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Apr 09 2007

The Writing of the “Harvard Manual”

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Author: Dr. James L Flowers
Category: My Evolution of MCAT Prep Thoughts

Dr. Wallace and Dr. Crooks were able to get funding for writing of the manual. I began sometime in the summer of 1976. An outline was created from scratch as the AAMC had not yet published their outline for the new test to be given in 1977. So, I based my outline on my own preparation for the sciences and for math. Since I could not type at that time, and since my writing was already on the way to the illegibility I would perfect during my residency and practice years, I decided I had better print everything.

Over the next few months ending in December of 1976, I wrote the manuscript for the MCAT prep. We contracted with another student, who also lived in the Peabody Terrace student apartments, to type the manuscript. My daily schedule to complete this was fairly well set for those months. During the first part of the day, from about 8 am to 6 pm, I would do one of my rotations, clinical clerkships. When I got home, I would take care of the kids for a few hours while my wife and mother got some rest. Then I would go to sleep until about midnight to 1-2 am. Getting up at that time, I would do any studying I needed for the clerkships. But, most of the time was spent writing the MCAT prep. At 5 am or so, I would get cleaned up, dressed and would nap, sitting up, until I had to leave for the hospital. This was done nearly every day until the book was done.

Sometime in either late 1976 or early 1977, I obtained the AAMC outline for what would be on the new test. This was a very specific listing but there were not the details for each item…this was to be left up to the student. What became evident is that I had completed a manuscript that was too difficult and overstepped what the AAMC had in mind for the MCAT. I was thinking like a PhD student and not like a MD student. The physics and chemistry, especially, were too difficult. So, I had to rewrite most of the book.

Finally, with over 800 pages of printed material and 400+ pages typed, this was done and by the time of graduation, which I skipped to go back home, Dr. Wallace had the manuscript printed and available. The “Harvard Manual” was born. I had called it “A Comprehensive Preparation for the MCAT”. The manual was eventually published by Angel Publishing, yes Mr. Angel, and then by Betz Publishing, his wife, well into the 1990’s. Eventually, Williams and Wilkins purchased rights from Betz. The book has been used by hundreds of thousands over the years, became probably the best seller in its class during this time, and became the model for many MCAT prep books that followed.

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The Philadelphia AAMC Meeting, Mr Angel and a New MCAT

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Author: Dr. James L Flowers
Category: My Evolution of MCAT Prep Thoughts

I really cannot remember the exact timing of this, but sometime in 1976, Dr. Wallace asked me to go to an AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) meeting in Philadelphia. This was a final or near final meeting in which they were discussing the new version, the fourth version, of the MCAT which would begin in 1977. Dr. Wallace wanted me to be up-to-date since we were considering writing the MCAT prep. He had me contact a Mr. James Angel, who had been a consultant to AAMC regarding the new test.

I met with Mr. Angel, who was a very nice and considerate man. We attended meetings and discussed what was to happen with the new MCAT. From that meeting, I learned there would be some significant changes to the MCAT beginning in about 1977. First, they would now have three separate tests for the sciences. One for biology, one chemistry and one for physics and would have a score for each. Also, there would be a separate Quantitative Section and a separate Verbal section. These would be scored separately. The scoring would no longer be like the SAT. I believe they had a scoring similar to the current scores. One other thing they were going to do is to publish a more specific outline of what was to appear on the test. But, I did not get that outline during that meeting.

So, a big change was on the way the MCAT. I was about to complete my medical education at Harvard. And, meeting Mr. Angel and being at the AAMC meeting had placed me a nice position to move forward in the MCAT prep arena. First, though, a MCAT prep manual had to be written. I had to complete my medical education, take the second part of the National Boards, select a residency program, and I had a family of six to support, and now I had pledged to write a MCAT prep manual from scratch. I had to figure out a way to do this.