Taking the MCAT is a demanding journey that requires hours of preparation, commitment and resilience.
Like many of us, Nana started her MCAT prep with a practice test score that she wasn’t the most confident in. Scoring a 506 only one month before her test date, Nana knew she would have to work much harder to make her dreams a reality.
Committed to her dream of becoming a doctor, Nana carved countless hours into her busy full-time work schedule.
From waking up super early in the morning, to using her work breaks, Nana was using any free time she could find to study for her MCAT with her full-time job…
Fortunately for her, all that hard work really paid off. One month later, on test day, Nana’s score increased 14 points from 506 to a very impressive 520!!
Even more exciting, Nana was accepted into Yale Medical School and is currently an MS1!
We’re so excited to introduce you to Nana and have her share the informative and inspiring insights she has on taking the MCAT.
So Nana, something that stands out to us about your MCAT journey is that you were working full-time while preparing for the test. We know some students can find it intimidating juggling too much with MCAT prep, but obviously you made it work! What was that experience like?
I was working full time during my prep and so striking that balance between working and studying was difficult. I was tired most times when I’d come home from work. I tried to do some Uworld questions on my commutes to work, and woke up very early, at 4/5am to get a few solid hours in before I left home in the mornings. During my work breaks I’d go to a local public library to read summary sheets of content.
Not everyone has the luxury of dedicating an entire summer to only MCAT prep and that’s okay! Nana and many other mentors here at MCAT Mastery have proven time and time again that you can do well on the MCAT even with a busy schedule. For more information and advice on juggling MCAT prep with other commitments, check out Ariana’s story too!
You got an amazing score on the MCAT, but time and time again we’ve seen our top scorers have regrets about their study experience. What’s something you wish you could have changed about your MCAT preparation that you know now? Maybe something that could even help someone starting out?
Keep a notebook! Honestly I should have been doing this a lot earlier but it helps to keep a notebook to write down explanations for things you’re getting wrong. You notice that your notes from subsequent practice tests get shorter and shorter with mastery of concepts. When you review your notes periodically, repeated mention of concepts you missed helps you solidify your understanding.
Speaking of people starting their MCAT prep journey, if you could give a piece of advice to someone preparing for their MCAT right now, what would it be?
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! Review even more. During your review be sure to read around the topics to widen the wealth of knowledge you have. Also, the passages usually have so much important information that end up being asked as questions. After a while themes start to emerge around similar pathways and so it’s easier to form associations between concepts.”
I think it all boils down to familiarity with the content so that any question asked doesn’t come as a surprise, and you’ve seen it asked before somewhere else in another shape or form.
I know we talk a lot about practice, but let’s get more specific about that. What kind of specific study resources did you use to get you to your stellar 520 score?
I used Kaplan for content review, and basically did a lot of practice tests from third party sites. I did UWorld twice, 6 Next Steps full lengths, 10 Altius tests, all 4 AAMC tests and the sample, and all the section banks. I didn’t quite get through all the question packs though but I reviewed all the AAMC material twice. I also read the 300 page Khan Academy document and TPR for psych and sociology. I also used Jack Westin for CARS practice.
Nana lists some really great resources to check out when you’re preparing for the MCAT! If you want to get a more detailed overview of study resource options, we recommend Khan Academy for free content overview. We’ve also gone through the hard work of reviewing many different MCAT prep options for you all in one convenient place here.
Let’s get more into your psychology/sociology score. You scored in the 100th percentile! That’s amazing! A lot of students find this section challenging because they don’t take these kinds of courses in their undergrad. What did you do to prepare for it?
Yes, I scored highest in P/S. I have always enjoyed psych, and even though I hadn’t taken a sociology class in undergrad, I tried to study this section by making the content as relatable as possible to my everyday life- which is pretty much what all this section is about. I would recommend using any test prep content review guide to read through (I used TPR and filled in gaps with Kaplan), and then read the 300 page Khan Academy document to solidify content. If you’re more of an audiovisual learner, you could watch the videos but that was too much for me to get through and discouraged me from keeping on schedule. Also UWorld has awesome explanations for everything, and creates pretty elaborate diagrams and representations of concepts that make them easier to grasp. You can also create flash cards in there that you can always circle back to in between your practice.
