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Health & Fitness

The Premed Years

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Health & Fitness
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If you're struggling on your premed journey, trying to figure out the best way to study for the MCAT, or trying to understand how to best apply to medical school, the award-nominated podcast, The Premed Years, has you covered. From interviews with Admissions Committee members and directors to inspirational stories from those who have gone before you, The Premed Years is like having a premed advisor in your pocket. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or anywhere else you listen to music or podcasts so you don't miss an episode. It's free. Every week. Don't forget to watch us on YouTube, or follow us on Instagram too! We're medicalschoolhq everywhere!

Read more

If you're struggling on your premed journey, trying to figure out the best way to study for the MCAT, or trying to understand how to best apply to medical school, the award-nominated podcast, The Premed Years, has you covered. From interviews with Admissions Committee members and directors to inspirational stories from those who have gone before you, The Premed Years is like having a premed advisor in your pocket. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or anywhere else you listen to music or podcasts so you don't miss an episode. It's free. Every week. Don't forget to watch us on YouTube, or follow us on Instagram too! We're medicalschoolhq everywhere!

iTunes Ratings

964 Ratings
Average Ratings

Cannot recommend enough

By ThatBrownGuyy - Sep 20 2019
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I've been listening to Dr. Gray's podcasts for years. He's incredibly knowledgeable about all things pre-med and I love his focus on collaboration, not competition, and am very appreciative of his work and how he often brings guests onto his show. Thank you for all your work, time, and effort Dr. Gray!

Amazing is an understatement

By Wvera7 - Sep 04 2019
Read more
Inspirational but at the same time grounds you to the realities of being a physician and how to get there. Thank you!

iTunes Ratings

964 Ratings
Average Ratings

Cannot recommend enough

By ThatBrownGuyy - Sep 20 2019
Read more
I've been listening to Dr. Gray's podcasts for years. He's incredibly knowledgeable about all things pre-med and I love his focus on collaboration, not competition, and am very appreciative of his work and how he often brings guests onto his show. Thank you for all your work, time, and effort Dr. Gray!

Amazing is an understatement

By Wvera7 - Sep 04 2019
Read more
Inspirational but at the same time grounds you to the realities of being a physician and how to get there. Thank you!
Cover image of The Premed Years

The Premed Years

Updated 1 day ago

Read more

If you're struggling on your premed journey, trying to figure out the best way to study for the MCAT, or trying to understand how to best apply to medical school, the award-nominated podcast, The Premed Years, has you covered. From interviews with Admissions Committee members and directors to inspirational stories from those who have gone before you, The Premed Years is like having a premed advisor in your pocket. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or anywhere else you listen to music or podcasts so you don't miss an episode. It's free. Every week. Don't forget to watch us on YouTube, or follow us on Instagram too! We're medicalschoolhq everywhere!

Rank #1: 19: Interview with a Medical School Admissions Expert

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Session 19  

In today's episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Norma Wagoner. With almost 30 years of experience in the admissions process, she has served as the Dean of Admissions for multiple medical schools such as Rush University, University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Today, she shares a ton of valuable information about with the interview process, what medical schools are looking for on an application to get an interview, and what the admissions committee is looking for during the interview process.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Dr. Wagoner: Norma's path to medicine:
  • Graduating with a PhD from WashU in Anatomy
  • Taking her first job at Rush Medical College in Chicago teaching anatomy
  • Becoming Dean of Admissions after one year out of graduate school
  • Recruited to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine serving for 10 years
  • Becoming the National Chair of Student Affairs
  • Being on the National Board of Medical Examiners
  • She wrote the electronic residency application process
  • Becoming Dean of Students at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine for 14 years (also doing admissions)
  • Becoming Dean of Admissions at University of Colorado School of Medicine
What the admissions committees are looking for in the application:
  • Meeting the criteria and competencies the school is looking for
  • Understanding the mission of the institution
  • Good critical thinking skills
  • Excellence in quantitative reasoning
  • Strong scientific inquiry (especially if the school has a big research component)
  • Communication skills
  • Residency competencies
  • Knowledge of themselves and others
  • Cultural competence
  • Teamwork and reliability
  • Ethical responsibilities
  • Ability to cope well and adapt
"Demystifying the process" at the University of Colorado School of Medicine:
  • Posting all the criteria they used online for applicants to see
  • Handing out the interview form to applicants as she seeks to "demystify" the process.
  • Making students as comfortable as they can be to allow them to do their best
  • The more information given out, the more comfortable students feel
Predictors of Success:
  • Undergrad GPA and MCAT - Gives an indication of how well a student might do in the first two years of medical school and on your Step 1 score
  • Knowledge and professionalism in the third year
The applicant pool:
  • In 2012, there were 45, 266 applicants
  • A student submits an average of 14 applications
  • This means medicals schools wade through well over half a million applications
  • Under 20,000 people are matriculating to medical school
  • Roughly only half will be interviewed
  • Ratio of 2.3 applications to each position
  • About 54 medical schools get between 5,000 and 15,000 applications
Narrowing the group of applications:
  • Initial weight goes to grades and MCAT being the only standard measure across the board for all applicants
  • Inviting the top students first and working the way down the process
  • Tremendous grade inflation as an issue (for GPA)
How to prepare for the interview process:

Standard interview Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) - 15 school in the US are now participating

  • Ask yourself why you applied to the school
  • What are your strongest attributes that you would do well as a student there?
  • Go the school's website and read all materials
  • Make up questions you want to ask to the interviewer
  • Look at the time of the interview, where to go, where to park, etc.
  • Build a little portfolio on each of the schools you're applying to
  • Identify whether it's an open or closed interview (blind or partially blind)
  • Review your application, goals, and experiences

Note: Be careful when you wrote in your application that you speak fluent Spanish (when you don't), they might conduct the entire interview in Spanish *The University of Colorado uses partially blind interview to focus on their criteria, looking at the student's passions and goals, and avoid bias by grades and MCAT scores that pre-directs them to certain questions confirming why they should take the students

More on the MMI:
  • Not about connecting with the interviewer but how the applicant responds to a series of standardized situations
  • Looking for communication, social interaction, compassion, problem-solving and teamwork
  • Strengths, weaknesses, and some issues around it
  • Students need to practice flexibility in facing new situations with confidence
Discussing poor grades in a personal statement:
  • Don't mention poor grades in a personal statement (unless there are circumstances that enabled growth or change)
What the interviewer looks for:
  • Consistency of response
  • Depth of knowledge
  • How reality has tested them
  • Passion for medicine
  • Criteria of the school
  • Eye contact
  • Genuineness and honesty
More great topics covered:
  • Questions you can ask during the interview
  • What you should wear (no hot pink!)
  • Should you wear a beard?
  • The most common mistakes interviewees do wrong
  • The value of mock interviews
Links and Other Resources:

Join Ryan on Skype and learn the skills to ace your interview day!

Check out for more info.

Multiple Mini-interview (MMI)

Stanford Article about the MMI

McGill Fact Sheet about the MMI

If you need any help with the medical school interview, go to Sign up and you will receive parts of the book so you can help shape the future of the book. This book will include over 500 questions that may be asked during interview day as well as real-life questions, answers, and feedback from all of the mock interviews Ryan has been doing with students.

Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out

For more great content, check out for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future!

Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score and which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well.

Hang out with us over at Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us.

Check out our partner magazine, to learn more about awesome premed information.

Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website.

Check out their 10-full length practice tests and save 10% using the code "MSHQ".

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Email Ryan at or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

Mar 30 2013
52 mins

Rank #2: 111: 6 Tips For Improving Patient Communication (The 6th is Key!)

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Session 111

Allison and Ryan discuss how to improve patient communication which will ultimately lead to better patient outcomes, improved physician satisfaction and so much more!

Ryan and Allison are taking another spin in this episode as they talk more about doctor-patient communication. Communication is probably the most important part of healthcare and in building relationships with your patients. Note that a better understanding about your patients leads to better job satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and the outcome as well.

And even as a premed, you can learn these skills now. The better communication with your patients, the better you will be at it when you set foot into medical school and so on.

This episode has been sparked by a recent article in The New York Times called Doctor, Shut Up and Listen which was written by Dr. Nirmal Joshi.

He quotes about a lot of studies that talk about communication breakdown and what that leads to. Additionally, here are some interesting facts and figures that were also mentioned in the article::

  • In The Joint Commission, they found that communication failure rather than any lack of technical skills or understanding, the communication failure was at the root of over 70% serious adverse health outcomes in hospitals.
  • Two out of three patients leaving the hospital not knowing their diagnosis.
  • 60% of cases where patients walk away from a doctor’s visit not understanding what they’re supposed to do, instructions, counselling, etc.

Considering these alarming statistics and the huge, huge impact communication has on improving patient care, Ryan and Allison have laid out six tips on how to improve your communication with patients to better understand and better speak to them.

6 Tips for Better Communication with Your Patients

Introduce yourself.

  • Only 1 in 4 doctors don’t introduce themselves.
  • Assumed authority is not cool.
  • Acknowledging not just the patient but also the family members around
  • How to introduce yourself to the patients
  • Saying your name using just your first name vs. adding “Dr.” to your name (What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below.)
  • Identifying yourself clearly as the member on the team

Speak in layman’s terms

  • Actively translate technical, medical terms into simpler terms

Check if your patients understood you.

  • The “teach back” method

Be adaptable.

  • Slow down and adapt to the situation.
  • Attend to other needs/questions of your patients.
  • Show empathy and share a piece of your time with the patient if they threw you a curveball.

Gain a better understanding of what’s going on their life

  • Interacting with a noncompliant patient
  • Take the time to know who they are and their life in general.

Just be honest.

  • Patients want the truth. Don’t beat around the bush.
  • Be honest to yourself in terms of how you deal with your patients.
  • Be honest when you don’t know something.
One more bonus tip!

Communicate effectively with your team.

The New York Times article written by Dr. Nirmal Joshi, Doctor, Shut Up and Listen

Episode 66: Physician, Paralympic Athlete and So Much More

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Check out our partner magazine, to learn more about awesome premed information.

Jan 07 2015
41 mins

Rank #3: 116: How to Earn Awesome Grades with Thomas Frank

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Session 116

My guest for today is fellow podcaster and blogger Thomas Frank of, which is dedicated to helping undergrads be AWESOME at college.

He covers studying more efficiently and effectively, how to land the most awesome jobs, and paying off your loans the soonest possible. He paid off his loans while he was still a student.

