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GUIDE TO MCAT FOR STUDENTS OF UNDERDEVELOPED DISTRICTS


by 
Mahnoor Leel
First Year MBBS
Batch’20

Appearing in MCAT is considered to be a tough phase but I think it gets even tougher for people who belong to areas away from the developed cities of Punjab. I myself belong to Bhakkar, an underdeveloped district of our province. For us, the world changes right after Fsc exams. Firstly, if you belong to such an area, be proud of it.We do have greater challenges but you have to prove yourselves.I admit I’m not so extraordinary MCAT scorer but I hope that overall my experiences will be helpful for my juniors of such areas in tackling this phase.

 I secured 1007/1100 in Fsc in session 2012-2014,topped the districts  Bhakkar and Mianwali. Got 4th position in BISE Sargodha. Hopes of my parents and teachers were high.They expected from me soon to be in one of the highly ranked medical colleges of the Punjab province. But, then everything changed on the very day of 30thAugust,2014  when I couldn’t finish the test in given time and ended up with just 851/1100 in MCAT and it resulted in no admission in MBBS that year. So I decided to give it another try. After first year’s board result I had never thought about repeating. But certainly Allah’s plans are better than ours.
So the first thing which I’d like to share with my juniors is that if you’ve scored low in fsc,its not the end.There are people like us who have repeated even after scoring high.All the high scorers out there,you have every right to celebrate and its gonna help you a lot securing a good aggregate as well but remember this is just 40%,The MCAT is still there. It doesn’t mean that you should get tensed. Just stay balanced. 


FACTORS:

Usually when a student who has scored well in Fsc gets less marks in MCAT, the very first thing which we hear about that poor soul is “Fsc mei tou ratta chal gaya uska,Entry test mei kahan chalna tha”.

Of course,it is a factor but I believe there are a number of other reasons as well for failure of our students.

Firstly,  which I believe is the biggest factor  is that in areas where there is no authentic academy or institute for preparation of entrance test, after the board exams of second year, students have to leave their homes to join academies in other cities.I know academies aren’t that important but the fact is future pe risk koi ni leta so some of them go to hostels of academies in which each room has 7-10 students with lots and lots of other problems. Studying in presence of so many people gets so tough. Every person having different nature. Some are so quiet and shy but you’d definitely find some chatter boxes too.

There are others who go to private hostels even then its tough to get yourself adjusted in hostel life during such a sensitive period of your life. Entrance test’s pressure is too high itself and our students there face those problems as well. Mental disturbance, home sickness, physical problems are so common there.

Having a campus of a well reputed institute for MCAT preparation in your area is not in an individual’s hand. The only thing which you can do is to choose a hostel or place where you are going to spend your next few months smartly. Go for any academy or any campus. It won’t matter much. Ultimately, your success depends on you yourself. Join academy in any city where your relatives are there. Prefer to live at your relatives’. I’m sure it would be much better than any hostel. Even if you have to be a “Bin bulaya mehman” :D
 Be dheet.Don’t hesitate. Afterall,it is your future about which we are talking. At this point, nothing else should be more important for you as your future. 

If its not possible and you have to stay at hostel then be careful about choice of hostel.Make sure there are less students in each room,there is proper mess,security and other facilities are there.Ask your classfellows form your hometown to join the same hostel. They would definitely be far more cooperative than strangers. You should behave sensibly yourself.Neither waste your time nor anyone else’s.You are gonna regret it later.Never loose focus.Always keep in mind the reason for which you are there.I know how tough it is to leave home and how one’s heart gets excited on return journey to hometown. Its even harder for our parents. Avail the time which you’ve got and try to cooperate with each other.

Another reason is that students have to travel to other cities to appear in the MCAT. Environment changes.Some students loose confidence after watching a sea of people outside the exam centers.They just freak out.
The way to root out this problem is to appear in tests of other universities like Aga Khan University (AKU) and NUST.Appearing in thos tests even without preparation will help you in getting used to the environment. Definitely you’d feel much better in MCAT.

Now a little bit about preparation. Previously, my seniors have explained almost everything in an excellent way. So, I’d be discussing only those points for which I used to disturb them again and again.Thanks to Unsa Baji for her patience :p
BASIC BOOKS FOR EACH SUBJECT:
Your 6 heavy fsc textbooks are the best source of knowledge for you at this point.Just stick to them.Test is totally book based.No need to stuff your head with material from A Levels or SAT books.