We find that some people taking the MCAT consider the psychology/sociology section of the test difficult because they haven’t taken any college courses in preparation for it. If that’s you don’t worry! Of course, it’s best to have that prep, but Nana’s a great example of it not being essential to doing well. If you think you could benefit from more psych/soc tips and tricks, check out this article with advice from more of our top scorers.
We know that even for our top scorers, preparing for the MCAT isn’t easy. Was there ever a point when studying or a specific section where you felt stuck? Maybe no improvements or progress? And if so, what did you do to overcome that?
I really needed a boost with CARS since I was consistently scoring low on that. I actually wish I had found MCAT Mastery earlier because after reading and watching CARS dissection videos, I started to see some improvements. Generally though, the idea of keeping a notebook, making meaningful flash cards, doing intense practice runs, and making sure to repeat AAMC material, all came from the MCAT Mastery strategy guides.
It also really helped me to start thinking like a top scorer and getting into the right frame of mind. I started going on a run or walk everyday, eating better and sleeping well. I started thinking and approaching the whole process like a top scorer, seeing the big picture and having concepts jump out at me while I read passages. MCAT mastery really helped with that.
If you’re thinking about buying and downloading the resources, you should! By the time I got through the strategies I reaffirmed to myself that I could do this and that I was born to do this. Also the daily emails I received on inspirational MCAT journeys really kept me going through the process.
Time and time again, our students tell us about the difficulties they face when preparing for CARS. So, if you’re in the same situation, you’re definitely not alone! If you’re not seeing improvement in your CARS, you should check out our passage dissection and breakdown from another high scorer here. If you find the breakdown helpful, we have a lot more of that in our CARS strategy course.
You mentioned having difficulty with CARS. I think most students preparing for the MCAT would agree that it’s one of the most challenging sections. We’re sure the people reading would love to know if you have any more tips or comments on the section.
CARS had always been my weakest section so I wasn’t surprised that it was my lowest score on the MCAT. I was actually quite relieved when I saw my CARS score. Even though it had dramatically improved, I should have started practising CARS much earlier in my prep than I did. I started using Jack Westin about a month or so before my exam and I feel I should have started a lot earlier. I also found it initially reviewing CARS practice tests, and so didn’t find the value in them until I read through MCAT mastery. So if you’re struggling with this section like I did, it’s best to keep practising everyday (3 or so passages) and pushing till you start getting almost every question right.
Our time together is nearing its end. We have thousands of students who come to MCAT Mastery for support and motivation when starting their MCAT prep. Do you have any parting words of advice or motivation for them?
As much as possible, be consistent! Keep pushing through as much practice as you can. Content review is helpful, but not as helpful as solving more questions. - Don’t get hung up on scores from third party prep companies. See those as a learning opportunity, to be grounded in the basic science concepts and experiment analysis. Good luck!
*Update: Since this interview, we’re pleased to announce that Nana has joined the MCAT Mastery team as a mentor 🙂 *
Did you find that conversation with Nana helpful?
At MCAT Mastery, we love sharing these kinds of conversations with top scorers because not only does it help you learn what you can do to do well on the MCAT…
But it also serves as an important reminder to all of us that the top scorers are normal people and if they can do so well on the MCAT, then so can you!
Maybe you’re also working full-time, have been struggling with CARS or have to approach psychology/sociology from scratch.
Preparing for the MCAT is one of the most difficult things that can stand in the way of you being a doctor, but it shouldn’t be. We’re here to help make those dreams of going to med school and being a doctor become reality for you!
All of your mentors here at MCAT Mastery are here to share their experiences and tips with you to make sure that your MCAT experience is even easier than ours was…
And before you know it, you’ll be a top scorer too.
You got this!
The MCAT Mastery Team
Your "MCAT Success" Mentors
P.S. Shoutout to Nana for taking the time answer our questions! We're so proud of her and grateful to now have her as part of the team 🙂