In today's episode, Thomas shares about his new eBook, 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less)  and how as a premed you can take this information to improve your chances of getting into medical school.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Thomas:

His inspiration behind starting College Info Geek

  • Coming from a failure to get hired from another site
  • Reading blogs like Life Hacks for Students
  • Working at his school as an orientation assistant
  • Writing a guest post to apply for a job and getting rejected
  • Starting his own blog on WordPress

The mindset of upgrading or doing things better

Thomas' concept on "solution finding"

  • Being a solution finder
  • Being willing to put some effort in to figure things yourself

The Study Time Equation

  • Inspired by the "procrastination equation" developed by Piers Steel
  • The time you spend in class is constant.
  • The time you have to study is variable.
  • Both amounts of time put together are what you have to prepare for a test
  • Desired preparedness for your test = (class time x learning quality) + (study time x study efficiency)
  • If you want to decrease study time: Increase the quality of your learning initially and the efficiency of your studying and revising afterwards

You need to think about your methods applied to both learning and studying

10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less)

  1. Pay better attention in class.
  • Take care of your body first. - exercise, sleep
  • Come prepared for class.
  • Being more present and more mindful during class - The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Stay engaged as long as you can.
  1. Take more effective notes.
  • Paper vs. computer
  • Syntax vs. concept
  • Research shows that students who are able to take notes on paper were able to learn things more effectively.
  • Be mindful of what you're taking notes in class
  • When it comes to learning, whatever works for you is the best system.
  1. Get more out of your textbooks.
  • Don't do all of your assigned reading.
  • Gauge your classes and figure out what you're going to be assessed.
  • Apply your reading time based on those assessments.
  • The Student Success Triangle: learning, value creation, and relationship building
  • The importance of taking breaks
  • Reading strategy: Summarize what you read.
  1. Plan like a general.
  • Better planning = better efficiency
  • Choice is not always a good thing
  • The "analysis paralysis"
  • Take time in your morning to plan your day out.
  1. Build your optimal study environment.
  • Find a location that works for you.
  • Tailor your environment for studying.
  1. Fight entropy and stay organized.
  • Organization to reduce friction (anything in the way of you and your task)
  • "Clear to neutral" strategy: when you finish a task, clear the space.
  • Having a planning day every week. Reset everything to zero.
  1. Defeat procrastination
  • The "procrastination equation" is Motivation = Expectancy x Value / Impulsiveness x Delay
  • Delay as the hardest to manipulate
  • Break down your one big goal into smaller goals that are going to be achieved in a shorter time period.
  • Give yourself a reward for achieving each small goal.
  • The Pomodoro Technique: Setting up a task for 25 minutes and devoting yourself to the task during the 25-minute session.
  1. Study smarter.
  • Replicate the test conditions
  • Taking the 8-hour MCAT test
  • Getting the closest representation to live match is the most efficient way to study
  • Build a study guide and questions that replicate what the test is like with the time constraints expected.
  • Override stress with mastery and reduce stress with practice
  1. Write better papers.
  • Doing a brain dump
  • The importance of writing a journal
  • Just start writing.
  1. Make group projects suck less.
  • Do your problem sets alone first.
  • Having one person to take the lead role
His best advice for premed students:

Just constantly ask yourself, "How can I do this better?"

Links and Other Resources
Feb 11 2015
55 mins

Rank #4: 204: What I Wish Every Premed Student Would Know

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Session 204

In this episode, Ryan talks about some of the most common things that he sees premed students struggle with, the students that he works with for application prep or those doing personal statement editing and mock interview prep. These are some common trends and themes that Ryan has seen as well as questions directly emailed to him and questions over at the forum.

What I wish every premed would know:

  1. You can go anywhere you want to go for your undergrad education. Go wherever you will be happy.

This includes community college. Too often, they say that community colleges are off-limits. There may be some schools that you apply to that are going to frown upon that but that doesn't mean all schools will.

The key thing here is to consider these things:

  • What do you require?
  • What fits into your schedule?
  • What fits into your budget?

Based on these, figure out what you can do and if it means going to a community college for a year before transferring to a 4-year college then great. But if it means going to community college for your entire premed requirements, that's okay too.

  1. Study anything.

The premed world says you need to go to a top undergrad institution to get into medical school and study all these courses to be a competitive applicant for medical school. But that is totally crap.

You can actually major in whatever you want and go to medical school. You can major in Humanities,  Political Sciences, etc., basically anything you want and still go to medical school. Study anything that's going to fit best for you.

This is all about YOU. You cannot go through this process always wondering what you're going to be doing for somebody else.

  1. Collaboration, not competition.

You work collaboratively with other people. What's so great about the MSHQ Community as well as the MSHQ Facebook Group is that students understand that it's all about working together. It's about collaboration.

Be nice. Collaborate. Don't compete. Don't be a goner. Don't throw somebody else under the bus for your gain or it will come back to hurt you in the end.

  1. Respect the MCAT.

You need to understand that the MCAT is not like any other test that you take in your classes. You need to practice for the MCAT just like you're going to take the real MCAT, which means sitting down for 8 hours and go through several practice tests and figure it out. Check out some practice tests at Next Step Test Prep where they have 10 practice tests for the new MCAT and use the code MSHQ and save money on those tests. Again, take a lot of practice tests.

  1. Understand that there is no checklist for medical school.

You need to go through this process and experience everything through your own eyes then figure out what directions you want to take. If you like research, go look at it but you don't have to do research. If you're just going to do it to add to your application, then don't do it. Don't do things just because you think it's going to look good to the admissions committee because they can definitely see right through that.

  1. Apply to medical school early.

Medical schools have deadlines for the primary application. Most schools have rolling admissions where by the time the deadline rolls around, the schools have already filled up their spots for interview and seats for the medical school. So apply early, usually around June every year depending on the application service.

  1. Writing your personal statement is hard.

It is hard to write about yourself. Majority of students see personal statements as an autobiography. It's not what it's for. The purpose of the personal statement is to tell the admissions committee member why you want to be a physician. So you need to talk about your initial exposure to medicine, the initial seed that got planted in your head, and what has been watering that seed all along the way.

  • Why do you want to become a physician?
  • Why do you continue to want to be a physician?
  • Why do you want to "waste" four years of your life, get into hundreds and thousands of dollars of debt to become a physician?
  • What is driving and motivating you?

This is hard to do that's why you need to write several drafts of your personal statement.

Ryan does personal statement editing. If you're interested, go to

  1. Writing your extracurricular descriptions is just as hard.

You get roughly 725 characters for your extracurricular activities so it's hard to squeeze everything in there. Now, most people write a job or duty statement. However that is not personal enough.

You need to talk about the impact that you specifically had on your particular extracurricular activity. Then this becomes specific to you and not merely a job description.

  1. Know your professors to get strong letters of recommendation

Asking for a letter from somebody who doesn't know you is not going to be very helpful. You would need some letters of recommendation from your later professors and they have to be somebody who knows you.

So get out there. Introduce yourself to professors or TA's and get out there and make yourself known so it would be easier for you to go to them at the end of the school year and ask for a strong letter of recommendation.

  1. Don't look at GPA and MCAT averages to pick the schools you're going to.

Apply to schools not just because they fit inside your GPA and MCAT range. Many times, students look at their GPA and MCAT scores and go to the Medical School Application Requirements (MSAR) and they base which schools to apply to on their scores. This is the wrong way to go about applying to school.

GPA and MCAT averages are numbers derived from a lot of high numbers and a lot of low numbers which are squished together into one number.

You need to apply to schools that are going to be a fit for you. You have to look at conditions like weather, location, class size curriculum, researches, affiliated hospitals, and so many other things and go from there.

  1. You need to prepare for your interviews.

You need to hone your interview skills and you need to hone your message through doing mock interview preparation. Prepare for the interview just like you're preparing for the MCAT. Ryan does mock interview prep. If you're interested in it, go to

  1. Always keep in mind why you're doing this.

This is a long process. It's a marathon, not a sprint. It's expensive. It's grueling, painful, defeating, frustrating, and exhilarating. It's a little bit of everything. Keep in mind why you're doing it, otherwise, you're going to lose track of yourself and allow those tough times to overcome you. And you're going to get down and depressed and you're going to want to quit. So know why you're doing it.

Links and Other Resources:

Next Step Test Prep (Promo code: MSHQ)

The Premed Years Podcast Session 74 with Carrie

UC Davis Prehealth Conference

http://medicalschoolhq Medical School Application Requirements (MSAR).net/mock-interview-prep/


Oct 19 2016
31 mins

Rank #5: 121: 7 Reasons Premeds Don't Get Into Medical School

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The medical school interview is one of the many reasons why pre-medical students fail to get into medical school. But that’s just one among many other reasons why premed students just can’t get that acceptance letter they’re aiming for. In this episode, Ryan tackles seven of them.

7 Reasons Why Premed Students Fail to Get In to Medical School:
  1. Poor MCAT score


  • Lack of respect for the MCAT
  • Failing to see how the MCAT is so much different from the rest
  • It takes a lot of prep

What you need to do:

  • Take MCAT prep courses from Next Step Test Prep or M Prep
  • Get the best score you can get!
  • Understand that there are no other tests like the MCAT.
  • Go get help.
  1. Poor GPA
  • The importance of delayed gratification
  • You cannot put off the hard stuff.
  • Study, study, study!
  • If you have a poor GPA, take the next step to strengthen your application.
  1. Late application
  • The #1 unexcusable reason!
  • If you apply late to medical school, you already failed the first medical school test.
  • Application is available a month before you can submit. Submit early.
  • The game of musical chairs - acceptance on a “rolling admissions” basis
  1. Failure to course-correct
  • Take a moment and figure where you are.
  • Reflect on your performance - What went well? What didn’t?
  • Figure out what to do to course-correct to get yourself back on track.
  • Your path to medical school is nowhere near perfect.
  1. Taking on too much, too soon
  • Your tendency to tackle everything (taking classes, shadowing, volunteering, research, etc.)
  • Undergrad classes are different from medical school classes
  • Your #1 Job: Learn how to be a student. Figure out the rest afterwards.
  • Don’t worry about shadowing, volunteering, research for now.
  1. Not doing the right extracurricular activities
  • No checklist to get into medical school
  • The importance of shadowing a physician for a quality amount of time
  • Understanding what it’s like to be a physician
  • Go out there and smell the patient
  1. Poor letters of recommendation
  • Just because you get a good grade from a teacher doesn’t mean they have the ability to write you a good letter of recommendation.
  • The importance of building relationships with your professors, research PI’s, advisors, and other people that influence your life.
  • Building strong mentorships
  Links and Other Resources
Mar 18 2015
25 mins

Rank #6: 192: The Medical School Interview - How to Talk About You

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Session 192

Today's episode is another interesting discussion on the medical school interview particularly about knowing YOU. For most students, this is a huge challenge as they pretty much have a difficult time talking about themselves.

Ryan talks about how you can best know yourself as well as some types of questions and scenarios where you need to know yourself so you come prepared during interview day.

Here are the highlights of the episode:
  1. Know how to answer "Tell me about yourself." question:

Know what the highlights are in your life. What are the interesting things about yourself? What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies? Which places have you traveled to?

  1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Try this exercise: Email your family and friends and ask them what they think is your biggest weaknesses.

