Want to know the smartest way to being successful? Follow the methods of successful people 🙂
Which is why we love bringing you the real life success stories of top MCAT scorers! So you can see how they progressed on this difficult journey and managed to achieve a competitive MCAT score that opens doors to med-schools.
In this success story, we have a lot of details for you, so you can really understand and get in the mind of how this top scorer prepared and studied to achieve her 88th percentile MCAT score.
It definitely wasn't easy...
She faced many battles that often had her really discouraged...
But no matter how hard it got, you'll see that she was always able to take a step back, recalibrate, and move forward with persistence, positivity, and an improved plan.
In today's MCAT Master Interview, we'd like to introduce you to Lindsay Partin, a 513 scorer...
To start this interview, can you give us a brief overview of your MCAT prep journey?
"I graduated from Tufts University in 2018 and started my content review late August/September. I work full time at Boston Children's Hospital and also had a part-time job as a swim instructor a couple nights a week.
I planned on taking the test 3/29/19, but after scoring a 503 on AAMC Full Length 1 in the beginning of March, I postponed my date until 5/11/19.
This was definitely helpful as I scored a 516 on AAMC Full Length 3 two weeks before my exam date (kinda bummed I couldn't reach that on the actual exam but still relieved it's above 510).
Once I finished content review by the first week of January, I made a detailed schedule of what passages/question packs/number of section bank questions I wanted to get through each week.
(Did you notice her positive written messages to herself? LOVE IT!!)
"I aimed to study 4-5 hours each workday, practice test on Saturday, and review for about 10 hours on Sunday (my review often took longer than 1 full weekend day).
I enrolled in the Next Step online course in August, but would not spend my money on it again knowing what I know now. To increase my score, I really hammered questions (generic, yes). Because I pushed my date back, I was able to do all the AAMC material TWICE, which really boosted my confidence.
Ultimately, I achieved my goal of scoring a 129 on each section except for CARS (126--there were some touch philosophy passages which I was definitely the weakest on)."
Can you give us more details in how you created your MCAT study plan, what resources you used, and what are some of your best recommendations?
"I don't think I would advise someone to take this test while working full-time with a part-time job. As a collegiate athlete and double major, I was unable to study for this exam while I was in school...best case scenario would be to take it the summer after graduation (but I started work mid-June). So with that in mind, I required a LENGTHY study plan.
I covered content review between September - December. With the Next Step online course, I tried to complete one of their 20 webinar lessons (3-5 hours each) once a week (sometimes I skipped weeks) during this time.
I mainly used the Next Step books because they were simpler and combined Orgo and Chem (under the impression that some of the other book sets included extraneous information). However, I did use the Kaplan Biology book and sometimes supplemented Biochem with Kaplan too.
**Knowing what I know now and understanding that visual learning is the most helpful for me, I would have tossed the books and used Khan Academy videos as my only content review source (with books to supplement if needed)...I feel I would have been able to retain much more information this way**
I planned to take 10 practice full lengths starting in mid-January and ending the week before my original exam date (3/29). With the Next Step course, I had access to all 10 of their practice tests. I scored a 506 and 507 on my first 2 NS exams, and then a 503 and 504 the following weeks (exams in order).
I was pretty discouraged at this point because it was looking like I was getting worse after a month of targeted studying. I took the next weekend off of a practice exam to reevaluate my studying habits (towards the end of February) and this is when I found the MCAT Mastery Team. You guys are really great at lifting someone up when they have hit rock bottom of MCAT studying.
As a full-time working self-studier (and a retired competitive athlete), I REALLY appreciated in all the encouragement in all of your documents and emails. Ending each email with "You got this" is such a nice thing to see even from people I've never met.
The CARS report was helpful and I immediately noticed improvements in my AAMC CARS question pack scores. I think finding your team after I was feeling extremely discouraged was a blessing. I love how you seem to connect with us through pages and really shine light onto this whole process when someone is feeling most vulnerable.
Writing this now, I am realizing how much I relied on this community for support as I definitely feel I owe a lot of my success (or at least the fact that I did not spiral into a pit of anxiety) to MCAT Mastery!
With a more comprehensive understanding of the process, I was able to score a 508 on the NS FL#5, but the following week, I scored a 503 on AAMC #1. At this point, I was well into studying and was planning on testing in 3-4 weeks.
I didn't believe I could raise my score 7+ points while holding two jobs in that time frame, so I extended my testing date. This was definitely beneficial, as I scored a 510 on NS#6, 508 on AAMC#2, scaled 513 on AAMC Sample, and then a 516 on AAMC#3.
In between these test dates, I was doing practice problems from the AAMC material and the Next Step questions packs. I also did all of the CARS passages in the NS 108 book (I often didn't review these thoroughly because I felt they were a lot harder than the AAMC material and contained more philosophy jargon that I did not understand...knowing my score now, I definitely should not have overlooked this because I got two difficult philosophy passages on my exam which I'm sure contributed to my low CARS score). I also repeated the AAMC FL#1 and AAMC FL#2, and scored a 516 and 524, respectively.
