ISU student posts an exceptional score on medical college admission test

June 14 2007

One Indiana State University President's Scholar was shocked when she learned her score on the Medical College Admission Test -- shocked because she scored much higher than expected.

Rachael Chase, a senior chemistry major and psychology minor, scored a 39 out of a possible 45, a score received by only 0.5 percent of the 40,000 students that take the medical school entrance exam each year.

The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, and writing skills. It also tests the examinee’s knowledge of science concepts and principles.

“It took a long time for it to set in that I had scored so high on the exam,” she said.

Chase took the test early in her junior year, sooner than most students her age. She wanted to have time to prepare for the next exam and medical school applications. She was preparing to take the test again but, with a score higher than expected, she was happy to change her plans.

ISU chemistry professor Eric Glendening, said many students take the MCAT exam at the end of their second year to become familiar with the testing style. They then take it again throughout their third year but this was not the case with Chase, a student in the University Honors program.

“Not only did she perform at an exceptionally high level, she did so only in her second year,” said Glendening.

The practice MCAT exams and her classes helped her perform at such a high level as she had studied topics such as analytical chemistry, biology, and life sciences throughout the semesters.

With the stress of passing the MCAT just a memory, Chase is one step closer to her dream of becoming a physician.

“Now my biggest challenge is the application and interview process for getting into medical school,” she said.

Scheduled to graduate in May 2008, Chase is early in the rigorous medical school application process. The applications include a primary and secondary application with essays and then a possible interview with the school. She is looking into Indiana University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Because of her outstanding MCAT score, Glendening said she can choose from a large number of schools across the U.S.

Even though she is not set on one type of medicine, for the moment she is interested in neurology, the study of the nervous system.

“How the brain functions and the sending of messages and processes them is fascinating,” she said. Radiology and Pathology are also appealing to this future doctor.

The Freelandville, Ind. native has had to maintain a constant juggling act between her class load and her numerous extracurricular activities.

Besides being a presidential scholar, a member of the Pre-Medical Association, the American Chemical Society - Student Affiliates, Sycamore Singers and a reporter for the Indiana Statesman newspaper and IQ Magazine, she maintains a high grade point average while helping other students with their work as a supplementary instructor in the chemistry department. Chase even managed to spend a summer studying abroad in Switzerland.

“It has been difficult getting through the tough courses required for entrance to medical school in addition to my major courses, and also trying to get as many experiences as I can through extra-curriculars, volunteering, and shadowing,” Chase, whose campus involvement and academic accomplishments were recognized with an Alan C. Rankin Award, said.

She has been involved in research activities since the second semester of her freshman year, working under assistant professor Richard Fitch. An undergraduate research fellow, her examination of the toxicity of the Kentucky coffee bean led to numerous presentations of her work, including at the 2007 and 2006 American Chemical Society National Meetings, the Indiana Academy of Sciences and the Kentuckiana Undergraduate Research Symposium.

She is currently serving as a research assistant for St. Ann’s Clinic, studying the long-term management of diabetes and works as a volunteer for VistaCare Hospice, visiting patients. According to Chase, this time has given her valuable insight on what physicians deal with every day.

“Medical schools value students who are well-rounded, because students who participate in a variety of activities pick up many different skills that will serve them well when they are a physician,” she added.

Chase attributes her success in part to the guidance she has received from Glendening.

“He [Glendening] is the one who got me involved in the research I do with Dr. (Richard) Fitch in the chemistry department, which has been a great learning experience for me. He has always encouraged me to excel, and I am really grateful that I have a faculty member I can go to for advice.”

For students looking to take the MCAT, Chase offers some sound advice.

“The best thing I can tell people is to learn how they learn best. There is no one study method that will allow every person to do well on the MCAT. For some people, it is best to take a prep course; other people start six months in advance and do a little at a time; others, like me, do a more intensive, shorter period of studying,” she said.

“Some people order CD's on which MCAT teachers read lectures and explain concepts, which is beneficial for people who learn through hearing; visual learners can get books with colorful diagrams and pictures to help you remember concepts, such as ExamKrackers.”

Other tips on preparing for the MCAT:

*Do LOTS of practice tests. These are readily available through many sources.

*If you are having trouble in a particular area, Chase recommends getting a different MCAT prep book for that area and studying from that. You don't have to restrict yourself to one set of prep books (ExamKrackers, Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc.).

“This is what I did for the physics section, which was where I was weakest. Sometimes just reading another book, which will explain things differently, can help,” she said.

*Make your own flashcards as you go along, or buy some. Flashcards are good to have to review the key terms, but it is important to know what the term means and its implications for whatever subject it deals with, not just memorize a definition word-for-word.

*Focus not only on learning the material, but also on developing critical thinking skills that will allow you to answer the questions. Just knowing a definition or a formula may not be enough to answer a question about it. Learn the basic types of MCAT questions and as you are going through practice tests think carefully about the thought process you are using to get through the answer. If you develop good critical thinking skills, it is amazing how many questions you can make an educated guess on even if you aren't 100% sure of the answer.

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Contact: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or pmeyer4@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Laura Smiley, Media Relations intern, (812) 237-3773

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Story Highlights

Indiana State University President's Scholar Rachel Chase was shocked when she learned her score on the Medical College Admission Test. The senior chemistry major was shocked because she scored much higher than expected.

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