  • You might not get the best answers back. Tell them to give you the brutally honest truth because you need it.
  • Do not just leave your weaknesses at that. Be able to leave it with something positive. So talk about what you've learned from it and how you're trying to overcoming it and how it won't be an issue in the future.
  1. Understand and know your stances on specific topics.

Be able to talk about abortion and euthanasia. You have to have a side and understand why you're taking that side. Be thoughtful about it and do some soul searching.

App recommendation:

Texture - Get access to every magazine out there to help you read about different topics and different ideas  and perspectives from different people.

  1. Be able to talk about your different experiences.

You have about 15 spots for experiences in your application. You need to be able to talk about all of those experiences as well as the most memorable clinical experience you've had. Ask yourself what might the interviewer ask you and how are you going to respond to that. Ryan's book, The Guide to the Medical School Interview gives you access to around 600 different potential interview questions to help get you thinking.

  1. Be able to talk about lessons learned.

There is always a lesson learned from each experience that you have and that means everything. So what have been the lessons you learned?

  1. Be able to talk about your future.

Have an understanding of what you hope life will be like years from now. What kind of population do you want to serve? What kind of setting do see yourself in?

  1. Know why you want to go to that school.

Know why you're sitting in that chair to interview for a spot in next year's class. Why are you hoping to take a seat from somebody else that might know better why they want to go to that school?

Links and Other Resources:

Elite Medical Scribes -

Jul 27 2016
24 mins

Rank #7: 215: Why Do You Want to be a Doctor? You Need to Know This!

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Session 215

In this episode, Ryan breaks down some answers to questions that he has heard from students from the mock interview sessions to help you start thinking about what your motivations are before going down this journey.

Ryan initially had a discussion with a student he was doing mock interview with a career changer, someone who started off her career in finance and then decided to take the healthcare route, becoming a nurse and working as a nurse for several years now. She is currently applying to medical school because she wants to be a physician. When asked why she wanted to change course and become a physician, she wasn't able to come up with an answer. So Ryan dug into her story and discovered there was more to it.

Throwing some questions at you, why are you embarking on this journey to take 4 years of your life for medical school plus 3 years of residency and be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt?

What motivates you? What was that spark?

If you don't know these things, then you better take some time to figure these out. See if you have any of the answers listed below and learn how to approach them.

Having health issues as a kid

Having health issues as a kid is not a good reason to become a doctor because plenty of people who have also had health issues did not go on to become physicians.

What was so special about your interaction that made you take that next step and go volunteer in a hospital and find somebody to shadow? What emotions did you have? Why did you take those next steps? It's important to tie that together. You already have this initial seed planted in your head but you need to take that next step.

You love science and you love helping people.

You don't need to tell people that you love science and you love helping people since obviously you like science enough to go through undergrad as a premed and clinical classes. As well, you're entering a career where you're really going to help people and they will  be demanding of your time, empathy, and everything because they need help.

You want in-depth knowledge of clinical medicine which you couldn't get through an NP.

You can get in-depth clinical knowledge as an NP but what is it about being a physician that makes you think having in-depth knowledge is going to make you satisfied?

You want to be the clinical knowledge expert and be able to make the final decision.

This answer focuses on you and your knowledge and your power of yielding the final decision. In many states, a PA and an NP can practice independently these days so you can make the final decision as a PA or NP and study as much as you want and do as much homework after you graduate from your programs and get the level of knowledge that you want.

When you talk about your explanation behind why you want to be a doctor, talk about the impact you want to have on the patients. If you want to have in-depth knowledge, what does it mean for the patient?

You don't want to feel limited in what you can do and in using information at your fingertips.

This can come across in a negative way if you come from a perspective that you don't want to be limited by the credentials telling you what you can and can't practice. Again, be sure the patient is in the conversation so it doesn't come off as negative and instead of talking about how you can be limited to a scope of practice, talk about affecting change in the patients or doing something to help the patients.

Reframe this into how you don't want to be limited because you want to be able to act on information and make a difference immediately for that patient. This changes the whole sentiment of what you're saying because it's now focusing on the patient and helping the patient. Focus on the patients.

You love the intellectual stimulation.

These are very cliche things and aren't really relevant to why you want to be a physician. Tie it together with having the satisfaction to make a difference in the patient's life and it makes a huge difference.

You were exposed to medicine at a young age because your parents are physicians or coming from a healthcare background.

Again, what is that next step? Draw upon the experiences of a patient. Talk about the connection you can have with a patient as a physician. How do you want to impact patients? How did you go from your parent being a nurse to you wanting to be a physician? Why not a nurse or a PA?

You want an increased level of knowledge vs. nurses or PA's.

True, but that answer alone does not suffice. Why do you want more knowledge? If your reason is autonomy, that is not a reason to want to be a physician. Start thinking deeper. Why do you want to have increased knowledge? Why is autonomy so important to you?

You want to make treatment plan decisions.

NPs and PAs also make treatment decisions. They have this power and a lot of them are practicing in an environment where they work on their own. You need to dig deeper and have more to your answer.

You want to help people and give back.

Noticing how the physician makes the patients feel comfortable and seeing that action solidifies why you wanted to be a physician can be a powerful answer because there is this unique interaction between patients and doctors.

You have a PhD and you need to become a physician to have that opportunity to treat patients.

Saying it this way is powerful because you're focusing on the patient. It's not about you or your level of knowledge or your power. It's all about the patient.

Why do you want to be a doctor? It is very important to know this. So think about these things when you're figuring out why you want to become a doctor. Links and Other Resources:

If you want to work with Ryan, go to

Dr. Ryan Gray's The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Interview is going to be published in June. You can pre-order it now on Amazon or Kindle. Sign up for Kindle Unlimited and read the book for free.

Jan 04 2017
27 mins

Rank #8: 233 : 5 Common Med School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

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Session 233

First off, the preorder for the paperback version of my book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview is now available. It releases on June 06, 2017. To celebrate that launch, If you preorder it from Barnes and Noble, I'm giving away $100-worth of free gifts including:

Brand new mock interview platform:  Only available right now to those who pre-order the book, this tool will allow you to practice your interview skills anytime you want as well as share these videos and recordings of you interviews with mentors, advisors, friends and family. The regular price for this is $47 a month but you get a free month for pre-ordering the book.

Video series: These are 13 video courses on the medical school interview which are normally sold at $47.

To get access to these free gifts, preorder the book on Barnes and Noble before June 6, 2017. To find out more, text PREORDER to 44222.

Tying this all back into our episode today, I'm sharing with you 5 common medical school interview questions and how you can answer them to help you prepare for the entire interview process.

[03:58] The Interview is So Important

I will soon be interviewing a student who went through the medical school interview process last year and had 5-7 interviews. She is a great students obviously as she got several interviews. She got a great story but she didn't tell her story properly during the interviews. As a result, she didn't get in anywhere.

Then she worked with me and we did four mock interviews together. She reapplied and didn't really change anything else in her application and then she got 5-6 acceptances to great MD schools. She really turned it around because she prepared for the interview.

Being prepared for these five questions today will help you get started in the right direction in terms of preparing for the interview.

5 Common Medical School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them [05:25] Number 1: Tell Me About Yourself

99.9% of the time, I start my interviews with tell me about yourself. When I'm interviewing a student, I almost always start with that. It's actually more of a statement than a question but why is it such an important answer for you to give?

This is basically your opportunity to take charge of the conversation. The whole goal of this interview process is to not have it be an interview. You want it to be a conversation between you and that interviewer. Pretend like you're sitting down in a coffee shop with your future or current colleague and just have a conversation.

The most common mistake students make is they recite their resume and give information the interviewer doesn't really care about or that can be read on your application. This is your time to take the reins and direct the conversation wherever you want to go.

This is essentially your opportunity to discuss some interesting things about you. If you're think you're not interesting then you're wrong. You are unique because you are telling all your experiences through the lens of your own life. You are unique and you just have to talk about yourself.

Answer this statement by diving into fun things about you such as where you grew up, about your family, brothers and sisters and growing up with them and the fun adventures you've been on with them. Dive in a little bit deeper. The goal here is to give enough details and as you're having this conversation, you are being a human. And those are the kinds of people they're going to want for the medical school class - somebody who's going to be able to communicate and be interesting.

Instead of talking about where you graduated, what you majored in, and you want to help people that's why you want to be a doctor, which they've already heard a thousand times, talk about things like your spaghetti recipe or milking cows at four o'clock in the morning. That's fun, interesting, and different.

One of the students I worked with got accepted into ten medical schools. She was a former actress and we prepared her story all around being an actress and the feedback she gave me after 11 interviews (she got ten acceptances) was that all they wanted to do was talk about her acting. Of course because it's different!

Don't underestimate your difference no matter what it is, even if you're a traditional student and you've gone to high school and college, and you've always wanted to be premed. There's something in there, a fun story, a hobby, something you can talk about and take hold of.

[11:54] Number 2: Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor?

This is where a lot of students fall flat on the face. Wanting science and wanting to help people are not good reasons to discuss during the interview as to why you want to be a doctor.

Instead, discuss your initial motivations such as family illnesses, personal illness, child prodigy, etc. Whatever it is, be able to talk about experiences you've had that motivates you to become a doctor. These experiences are typically best shown through direct patient interactions.

For example, talk about working with Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones and being there by their side as they're going through a procedure. Those stories you can tell along with the connections, emotions, and the impact that you can discuss that you had or they had on you or you had on them, those are the stories that the interviewer wants to hear.

Wanting to help people is not limited to being a doctor. I once took an Uber and asked the driver how he was doing and he said he's having a great time helping people. This is the perfect example of somebody that is loving their job helping people. So don't tell me that you want to be a physician because you want to help people because there are a billion and one things out there, including being an Uber driver, where you can help people.

Obviously, you need to have a combination of helping people and loving science to want to be a doctor because you have to survive prereqs with your science courses and do clinical experiences and be around patients. But it all comes down to those interactions that you've had with patients and the impacts you have seen physicians make on patients to really drive home the point about wanting to be a physician. Usually, this is also the way to write your personal statement too. The most one being what your initial motivations are for entering medicine followed by some experiences.

[15:50] Number 3: What is Your Greatest Strength?

This is one question that a lot of students trip over. My top tip is to answer the question the interviewer gives you. When they ask for the one thing, give them one thing and not three or five or ten things. Trying to squeeze stuff in because you think it's going to make you look better may only do otherwise.

So how do you answer this? Well, you have to be able to honestly answer that. It can be as simple as being highly organized or leadership skills, listening skills, good time management. Whatever it is, be able to tell a story that supports your claim. Unfortunately, a lot of students say what they think the interviewer wants to hear but they don't actually believe in what they're saying.

So make sure you're able to back it up with a story. Tell them what that looks like and the impact your strength has. The same goes for weakness. Talk about what your weakness looks like. The more you can answer questions with stories from your life, the better your interview is going to go. Stories are more memorable. They're conversational and they're impactful.

[19:38] Number 4: Why Should We Accept You?

