The Art of Being a Premed

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The amateur piece above is in the art realm called a ‘study’, it’s a copy of a Da Vinci self portrait (I believe) that I did years ago when I considered pursuing art as a major. A common way to practice fine art is to imitate a piece by an artist you like, meticulously trying to interpret the original piece in your own way, all while still paying respect to the original artist by keeping the finished rendition canon. In my opinion, the methodology for performing well on the MCAT and premed courses isn’t that far off from becoming decent at art.

Referring back to the ‘study’ above, I first broke the original piece down into a manageable squares, this was done to make the whole composition more digestible for me.  Breaking the picture down into more intelligible grid boxes allowed me to recreate with equal effort each square inch of the original drawing. The most difficult, and only part that requires some experience, is noticing what parts of the composition are most critical to capture the viewers attention, and planning how to render them. But for the most part it’s almost a mechanical process, if you did a swell job seeing the “forest” with a layout sketch and “trees” by paying equal attention to each square inch of the drawing then you’re likely to create a quality drawing. The end result of performing an art study is not only to recreate the art, but also to recreate the problem solving situations the original artist had to overcome, making us a better artist — perhaps you’re setting off the same neuronal symphony as the original artist while applying your craft.

In a similar way, trying to guzzle down MCAT or concepts in most premed courses is pretty daunting, but if you break them down into intelligible bits it’s not such a fool’s errand. In studying for the MCAT or any course I try to have a general “sketch” out the pertinent information, to catch the vital information I would use the AAMC MCAT subject guide. Then if I was trying to study the Physical Science section then I’d break each component into it’s parts, for example thermodynamics. Then I’d focus on more detail, breaking the task up into digestible chunks, for example:

1. Zeroth law (concept of temperature)
2. First law (ΔE = q + w, conservation of energy)
3. Equivalence of mechanical, chemical, electrical, and thermal energy units
4. Second law (concept of entropy)
5. Temperature scales, conversions
6. Heat transfer (conduction, convection, radiation)
7. Heat of fusion, heat of vaporization
8. PV diagram (work done = area under or enclosed by curve)

I self studied and kept track of each pixel of my understanding by keeping track of the bit’s that make the final picture. The challenge, just like art, is to take the disjointed aspects of the pieces and amalgamate them into something decent, i.e. demonstrate proficiency in the MCAT and premed courses. However, if you layout a good plan, take care to develop your fundamentals, and are systematic in your goals then it’s something we can all conquer.


Life works in a funny way, I quit art once my car was stolen with my art portfolio in it. I decided to study science because I figured that intangible art could never be absconded away from me (save Alzheimer’s).  I did eventually get my car back, but the thieves apparently were fans and kept my work.  I suppose in the end it worked out, I did get into medical school.

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