Are you frustrated with not being able to consistently get over the 500 hump on your MCAT practice exams?
Or maybe you've already written the MCAT before and couldn't seem to break that 500 barrier?
You're not alone. We've come across many MCAT writers in our community who faced the same frustrations...
Who doubted their abilities and their future...
But ended up achieving a competitive, balanced 510+ MCAT score.
Today, they're in med-school and on their way to becoming doctors.
So our first piece of advice is to not worry. You'll be fine. As long as you're willing to adjust your current MCAT study process, you'll see your score improve.
With that said, let's begin with discussing how you can get over the 500 mark on your next practice test...
How Top Scorers Study For Constant Improvement In Scores and Get Over The 500 Mark on the MCAT
If you're new to MCAT Mastery, the first thing we want you to know about us is that all the MCAT recommendations, tips, and advice we have for you is proven and researched-back.
We conduct ongoing research and interviews with top scoring MCAT test-takers, so we can bring you credible MCAT prep strategies that have been proven to stand the test of time.
We've posted some of our interviews and success stories from people who have increased their MCAT scores from below 500 to 510 and above. After you're done reading this article, we highly recommend you check out those success stories.
We also recommend you join our email newsletter to receive 510+ scorer case studies so you stay motivated, and learn from real people who conquered the different struggles that show up during MCAT prep, especially breaking score barriers like 500.
The first thing we'll say is that scoring below 500 according to most top scorers, is a result of being behind in content. If you've been studying content, but not understanding the material deeply enough, then you likely need to switch up the methods you're using to learn the material.
Some people do well with flashcards, others like prep books, others like videos. And they don't necessarily have to be the same for all sections of the MCAT. For B/B, you might prefer videos. For C/P, you might prefer books. Point is, you need to find the best ways that work for you.
Once you're at a point of comfort with the content, and you're certain of this, then you can start to take a look at the way you're writing your tests, and how you're approaching MCAT prep overall.
To address this, let's look at a real life case study...
We recently came across a great article on PreMedLife. We've included the link to this article at the end of this post.
The author of this article, Janet Umenta, discussed her journey on how she crossed the 500 mark on her MCAT practice tests.
We've summarized her some of her main insights for you below.
We're sharing this advice because most of it is exactly what we've seen working as well.
"Applying to medical schools is a competitive process; only about half of applicants get into medical school in any given year. Getting over 500 on the MCAT puts you in the top half of all med school applicants and improves your chance of admittance. Seeing my scores hover below the 500 mark was frustrating, so I knew I had to study SMARTER if I wanted to see improvements in my score...."
"I have found that the key to doing well on the MCAT is to study SMARTER. You want to make sure your studies are focused on improving areas of weakness and test-taking strategies."
One of the first pieces of advice Janet passes on is something we've been trying to spread for ages...
The key to success on the MCAT isn't just studying hard. It's also about studying smart.
What does studying smart mean?
Most top MCAT scorers aren’t naturally smart, or some kind of geniuses...
They just learned how to approach the MCAT in the right way, in a way the test creators want you to approach it, but don’t want to tell you how, because it’s a competitive exam created to evaluate your potential as a med-school student.
It’s like how someone who creates a puzzle doesn’t want to tell you how to solve it...
Eventually, there are people who will figure out the steps and strategies to solve it. But there will always be the average population that will keep trying to solve it ‘on their own’...
Having weeks and months go by without seeing major improvements.
Usually by the time they figure it out, after multiple attempts probably, the people who already solved it the first time will have moved on to bigger and better things…
So the first, most important piece of advice we have for you is to improve your approach to your MCAT prep using proven MCAT prep strategies. Proven strategies are those that have been used by top scorers (those who have already achieved what you want to achieve).
As we continue here, we're going to cover some important factors that could very likely help you increase your MCAT score beyond the 500 mark, but we'll also be honest with you...