Hard one, isn't it? So you tell them that you're motivated and determined so you're going to make a doctor and that you really love medicine. Of course, this is what you want to do. Hopefully, 99.9% of the applicants know that this is what they want to do. Knowing that you want to be a doctor is not a reason to accept you. And being self-motivated or determined or passionate in itself is not going to be a good reason either.

Hence, this is your opportunity to sell yourself and sell your skills. Be able to hit home that you're a leader because of xyz. You're passionate as illustrated by xyz. You have great time-management skills based on xyz. You are a a great team player because of your experiences with this organization.

Again, use stories to associate them with your skills and traits that you have that you think are going to make you a great classmate. How are you going to take you skills and traits and experiences and bring them to the class? As much as you can say that you want to bring this skill to the class and help you classmates in this way and be a great team player, then the interviewer would be picturing you as part of the class. Therefore, translate your skills and tell a story. How do you add to the class because they're building a community of students.

[23:03] Number 5: Why This School?

A lot of students talk about they have friends that go to that school and they love it. But this is not the way to answer this. Find out specific details of the school like specific programs you're interested in be it related to diversity or outreach. Whatever that may be, find out the specifics about the school. Look up their mission and vision statements and find out if anything resonates with you. Look for the minute details in each of these things in trying to figure out why you're applying to each of these schools. In fact, you should already know this considering you applied for this school to begin with.

Don't talk about the great ability to help the underserved as most urban academic medical centers are going to help the underserved population and this is not unique. Try not to have anything generic that you can pull out of your statement and put it into any other school. So be very specific such as the curriculum, class size, location and support structure in that area.

[25:35] Final Thoughts

This is just one part of the medical school interview process. To know more, we have a lot more podcast episodes tackling that or better yet, pre-order The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. Text PREORDER to 44222 and get instructions on what to do next so you can get access to my mock interview platform and video course all on the medical school school interview.


The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview

MedEd Media Network

OldPreMeds Podcast

The MCAT Podcast

Specialty Stories Podcast

May 10 2017
26 mins

Rank #9: 127: The Medical School Application Personal Statement

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Session 127

Today's episode is actually a recording of a webinar we did for the Academy, which is our private site for group coaching for medical school admissions. We basically help you figure out what you need to study, curricula you need to do, how you're writing your personal statement, how to get ready for interviews, and things like those.

If you have access to a great premed advisor at your university, utilize them because they know you a lot better than we do. But if you're in a situation, where being a non-traditional student, find it difficult to have access to a premed advisor or perhaps if you're at a larger university and you're not in touch with your premed advisor, go check out where we may have available slots soon.

In this webinar, we talk about the A-Z of personal statements. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what the personal statement should be so listen to this webinar to help shed light on your questions.

Here are the highlights of the webinar:

Why do we need to write a personal statement?

  • Your opportunity to expand so much more than what you're application is telling the admissions committee
  • It gives you the ability to turn those numbers into a story and tell a better story than pure numbers and statistics.
  • A large majority of personal statements do more to hurt an application than to help an application.
  • This is your golden opportunity to find your voice to speak directly to the admissions committee members
  • Numbers don't change but this is a chance for you to be creative and demonstrate your passions and interests.
  • The importance of knowing your "why"

Who is the personal statement for:

  • The admissions committees of the medical schools
  • They rank all applications by GPA, MCAT score, go over all applications and glance at personal statements and pick out interesting key points that may give you a ticket to the interview.
  • Understanding who your audience is will help you in writing down your personal statements
  • You challenge is to articulate your "why" to the admissions committee
  • Start practicing. Cut out a picture and imagine you're talking to the admissions person or say it out loud to other people and get feedback from them.

How long should your personal statement be?

  • Telling your story in 4,500 - 5,300 characters is VERY hard.
  • You need to plan how to do this and start early because you have a very limited space.

When should you start?

Have it done around May. Start writing it two or three months ahead of time.

How to start:

  • Most schools don't filter secondaries
  • You may have a journal that you can translate to your personal statement
  • Check out Student Doctor Network and go to the University of Florida's page on the secondary section and see what questions and essays they want
  • Secondaries are school-specific and be careful not to copy and paste them or change the name of the school from one essay to another.
  • Use technology to your advantage. You don't have to just write. Dictate your personal statement and record it.
  • "Write drunk and edit sober."
  • Don't think. There is no starting point. Just start writing. Get everything out of your head. Get all your feelings out. It's not supposed to be perfect.
  • All the organizing and editing come later.

How many drafts?

A lot.

How many editors do you need to look at your personal statement?

  • As many as you can get, those who know you and don't. Give it to a practicing physician.
  • Get a professional editor. Have somebody that does this for a living, not for the content but for spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
  • Be clear as to how you want them to edit it: for the content or for the organization or the typos?

What's your story?

The beginning - how did you get here?

The end - Getting to medical school What is your filler?

  • Show them what you're doing
  • Let the words come into life
  • Show them the qualities that you have through what you've had in the past
  • Share with them your powerful experiences
  • Keeping a journal will definitely help you write your personal statement.

Common mistakes with personal statements:

Grammatical errors

  • Do the editing 3 or 4 times.
  • Be very careful or also have someone read it through.
  • Use commas and semicolons properly.

Being very long-winded

  • Editing can fix this.
  • Personal statements should not be a blow-by-blow account of your life. It's not about telling your entire life story.
  • Pick out transformative, crucial experiences you can highlight that allows the admissions committee to experience those with you

Failure to talk about why you're going through this dramatic experience

  • Mention why you want to be a doctor.
  • What are you hoping to do in the future?
  • Have a "WHY" in your personal statement for it to matter

Should you write the same personal statement when applying for both allopathic and osteopathic medicine?

Email deans at osteopathic schools and get a better answer. Each school is going to be different. At the end of the day, it's about sharing your story and talking about why you want to be a physician and not why you want to be a DO or MD. So it doesn't really matter. Yes, you can use the same personal statement.

Where do you start?

Ryan says, there is no start point. Just get everything out of your head. Just start writing it all down. Then you can mold and move things around from there. Get it out there. Start and it will trigger other meaningful memories you have. Allison says step back and pick a couple meaningful experiences and start with that.  

Links and Other Resources:
Apr 29 2015
1 hour 13 mins

Rank #10: 164: Medical Ethics Questions You Can Expect In Your Interview

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Session 164

In today's episode, Ryan talks about a question raised over at the Facebook hangout group concerning medical ethics specifically about preparing for moral and ethical questions that may arise during the medical school interview.

Ryan shares with us the importance of your thought processes and some strategies in answering ethical questions to help you crush your medical school interview.

Here are the highlights of today's episode:

99% of the time, there is no right or wrong answer. Rather, the interviewer will look into your thought processes when it comes to answering these questions.

One common topic that might come up: Abortion

What you need to convey to the interviewer:

What your thought processes are

  • Can you relate to the patient in a way that doesn't diminish what their needs and desires are?
  • Are you putting the patient in harm's way?

What you need to do personally and professionally for your own moral compass.

Essential things to remember when answering ethical questions:
  • Show respect to the patient.
  • Not being hostile towards the patient.
  • Show a good, thorough thought process in responding to the questions.
  • Have a firm stance on your thoughts.
  • Think in the grand scheme of things with the greater good.
Other possible ethical questions that may come up:
  • Would you recommend or give life-sustaining therapy when you judged that it's futile?
  • Would you consider halting life-sustaining therapy because the family demands even if you felt that it was premature?
  • Would you ever prescribe a placebo treatment simply because the patient wanted some sort of treatment?
  • Would you be under-prescribing pain medications if you're worried the patient would become reliant on them?
  • Would you withhold telling the diagnosis of patient to them if the situation possibly calls for it?
More strategies in prepping for answering ethical questions during the interview:
  • Get updated with the news and current events.
  • Google medical ethical questions.
  • When you think about these stuff, think out loud.
  • Think through your thought processes.
  • During the interview, pause when you have to for you to gather some thoughts before thinking out loud.
Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what question is asked. The framework is the same. Think through the process. Don't put the patient in harm's way.

During interview day, think of yourself on a level playing field with every other interviewee there. Scores and extracurricular activities don't matter at that point. You're either interviewing for an acceptance or a rejection, so how well you perform on interview day will determine if you get in or don't.

Links and Other Resources:

If you're interesting in going through a mock interview training, go to and learn how to sign up to do mock interviews with Ryan.

Hang out with us over at Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us.

For more great content, check out for more of the shows that produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future!

Check out our partner magazine, to learn more about awesome premed information.

Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website.

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Email me at or connect with me on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

Jan 13 2016
21 mins

Rank #11: 120: How This Non-Trad Beat a Bad MCAT score and a low GPA

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Session 120

In today’s episode, Ryan brings Ben on the show who emailed us one day. Ben is a non-traditional premed student who now has an acceptance to medical school and he’s got an amazing journey to share with all of us.

What’s crucial in this journey is your ability to surround yourself with the right people and working together with them to help you along your journey to medical school - collaboration, not competition.  You don’t have to knock down the person next to you. You’re in it together. There are plenty of seats available. You don’t have to be the perfect applicant.

We’re also going to be talking about many things students seem to underestimate during the application process such as how overwhelming it can be time-wise (you need ample time to prepare) and how you need to understand your uniqueness and be able to convey that during the interview to get that acceptance.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Ben:

Why Ben thinks he is unorthodox

  • Going to a public school that has a medical school attached to it
  • Ben’s path into college:
  • Not knowing that he wanted to be a physician until after graduating from his communication degree
  • Liking a biology class
  • Shadowing a physician who treated his broken finger

What led him to medicine:

  • His interest in the field of orthopedics as an athlete
  • Not one in his family is a doctor, nurse, or anyone in the medical field

Taking the switch to medicine:

  • School never came easy to him.
  • Not having the confidence to pull the trigger (initially)
  • Dealing with financial challenges

Ben’s shadowing experience:

  • His physician inviting him to shadow him
  • Shadowing the physician for 4 years
  • The biggest thing he did right during shadowing:
  • Trying to just be sponge and absorb everything
  • Asking questions

Gathering resources:

Looking up online and reaching out to a premed advisor at the school he’s planning to go to

Going back into a post baccalaureate program:

  • Taking a chemistry class for the very first time
  • Dealing with self-doubt issues
  • Working smarter
  • Collaborating with people that have the same goals as you do

Collaboration vs. Competition

  • Surrounding yourself with awesome people
  • Getting more courage and inspiration to study more

The hardest thing during the application process:

*The time it would take to do everything:

  • Filling up the form
  • What schools to apply to, how many schools you apply to
  • Writing all the secondary applications

Be sure to do your research on the school you’re applying to.

Applied at around 30 schools (both MD and DO) His life experience as his greatest asset during the application (shadowing, interning, etc.)

The importance of telling your story more than just a GPA or an MCAT

Preparing between now and matriculating into med school:

Ryan says, “Start building healthy habits.” - to have some uniformity in your routines

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Regardless of what specialty, just ask as many questions as you can and absorb as much as you can.

