How Sara Scored 522 On The MCAT (As A Non-Traditional Applicant)
522 mcat score - 99th percentile MCAT score

How Sara Scored 522 On The MCAT: Key Points From Her MCAT Master Interview

How do top scorers study for the MCAT? This is a question we've been obsessed with answering for MANY years. 

It's the reason why we interview top MCAT scorers, so we can extract their methods, strategies, recommendations, and piece together the most efficient, smartest, highest leverage MCAT study system on the planet, which we then deliver to you 🙂

In a recent interview, we interviewed a 99th percentile scorer, Sara Zayed. She scored a 522 and as you'll discover in her interview, getting to this score wasn't easy for her...

"Being able to achieve the score that I did took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears."

In fact, Sara was intimidated by the MCAT for years! It was one of the biggest barriers keeping her from the idea of applying to med-school...

If you haven't heard her interview yet, you can download it here:

More...

Below we've included some key points and quotes from her interview! Enjoy 🙂

A Quick Intro to Sara and her MCAT journey


Sara was a non-traditional applicant who graduated in 2016 with a degree in Computer Science and worked as a Software Engineer for two years!

She studied for about six months straight. Three months in she took her first AAMC exam and didn't do nearly as well as she thought she would...

Yet she eventually increased her score from 503 to 512 in the span of two to three weeks. Then in the last two weeks before the MCAT, she raised her score from 512 to 522!

And she ended up getting accepted to eight M.D. medical schools!

If you're impressed already, wait until you hear Sara reveal how she studied: 

Watch the her interview here on YouTube if you like

Today Sara is in med-school and inspires thousands of people from different backgrounds on her blog and Instagram page.

Key Points & Highlighted Quotes

  • I wanted to approach my studying with the sense that I needed to master everything.
  • I had to keep reminding myself that I was aiming for the highest score I could achieve and to do so, I have to go through the grind of learning the things I didn't want to spend time on.
  • You should write down all your pathways to make sure you know them like the back of your hand.
  • I have to follow the advice of the people who have already traversed the path before me.
  • Don't undersell your abilities. Don't question and doubt yourself. A big part of being successful is believing that you’re capable of doing well.
  • As a non-traditional applicant I wanted my score to be as competitive as possible.
  • Mid to late February was strictly content review: 2 chapters a day and alternate
  • Beginning of March, started taking practice exams almost every Sunday
  • April and May, switched over to only AAMC material.
  • Anything I didn’t know I would go back and study it and create an ANKI card.
  • Create your own ANKI deck! Writing the card yourself, being able to put your own nuances and your own feedback to those cards is really important.
  • Practice exam, review practice exam, fill it on ANKI and finish the Kaplan books.
  • Study and use harder materials. Try and test your skills with different questions.
  • I really drilled my Psych/Soc. Making sure to fill in those gaps and master those details was really important.
  • You have to be that dedicated, that rigorous and diligent, to be able to master their exams because there will be trick questions, there will be small details tested. The only way to really do well is to know all those small details and to be honest with yourself about your weak areas.
  • 2 biggest pieces of advice: 1. Use ANKI 2. Do the section banks and the question packs of AAMC material before taking full length practice exams.
  • Confidence is a huge deal. I have to give myself pep talks.
  • Don’t just get the right or wrong answer and just say “I’ll definitely get this next time." You have to understand why you got the wrong answer. And you have to understand why you got the right answer.
  • The only way to get better is to keep practicing. If you don’t understand a concept, keep going back over and over again until you finally master it.
  • Kept telling myself, “It’s just a test and if you don’t do as well as you want to, you can always retake it and you’re fine”
  • The confidence that you feel and the calmness that you experience, all play a huge role on how you perform.
  • I definitely think that incorporating some mindfulness meditation and really learning to take full lengths under practice conditions and work through that anxiety and nervousness is so important.
  • You won’t necessarily always reproduce the same results on test day that you did when you were studying.
  • Become a reader. Don’t just practice questions. Read the New Yorker, New York Times, etc. Read the comment section, people’s opinions and try to deduce what the tone is, what people are saying, and what the main idea is.
  • Read some research papers on your own time, similar to how you would do for CARS and make sure you understand the underlying biological concept.
  • I went to bed really early the night before. I didn’t want toss and turn all night, I know that can happen if you are feeling nervous and anxious. I think mindfulness meditation is so valuable and helpful here.
  • Try Headspace or Calm for meditation.
  •  Make sure you go to bed early.
  • Correct your sleep schedule a week or two weeks before the exam.
  • Exercise is incredible for stimulating your brain.
  • Consider bringing someone with you to the test centre who can give you encouraging words and support.
  • In summary, exercise, make sure you are taking care of your body by eating well. Make sure you’re exercising on a regular basis and practice mindfulness meditation.
  • Make sure you are really solid on your purpose on why you want to go to medical school
  • Mindfulness meditation and just more broadly, self care.
  • Spend time with family members.
  • Go outside, take a walk, meditate, hangout with friends.
  • Make sure you are eating right. Take care of yourself and know you can do it. 
  • Follow Sara on her blog here and on IG here

How To Apply These Top Scorer Insights Into Your MCAT Prep

First we want you to understand that every top scorer, that you look up to, has gone through the pain of MCAT prep...

Each one of us, your mentors at MCAT Mastery, have experienced it. We know how frustrating it can be to be stuck at a certain score or not knowing how to master such a massive amount of content for the ONE exam that determines if you get to continue on your doctor journey... 

So know that 1) you can get through this, just like we did and 2) you're not alone, we're always here for you. 

Sometimes it can be overwhelming, even when you get so many amazing insights, on how to even START implementing them. This interview for example, was FILLED with some awesome wisdom on how to increase your score and get a competitive score on the MCAT...

But you might feel paralyzed at what to do next.

We recommend following a system, a step-by-step path, on how to increase your score. Starting with the ideal schedule (based on top scorer templates), to steps for mastering content, mastering mindset, the best and most recommended resources, mastering MCAT test taking and practice (which includes pacing, timing), learning strategies for each individual section, then mastering exam day strategies. This is the clearest way we've seen students increase scores quickly and efficiently. 

It's all about learning HOW to study, which is our focus. Which is what we've covered in the MCAT Mastery Strategy Guide here

If you prefer to have someone do the work for you and tell you exactly what you need to do, then we're here to help you with one-on-one MCAT mentoring as well. 

Lastly, know you have what it takes. If you truly want to be a doctor, this one exam isn't going to keep you from that dream.

You got this, 

The MCAT Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

More MCAT Success Stories

About the Author MCAT Mastery

Every year MCAT Mastery helps thousands of premeds in achieving their target MCAT score goal so they can get into the med-school of their dreams. The dedicated team at MCAT Mastery accomplishes this by conducting ongoing research and paid interviews with 90+ percentile MCAT scorers, to bring you the most credible, most proven MCAT prep strategies on the planet.

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