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The evaluation of MAC protocols for Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) is often performed through simulation. These simulations necessarily abstract away from reality in many ways. However, the impact of these abstractions on the results of the simulations has received only limited attention. Moreover, many studies on the accuracy of simulation have studied either the physical layer and per link effects or routing protocol effects. To the best of our knowledge, no other work has focused on the study of the simulation abstractions with respect to MAC protocol performance. In this paper we present the results of an experimental study of two often used abstractions in the simulation of WSN MAC protocols. We show that a simple SNR-based reception model can provide quite accurate results for metrics commonly used to evaluate MAC protocols. Furthermore we provide an analysis of what the main sources of deviation are and thereby how the simulations can be improved to provide even better results.