BIOLOGY:

It is the major subject in MCAT so you need to be good at it. Revise your textbook again and again. In some academies, they’ll make you note down extra stuff which is not really required in MCAT so just ignore it. Its just a business strategy. Nothing is out of fsc textbooks. Do the topics mentioned in UHS syllabus and the ones which you think are linked to them. But major focus should be those which are clearly mentioned. Do the glossary present at the end of both books. Sometimes they may use an alternative word in test from there like for “Sertoli cells” , the word “Spermatoblast cells” was used in MCAT’13 and it is given in glossary.Do have a look at statements below the diagrams as well which we usually ignore. Just don’t ignore even a single word.
This portion is considered the easiest yet the most important. Sometimes even same textbook lines are converted into MCQs.


PHYSICS:

This is the most tricky portion for most of the students.For this make a formulae sheet of all formulae included in syllabus. Make sure you understand each topic properly.Do the topic related numericals too. Practice doing calculations without calculator on daily basis. Don’t neglect the graphs present in. Questions related to graphs are often asked in test but don’t freak out almost all the graphs are from textbook. You should have proper understanding of each graph .Numerical practice is needed for this portion. 


ENGLISH:

Major portion which you need to cover is the 695 word of vocabulary. Any good institute’s(PGC,KIPS etc) book can be used for synonyms. Link those words to things of daily routine. Make funny pictures .Try to find synonyms within the vocab list. If you search on internet you’ll get paragraphs constituting the vocab list words. Reading those paragraphs can also make it easier to memorize. You can find grouping of words too. Keep on revising it. These words are so important. They are used in questions related to basic Grammar as well.
For other portions you need to have firm grip on basic grammer. In those portions, questions are also asked which are lines of English textbooks of fsc. So, give your fsc textbooks a read if you can manage it with preparation of other subjects.


CHEMISTRY:

Focus on organic chemistry the most. Out of 58,30 MCQs are going to be from there. Just specific reactions and other topics mentioned in UHS syllabus. No need to do uses, properties etc.
For the first year portion, you should have proper understanding of topics. Practice solving numerical problems without calculator. Again, you need to have proper understanding of all graphs present in your textbooks. Questions related to the same textbook graphs are often asked. 


MCQ PRACTICE BOOKS:

MCQ  practice book from any good institute (PGC,KIPS,STAR) would do just fine. Don’t start solving MCQs on internet randomly. You don’t need to make yourself confused for questions which aren’t even asked in the test. Keep in mind, its not the time to increase your knowledge. You’ve got plenty of time for that after MCAT. Just study according to requirement and limitations.



Before MCAT:

A month before MCAT, previous sessions of academies come to an end and their new tests sessions start. Whether to join Test session or not is entirely your own choice and is not linked to your success in MCAT. If you feel you’ve had enough self-study and you need to test yourself and the environment(hostel or any relative’s home) in which you are living is suitable for study, do join them. But if you feel your preparation is not good or you cannot study properly away from home, do come back. Stay at home. Make your own schedule of revision. Practice tests from MCQ books on your own if you want to. Try to complete test in time less than that given in original test. Its better this way than staying away from home and disturbing your study for mere a test session. Your mental satisfaction and confidence level matters a lot in those days. Same goes for the last week before MCAT, if you feel like joining the grand tests is shattering your confidence or is affecting you in any other way,just leave it. I myself never joined any grand test session in last few days before MCAT. On the other hand, many of my fellows joined them and they got through MCAT too. So, your success is never dependent on these sessions. Just do it the way you feel comfortable. No one else can judge your condition better than you. Every one has his own way to study.
Role of Academy:
Success in entrance test is entirely dependent on you yourself. Whether you go to academy or not, its totally your own choice. Acadmies aren’t going to do any magical spell and you’ll get selected. It is you who has to do the effort. If you’ve studied properly in fsc you can nail it without academy as well.
I think sometimes the academies try to shatter your confidence.During lectures,they deliver some points different from fsc textbooks which aren’t even necessary for MCAT as well just to make you realize the fake importance of academy.Academies make things over complicated.They have made education a business.They make you solve questions tougher than the original test.Some students loose confidence even before appearing in the test.Ask anyone who has taken MCAT.You’ll be told its not that tough,totally book based and yes it is!
 If the acadmies tell you things are simple, why would anyone pay them heavy fees?
As everything has its pros and cons.Acadmies make you regular in preparation and can polish your weaker concepts.You can practice tests there.Its helpful in that way
Always remember, if you join academy don’t follow them blindly. Think about everything on your own. Discuss it with your seniors who have gone through this phase successfully and then do what you think is right and never loose confidence in yourself because of the acadmies. This is your key to success.
As far as tests are concerned, don’t get depressed if you score less in academy tests.I myself didn’t got good marks in daily tests.Never scored more than 880 in any test of academy in which I appeared but still I scored 986 in MCAT’15.Also don’t be too happy if you are scoring well.It’s the MCAT day which is going to decide your future.These academy tests are just meant for practice so that you may get comfortable with solving MCQs and filling bubbles.