Just pick up the phone. Call the people who make the decisions. Ask questions and get answers right from the horse’s mouth.

Don’t panic. There are going to be things along the way that will get you down. Just ride that wave and make sure your work ethic and dedication are consistent. Just keep your eye on wht your ultimate goal is.

Links and Other Resources
Mar 16 2015
34 mins

Rank #12: 103: She Made Every Mistake Possible, Yet is Still a Medical Student!

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Session 103

In today’s episode, Ryan interviews Shay Garrison, a current 1st year medical student at Albany Medical College and author of the book Getting Into Medical School: The Ultimate Guide for the Anxious Premed.

Shay shares with us how she did everything differently during her medical school applications yet she still got into medical school. She applied to medical school during her senior year of college, didn’t take any gap in and just right away jumped in. Shay basically is a traditional medical student and perhaps the only nontraditional thing about her application was transferring to a different school in college in order to take advantage of the university’s open curriculum and in-campus hospital, a perfect avenue for her to pursue her shadowing experience.

Now, she is well on her way to becoming a physician. We will be covering topics such as getting letters of recommendation, application timing, and so much more.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Shay Garrison:
  • Her primary interest in research and her experience at Caltech
  • Shadowing to see if medical school is really for you
  • What she could have recommended her high school self to getting the choice right the first time
  • How transferring to another school affected her medical school application
  • Entering the premed world and gathering information on the whole process
  • Taking the MCAT exam pretty late in August to be able to get in by September (Whew!)
  • What inspired her to write her book
  • Asking for letters of recommendation
  • Knowing when professors aren’t really interested to write a recommendation for you
  • What helped her application
  • What is a strong letter of recommendation?
  • Starting off her blog and writing her personal essay
  • The biggest mistake premeds make
  • The requirements are there for a reason and not just merely boxes you need to check off.
  • The importance of preventive medicine
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
  • MCAT and GPA are just part of the application. You don’t have to be the “perfect applicant” that everybody thinks they need to be.
  • The medical application process looks at who you are as a person so your essays and letters of recommendation are really important.
  • Know what you really want out of the process. Know why you want to be a doctor. Put it all in perspective of your life, where you want to be in the future, and what you want to be doing.
Links and Other Resources:

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes:

Next Step Test Prep: Maximize your MCAT score and get $100 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website.

Nov 12 2014
39 mins

Rank #13: 107: How Premeds Aren't Prepared for Medical School and More!

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Session 107

In this episode, Ryan and Allison talk about what you need to expect along your path to becoming a physician (minus the sugar coating!)

The idea behind this episode was actually conceived from an article about What medical school doesn’t prepare you for?

So today, Ryan and Allison are talking about what premed doesn’t prepare you for medical school. What medical school doesn’t prepare you for the residency? And what residency doesn’t prepare you for the real world? Basically, they are talking about each stage of the journey in order to give you the best, most honest picture possible of what life is like as a premed, a medical student, a resident, and when once you’re out practicing as a physician.

The path to being a physician is truly fulfilling especially when you are doing it for the right reasons and you know that this is what you really want to do. But then again, it is not an easy path. So you have to prepare yourself by being as informed as you can so that when you encounter these experiences in the future, it would no longer come off as too negative as it would’ve been.

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

What premed school doesn’t prepare you for going to medical school?

  • The amount of information coming in can be very fast and challenging.
  • There is so much angst as a premed because of the wanting to meet that desire to be a medical student.
  • The classes are extremely challenging!
  • Your peers are in equal level as you are - they’re struggling just as much as you are.
  • People are very driven as they all want to become physicians.
  • The dramatic change in your life that can affect relationships, status, family interaction, etc.
  • The amount of time and energy you put is hyperfocused.

What medical school doesn’t prepare you for when you get to residency?

  • You become responsible - you’re signing orders, you’re the physician, etc.
  • More volume of patients
  • You are there all the time. Everything is amplified!
  • If you’re not seeing patients, you have to be learning what else you haven’t learned about
  • Training, training, training
  • Your life changes dramatically again overnight (literally!)
  • It’s a little bit terrifying!
  • Training ourselves how to process the very difficult things that we see as residents
  • No time for you to really talk about how you feel so you may come up with different coping mechanisms (preventing physician suicide)

What residency doesn’t prepare you for going to the real world?

  • The money making aspect of medicine
  • How to properly bill and code all these visits (relative value unit)
  • Insurance company policies and working with them
  • Outpatient-heavy practices in the real world while being immersed in the inpatient world during residency
  • It’s a “hands off” system: Not seeing the follow-through of outpatient medicine
Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Premed to Med School:

  • Keep your eye on the ball. Just study hard. You are your own competition.
  • Prioritize before going to medical school as to how do you want to keep in touch with or stay close to.

Med school to residency:

  • It can be scary but it’s going to be okay. You’re going to be fine.
  • Start collecting experiences early and write down these difficult experiences.
  • If you have no time to write, talk about it.

Residency to the real world:

  • Seek out billing courses.
  • Understand how the insurance system works.
Final thoughts:

“You can only prepare so much for these massive life changes, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be fine.” “Being as informed as you can is the best thing you can do for yourself.”

Links and Other Resources:

Next Step Test Prep: Maximize your MCAT score and get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website.

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Episode 69 - Palliative Care – There is Always Something You Can Provide

Episode 70 -7 Tips to Running a Successful Family Meeting

Dec 10 2014
47 mins

Rank #14: 317: Building Better Study Skills for the Sciences and MCAT

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Session 317

Kathleen is an expert in helping premeds and medical students better prepare for their exams. With her evidenced-based practice, she’ll help you too. Today, we talk about how you can study better -- what you should be doing before, during, and after class -- and so much more!

Please check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network to help you along your journey to becoming a physician.

[01:50] Kathleen's Background

Kathleen started in 1988 working for a company to work with the medical office of academic advising. Just after finishing her Master's program, she was looking at reading strategies and how students learn to read. She realizes that at that time, medical students were required to read about a thousand pages a week and it has only increased since then. So she wanted to figure out how to be a more efficient reader. She then got hired by Eugenia Kelman, who eventually became her co-author and mentor and a really good friend. Together, they have put together an entire system for med students to be really effective and really efficient in their study strategies.

[03:05] How Is It Humanly Possible to Read that Much?

The secret as that you're probably not going to read every single word. One of the strategies is to read to make notes. You're going to be actually extracting material from the textbook to make your own notes of information that you don't know. However, a lot of students spend much time studying information they do know but if you already know it, then obviously, you don't need to spend as much time. This is a hard shift for students but it's going to be a more efficient use of your time.

"Spend more time on the information you don't know."

If you're studying for the first time, what you can do is perform a self-test. There's research behind that called the Testing Effect. What they found is that if you self-test, it helps you remember more of the information. Then you're going to know where you're going to be spending your time.

[04:44] How to Self-Test

If you have review books you're going to need in the future, you can do a self-test from that. Or if you have a good set of notes, self-test to know what you do and don't know.

Resources you can use include Clutch Prep, Khan Academy, and Cheggs as well as Quizlet and Anki. They often have questions you can use. This is going to be a shift in the way you think about preparing but it's going to be really good.

[06:36] The Biggest Mistake Students Make

Even when preparing for the MCAT, the biggest mistake students make is they don't do enough practice tests to understand where their strengths and weaknesses are. So they can focus on those weaknesses. Instead, they just read content, thinking they're just going to read and read and read and they'll be fine.

Reading and reviewing are putting information in your brain, but the exams aren't really testing what's in your brain. They're actually testing what you can pull out of your brain. This is where the self-testing is when you get to practice the opposite, which means pulling it out of your brain. They call this retrieval practice.

"Exams aren't really testing what's in your brain. They're testing what you can pull out of your brain."

These have just been underutilized. You haven't worked them enough. They don't know what to do. Or even if you did, maybe not in a timely manner. Maybe you've thought of it right after you left the testing room.

[08:30] Medical Students Relying on Brute Force Intelligence

Kathleen worked with some university students. They did it after the first round of exams before they actually offered the workshop. After they scored lower for the first time in their entire life, they've literally got students lined out the door to come to the workshop to see what they could do to improve. So they needed a proof that they needed help before they would seek it.

As to why such switch upon going to medical school from doing so well, say during undergrad, Kathleen thinks they've been relying on their native intelligence. Some students call it brute force intelligence. They've been using strategies they've always used and it worked until hitting medical school and find out that the pace and the volume are something they've never experienced before. This is where the efficiency needs to come in.

[10:25] Frameworks to Develop Your Study Habits

Depending on where you are on your premed journey, you can get a 1, 2, 3, or 4-year headstart and have these study strategies just to be a natural part of how you study. Kathleen, in fact, helped a senior in college and she said some freshmen walked up to her one day telling her how she's studying wrong and showed her how. Now she's a third-year med student.

Some frameworks you can use include time management, which is how you spend your time while you're awake; mind management, which means all the thoughts going through your head; and then body management, which is how you take care of yourself through sleep, nutrition, etc.

Within the time management part, that's where the learning process flow chart comes in. They teach students how to prepare before they go to lecture and then they teach them what to do with the information, their lecture, and textbooks. They also teach them how to review and self-test. This used to be the last stage but they've added in another stage where they teach students how to score and analyze their self-tests. So when they walk into a class exam or an entrance exam, they know the information.

[12:20] Good, Better, and Best

For instance, you have an hour-long lecture coming up, the time you put into pre-read depends on what approach you want to take. Kathleen has three different approaches you can take she calls, Good, Better and Best.

Good: Just take ten minutes and look over the material before you go in so at least you're familiar with the vocabulary words because this is going to help you during your lecture.

Better: Do your quick pre-read but then go back and read the chapter to give you even more information.

Best: Pre-read and make notes before you go to class. Then the class becomes a review of information instead of an introduction. You walk out of class with a complete set of notes then you go on to the next topic.

A lot of schools are actually moving to this Flip Classroom framework where they expect the students to learn the material outside of the classroom and then the class is only for discussing and asking questions and following up and flushing out the material. This is what Kathleen is setting up for these students since as you get to the higher levels in education, more and more of the learning is put back on the learner.

"With the native intelligence, the students can do very well but often, they're working hard than they have to and getting way stressed out, not getting the sleep they need."

[14:50] Teaching as Part of Learning

Now, the next steps again depend on what you do before class as well as after class. Kathleen cites an example of her student who got hold of her book and went over it before he started first-year college. He wasn't satisfied with just knowing the information for himself. So he'd pre-read then get together his group of friends who were in the same class he was, and he'd the information he had already learned to them so then everybody went to class prepared. It saved the work they had to do afterward because of the work they've done before.

"Working in groups or teams is becoming more and more popular in the educational setting in order to prepare students for teamwork in the professional setting."

Moreover, teaching has been shown to be one of the best ways to not only solidify your knowledge but to also know and give you confidence that you know it because you're able to teach it. Hence, we highly recommend study groups, specifically for the MCAT. One person is good at one section, and another is good at another section. So you're teaching other people.