To review my exams, I used the excel template you provide and noted EVERY answer to each test question (except for CARS...also probably a mistake). I also had a binder filled with blank paper to visually map out answers and pathways.
To review CARS, I mainly focused on the ones I got wrong and did write out the correct reasoning, but this review was not as comprehensive as it was for the other sections. I also made flashcards for the amino acids, hormones (HUGE on our exam), lab/technology/analytical techniques and key experiments (psych included), key equations, and orgo reactions.
Working in an office, I also laminated some "worksheets" that I made for metabolic pathways, and some organ systems. I think this was absolutely key because I was able to quickly refer to the binder for topics I was really struggling with and I was constantly reviewing high-yield information in my bed each night before I went to sleep.
The week before the test, I took a full week off work to study. I used my time to finish an AAMC CARS question pack for the second time, and redo the chem and physics AAMC question packs (this was super helpful to ingrain how to do simple calculations).
I also tried to write everything I had in my binder from memory (this is how I normally study for exams but I wasn't able to do that with ALL the notes I made during content review)."
What happened in CARS? What would you differently if you could prep for CARS again?
"My CARS score definitely fluctuated depending on the material. I have been using Jack Westin for an inconsistent "question of the day" since last July, but I don't think I gave this section the attention it needed.
On my Next Step exams, I was scoring a 126 or above, and some random Redditor said "as long as you can score a 126 on NS CARS you're good because it is more difficult than the actual exam"...and I believed them.
I did both the AAMC CARS QPacks twice, but honestly did not see as much of an improvement as I did when redoing the Section Bank and Chem/Physics QPacks. I should have realized that I tended to do well on art/music/history passages and struggled with philosophy and economy passages. since I reviewed my weaker areas in the sciences more rigorously, I should have applied that to CARS as well.
Unfortunately, I went into the exam kinda hoping that CARS would just be similar to AAMC Sample and FL#3 and not like AAMC FL#1. It was more like the latter, and my score suffered as a result."
Tell us about your highest scoring sections and any tips you have for those!
"I scored a 129 on C/P, B/B, and P/S (my goal section scores!) I had scored higher than this on some of the practice tests, but the actual test was definitely harder than a lot of the practice material and I am happy I was able to stay to consistent.
I think my rigorous review of my practice exams and my binder full of material/questions I found especially difficult really solidified my understanding for most concepts. I also used/made quizlet flashcards to help with the P/S vocab terms.
As a visual learner, I suggest to MAP IT OUT and watch Khan Academy. P/S was actually my worst section early on, and I watched ALL of the Khan P/S videos and thought it was helpful in holding some of the material in my head.
I'm disappointed I couldn't score higher on B/B as I scored a 131 on my first attempt of the AAMC Sample and FL#3, but overall happy with these scores."
We are really thankful to Lindsay for sharing so many of her insights with The MCAT Mastery Community.
There are two words that come to mind after reading Lindsay's story...
Patience and perseverance.
She started prepping for the MCAT back in August and wrote the MCAT in May! It takes a lot of willpower and determination to keep going for that long...
Most students want to get the MCAT "over with" as soon as possible. Most students can't wait to "get their life back" when in the midst of MCAT prep...
If you can't wait to "get your life back", don't get it back at a really high cost like taking the MCAT when you're not ready or settling for a lower MCAT score...
That might make MCAT prep longer than you wanted because you'll realize you can't get into med-school without competitive scores so you'll end up retaking... This time with more pressure and an even stronger need to "get this over with". You'll feel trapped.
Instead have the courage to recognize the root cause of why you want this to be over with so fast...
Uncertainty and lack of clarity.
The human mind hates the feeling of uncertainty. It's like walking through a dark jungle, not knowing when it's going to end, not knowing if you're going the right way. It's innate to want to just get out of there quickly...
Especially when you've been trying to get through it for so long, but you just can't seem to make any progress.
The key to clarity is following a path that you can be certain will lead you to your destination, that's been proven to work by thousands of students before you...
Learn that path.
Once you know the path and you actually start walking it, you'll start seeing results. Those results will restore your uncertainty into certainty, making you feel confident...
And when you're feeling confident, when you have clarity, you won't want it to end so fast - you'll push harder. You'll know you can get to your dream score that will get you to your dream school.
The dark jungle will light up and there's no way you're stopping now - you're going to make it to the end, to the finish line, because you can see your destination clearly now.
That's where you'll find us and everyone else in your life who loves you...
Smiling our biggest smiles at you...
Letting you know we knew you could do it 🙂
You got this,
The MCAT Mastery Team
Your "MCAT Success" Mentors
P.S. ... And if you need us to walk you through the jungle holding your hand, one-on-one, all the way until the finish line, we can do that for you too.