There are some contradictions in PTB textbooks.Like  difference in values at some points and many others e.g Value of heat of reaction of SO2 is different in first year and second year books.Don’t waste your time on it.Controversial questions are usually not included in the test.
 Always follow your textbooks even if there is some mistake in the textbook,you have to follow it as MCAT key would be exactly according to your textbooks.
         In MCAT’13,this question was given:
        Q:In an ecosystem mychorrhiza is an example of:
        a)Predation               b)Symbiosis        c)Mutualism                    
        d)Parasitism


 Mostly students opted for Mutualism as this relationship is   beneficial to both partners but UHS checked it according to textbook and option b)Symbiosis was considered correct. 
(Ref: Biology part 2,page no: 243  )
In acadmies,you’d find some fellows discussing issues like “hmara board tou toughest hai,yahan number itnay aram se nai miltay hotay”.Avoid such useless discussions.They’ll make every effort to make you feel down.Always remember,
          People only listen what they want to listen
You haven’t gone far away from your homes just to fight over the toughness level of boards or other meaningless issues. You are there for a reason. Never forget that.
Time management is a major killer.Have firm grip on your speed of solving MCQs.I tell you it can ruin you,if you neglect it.
Solve the past papers of MCAT.That is a question bank for UHS.Each year some questions from past papers are repeated in tests. 
Don’t forget to take your clipboard on the test day to the center,you might not get a board chair there to solve your paper comfortably. Mine was a “Red shadio wali chair” :D 
Not sure about other centers but at least this was the situation in Rawalpindi.
Our principal at PGC Bhakkar, Sir Sarwar Nawaz used to say this to us and it rightly fits in this phase:

  “Neither under-estimate nor overestimate yourselves”


REPEATERS:

Of course,how can I forget you people.I’ve been a repeater too and I know it well how hard time it is for you.I used to consider myself in the most “Dukhi Insaniyat” too :P .I remember,on the MCAT 2014 day,after the test when I was on my way to bus terminal to get back home,I started weeping when I saw the main gate of Allama Iqbal Medical College as I knew I wasn’t going to get into any of those highly ranked colleges. I can never forget that day of my life. Then, being tagged as a “Repeater” was even worse than that. I know how people talk about you. Actually, they show you their real faces at such points. But remember, if nothing is going your way, certainly it is going Allah’s way. Never worry. Fight for your dream of an overall and stethoscope. Stay strong. Believe in yourself. It won’t be easy but it would be worth it. Stay in touch with your studies. Enjoy as well
Stay away from depressors. When you join sessions again, you’ll find some girls talking and sharing their stories how much they deserved it the last time, seriously its totally useless because the fact is no one cares. Everyone is there to do their own thing. No one has got time. Its futile to whine over your failure again and again. Accept it the way it is. Find out your mistake which made you score less the last time and try to improve it. You’ve got another chance to make your dreams come true. Don’t let it go so easily. Try harder this time. You can change your story the way you want it to be. The phase is still there.
Well, mine ended with 986 marks in MCAT 2015.Secured an aggregate of 90.94%  this year and got into my dream institute King Edward Medical University.
If I can do it, then anyone of you can do the same too.
So,This is where my part ends and yours starts.
Good Luck Warriors ! 

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