[16:40] The Biggest Struggle for Students

Time is always a huge issue because we're only allotted 24 hours a day and learning to use that time efficiently and effectively is really huge. Next is being systematic in your approach to your studies. Most students are not used to having a system because they've been smart and been able to get through just their native intelligence. So it's a struggle for them to incorporate new habits.

Kathleen sees a lot of mental barriers among students to change. That said, she has seen many students who have faced all sorts of challenges that most of us will never have to face. They were able to overcome incredible things because of the way they've talked to themselves. This is the mind management part and the determination they have.

One of the things Kathleen requires from her students who wish to work with is they have to be motivation. Otherwise, how can somebody else help you if you don't care as a student? So a lot of the internal dialogue is a big part of it.

[21:15] Dealing with Devices and Distractions

In terms of using your mobile phones and other devices, they're becoming a problem for efficiency and effective learning. Literally, the farther the phone is away from you, especially if it's not in your line of sight, the less distracted you are by it. What you can actually do is put it off first and then put it in a different room.

Upon surveying her students, Kathleen found out that they still prefer reading from their textbooks than they do from any of their devices. Kathleen thinks that reason for this is because of your intent for doing this. Since when you hold a book, your only intent is to read it, rather when you use your phone, you could be doing so many other things with it aside from reading.

"Research is showing that we retain more whenever we are looking at a physical piece of paper in a book or their own notes than we do on our devices."

[25:20] Developing Self-Awareness

Kathleen has developed a number of tools and exercises that help students discover what those triggers may be for you. And until you're aware of it, you obviously can't do anything about it. She'd often have students guilty of their past behaviors but they didn't know. But now that they know, they've got a choice to make - either change things to change that behavior or just pretend it's going to be okay if you wish it to be.

[26:30] Does the Pomodoro Technique Work?

Kathleen says this could be helpful when you're in college, but at some point in time, you're going to have to learn to study for longer periods of time and you'll earn a longer break afterward. It's because you've got so much information to get through once you get to professional school. So there's a level of training for study endurance that needs to take place.

[27:02] Gaining Focus and Concentration

Kathleen's co-author, Eugenia Kelman, is a behavioral psychologist by training and she came up with 7 different factors that affect concentration. They have quizzes and exercises in the books they've written together. Kathleen explains that when you think about concentration, you talk about it like it's just one thing. But there are 7 levels that she found and using these exercises can help students learn to focus and concentrate better. Some include being awake and alert such as the location you're in.

Internal distraction is one of them too. So if you're worrying, you can write down what those thoughts are so they'll quit swirling around in your brain. Then you'll have something concrete to act on later.

An example of external distraction would be like beds or if you try and study at Starbucks and they have those noisy machines. Again, location. Another one of them is your mood or attitude control. If you're going to a study session and think it's so boring, then you're going to have a less efficient study period than being positive about it.

[31:55] The Best Times of the Day to Learn

Figure out what is the best for you. We can have habits we do over and over and we think it's what we do best but it may not be. Kathleen has a concentration monitoring sheet where students are able to monitor their concentration levels throughout the day.

"A lot of students are surprised to find that they concentrate better in the morning even if they're not morning people."

And they found out that students are better able to concentrate better in the morning. It's probably because after a good night's rest, you tend to be fresher and you don't have the weight of the day on you yet. You have the whole day ahead of you so you just have a better state of mind. But base this on reality instead of just how your past habits have been.

[33:40] Different Techniques for Different Classes?

Kathleen explains that different classes have different requirements for how you're going to take in the information and how they're going to be taken out for the exams. Som certain classes lend themselves to certain types of notes. For instance, in the Anatomy, you're going to be making a lot of diagrams and probably category charts so you can learn the differences. But for the Physiology portion, it's going to be tons of flowcharts because you need to learn the different processes. So yes, different classes are going to primarily require different note styles.

This said, always be prepared before you go to class. And whenever you're reading, read with a purpose, which is to be able to make some notes from it. Then always review at some point, self-test, and then score and analyze that.

[35:08] How to Maximize Studying, Sleep, and Caffeine

Kathleen stresses that body management is so important. When we sleep, that's when consolidation of information takes place. It puts information into your long-term memory. And it only takes place if you've been through all the different sleep cycles. But a lot of our students, or Americans in general, are not getting enough sleep, between 7 and 9 hours.

Moreover, dehydration is another factor that can make you all fuzzy. As for taking coffee, some researchers looked at caffeine and its effectiveness, and they've found that having it spread over the day is a better way to stay alert and awake without getting the jitters. You can take it 50 mg per hour until you're within 6 hours before going to sleep. Since the half-life of caffeine is 5.7 hours. You can take in a lot less coffee and still get your level of alertness without overdoing it.

[39:10] Advice for Students with Learning Disability

The strategies they currently teach work for students with learning disability too, such as eliminating classroom distractions as well as avoiding someone using a computer. Interesting research found that a person taking notes with a computer is not the most distracted, it's the person sitting next to them. There's also that power of just using a pen and paper. Because when you're typing, you can type a lot faster than when you write so you don't tend to process anything. You're just trying to transcribe word for word versus writing with a pen and paper where you get to think and reflect on the most important thing to write down.

"Make the information your own You're internalizing it, putting it in your own words. That's shown to be something that helps put information in your long-term memory."

[42:05] Check Out Their Books!

Kathleen has written three books with co-author Eugenia Kelman. Visit her website Study with Precision. Kathleen emphasizes to students that if they want to be professionals, learning to be precise in how they think, talk, and study is an important part of that process. Check out Study Without Stress, a book for medical students. They've also written one for nursing students called Vital Skills. And recently, a book for premed students is called Six Steps to College Success. They have also broadened this to include others in the STEM field.

[43:45] Final Words of Wisdom

Finally, Kathleen's message to students is that there is a way to learn to be more precise and you'll see better results. She'd be delighted to work with you!

Get a chance one of her books by going to and leave a comment about what you're struggling with in terms of your study habits.


Study with Precision (Kathleen’s website) Kathleen’s books:

MedEd Media Network

Clutch Prep

Khan Academy




Dec 19 2018
45 mins

Rank #15: 309: 5 Medical School Interview Questions Premeds Struggle With

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Session 309

The medical school interview can make or break your chance at an acceptance. Don't walk in unprepared. Check out these questions that students struggle with.

If you haven't yet, check out my books The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Personal Statement, and The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.

Meanwhile, listen to our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network so you can hopefully get all the resources you need to help you along this path to becoming a physician. Also, we've got a new podcast, check out The MCAT CARS Podcast with Jack Westin.

Today's episode is basically an addition to the previous discussion we had on Session 233 about the 5 common medical school interview questions, where we covered things like why you want to be a doctor, tell me about yourself, your greatest strength, why should the med school accept you, and why come to this school. So

I wanted to add more questions and asked the community on the Facebook Hangout Group, which if you're not a member yet, please register for free. So I've picked five questions that students commonly struggle with as I'm doing mock interviews with them.

[03:05] Just Be Yourself

The fun thing about interviews is you think every student is going to answer this the same way. But having interviewed hundreds, or even thousands of students, they don't answer questions the same way.

Hence, just be yourself. Every student is bringing their own experiences to the table. So when they're answering the question, they're answering it based on their own life experiences.

[03:40] Question #1: Why Do You Want to Be an Osteopathic Physician?

Where students go wrong with this question is they just spit out the marketing that osteopathic schools put out - believing in the holistic philosophy, treating the patient holistically, having OMT in addition to their belt. And this is marketing stuff from osteopathic schools.

"Good physicians treat patients holistically. It's not owned by the osteopathic world."

But what does holistic care mean to you? Use your own definition. What does holistic look like to you? Break that down into those parts. Then try to highlight parts of your experience that show the interviewer why that's important, instead of just saying you like the holistic treatment.

You have to look at it from the medical admissions committee's perspective. They want to make sure you have a bit of an understanding of what the DO world is. And that you have some respect for the DO world.

Again, when asked why DO? Break it down what holistic means. Don't just use the buzzwords. Then add in your life experiences, highlight them and tie its importance to a person's health.

"Break it down what holistic means. Don't just use the buzzwords."

[08:00] Question #2: What Your Biggest Weakness?

Maybe you don't want other people to think you have some weaknesses. But we all have flaws. We all have weaknesses.

The bigger flaw is not owning up to your weakness. If you can't own up to that, then that's an issue. Because once you're a physician, being able to own up to your weaknesses is very important to your patient's care. Knowing your limitations as a physician is very important. And part of that is understanding and acknowledging that you're not perfect.

"A bigger flaw is not owning up to your weaknesses."

So when asked about your biggest weakness, they don't want to hear what's something you can turn into a strength either. They really want to hear what you think is your weakness. If you need help with this, go ask your friends and/or family members. Reach out to them and try to get their feedback. Then you can talk about this in the interview.

Again, don't spin your weakness into a strength. Moreover, you just don't stop with telling your weakness. You need to talk about what you're doing to fix your weakness. Tell a story about how this affected you in the past and what you're doing to work on it.

"Do not turn your weakness question into a strength. That's not what they want to hear. They want to hear that you understand you're not perfect. That's okay!"

One of the things you have to stay away from would be communication skills. This is part of being a physician. This includes communicating with patients, and their families. And telling them your biggest struggle is communicating, that could be a problem. So don't tell something that could be a red flag. So what then is the best answer? Whatever that is, the best answer is always what is your truth. Hence, I recommend you ask your parents, friends, and family about your biggest weaknesses.

"What is your truth? Don't look for what is a good answer."

[13:35] Question #3: Health Care Questions

Never go into an interview unprepared that much, that your first response to a question is you don't really know as much as you should. If you are admitting to the fact that you should know more but you don't, then it tells the admissions committee that there's something wrong with your planning, motivation, or initiative to do well in this interview. The fact you know you should know more about this topic, specifically healthcare, but you don't know more about it, that's not good. And they might pass on your for an acceptance.

"You have to understand our healthcare system here in the U.S., as screwy as it is."

You have to understand the Affordable Care Act. The current administration (as of this recording) is trying to dismantle it. It hasn't passed and they're trying to push their own, The American Health Care Act. It doesn't matter. What matters is you have to know what's going on in our healthcare so that you can talk about it during an interview.

Understand what the Single Payer System is. That's the same with Universal Healthcare. Understand what that looks like, what countries have it, and the difference between the systems in the UK and in Canada.

Anytime you're given a "thoughts on ____" type questions, talk about the pros, cons, your side. Give some specifics. If you're asked about the Affordable Care Act, talk about it more - what preexisting conditions it got rid of, extended care for kids, preventive care treatments for free, mandatory coverage, etc. Name the good things and bad things. Talk about it. Understand them.

