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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.

“In the spring of 1871, a young man picked up a book and read 21 words that had a profound effect on his future. As a medical student, he was worried about what to do, where to go, how to build up a practice, and how to make a living. The 21 words that this young med student read helped him to become the most famous physician of his generation. He was even knighted by the King of England. when he died, two huge volumes containing 1, 466 pages were required to tell the story of his life.

His name was Sir William Osler. Here are 21 words that he read - 21 words from Thomas Carlyle that helped him lead a life free from worry: Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at the hand.

As a premedical student, it’s so easy to get caught up with the final goal of getting into medical school that you lose focus on the task at hand. When you should be studying for the MCAT, your mind drifts off to the application process or interviews or even your grades. You lose focus and studying gets hard. If Osler lived by doing at what lies clearly at hand, perhaps you should too. Taking baby steps and breaking up goals into compartments make difficult tasks manageable. Whenever I began to worry about not passing the MCAT or not finishing on test day, I just reminded myself to do what was in front of me. If there was a passage to study, I did that. If I needed to finish a practice test, I did that. Somehow, it worked. It worked for Osler, it worked for me, and I’m hope it will work for you too.

I highly recommend everyone to read Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying, along with his other classic How to Win Friends & Influence People. These books have really helped calm my nerves down not only with the MCAT, and school grades, but with life in general. Later that night, I stumbled across a second quote that I frequently use now to prevent myself from complaining / freaking out/ worrying.

Life is too short to be little” - Disraeli

Suck it up, bite your tongue and do what you need to do. In the grand scheme of things, the MCAT is such a small part of being a doctor. Don’t stress out and worry over something so small. Medicine is much bigger than the MCAT. Best of luck to everyone writing their MCAT

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  1. abdul August 9, 2023

    thank you!

  2. Recent medaholic reader July 31, 2023

    Thanks for these book references. I’ve been hearing a lot about How to Win Friends & Influence People, and now you just convinced me to grab that along with How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

  3. Yasmin February 9, 2024

    My father raves about Dale Carnegie books and has bought them in both english and persian.

    Thank you for your blogs. I just came across them, trying to find motivation to pick up study materials and start the journey. After years of fearing the MCAT and procrastinating- I think I am finally able to put my fears aside and commit to it; this time for real =)

  4. […] thinking. People will write to tell funny stories or offer advice. Reading might even help you alleviate some stress and make you more disciplined. Besides, it won’t be a complete waste of time. At the very […]

  5. Linda
    Linda July 25, 2023

    Wow. So glad that I found your blog. My MCAT is near, and I’m losing hope because I feel like I’m not ready plus all those other worries. However, I think your blog gave me that boost that I need and the reminder to concentrate on one thing at a time.

  6. Blossom September 10, 2023

    Hi medaholic,

    Your articls have always been extremely helpful for me to prepare for medical school, as well as for life in general. So thanks a lot for putting in the time and effort! And yes! I do agree with what you say about sucking it all up, and concentrating on the task at hand. That’s the essence of mindfulness - the focus on the present, no matter how bitter the past has been, or how worrisome the future is. Like they say - suck it all up, be in the present, cry if it makes you cry, “if you haven’t wept deeply, you haven’t begun to meditate” - Ajahn Chah

    Getting to the point lol I wrote my MCAT this summer, studiied very hard, but ended up with a very low score: VR 4, PS 9, BS 10, WS Q. What is confusing for me is that I did fairly ok on all the sections except for VR - which I did extremely poorly on. I just need some advice as to whether this indicates that I am not suited for medicine? I have been fighting with this thought since I got my scores back, but I also wonder why I did well on other sections, even WS, but not VR. As far as I understand, I don’t think I prepared too well or better yet, in the RIGHT WAY for VR. Understanding the main idea was the major issue I faced. Lack of consistency in practicing for VR was also an issue. I totally accept it as my fault and would love to improve upon it. I wanted to know your thoughts on whether what I just wrote is something that sounds reasonable, or have you heard of other students improving significantly on a bad score? Please let me know.

    Also, huge apologies for the long post 🙁

    And thanks a lot!


    • medaholic
      medaholic September 11, 2023

      Ask yourself some hard questions. Is this something you want to still pursue? What are your motivations? Are you willing to rewrite the MCAT, do you have confidence you will improve.
      Many people rewrite and do much better, but first make sure this is something you want to do.

  7. Frank R May 22, 2023


    I faced a similar problem
    GPA of 3.99
    but VR of 4, next try: 6

    Do you think there is any hope to improve my VR

    • medaholic
      medaholic May 26, 2023

      There’s always a chance to improve your VR. I would suggest focusing specifically on it, either through workbooks or a MCAT tutors who can help you specifically with this section.

  8. Gold Standard March 14, 2023

    You have a nice blog here. Indeed, worry can negatively affect how your brain functions. So it’s a useless preoccupation. Why not divert it towards MCAT studying, right?

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