My name is Hope and I'm an MCAT Mentor here at MCAT Mastery! I want to share with you some of the important lessons I learned during my MCAT journey!
Even though my experience with the MCAT was initially negative, I learned so much about myself, and about the exam, so if you’re struggling right now too, know that you can do this and I hope my advice helps 🙂
The first time I took the MCAT, I made a 500. It was July 15th (2019), and I was just coming off of my collegiate softball season, along with a break up with a long time boyfriend (5 and half years) literally a week and a half before the exam (which I do not recommend doing), so it was a very tough time!
After getting my score back that day, I took the next day to really make sure that I wanted to take it again and I started studying on the 17th (two days later)!
My second MCAT date was August 30th, so I only really had a month to improve, but I’m happy to report that even in such a short amount of time, I got a score I can be proud of: my 514!
With that said, here are the three important steps I took and recommend all my students to take who are looking to improve their scores as well.
Psst! MCAT Mastery team here!
Step 1: Monitor Your Mindset
Upon retaking the MCAT, I realized that both being motivated and having a positive mindset changed how I studied and approached the exam, and I ultimately believe they are a huge part of how I achieved a 514 the second time I tested!
One huge difference between prepping my first and second exams is that while studying the second time, I was also volunteering at a free clinic! And although I was nervous about retaking, the clinic did a great job of keeping me motivated by constantly reminding me of the goal at the end of the test: to become a physician like the ones I was helping!
Having this type of motivation is extremely important because it will help energize you and keep you focused, even when you might be feeling burnt out during MCAT prep!
In addition to having that motivating factor, I also changed the way I thought about the exam the second time: I did not fear the MCAT, I created a healthy respect for it, even actually getting to the point where I was excited to learn the material!
I decided that the MCAT wasn't a thing to fear, but instead, an opportunity and a challenge that I could succeed at, which made me feel a lot better about having to retake it again.
Another note on mindset that I think is important is to make sure that you’re not getting too worked up about other people taking the exam, either on test day or before. The first time I took the exam, I listened to everyone else's fear both while prepping for the test and on my test day, which is not a good idea!
Fear and stress can be contagious! Once I decided to trust in myself and not listen to others, I felt a lot more at peace about the MCAT.
On the CARS section, in particular, I found these mindset tips to be true, and I honestly think it is one of the main reasons I was able to improve my CARS score from the 48th percentile to the 94th percentile.
The highest score I received was 129 in CARS and it’s because I learned how to make it fun! Once I treated CARS like an opportunity to learn something new, I started loving it.
To me, CARS was an opportunity to turn off your science brain and learn some interesting things that I would not have been able to without the MCAT. From learning about monks that lived in remote islands, to presidents, to trophy hunting in Africa, or anything else, treat it like it’s something worth learning about!
Changing my attitude on the CARS section was critical to raising my score there. My study habits even improved as a result too - I got more creative with my studying, which heightened my interest in the topics! If you can do this, you’ll be able to succeed in CARS, and enjoy it too!
Overall, taking the MCAT is as much about your attitude as it is about learning the information. The way you approach the exam can both help and hinder your score, so it’s important to stay positive!
Step 2: Know Your Resources!
Make sure you’re utilizing your materials in an efficient way! I wasn’t sure how to do this the first time, but once I realized the importance of AAMC and MCAT Mastery, my score got much better.
When I took the MCAT the first time, I used Kaplan's self-study course and only used their full length tests, which I think was one of my biggest mistakes. Specifically, I do not believe that the B/B portion of Kaplan is anything like the real exam, at least in my opinion - so it was not helpful.
The second time I wrote the exam I still used the Kaplan books because I enjoyed how easy they were to read and I liked having the quizzes at the end of each section, but utilized them more supplementally.
My main focus this time was more on AAMC practice tests and test banks. I think that AAMC has a better scaling system (with me making a 507 each time on AAMC then achieving a 514 on the real exam) than Kaplan (with me making anywhere from a 492-507 and only scoring a 500 on the real exam).
I also used Jack Westin's CARS passages to practice every day. I think his passages were very accurate to the real exam. In fact, I think his questions were a little bit harder than the real ones in a lot of cases, which was a good thing for me! Westin also provides very good explanations of why each question was either right or wrong - which was also very helpful!