As to where to go for information, read The Healthcare Handbook. Also, listen to the podcast Congressional Dish, by Jen Briney. In Session 48, she did an episode all about the Affordable Care Act. In her podcast, she reads the bills. So she read all 2000+ pages. And then she did a podcast episode on it. She also had followup episodes about the American Healthcare Act.

"Go get more information on these topics, it's very, very important."

[19:55] Question #4: What Diversity Can You Bring to the Class?

A lot of students think this is an unfair question especially if they're white thinking they can't really bring any diversity. But that's not the question they're really asking. Answer this the same way you answer the question, why should they accept you?

Don't focus on yourself, focus on your classmates. Focus on your future colleagues at that medical school. What experiences, skills, traits do you have that will add to the educational environment of your peers? That is diversity. Not just skin color, race, ethnicity, etc. They want to know real-world experiences and real-world skills and traits that you've gained. Don't talk about stuff like just because you took philosophy or psychology, you'd be an asset because you can think differently. Don't talk about that. There are also several other students who have the same major as you do.

"What experiences, skills, traits do you have that will add to the educational environment of your peers? That is diversity. Not just skin color, race, ethnicity, etc."

For instance, you're a former college athlete and former team captain, talk about how you can also be a leader in the med class. It's a skill that he has and what he wants to do with the class. So think about your experiences, traits, and skills and how can you add to the class.

[23:25] Question #5: Tell Me Your Thoughts on Abortion

Again, when you're asked about your thoughts regarding certain issues, there should be a pretty standard framework around the question. First, tell them about your thoughts. Then explain your thought process behind that. Tell them why there are pro-life people out there. If you're pro-life, give some thoughts on pro-choice people out there. Having that understanding of the other side is called empathy. And that is important to be a physician. And even if the other side may have reasons you may not agree with - still this shows you have empathy and you can understand the other side.

"One of the biggest mistakes students make with this question and other moral ethical questions is that they play the middle road."

One of the biggest mistakes students make with this question (and other moral ethical questions) is that they play the middle road. They're worried about what the interviewer will think. They're worried they're going to be dinged. But you're actually dinged more for not taking a stance, than if you chose a different side than the interviewer. Their job is not to judge you based on your answer if it differs from them. Rather, their job is to understand your thought process behind your answers to determine if you and your thought process are sound. Again, show empathy for the other side.

As of this recording in October 2018, Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed for the next Supreme Court Justice. And there's a lot of talk about the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade, the big court case that allowed abortion in this country.

So really be aware of what's going on in the news because the questions that may come out can be completely flipped and twisted based on what's going on. So you need to be prepared.


MedEd Media Network

The MCAT CARS Podcast

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Personal Statement

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT

PMY 233: 5 Common Med School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Facebook Hangout Group

The Healthcare Handbook

The Congressional Dish Podcast Session 84: The Affordable Care Act

Roe v. Wade

The MCAT CARS Podcast with Jack Westin

Oct 24 2018
30 mins

Rank #16: 75: What are My Chances of Getting into Med School?

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Session 75

In today's episode, Ryan goes on to have a heart-to-heart talk with YOU to hopefully put your mind at ease.

What are my chances of getting into medical school?

This is the ultimate question every premed student has. But this is a stressful question that is an ultimate waste of energy, stress, and time.

Now here's the ultimate response.

Your chance of getting to medical school is 0% if you don't apply. If you do apply, your chances of getting to medical school are 100% individual to your application.

You’re 100% different.

You are an individual applicant applying to individual schools based on your preferences. Your application tells a story that is 100% different than every other application submitted. Your personal statement, letters of recommendation, experiences, and reasons are different. Remember, what you do is not important. WHY you do it means so much more. It's that why that separates you from everybody else. And that's what's going to come across in your personal statement and interview.

Tell your why.

Your "why" is more powerful than your numbers. Do your best in your MCAT and GPA but figure out why you're doing this to be able to tell a much better story than anybody else. It's okay not to have the perfect MCAT or GPA. It's not all about the numbers. It's about your story. Find your story. Build your story. Tell your story.

We now have 100,000 downloads on iTunes! Thank you to everyone who's taking the time to listen to us each week. Help spread this podcast to others. Links and Other Resources:

Session 74 - Carrie talking about her WHY

AAMC Data Simon Sinek - Ted Talk - Start with Why

If you need any help with the medical school interview, go to Sign up and you will receive parts of the book so you can help shape the future of the book. This book will include over 500 questions that may be asked during interview day as well as real-life questions, answers, and feedback from all of the mock interviews Ryan has been doing with students.

Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out

For more great content, check out for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future!

Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score and which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well.

Hang out with us over at Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us.

Check out our partner magazine, to learn more about awesome premed information.

Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website.

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Email Ryan at or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

Apr 30 2014
21 mins

Rank #17: 180: 10 Common MCAT Myths

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Session 180

Save 20% on Gold Standard MCAT Practice Test 3-month packages, or the 1-year Platinum Package! Click here to send an email to get the discount code! In today's episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Brett Ferdinand who has turned into one of the biggest prep gurus. He is the man behind the Gold Standard and Today, they cover a countdown of the Ten Myths of the new MCAT. Brett has a vast experience in the MCAT space including the creation of the MCAT online video library even before YouTube existed. They have also developed their online practice tests even before the AAMC made the MCAT a computer-based test. Today, they offer 7 full-length tests and one free abbreviated test that you can practice with. With over 6,000 practice questions, students will get a balance between knowledge-based questions, application questions, and full-length exams. It's not just about performing better for the MCAT but about making yourself a better doctor one day.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Brett Brett's path to medical school
  • Writing Dr. Brett Ferdinand as his name on all his tests back in kindergarten
  • Studying physics and math in undergrad
  • Taking the MCAT after his junior year and started writing his first book on MCAT
  • Getting accepted to all medical school he applied to
  • Continuing to write books, make sites, and practice tests
Reasons behind Brett's interest in MCAT
  • Problem solving
  • Using basic sciences (physics, math, general chemistry, organic chemistry)
The biggest fear with the new MCAT for students
  • Addition of Biochemistry on the MCAT
  • Full-day testing experience and what it does to your body and mind
Ten Common Myths of the New MCAT
  1. Since it's standardized, the exam day is the same for everyone.

Think of the exam day in it's entirety because every day is different. The weather is going to be different. There are so many different experiences that you can have. Keep your mind open to many possibilities. Beware of the danger in going to forums. Prepare for all contingencies and understand that not everybody is going to have the same exam experience so you have to prepare for that.

  1. I will learn everything before the exam.

In a traditional exam, you can learn all you need to ace the test before taking it. For the MCAT, it involves a different way of thinking. Perfect practice makes practice. Start very early in your MCAT prep. Based on your personality then you can start deciding which learning style suits you best which has to be problem-based learning. Start with knowledge-based questions. Move on to practical application questions and then full-length practice tests. 2/3 of your time practicing should be higher learning processes you're applying.

  1. CARS as a reading section so it's not important.

Reasoning is a core element in the CARS section that makes up one quarter of your score. This cannot be ignored. Practice and find areas where you're reading actively. Always get the global idea, summarize, and the author's point of view.

  1. Every question counts.

If you're going beyond two minutes when answering a question, assess the value of the question and how close you are to finishing it. The MCAT is a scales course system, which means that even if you miss 1-2 questions, the likelihood is you would get the same score as if you didn't miss those questions. Other exam questions are also not scored. Mark questions where you're unsure of the answers and go back later.

  1. I can take the MCAT as often as I like.

The MCAT is a full-day exam that is so stressful enough that you would want to minimize exposure to the exam. AAMC has also come up with rules on test taking where one can only take the exam up to:

  • Three times in a single year
  • Four times during a two-consecutive year period
  • Seven times in a lifetime
  1. A high MCAT score is vital for medical school admissions.

AAMC has created a new marking system to make people at ease with the mid-range scores so they have found a way to minimize the MCAT score on medical school admissions. The hope is that medical schools will put more emphasis on the personal statement and other application materials like the MMI which has a stronger correlation with a person's clinical performance than the MCAT.

  1. It's only about the test.

It's natural for students to focus on the materials but this is an unusual exam. There are peripheral matters that can significantly affect your experience such as stamina. The MCAT is not a sprint but a marathon. So you have to live the experience. One or two weeks before the exam, live your daily life similar to the exam day. Maintain your body and nutrition in the most stable way possible in anticipation of the exam day.

  1. You have to know more content for the new MCAT than any other standardized exam.

Not drill and kill. Not lots but hots. It's not a purely knowledge-based test but it also involves understanding, comprehension, application questions, analysis, and synthesis. It has lower order thinking skills and higher order thinking skills. MCAT has the least amount of lower order thinking skill questions.

  1. Some questions are designed to trick me.

Take a step back to understand the questions. Evaluate graphs, tables, diagrams, research, experiments in a clear way and pay attention to the wording. MCAT is designed not to trick the students but to help students develop precision and pay attention to details.

  1. I can't practice yet.

Once you've made a decision to take the MCAT, do a few questions. Take your time. work through them and see what it's like. By thinking about it, you won't turn the MCAT into a greater beast. Think like the AAMC where you see the big picture and not just the knowledge details. Familiarize yourself with questions and problems and that will change how you will prepare for the exam. That will make you not just a better MCAT student, but a better doctor one day. Products offered by Gold Standard MCAT prep: Save 20% on Gold Standard MCAT Practice Test 3-month packages, or the 1-year Platinum Package! Click here to send an email to get the discount code!

  • 7 full-length test and one free abbreviated test
  • Over 6,000 practice questions
  • MCAT practice courses
  • MCAT University program
  • Home study package
  • Individual exams
  • Other resources from other companies

Some pieces of advice for premed students: A good doctor cures sometimes, diagnoses often, but comforts always. You can take that into your medical school interview.

Links and Other Resources

Gold Standard MCAT Test Prep Send an email to with the discount code goldstandard528 to set up a discounted purchase with them. Save 20% through June 16, 2016 on their Gold Standard MCAT practice test 3-month packages or their 1-year platinum package. Or save 10% after June 16, 2016. Gold Standard Biochemistry App FREE MCAT Biochemistry app for the link section on the page on your website with the podcast: Android: iPhone: AAMC MCAT guide Khan Academy MCAT prep If you need any help with the medical school interview, go to Sign up and you will receive parts of the book so you can help shape the future of the book. This book will include over 500 questions that may be asked during interview day as well as real-life questions, answers, and feedback from all of the mock interviews Ryan has been doing with students. For more great content, check out for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future! Hang out with us over at Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us. Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there! Email Ryan at or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

May 04 2016
1 hour 1 min

Rank #18: 91: Preparing for the Medical School Interview

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Session 91

Back again for the fourth time, Dr. Greg Polites graces today's show. Dr. Polites is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. He also volunteers his time for the Admissions Committee at the school.

In today's episode, Ryan and Greg talk about preparing for the medical school interview, when to start and how to start the legwork, to help you ace your medical school interview.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Greg: Things to prepare for the medical school interview:
  1. Research about the school before you show up.