One blog article is probably not going to contain all the strategies you need to apply all the changes you need to make in your MCAT prep to see a fast increase in your MCAT score. It might. But it's unlikely.
What you need to do is spend some time (maybe a few hours, could be a whole day) going through all the best top scorer strategies, and then IDENTIFYING the ones that resonate with you.
The ones that you know you're not applying. The ones where you're certain, that if you were to apply, your score is guaranteed to increase.
Everyone is different so we can't prescribe one specific strategy for you and say THIS is the one that's going to work for you.
If you want to go through the best, research-backed top scorer strategies that can guarantee your score surpasses 500, we've compiled them all for you here.
We know they're the 'best' because no company researches for the best, most reliable MCAT study strategies like we do.
Next, we'll cover a likely factor that could be holding your score back (as it does for 90% of MCAT writers...)...
This Test Taking Factor Is Likely Holding Your Score Below 500
Before preparing for the MCAT, you've probably never written a 7+ hour exam before.
Top scorers know that this exam is not just a test of your critical thinking abilities, but it's also a test of your stamina.
If you're not performing at your 100% optimal level by the 5th - 7th hours of the exam, you're leaving a lot of points on the table.
These extra points could easily add up to get you over the 500 mark.
We've seen thousands of premeds come by our site and join our community and we're certain that a very few percentage of them have trained themselves to the point where they can develop the endurance to tackle such a massive exam.
Top scorers on the other hand, have always made sure to train themselves on it.
So your first plan of action is to improve your MCAT test taking stamina.
Your goal should be to get to the point where you can take an exam for 8 hours and still maintain peak focus and performance. You want to be over-prepared when it comes to stamina.
The key is to train yourself in the correct way. We've covered how top scorers do this in the Top Scorer Strategy Guide if you want to know some great hacks to build your MCAT endurance.
A simple hack is to always write your practice exams under test-day conditions. Literally, to the point where you wake up at 8am, in a quiet environment, same amount of breaks, etc. You'll notice with every practice exam, you should be focusing for longer and longer.
Again, there are many other techniques to maximize your MCAT studying focus and performance that top scorers have used, but that should definitely get you started.
Most premeds writing with you will be struggling by the last 2 hours, whereas you won't be. This is a competitive exam.
You need to focus on the extra factors like stamina, that most people avoid, to really stand out and as a result, make your MCAT score stand out to med-schools.
Next, since we're on the topic of practice exams, if you're not using practice exams properly, this could definitely be holding your score down below the 500 mark...
How To Use MCAT Practice Exams To Get Your Score Over 500
What every top scorer understands is that practice exams are the keys to unlocking score improvements...
IF you understand how to use them properly.
If your scores aren't increasing, if you're not able to get beyond the 500 mark, it's highly likely that you're not using practice exams properly.
Let's go through a few highly recommended top scorer practice exam strategies.
First, a major factor in using practice tests efficiently to increase your MCAT score, as top scorers recommend, is to pinpoint and reflect on the reasons for your mistakes.
If you're doing anything to stall your reflection process, you're hurting your MCAT score.
For example, if you get a disappointing score on a practice test, it's tempting to go hard on the books.
Don't. Take some time to rest and go back to the practice test after you're in a pleasant mindset. This could be a few hours later or the next day, or two days later. Doesn't matter.
Your rest time is important because it will help you refresh your mind and avoid burnout. Only after you rest, will you be able to efficiently see your mistakes clearly.
Another key top scorer practice test strategy is to schedule practice tests very regularly to help maximize your score. Don't leave them to later.
Janet, from the Premedly article, stated:
"If your test is still a couple of months away, schedule your next practice test a week from now. If your MCAT is in a couple of weeks, schedule your next practice test three days from now."
Also, when reviewing practice tests, top scorers recommend to go over questions you got wrong AND the ones you got right.
To avoid repeating the same mistakes: for the questions you got wrong, write down the answer explanations.
