I took the MCATs a long, long time ago. Back in those days, we had to hike five miles in the snow to get to the testing site and then churned our own butter. (Butter churning used to be one of the domains tested on the MCATs.) Back in those days, the test was on paper and we bubbled in our answers on something called a "scantron". Ask your parents about it.
Since the test was such a big, exciting event, it only took place twice a year: in August and April. I didn't want to take it during the school year and I thought the August before my senior year was too late, so I took it during the August between my sophomore and junior year of college. I had taken all my prereqs at that point aside from Term 2 of Biology, so I figured I was set.
I decided I didn't see a point to them fancy prep classes, so I spent the summer doing studying on my own. I already knew my strengths and my weaknesses. English, biology, and orgo were my weaker areas. Chemistry and physics were my stronger areas. I figured if I could at least get a solid 10-ish score in everything else, I'd balance it out by getting 14 or 15 in chem/physics. I never got below a 13 on that section in the practice tests, so I figured I was golden. (For those of you not in the know, scores were out of 15 points.)
The format that the test used to have (and perhaps still does) is that there would be a reading passage followed by questions. I recently explained this to my husband and he was utterly perplexed.
Husband: "You mean, there would be a reading passage for the English sections only."
Me: "No, the science sections would have a passage too."
Husband: "Even, like, physics?"
Husband: "Like what?"
Me: "I don't know... there would be a little story about physics and then you'd have to answer questions about it."
Husband: [baffled] "A story... about physics??"
I don't know why it was done this way, but it was. I'm a fast reader, so it wasn't necessarily a bad thing for me. The bad part is if you run into one hard passage or something that isn't your strength, you're screwed on like 6-7 questions instead of just one. And in my case, I ran into TWO really hard passages on the chem/physics section.
I swear, it was unfairly hard, you guys. I can't remember anymore what the passages were, but I remember telling a physics major friend about the hard physics passage, and he said, "Whoa, that's pretty hard." And then a second hard one too... it really hurt me. I walked out of that test not feeling good about it.
Ultimately, I swung a disappointing but sufficient 10 on the chem/physics section. Fortunately for me, I did much better than expected on the other two sections, so overall I got around the score I had hoped for and decided I had a good enough total score to avoid retaking it, especially since I didn't want to go to a fancy schmancy school.
Oh, and the writing section? Abysmal. One interviewer made fun of me and asked if I was literate. (I did get into that school, so that goes to show how little that section mattered. Although an attending once told me the writing section correlates best with med school performance.)