I also cannot stress enough the importance of reading at least one CARS passage a day. I got to the point where I was taking 2-3 a day because I was enjoying getting the answers right and made me feel like I had accomplished something on the MCAT, so definitely use a lot of CARS resources!
Aside from AAMC materials, I also found the MCAT Mastery resources to be extremely helpful as well, especially for adjusting my mindset!
The Top Scorer MCAT Strategy Guide really helped me adjust my attitude towards the exam. It helped me realize many of the things I mentioned previously: the MCAT isn't something to be feared but a challenge and an opportunity!
The first time taking the exam I was dependent upon just having a photographic memory, but that doesn’t cut it for the MCAT.
You can't just memorize the material (other than the amino acids, definitely make sure you have those under your belt- all parts of it, the single letter code, three-letter code, structure, group, everything!), rather, you have to be able to understand the information and apply it and I believe that the MCAT Strategy Guide helped me do just that!
Additionally, the CARS Mastery program, in my opinion, is a must. It helped me realize how much reading a CARS passage a day could actually pay off. I went from getting 5/9 right per day to 8/9 or 9/9 right per day. I think something that really stood out to me is the trick to read every passage as if your best friend wrote it.
If your best friend wrote it, you are automatically going to be more interested. I literally started every passage by saying "You are going to love this passage because [insert friend's name] wrote."
Both the Top Scorer MCAT Strategy Guide and CARS Mastery are great resources. They both cut straight to the information you need and do not waste your time with fluff. It is arguably the best resource I have found on the MCAT and I really wish that I would have used it on my first time taking the MCAT.
The MCAT Mastery Team really knows how to get the best bang for your buck and I have recommended it to everyone I know who is planning on taking the MCAT.
Step 3: Make a Plan, and Stick to It!
How you study is just as important as what you study! In my experience, having a committed and disciplined study schedule was extremely important to increasing my score because it helped me develop much more efficient and healthy study habits.
My final advice for pre-meds trying to increase their score is to stick to a schedule!
The first time I took the MCAT I really did not have a good schedule. I started studying in November and my test was in June. I was burnt out by the end of it and honestly, I don't even know what I studied in November. I was in the middle of my collegiate softball season and I did not have good study strategies.
I think it is best to have higher quality, shorter study time than a low quality, longer study time (like I had the first time I tested).
My second time studying I also had a very tight schedule of what chapters I wanted to read on each day, when I was going to take a practice test and review them (make sure you review your test!), and what days I would have breaks.
Here’s an example of a rough outline of what one average day was like on my schedule:
8:30 AM - 10:30 AM
Lunch & Walk
11:30 AM - 3PM
3PM - 3:30 PM
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
6PM - 9PM
9PM - 10PM
Review flash cards & Notes
It seems like a lot but it's really not that bad for 1.5 months. To increase your score, a schedule like this would benefit you a lot more than you think!
In order to excel on the exam, you need to have positive emotions towards it. I learned that too late the first time I tested, but once I got a handle on it the second time, I was able to reach my full potential.
Today I'm in med-school and these mindset lessons continue to carry me through this new phase on my doctor journey.
I've also joined the MCAT Mastery Team because of how passionate this team is about helping premeds with the most efficient methods to scoring well and overcoming this hurdle (mindset being one of them!).
When I was struggling with increasing my MCAT score, MCAT Mastery helped me see the MCAT from a new perspective and today I'm excited to be helping others do the same!
In fact if you haven't already seen it, here's a video I made on three (additional) mindset tips I used to increase my score.
We think that mindset and approach are crucial to doing well on the MCAT, and in a lot of cases, they are the factors that are holding students back from reaching their score goal.
If you ever want to work with an MCAT mentor on your improving your approach to studying for the MCAT, on improving your mindset, on improving specific sections of the MCAT, you can sign up here.
Lastly, when you’re studying every day and overcoming all of the obstacles that come with the MCAT exam, it is easy to lose sight of what is motivating you: to become a doctor!
Remember that every doctor you look up to struggled with this exam at some point, but persevered to become the physician that they are today.
You got this,
MCAT Mastery Mentor
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