Throughout most of her prep, Renata really struggled with the MCAT. WIth only a month left before her test date, she found herself hopelessly stuck in the 503-505 range, which was unfortunately not where she wanted her score to be (especially so close to exam day!)
However, with the help of an MCAT Mastery mentor, and by instilling confidence and positivity in herself, she was able to raise her score to a 511 in less than 14 days!
Because we know how difficult studying can be, especially if you’re stuck and feeling defeated, we want to provide anyone who’s struggling, with Renata’s specific and practical advice for raising your score (all of which, is based on her experience with the exam).
We hope all the information helps you in some way!
Psst! MCAT Mastery Team here 🙂
Renata's Overall Advice On How She Improved Her MCAT Score
Don't Limit Yourself To One Thing
It's hard to narrow down what my biggest piece of advice is, but I think what helped me the most was changing up the way I studied. If you're sick of reading, move on to flashcards, If you're tired of flashcards, go to videos or reviewing practice passages. When those get old, go back to reading.
This constant circuit will make it feel less like you're just banging your head against the wall and more like you’re actually making progress.
And it’s also been proven to be better for retention!
Don't just hit the pavement and spend a whole month on your Biology book. Have a planned rotation of subjects so that all of them stay fresh in your head.
It’s good to not limit yourself to just one thing.
As students, we think that if we just stick to the material everything will work out, but the MCAT is a major mind game. It tries to make you sick of its content while still somehow always making you feel like you don’t know enough of it. So, to combat this, try to rotate between multiple different things whenever possible.
Get Resources That Work for YOU
At the beginning of my studying, I started off basic with the Kaplan books and their in-person course that my college offered. I met with a Kaplan rep once a week and he generally kept us on track, which was very beneficial for me.
Kaplan's online videos and practice quizzes were also super useful, not just for content, but also for holding me accountable. It became an almost competitive thing for me to finish all the sections they wanted me to on time so I could be on track, and their breakdown of right/wrong answers is extremely helpful.
However, what resources you use and for how long is often dependent on the person.
In my experience, I eventually started to get sick of Kaplan, so I tried looking for other resources.
After that, my second lifesaver resource was the free app ANKI that you can get on your computer. It is a super high-quality flashcard app that you can download online card decks into for easy studying. There are a few excellent MCAT review flashcard decks already existing out there that you can put into the app and review every day. I went through these religiously for the 6 months overall that I spent prepping for the exam.
For me, it was really rewarding when a definition showed up in my review book and I had already learned it on a flashcard, so I wouldn’t discredit this method of studying.
Overall, though, like I said before, you need to find the resources that work for you! If you like to have a solid foundation of memorized content, look into Anki. If you need something to hold you accountable for studying, try Kaplan’s online videos and quizzes.
There are so many resources out there, so do you research, and in time, you’ll be able to find your lifesaver too.
Don't Discount Your Mindset
Never discount the importance of your emotional and mental well-being when studying for this exam!
For me, mindset was vital to my preparation for the MCAT
For the last month or so before the exam, I actually got really into meditation to help with my mental well-being, which I would absolutely recommend to anyone taking the MCAT. There are a lot of meditation videos and help online for free you can access to keep you calm and sane.
Like I said before, this test is a total mind game meant to make you start doubting how you even passed grade school, but you just have to stay focused and confident in yourself. Remind yourself that you've faced bad tests before and this one is just bigger. You are smart and competent. Positive self-affirmations like these can go a long way.
Another important piece of advice to help with your mindset is to stay away from negativity surrounding the MCAT. Try not to read forums or posts about other people's MCATs.
If you want to read testimonials, do it on MCAT Mastery or some other positive space because if you read too many negative stories (which are really popular across the internet), you start to envision failure more vividly than ever before. Personally, I was about ready to dig my own grave before I switched to good stories over bad, which was a huge step in my journey towards a positive mindset.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you’re really stuck, ask for help. Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of guidance to see what you’re missing.
I first emailed the MCAT Mastery Team in a total panic. I may have started with a 493, but I had my eye on a 512. Months dragged on and I shot up passed the 500 mark, then the 505 mark, but then that's where it all stopped short. I bounced around the 505-503 range for a few weeks and eventually, I was at my limit.
Less than a month away from my test day, I started looking up tutors like my life depended on it. I even started to compromise on my dream score, asking them if a 510 was even feasible for me at this stage.
That's when they assigned me my tutor, who really helped me calm down.
Not only did my tutor help me with my problem areas and send me high-yield equation sheets, he helped me understand that what was really holding me back was my mental hang up on C/P.
This is crazy to admit, but on my diagnostic MCAT test, (don't laugh) my C/P section was in the 7th percentile. Single digits! Ever since then, it had become my mortal enemy, and even months later, it was sticking to the 30th-40th percentile range while I had gotten all my other sections to a nice 60th-70th range.
I was out of mind angry that this one section was going to blow my chances at almost every medical school I was interested in, despite me hammering it into my head for months on end.
My tutor came to my rescue and explained to me that I was thinking about it all wrong. Instead of barging my way through the problem and understanding every detail, or finding the niche knowledge in every C/P book I owned to hopefully find what I was missing, my problem was actually with the access of the content, not the content itself.
