guidance. Good guidance means being able to provide tailor-made advice for each individual student, based on the deep experience of personally preparing a variety of people for the MCAT — and that’s something you won’t find on r/MCAT.
IMA’s Resources: Free Guides, Pre-Med Internships, and Medical School Admissions Consulting
We put a lot of time and research into our online resources, but there are a few other things that make IMA invaluable for aspiring medical students.
To start, our Pre-Med Internships Abroad provide future physicians and researchers with an opportunity to get compelling real-world experience in medicine. Our programs include physician shadowing, didactic sessions covering multiples specialties, service-learning, and much more. We operate across the globe and serve some of the most underserved populations on the planet.
An IMA internship fulfills many of the AAMC Core Competencies, provides a powerful centerpiece to discuss your qualifications in applications and interviews, and leaves you with insights into the world of medicine that stay with you through medical school and beyond.
Included in our internships, and as a standalone service, IMA also specializes in Medical School Admissions Consulting. Our healthcare and education experts will guide you through the often-confusing med school application process, offer interview coaching, and provide one-on-one support as you put your best foot forward and take the important next steps in your journey to becoming a doctor.
For premed students who want to make sure they are getting the best possible help on their path to medical school, nothing can beat focused, individualized guidance.
We hope you take the time to reach out and let us help you achieve your dreams. But for now, let’s get back to r/MCAT.
A Tempting Misuse of Time
Another downside to using r/MCAT as your primary MCAT prep resource is that it can be a huge time suck.
The subreddit is full of people who are procrastinating, venting, or just plain old wasting time. It’s not that you can’t find good advice on r/MCAT, it’s that it’s often buried under a mountain of not-so-useful posts. And it’s all too easy to get lost in all the content and waste hours upon hours reading through posts that offer little to no real, long-term value.
Taking breaks from studying when you’re mentally and/or emotionally exhausted is absolutely okay, and is encouraged, in fact. While we recommend taking a walk, observing nature, and other scientifically-proven methods of attentional restoration, sometimes you just need to scroll TikTok or browse r/all.
Social media in general may not be the best way to spend a break (see below), but r/MCAT requires even greater caution.
To start, r/MCAT takes the focus away from your own personal progress. Whether the post is about acing the MCAT or venting about getting bad scores — reading enough of these posts can really start to mess with your headspace. Your expectations become more and more based on posts from a, relatively speaking, very small group of people. It’s easy to start comparing your journey to others’ (especially when you’re feeling down), but this is the quickest way to lose sight of your goals and get discouraged.
More dangerously, r/MCAT can give you the false sense that you are “working on the MCAT.” Spending time reading about all-things-MCAT may feel like you’re making progress, but the fact is that you aren’t actually doing anything to prepare for the exam.
It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking we’re being productive when we’re really just procrastinating — especially when it comes to something as challenging as studying for the MCAT. Sure, you may find a few tips that actually stick with you and help you study better. But how long did they take to find? And do you return to your real studies with the feeling of “I’ve already worked on the MCAT for a long time today” even though it wasn’t time spent studying?
The hours you spend browsing r/MCAT could be spent doing actual MCAT prep, like taking full-length practice exams under test conditions or working through content review questions. In other words, time spent on r/MCAT is time that could be spent actually improving your score.
Social Media Is Not Designed for Learning
When you’re using social media to prepare for the MCAT, it’s important to keep in mind that platforms like Reddit are not designed for educational purposes. They’re entertainment and news platforms first and foremost, which means that the content you find there is not always going to be accurate, helpful, or trustworthy.
More to the point, social media platforms are explicitly designed to keep you tuned in by pushing emotionally evocative content, and, in some cases, content that supports your existing beliefs. Of course, responsible social media use is perfectly fine when we’re just looking to kill some time, connect with or explore communities, or watch some cute videos to cheer ourselves up. But it’s not an ideal educational tool.
Information on social media, and the internet in general, is transmitted through virality. Things that provoke the strongest responses are overrepresented. When it comes to research, this trend causes problems. Important, accurate information can be boring and uneventful. It doesn’t always make for good stories or good content that gets likes, shares, and comments.
This is evidenced by the top posts in r/MCAT, which are fun to read, but not always correct or helpful. A quick scroll through the front page of r/MCAT shows posts with titles like, “I just got a 528 on the MCAT… here’s how I did it,” “I’m quitting premed,” and “AAMC says you need 350 hours of content review… but is that really true?” While intriguing, r/MCAT is usually not an accurate representation of what it’s actually like to prepare for the MCAT.
So, put bluntly, social media and other online platforms are designed to be addictive. They’re engineered to keep us coming back for more, no matter how much time we waste in the process. This isn’t to say social media has nothing to offer us, but we should be aware of the way it’s designed to work and not let it take over our goals or get in the way of our studies.
To make the most of your time, you need to be very selective about what you read on r/MCAT and be mindful of how much time you’re spending on the subreddit overall.
If you find that you can’t help but browse Reddit when you should be studying, it might be a better use of your time to find a different resource — one that won’t tempt you to procrastinate.
The MCAT is Not One-Size-Fits-All
Another issue with the advice on r/MCAT is that it is not always applicable to everyone. The MCAT is not a one-size-fits-all exam, and what worked for one person may not
Studying for the MCAT is a very personal experience, and everyone has different needs and learning styles. What works for one person may not work for another.
This is why, unfortunately, there is no magic bullet when it comes to studying for the MCAT. There is no one study method, schedule, or resource that is guaranteed to work for everyone. Keeping this in mind will save you a lot of time and energy as you scroll through r/MCAT, looking for that perfect study method.
So, while the advice on r/MCAT may be helpful for some people, it’s important to remember that not all of it will be applicable to you. Take what you find useful and leave the rest.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on r/MCAT.
This is to be expected, of course. With hundreds of thousands of users and new posts being created every day, it’s impossible for the moderators to keep track of everything. As a result, posts that are inaccurate, out-of-date, or just plain wrong slip through the cracks.
But some of the misinformation on r/MCAT is more than just a simple mistake. In some cases, it’s downright dangerous.
For example, there is a popular post on r/MCAT that claims the AAMC is “lying” about how many hours of content review you need to do before taking the MCAT. The AAMC recommends 300-350 hours, but the author of this post claims that you only need 50-60 hours.
This is dangerous advice. The AAMC has years of data and research to back up its recommendations, and they are the experts on the MCAT. This person is not.
Another form of misinformation on r/MCAT comes from competing test prep companies. These companies will often post “reviews” of their competitors’ products, which are almost always biased and misleading. They may also create fake accounts to post positive “reviews” of their own products. This can cause premed students to second-guess their study plans and waste a lot of time and money in the process.
So, how can you tell if the information you’re reading on r/MCAT is accurate?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The best thing you can do is to be critical of everything you read and take everything with a grain of salt. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if you’re not sure about something, ask a question or do some research before taking any advice.
r/MCAT: The Bottom Line
r/MCAT can provide some quick tips and an important sense of togetherness, but it’s important to use it wisely. Be selective about what you read, and be aware of the biases and misinformation that can exist on the subreddit. Don’t confuse learning about the MCAT with studying for the MCAT, and if you find yourself wasting too much time on Reddit, it might be time to find a different resource.
Remember, MCAT prep is not one-size-fits-all, and what works for one person may not work for another. The best way to study for the MCAT is to find a method, schedule, and resources that work for you. And if you need help finding those things, we’re always here to help.