McNair Scholar aces the MCAT

After 12 practice tests and a crisis in confidence, Honors College student Brian Garcia placed in the 100th percentile of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) with a score of 524.

That means Garcia scored higher than 99.9 percent of people who took the test across the country in 2017.

“I was pretty shocked,” says Garcia, who is majoring in biological sciences. “ I was in class and on my phone and not really paying attention that day. I didn’t really process the score. It hit me a minute later and stepped out of class. I was super excited about it.”

Garcia’s story is one of perseverance and dedication. After signing up to take the MCAT several times, Garcia could not work up the confidence he needed to follow through with the test.

“I doubted myself a lot,” he says. “I wasn’t scoring where I wanted to be. The biggest obstacle was  Hurricane Irma, it delayed my exam date. I couldn’t do practice tests or focus because the power was out. It was very demotivating.”

Garcia gives credit to biologist Matthew DeGennaro, a researcher in the FIU Biomolecular Sciences Institute, for mentoring him and giving him the confidence to finally take the test.

“I got his blessing. I don’t think I would’ve taken the MCAT yet if it wasn’t for him,” says Garcia, who works in DeGennaro’s lab as a research assistant.

“I was overjoyed and thrilled. I knew that he could obtain that score. He is one of the best students I have had in my lab,” says DeGennaro.

Garcia’s advice for would-be test-takers:

  • Take practice tests. “I took about 12 practice tests. One of the hardest parts when taking the MCAT is the endurance and focus that you’ll need. The test is 7 hours and 30 minutes long. You only get three breaks.”
  • Read the questions first. “If you know your science, you can answer a lot of questions on the MCAT without reading the passage. I answered all the questions I could without looking at the passage. I finished the MCAT with 30 minutes remaining.”
  • Trust yourself in regard to readiness. “Don’t be ashamed to reschedule if you think you can do better. This wasn’t the first time I signed up for the MCAT.”

Garcia, who graduates in the spring, plans to enroll in medical school through a MD/Ph.D. program, which integrates research and medicine.

His inspiration for this career path began after a family member was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a genetic disease that causes muscle pain.

“Fibromyalgia is not well understood. I prefer to actively work and figure out what can be done,” says Garcia. “I can develop new forms of treatment for incurable diseases.”