Explore their website and learn more about them to show your genuine interest in the school.

  1. Be prepared for specific content areas.
  • Know the hot topics in the news, enough to intelligently discuss them. (ex. PPACA)
  • Be able to form an opinion and discuss it in a way that shows a respectful tone towards someone with a different opinion.
  • Don't give the interviewer answers you think they want to hear but one based on information you've researched and understanding that.
  • Go through some of these difficult areas and think about them enough that you won't be thrown off guard (ex. stem cell research, medical malpractice, abortion)
  1. Application picture has to look professional.
  1. Attend an event that the school offers a night before or on the day of the interview in order to learn more about the school and meet some students to see if you're a good fit for the school.
  1. Don't hesitate to ask questions during the interview.

Avoid asking questions that are too analytical. It should be a effortless conversation.

  1. Do a mock interview.

A mock interview is important to help you polish your interview skills. Record yourself when doing mock interviews to watch out for nervous ticks, fillers, etc.

  1. Be relatively conservative in your appearance.

Dress professional and don't wear something that will raise questions. Be clean and appropriate. Male applicants have to dress with a suit and a tie and females have to wear their Sunday best.

  1. Assess your communication skills.

Work on your communication skills because it is an important aspect in being a physician.

  1. Be yourself.

Be affable. Let them see your personality and why you're a good fit. The admissions committee wants to know you as a person and if you're a good fit.

More Do's and Don'ts During the Interview:
  • Pose some questions at the end but not too many.
  • Avoid one-word answers.
  • Don’t ramble.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer.
  • Don’t blurt out answers if you don't know what you're saying. Take a minute to think about it.
  • Know your research and activities well and be prepared to discuss these.
  • Be honest and straightforward.
  • Never curse.
  • Don’t bring up inappropriate topics which could make your interview uncomfortable.
  • Don't badmouth another professor or another school.
  • Don’t be arrogant.
  • Take time to listen to the other person talking. Listen to the question.
  • Be positive and friendly.
  • Don't cry.
  • Don’t speak too fast.
  • Smile.
  • Don't be overbearing when expressing your interest in the school...

Is it okay to send your interviewer a "thank you" letter? Yes. Email is fine. A thank you card is appropriate too.

Links and Other Resources:

Other interviews featuring Dr. Greg Polites:

Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out

For more great content, check out for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future!

Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score and which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well.

Hang out with us over at Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us.

Check out our partner magazine, to learn more about awesome premed information.

Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website.

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Email Ryan at or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

Aug 20 2014
53 mins

Rank #19: 152: The MMI - Everything You Need to Know About the Interview

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Session 152

Ryan welcomes back Dr. Rivera from NYU who previously talked to us about the university's 3-year medical school program. Dr. Rafael Rivera is the Associate Dean for Admission and Financial Aid and the Director of Admissions at NYU School of Medicine.

In today's episode, Dr. Rivera hopes to demystify the process of the MMI or Multiple Mini Interview, which has come as a stress-trigger for many students during medical school application.

NYU has a unique interview process taking the best of both worlds by combining both the traditional interview and the multiple mini-interview (MMI). This resulted to a significant increase in the favorability scores from both parties.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Dr. Rivera:

The Medical School 3-Year MD Program:

  • A popular pathway for students
  • Started with an opt-in option (has to apply before medical school and identify what residency to go to)
  • Now has an additional option for currently matriculating students to enter the pathway after their first year

Previous Application process of NYU's 3-year MD program:

  • Apply through the standard MCAS application system
  • Apply to 4-year pathway first.
  • Once accepted, you have the option to apply to the 3-year pathway
  • Interview with residency program directors in the field you're interested in
  • Applicants will be ranked and acceptance offers to the 3-year pathway will be sent out

Current application process of the 3-year MD program:

  • Students may now defer decision until after they've completed their first year of medical school at NYU

The Benefits of the 3-Year Pathway:

The standard interview process
  • Individual experiences - What have you done to shape who you are?
  • Attributes - What personal attributes do you have that suggest you're going to be a great physician
  • Metrics - How have you done academically in terms of coursework, GPA, MCAT exam?
  • GPA and MCAT as good predictors for academic performance in the preclinical years but they can't tell you how applicants are in the non-cognitive arena
  • Dealing with positive and negative biases

A twist to the interview process...

Increasing interviewer reliability two-folds:

  • Add structure to the interview through standardized questions
  • Increase the number of encounters
Multiple Mini Interview
  • Started in McMaster University in Canada putting together multiple mini-interview process launched in 2002
  • Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) for Admissions
  • It's like "speed dating" for interviews where you go from station to station in short, discrete time stations
  • Each station will look at a particular quality or competency expected of students
  • Students rotate to each station in a round-robin fashion until all stations are done.
NYU's interview process
  • MMI: Seven 8 minute-long individual stations looking at various attributes including communication, ethics, moral decision making, resolution, teamwork, etc.
  • Standard: An open, 15-minute free-flowing interview station which allows you to:
  • discuss why NYU would be a good fit for you
  • discuss aspects of your application that you like admissions to know more about
  • get clarification on various points in your application
  • provide additional information to be exchanged between the admissions and the applicants
What the admissions are looking for from applicants while going through the stations
  • If you don't do well in one station, it gives you the chance in other stations to do better
  • Interpersonal skill set
  • Can adequately review the scenario at hand
  • Come up with standardized approach at looking at things
  • Display the broad competencies essential for medical school applicants
  • Communication: Ability to coherently express your views in a cultural-sensitive, understandable, well-organized manner
  • Flexibility: Ability to take in various sources of information and willingness to incorporate new ideas into your decision making process
  • Insights, strengths, and weaknesses
Dealing with anxiety over MMI
  • Familiarity is key.
  • Prepare for it.
How do you prepare for an MMI? Additional steps to prepare for the uniqueness of the MMI
  • Practice with somebody else.
  • Practice under timed conditions. (Most MMI's give you 2 minutes to read and gather your thoughts and 6-10 minutes to discuss the scenario)
  • Make sure that when the timer goes off, you stop and then move on to the next scenario.
  • Develop a strategy for some stations out there.
  • Do not get too caught up in the details of particular scenarios.
  • Do not memorize your response to a specific scenario.
  • Come up with an algorithm you can use to address a specific scenario.
  • Practice, practice, practice. - Familiarity will be your friend!
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
  • Go to a medical school that fits your vision of who you are and who you want to be.
  • If you don't do well in one station, all is not lost. You still have plenty of opportunities to do better.
  • Make everyone feel that they're valued members of the society.
Links and Other Resources:

Medical School Mock Interview Training with Ryan

MSHQ 096 : 3 Years to Complete Medical School at NYU

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Free MCAT Gift: Free 30+ page guide with tips to help you maximize your MCAT score and which includes discount codes for MCAT prep as well.

Hang out with us over at Click join and we'll add you up to our private Facebook group. Share your successes and miseries with the rest of us.

Check out our partner magazine, to learn more about awesome premed information.

Next Step Test Prep: Get one-on-one tutoring for the MCAT and maximize your score. Get $50 off their tutoring program when you mention that you heard about this on the podcast or through the MSHQ website.

Email me at or connect with me on Twitter @medicalschoolhq

Oct 22 2015
33 mins

Rank #20: 161: 5 Biggest Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes

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Session 161

In today’s episode, Ryan talks about the common pitfalls in writing personal statements and how you can avoid them.

Personal statements (right behind interviews) are where students fall short in their applications. The personal statement is an essay about you as you’re trying to convey to an admission committee why you want to be a physician, your motivations, what and who have shaped you, and your life experiences.

After reviewing hundreds of personal statements, Ryan has identified some common trends and pitfalls in the preparation and execution of personal statements, which he will share in this episode to help you avoid them and rather strengthen your personal statements.

The 5 Common Mistakes in Writing Personal Statements and How to Avoid Them:
  1. Waiting too long to do it.

Premeds tend to focus more on things like the MCAT, getting together their extracurricular activities, descriptions for each of those, and letters of recommendation done. While they're all equally important, students fail to take enough time to go through writing several drafts for their personal statement.

What you need to do: Write a draft and write it again and again and again. Get feedback in between all these drafts from people who understand what the admissions committee is looking for such as your premed advisors. Set aside time to go through at least a half a dozen drafts and at least a month and a half. So plan accordingly.

  1. Editing in your head.

Premeds tend to edit what they're trying to write in their head and so there are a lot of inhibitions while writing their message.

What you need to do: Write drunk and edit sober, which means you need to be uninhibited as you write. Don't worry about what you're typing or writing. Just get it out of your head. Don't think about what you're writing but just get your thoughts our of your head. Once you've done this then you can start massaging the message you're giving to craft it into a strong personal statement.

  1. Failure to express your drive, motivations, and desire to be a physician.

The admissions committee wants to see your passion and desire for going to medical school. And that is the fundamental message that you need to get across the admissions committee.

What you need to do: Hand your personal statement to somebody and ask them, "When you read this, do you understand why I want to be a physician?" If they can't answer that, you need to go back to the drawing board and write it again. And do this process again to another person and as many times as you need to figure out and convey your message about why you want to be a physician.

  1. Thinking that personal statement is the place to air all your dirty laundry.

Personal statements are a good place to mention your red flags, but don't waste all of it on your red flags because you need to be able to get your strengths and desires across. Otherwise, you're just making excuses about your red flags and selling why the admissions committee should look past those red flags.

What you need to do: Bring up a little bit of your red flags but leave an opportunity for the admissions committee member to ask you more questions about that during the interview. Just briefly mention them and move on.

  1. Failure to use the right kind of words.

Telling yourself that you are hardworking, passionate, or empathetic means telling the admissions committee member who you are. You could tell them anything you want to tell them. The phrase "I am" is being used too much.

What you need to do:  Step away from using the language "I am" and instead share your stories, patients that have affected you, the interactions you've had with patients and whoever those people who have shaped who you are. Telling a story that depicts your sense of empathy is way more memorable than saying "I am empathetic." Tell your story.


  1. Grammatical errors

Please, please don't have any grammatical errors in your personal statement.

Links and Other Resources

Join Ryan in Plant City, Florida on January 30, 2016 at the 2016 AMSA PremedFest. This is your opportunity to listen to Dr. Patch Adams and hear how he intertwines humor and health. Learn how to discuss why you want to be a doctor and explore your motivations for becoming a doctor and how to best position yourself to become the doctor that you aspire to be.

Promo Code: MSHQ16 at checkout and save $5 on the registration fee. Go to to go to their website.

MSHQ Episode 146: Common Medical School Interview Mistakes and How to Fix Them

If you want any help with your personal statement writing, go to and Ryan can help you with that.

We have put up a poll in our hangout group  if you like this podcast to be named The Premed Years and cast your vote over at or simply hangout with us!

Check out the, a community focused towards nontraditional students and you will find a ton of resources.

Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a rating and/or review there!

Email me at or connect with me on Twitter @medicalschoolhq.

Dec 23 2015
25 mins

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