Even though I had memorized thousands of equations, I would see a complicated problem and completely forget how it related to anything.
He taught me how to just RELAX when I came across a tough physics or chemistry passage and just take a quick inventory over the equations I knew. By doing this, I could start to read between the lines of the passage and see that it was really just asking me about the basics.
Once I saw that, I could apply the equation and ignore the rest of the fluff. I cannot express how valuable this simple change in perspective was for me, coming from literally the bottom of the barrel.
Along with my mentor's irreplaceable guidance, the encouraging emails from the MCAT Mastery Team were super nice to just check up on before my daily study sessions. It might feel silly, but sometimes, even the best and brightest just need someone telling them "You got this."
Build a support system for yourself, or get a mentor, if you need one.
There’s no shame in asking for help, especially when it can actually get you to your dream score (as it did for me).
Advice for Each Section of the MCAT
Like I mentioned before, the trick for C/P is obviously knowing the equations, but also being aware of WHEN to use them.
My biggest issue was reading some monster of a passage about surface tension and eardrums and just hearing straight white noise in my head. You need to center yourself, remind yourself that the equations you need are somewhere in your head, and then find something that tells you which one to use.
Scan the passage not for comprehension, but for clues on what they want you to do. Once you find a clue, you’ll quickly realize that you know exactly what to do from there.
Also, this section isn't a flashcards-only deal.
Use flashcards to memorize the equations and some basic chemistry terms, but the main focus here is practice. I probably did in total 1,000 practice problems through Kaplan's question bank and practice tests just in the last 3 weeks alone. This is good not only for content review but also to BUILD CONFIDENCE.
It made it so when I actually took the official test, my first thought wasn't "Panic. I don't understand this," but rather "Alright, let's find the important part and work from there."
B/B was a different kind of struggle for me. The main issue was that I was so obsessed with fixing my C/P score that I kind of neglected it a little bit.
So, in that regard, do better than me: don't forget about other sections even if they aren't problem areas for you.
More specifically, for this section, I mainly studied by going through flashcards and taking notes from my books.
Try to connect bodily systems whenever possible. I even made it a sort of game of how does this fact relate to that fact and vice versa, which made studying much more cohesive and fun. Online videos also really helped here. Sometimes, you just need to hear something out loud to really get it in your head. This is especially true for biological systems and processes.
For CARS, I started off by trying to read as much as I could. Fiction writing is one of my hobbies, so I read a lot to brush up on different writing styles, which is helpful, so that you aren’t ever overwhelmed or caught off-guard in an MCAT passage.
But other than reading, I would say you need to pick a strategy that works for you when approaching CARS passages.
For me, I had my own breed of strategy using a little bit of Kaplan's advice and my own trial-and-error system of choosing what worked best for me.
So whether it be through MCAT Mastery, Kaplan, or whatever, make sure you're not just reading the passage and winging it.
Find a strategy that works and stick to it.
Practice on non-MCAT practice passages too! Just go on pubmed, read an article, and then try to challenge yourself to pick out the main ideas.
You'll get better if you just get used to it.
Quick reading is key here, so you want to familiarize yourself with the process of going through a dense passage, and coming out the other side quickly, with the main idea.
P/S is all about memorization.
Others will tell you it's this or that, but the truth is if you know all four terms in the answer choices and you know them well enough to quickly go through the process of elimination, you'll be good to go.
So here I'd say your best friend will be flashcards. Again, I would recommend finding P/S decks online, and then using Anki.
Make sure you go through the flashcards often. If you only 'kind-of' know a definition, go over it like you don't know it at all, and when you take practice tests, always be sure to learn all of the answer choices even if you got the question right.
However, I will say that even after memorizing everything I could, I did have to take it one step further and just start reading graphs and psych research articles sporadically to brush up on my scientific reading comprehension. Again, this is was just to perfect speedy reading techniques.
It helps if you can read the P/S passages quickly and then go to the terms and recognize them all. Then, you can quickly and easily piece together which one makes the most logical sense.
So by combining a little bit of CARS strategies with memorization of P/S terms, you’ll be successful in this section.
Thanks so much to Renata for sharing your story, along with all the tips you’ve learned!
To hear more from Renata, check out her top-scorer Interview, where we go even more in-depth about her prep, and what strategies she found helpful!
On the whole, it can be easy to let it get the best of you, both mentally and emotionally, but if there’s anything that you can learn from Renata’s experience, it’s that improvement is always possible.
It’s easy to get bogged down by the intensity of the exam, and lose sight of the fact that there are so many helpful resources out there at your disposal.
Whether it be reading our success stories, working one-on-one with a tutor, relying on a support system in your life, or even taking advice from people who have taken the exam already, find out what works for you!
Sometimes, it just requires dedication, a little bit of guidance, and a shift in mindset, but if you employ all the resources and tips at your disposal, you will make it through any rough patch you have with the exam!
Don’t give up! You can do it too!
Focus on yourself, stay positive, and remember that you’re capable of conquering this exam!
You got this,
The MCAT Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors
Check out another MCAT Success Story below!