How to ace MDCAT as an A Level Student?
As-salaamu ‘alaykum everyone! My name is Sameen Tahira and I am a first-year medical student at Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore. I completed my O-Levels from Dominican Convent School, Bahawalpur with 8A*s and A-Levels from Sadiq Public School Bahawalpur with 3A*s. Last year I appeared in NMDCAT and secured 193/210, so I will try my best to share the tricks I used to ace this test.
Unfortunately, being an A-Levels student, you must start the preparation for this test from scratch. Reading books of local boards is a task in itself. You just have to give yourself time to adjust to this new pattern. There are no shortcuts, but it is doable.
Let’s first address the elephant in the room: “Should you go to an academy or not?” This question is highly subjective, and you just have to weigh the pros and cons to make a decision that suits you the best. MDCAT academies have extremely hectic hours and are quite discriminatory towards A-Level students, or at least in my case they were. With the absurd number of hours you have to stay there, it becomes almost impossible to study on your own. On the other hand, they are a good way to start your prep as you get a sense of direction and get familiarised with the FSc pattern. I did join an academy but left it in the end because I figured that what they were teaching wasn’t going to come in the MDCAT, and I was just wasting my time. And fortunately, that conclusion and decision was the best one I made. So, I would suggest that take trial classes and see if going to an academy is the right choice for you. But do keep in mind, even if you go to an academy, you have to put in a lot of extra effort to get a good score. If you do plan on going to an academy, join one with good management like KIPS or STEP. Local academies are highly mismanaged, wasting your time and money.
The main resources I used were the Punjab Board textbooks. Trust me, they are your best friends (also worst enemies because they are difficult to read in the beginning for an A-Levels student and you get frustrated easily). You need to learn each and every detail from these books especially Biology and Chemistry. As far as consulting books of other boards is concerned, I only did specific topics of Biology from Federal which was more than enough. For the MCQ bank, I mainly used KIPS and IBEX prep books. Grip institute also released a book from which I did some questions. Another resource I used was an online platform topgrade.pk which had a paid MDCAT prep course with pre-recorded lectures and practice questions. It had tons of questions which I solved but I don’t think it was worth the money. Physics A-Levels Redspot is really good for practice. The things I have mentioned were only 50% beneficial. The preparation I did at the end was the reason for my high score. Usually when an exam is approaching, people get off social media, but I did the exact opposite. I had joined tons of MDCAT Facebook group where students giving tests posted questions from their tests daily during the exam season. Most of these questions were very weird, out of syllabus, and taken off of the internet, but I used to solve them and even learnt random physics formulas which were beyond our level of education. I also solved 18/36 PMC tests online and got familiar with the format. Had I solved all of these, I probably would’ve scored higher because around 12 questions came out of these tests. Around 15-20 questions were also repeated from the tests given by previous students.
Do not rely on any notes or PTB books as your main source.
📆 Coping with workload as A Levels student
During your A-Levels, only focus on securing straight A*s because if your grades drop, a good MDCAT score won’t be able to save you after equivalence. After your CAIEs, take a small break, focus, make a plan, and work out strategies. In the start, it seems extremely overwhelming, but just know that it is doable. Start small and with time, you’ll get the hang of it. Read a chapter a day and solve MCQs. I would suggest that start with Biology or Chemistry, because the Physics textbook is written in the worst way possible, and you’ll get demotivated early on. Set small goals and reward yourself on achieving those goals. Do not compare yourself to others and keep your mental health in check because it really takes a hit during all of this.
I cannot stress this enough: get your 8 hours of sleep. I have experienced academy teachers appreciating students who only sleep 4 hours a day and spend most of the day studying, but this is extremely unsustainable and a very dumb thing to do. Instead of fixing the number of hours to study, fix goals. Set a target that you have to do this many topics today and then whether getting it done takes you 2 hours or 8 hours, it doesn’t matter. Never make a strict schedule; you won’t be able to follow it and end up getting demotivated. Take proper meals and also incorporate some physical activity. Basically, there is no strict routine that guarantees success. Just do what suits you best and work hard.
📄 How to attempt the questions?
Thoroughly read the question statement before answering. Last year, there was an outrage that if you change your answers or skip questions in the online test, it is automatically considered wrong. From my experience, I can safely say that they were just rumours, or if there was an issue, it was fixed within a few days. Take your time with the questions and spend more time on the subject you find difficult. Try practicing questions on mobile/tablet with rough work on a white board since that is what you will get in the actual test.
💡 Final week tips
Just go through the textbooks as soon as possible and review the questions that you got wrong during practice, especially the ones from past papers.
💡 Test day tips
Have a good night’s sleep. Do not try to pull an all-nighter doing some left over revision because it will do more harm than good. Just have a clear mind and do not think too much about the stress. There are a lot of students who have perfect preparation but are not able to perform well only because of exam pressure; do not be one of those. Go into the test with the mindset that you have done your best and the rest is on Allah. Just think about how you are going to enjoy once the test is over and you will get the motivation to get through it.
On a final note, I would like to say that it is not just your hard work, but also help from Allah Talah that is going to help you succeed. Pray as regularly as you can and beg Allah Talah for what you want. He will most definitely listen and choose what is best for you. I spent 6 months crying and praying that I get into a certain university, but I now realise that it would’ve been the worst possible option for me and that I am instead in a much better place right now. Get your parents’ dua because believe me, that is the only reason I am here. Hard work, faith in Allah, and your prayers never go to waste. Feel free to reach out to me through the Kis Senior form if you want to clear any other misunderstandings. Good luck!