Are you consistently getting the same questions wrong? Go over those areas much more carefully before every practice test.
Reflect on your test-taking and answering ability.
Janet recommends (like many top scorers we know) the following:
"Were you distracted during the exam? Did you take unnecessary breaks (I know I did in the beginning)? Are you taking the test in a quiet environment? How are your time management skills? Did you run out of time during a section? Answering these questions for yourself will help you make changes for how you handle the next full-length exam, improving your chances for scoring higher than before."
When used properly, we've seen people ONLY use practice exams for a full month straight to take their scores upwards of 10-18 points.
Practice exams are powerful. And you need to know/learn how to use them.
They're so valuable that in the Top Scorer MCAT Strategy Guide, we dedicated an entire section to practice exams called 'The Art of Strategic MCAT Practice' where we cover everything you need to know when it comes to using, choosing, and reviewing practice exams properly to achieve your MCAT score goal.
Top scorers also knew which practice exams besides AAMC exams, are the most valuable, and which are the least valuable. We cover these details in the strategy guide as well.
It's important to know because you don’t want to blow through the most valuable ones at the least valuable point during your MCAT prep. You need to know how to use these extremely valuable resources to make sure you maximize their value... so you can maximize your MCAT score.
Keep in mind that AAMC only has a limited set of exams. You must use them wisely. You can use them a second time as well if you know how.
Lastly, we want to highlight one more common factor that may be holding your MCAT score below 500...
An Overlooked Factor During MCAT Prep That Keeps Scores Below 500
Chances are you've experienced disappointment not once, not twice, but several times so far during your MCAT prep. Maybe not just disappointment, but also frustration, confusion, worry and an overall feeling of discouragement.
We know this because we know exactly what it's like to be in your shoes. We see it everyday and have been there ourselves.
We bring this up because we want you to know that if there's one thing that's definitely holding your score down, it's the permission you're giving these emotions to stay with you.
Top scorers know the incredible value of having an optimal mindset during MCAT prep and especially when you're writing practice tests, and the exam.
Why is it so important? Top scorers know that your mind's performance, memory, creativity, and a whole host of other attributes rely on your ability to think with clarity.
And there's one thing that clouds clarity in your thinking, it's a negative emotional state.
Staying in a negative emotional state is your enemy during MCAT prep. Notice, we're not saying negative emotions are bad - they're normal human experiences - we're saying staying with them is holding you back.
When you're not in a good place, you're not going to think clearly. Your judgement will be clouded. Your decisions and the choices you make will be off.
You need to get in a positive state of mind as much as possible. Don't believe us? Or have doubts about the effectiveness of this strategy? Try this...
For the next 2 weeks during your MCAT prep, try your utmost best to stay positive. Talk to yourself like your best friend. Keep telling yourself 'it's all good' and 'everything will work out'. The key to a positive state of mind is positive self talk.
Also, try to enjoy this process. Enjoy studying for the MCAT. Enjoy learning about medicine. Remember why you're going through this. Get passionate about it.
Remember, "happiness is a choice".
Give it a try and like many top scorers before you, you'll see an increase in your score and it may just be the few points you need to get you over the 500 mark.
When you see your first few increases in points, your confidence will rise, and your higher confidence will feed into a more positive, optimistic mindset, which will result in more efficient MCAT prep, and the cycle will continue...
Keep in mind, the easiest way to increase your confidence during MCAT prep is to hold a proven roadmap, a step by step instruction manual with insights passed down from top scorers before you, showing you exactly what you need to do to increase your MCAT score to the competitive level.
Remember, strategy is your key. Without approaching MCAT prep in a strategic way, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to easily achieve a competitive 500+ MCAT score.
Using these top scorer strategies, we've seen a lot of premeds finally get over that same score they’ve been hovering around for so long...
And now you can do the same.
You got this,
The MCAT Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors
Here's the link to the full article on PreMedLife.